If something terrible happened and you thought it was the end of the world, would you rather be with your best friends and family, or a bunch of strangers with close to zero likable qualities? It doesn’t matter, because Armageddon doesn’t give a shit. The After, the highly anticipated new series from X-Files creator Chris Carter, centers on a group of mysteriously connected strangers trying to make sense of a cataclysmic disaster. And they’re not just about surviving through the night; they need to make it past the second ever Amazon Original pilot season, and it’s up to audiences to vote if they want the show to become a full series. Though I haven’t yet watched the other four competing pilots, I think it’s safe to say The After will be the most intriguing of the bunch, as well as the most infuriatingly trite and stereotypical. Still, this is nowhere near as bland as last year’s Zombieland pilot.
It’s really easy to describe The After in a way that will make you want to drop everything and put it on. Eight distinctly different characters find themselves trapped inside of a parking garage as the outside world falls victim to constant explosions and widespread power and water outages. Escaping the garage does not equal safety. A mad panic has taken over society, but nothing can prepare the survivors for what this pseudo-apocalypse has unleashed upon the planet.
The After can also be depicted as “a group of annoying, untrustworthy assholes argue loud enough to muffle the explosions outside their underground safehouse.” But that won’t get anyone excited. Let’s break these folks down, shall we?
Gigi (Louise Monot) is an overemotional actress who really wants to reconnect with her husband and daughter. Officer Marly (Jaina Lee Ortiz) is the cop who knows she’s in way over her head. Wade (Adrian Pasdar) is a lawyer who was busy playing “Stairwell Blowjob” with Tammy (Arielle Kebbel), a call girl who wants to know how we will pay for our sins. David (Jamie Kennedy) is a gay clown. D. Love (Aldis Hodge) is an escaped prisoner who claims he was wrongly imprisoned. McCormick (Andrew Howard) is a—get this—Irish guy who gets drunk and pisses everyone else off. Finally, Francis (Sharon Lawrence) is a diabetic with a huge mansion that serves as a temporary refuge.
There are times when it felt like this series’ mission statement was “use the word ‘fuck’ in as many scenes as humanly possible, and throw some awkward T&A in there as well.” Because yes, there is a lot of cursing, especially when everyone argues and talks over each other, which happens nearly every time four or more of them are in the same place at the same time.
But then there are the moments when The After really feels like this could turn into a solid mystery. No explanations are given for the weird events, and the episode ends on a creepy cliffhanger that begs for further exploration. It’s also quite humorous, and though some of that is unintentional, there are a handful of lines and deliveries driven by tension that really land.
I can’t tell whether this works or not, but the episode is very particular about when and where it allowed the score to come in. Rather than emotionally-driven instrumentals, most of the scenes are filled out by actual background noise, such as car alarms and the murmur of a population gradually losing its collective mind. It’s only near the end, when the characters are in and around Francis’ house, that the music makes a noticeable appearance. I really liked the use of natural, ambient sound, but it admittedly drew more attention to the incessant arguing, which is all manner of sexist, racist, and ageist. (Most of that is courtesy of McCormick.)
The After, which you can watch here, is not a perfect show in the least, as it probably wouldn’t be in a competition like this if it was. But, this is the return of a master storyteller, and he’s telling a story that is definitely worth your attention. As a last ditch plus, it’s the first time I’ve ever enjoyed Jamie Kennedy’s acting.