Recursion Movie And TV Series: What We Know About The Shonda Rhimes And Matt Reeves Project

Recursion by Blake Crouch Cover

Blake Crouch's Recursion was one of the most anticipated books of 2019. It won a Goodreads Choice Award for Best Science Fiction and became a favorite among book club members. Even before Random House released Recursion, it had a lot of buzz surrounding it. This was partly due to Netflix buying the rights to the story, and hiring Shonda Rhimes and Matt Reeves to adapt Recursion into a movie and multiple TV series.

Recursion is the latest work of Blake Crouch that has been adapted by a major studio. In 2015, Fox adapted his Wayward Pines series and aired it for two seasons. TNT adapted a series of Crouch’s novellas into Good Behavior, a series that ran for two seasons and starred Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery. Since 2014, Sony has had the rights to Crouch’s bestselling book Dark Matter. Crouch’s cinematic style of writing makes it easy to see why so many of his books have been turned into TV shows and future movies.

With hit series Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder, Shonda Rhimes is one of the queens of television land. Shonda Rhimes has become synonymous with entertainment that brings compelling drama, sexy romances, and shocking twists. Over the course of his career, Matt Reeves has been building a diverse body of work that includes Let Me In, Cloverfield, and the highly anticipated Robert Pattinson Batman movie. Both Shonda Rhimes and Matt Reeves have an impressive body of work that makes them the ideal team to create the Recursion movie and TV series.

Recursion by Blake Crouch Cover

Recursion Is Set To Be Adapted Into A Movie And Multiple TV Series At Netflix

In 2018, Shonda Rhimes signed a deal with Netflix to produce original content. This deal includes multiple movies and TV series. Recursion is one of those projects. The same year, Matt Reeves signed a first look deal with Netflix. This deal allows the company access to a first look at any movies he wants to produce and direct under his company 6th & Idaho. Reeves and Rhimes had a pre-established relationship with Netflix when it was announced in October 2018 that they planned to team up to adapt Recursion. All parties involved seemed very excited about the project. Rhimes even said “projects like this are why I came to Netflix.” She also added:

“The opportunity to explore a multi-genre universe in innovative ways is extremely exciting. Matt and Blake both have the tremendous ability to build compelling characters and imaginative landscapes and I am thrilled to work alongside them.”

Reeves and Crouch were equally as excited to work with her on the project. Reeves stated this about working with Rhimes:

“Netflix is uniquely suited for this ambitious undertaking and I can’t imagine a more exciting partner than the astonishingly talented Shonda Rhimes whose work I have admired for years.”

Blake Crouch stated that he was a fan of Shonda Rhimes and Matt Reeves, so he felt honored to have them both working on Recursion. He also thought Netflix was the perfect place to bring the book to life, because he thought the company allowed innovative adaptions. The news of Recursion being bought by Netflix and produced by Rhimes and Reeves came about eight months before the book’s release. This showed a lot of faith in the potential of the story.

Recursion Audiobook Cover

What Is The Book Written By Blake Crouch About?

SPOILER ALERT: We’ll be discussing the plot of Recursion, including some spoilers. Turn back now if you haven't read the book (and go read the book, because it's fantastic!)

Recursion takes place over multiple periods in time. Helena Smith is determined to map memories so that she can reactivate them in those suffering from Alzheimer's disease, especially her mother. In 2007, she meets Marcus Slade, a wealthy tech founder, and he offers to fund her research. Meanwhile in 2018, Barry Sutton tries to prevent a woman from committing suicide. She’s developed False Memory Syndrome (FMS), a disorder that causes people to have memories of a life that doesn’t exist. Barry's investigation leads him down a life-altering path (literally) that eventually overlaps in a major way with the project Helena is working on.

Essentially -- and this is where we get into spoilers -- the chair Helena has built allows the user to travel through a mapped memory, dying in the process and coming to at an earlier point in their life, in time to change it. Barry ends up getting to do this and is able to prevent his daughter's death. But there's a catch. While Barry is able to re-live the last eleven years over again in an altered timeline where his daughter is alive, the people affected by the change (his wife, daughter, co-workers, etc) will eventually regain memories of the original timeline. On a small scale, this causes some problems. But consider the ramifications of such a shift on a larger scale.

Recursion follows Helena's development of the chair over time, as well as the impact it has on Barry's life and what happens when the two characters meet. And it doesn't take long for the technology Helena has designed to create major problems as the chair is used by different people and organizations for their own means. Each new memory jump creates changes to the present and puts the world a step closer to nuclear destruction.

The time traveling aspect puts Recursion in good company with Netflix’s other science fiction series like Travelers. Time travel and memory are going to be major themes of the Recursion series and movie, but one of the core aspects of the book is Barry and Helena’s love story. Falling in love makes the stakes of them saving the world even greater.

Recursion has a lot of political elements as well. Towards the end of the book, we see how such a dangerous weapon can lead to global warfare, even if things are created with good intentions. As stated in the intro, Blake Crouch’s storytelling style is already very cinematic, which makes it easy for Matt Reeves and Shonda Rhimes to bring the book to Netflix, because it doesn’t need too much changing to translate the story to the small screen. We think and hope that the movie and TV adaptations will stick pretty close to the important elements of the book version of Recursion.

Netflix Logo

How Is This Adaptation Going To Work?

Filming has yet to begin on Recursion, and it seems very early in the development stage. It will likely stay this way at least until the end of 2020/early 2021, when filming of The Batman has ended, so there isn’t much info known about Netflix’s Recursion. However, we have some theories about how this movie/TV project might work. It seems likely that the movie will be an adaptation of the book and follow Helena and Barry's story. The TV show or shows (as Blake Crouch mentioned to EW) is where things could get interesting.

In the same EW article, Blake Crouch stated that:

“There are single sentences in the book that could be an entire season of television, that we just blow right past.”

He doesn't get into specifics about that, but we're wondering if it has to do with other ways the chair gets used in the book. There's a line in the book that says, “I even found a company in Sao Paulo using it for tourism." We don't know for sure if that's a sentence Blake Crouch had in mind when he made his statement, but it certainly caught our attention as a potential plot for a Recursion TV show.  This line highlights that the memory chair is used all across the globe for different purposes, which may go beyond just the simple idea of time traveling. Maybe one of the TV series could take on a Black Mirror anthology style and show the different ways some countries or people use the chair. 

It could also revolve around some of the alternate timelines that are produced because of the Recursion chair.

In the News & Observer, Blake Crouch mentioned that he was not going to be involved in the writing process for the TV and movie.

“I’m letting them figure this one out. The plan is to start with a film with multiple series that will track down the multiple timelines.”

This quote fits with the idea that the alternate timelines could be the focus of future Recursion series. Maybe the different TV shows will be set in different countries that have access to the chair and show what life looks like for new characters and locations.

This is all just speculation at this point.

The ending of the book Recursion had a resolution, but we’re guessing either the movie version (if a direct adaptation) ends with a more open-ended way to allow the story to expand into television series, or the TV series and movie will be treated separately, and not an expansion or continuation of each other. Whatever Shonda Rhimes and Matt Reeves decide to do with Blake Crouch’s book Recursion, we wish we could time jump to see how the movie and TV shows play out.

We'll be sure to update when we have more information on what's happening with the Recursion adaptation.

Jerrica Tisdale
Freelance Writer

Spent most of my life in various parts of Illinois, including attending college in Evanston. I have been a life long lover of pop culture, especially television, turned that passion into writing about all things entertainment related. When I'm not writing about pop culture, I can be found channeling Gordon Ramsay by kicking people out the kitchen.