When news first broke last year that X-Files creator Chris Carter was returning from his long retirement with a new Amazon pilot called The After, we were more than a little excited. After all, this is the guy responsible for one of the defining science fiction series of the last several decades, and he’s been out of the limelight since 2008’s humdrum X-Files movie sequel I Want to Believe. On the other hand, X-Files’ last few seasons were wildly uneven, and I Want to Believe just made me want to forget it exists. Will The After return Carter to fighting shape like we’re hoping? Well, he certainly seems optimistic about his chances, as he’s apparently planning on the show running 99 episodes. As in “91 episodes longer than its current Amazon order.”
That 99 isn’t just a number Carter pulled out of the ether, either. Speaking at the Amazon’s summer Television Critics Association press tour, Carter explained that The After is based, at least in part, on Dante’s Inferno, which is divided into 99 “cantos,” or segments. He didn’t explain if the Inferno influences stretch deeper than the structure, but the end of the After pilot suggests supernatural/demonic shenanigans may be part of the show’s larger mythology.
If you still haven’t watched The After on Amazon, it’s focused on eight people from disparate walks of life who find themselves in the midst of an apocalyptic event and discover they have inexplicable connections to each other. In addition to the Inferno influences, Carter has previously said that his own experiences surviving a hurricane informed the creation of the show as well.
The After will be sporting a unique structure even if it doesn’t reach its 99-episode limit. It’s set to premiere on Amazon sometime in 2015, but it won’t be following the usual Netflix/Amazon Original format of posting the whole season at once. Instead, The After’s eight-episode first season will be released in four two-hour installments. Carter told The Hollywood Reporter, “Amazon is going to show these an episode at a time, which I think is really good for this type of show. The audience likes to tease the clues out.” It’s definitely an interesting approach, as the digital standard of throwing everything online all at once has removed some of the fun of shows creating cliffhangers that leave you in suspense for a week (or several months, or whatever). It’s a format that could work well in a show as mystery-heavy as The After is likely to be.
Of course, if Carter and The After are going to make it to 99 episodes, they’re going to have to give viewers some good reasons to keep tuning in. And the pilot…isn’t great. It introduces some compelling mysteries, but it’s also full of unlikeable characters and painfully stilted dialogue. I’d love to see Carter give us a new series worthy of the X-Files legacy, so I’m hoping The After will find its footing as it continues, but man…that pilot is a stinker.
The After stars Louise Monot, Sharon Lawrence, Aldis Hodge, Adrian Pasdar, Arielle Kebbel, Jamie Kennedy, Andrew Howard, Jaina Lee Ortiz, and Sam Littlefield. If you haven’t already watched The After, Amazon Prime members can watch the pilot right here.