There’s no question about it, Amazon’s pilot process is one of the more interesting endeavors anyone’s attempted before.
You likely know how pilot season works for most networks. They order a bunch of pilots that execs and all the other important people will watch and discuss and eventually they choose which pilots get ordered to series. Most pilots never see the light of day.
As Amazon enters the original series game, they’re choosing to make this process an interactive and let the viewers call the shots. As they did last year, they have made several pilots available for Amazon Prime members and based on which ones gets the best response, two of them will be ordered to series. There’s a number of compelling options that I will certainly be taking the time to watch, but I can’t imagine any series enters this race with a greater edge than The After.
After being MIA from television for over a decade, Chris Carter (the creator of The X-Files) returns with a post apocalyptic series that centers around eight strangers with a mysterious connection. I imagine, like me, there are a number of folks quite interested to see what brought Carter back into the game and if he’s capable of producing something as special as The X-Files yet again.
Time will tell if the second part of that statement is true, but the The After pilot is insanely gripping television, effectively throwing us into a chaotic world with no answers and producing palpable fear with each passing scene. This review will be short and relative spoiler-free because I think it’s worth discovering for yourself and I don’t wanna ruin anything, but I will say that like Lost or The Walking Dead, The After is brilliantly efficient in using its pilot to set up a world of tension and confusion, setting up a mythology that will be fascinating to watch unfold over the course of the series.
This is a very good pilot. At 55 minutes, I think it would have been a truly great pilot if they’d trimmed a few minutes from the mid-section (it slows for a few minutes after a truly exhilarating opening act), but a little extra baggage aside, it’s still an exciting hour of television.
What is happening? What is the plot? Great questions and you’ll have even more questions by the time the episodes over, but the mythology at this point is truly intriguing and exciting, not convoluted or frustrating (I know that could change quickly if it gets ordered to series, but I’m choosing to remain hopeful). We are as lost as our characters, but it’s certainly a thrilling ride to try to piece together what exactly has prompted the chaos.
Gigi serves as a point of entry character, and while I thought her accent might be too thick to decipher after viewing a clip of the series, but my fears were quickly alleviated. It’s a strong accent, but easy to understand and Louise Monot is great as a sympathetic lead, desperate to reconnect with her family.
This is Monot’s first English-speaking role from what I can tell, so she’s new to most of us, but she’s surrounded by a lot of familiar faces. Adrian Pasdar plays a somewhat smarmy lawyer named Wade who’s travelling with an escort named Tammy, played Arielle Kebbel. I always enjoyed Pasdar on Heroes, feeling often times that his performance elevated some very weak material and Kebbel is always appealing in her appearances on The Vampire Diaries. Aldis Hodge of Leverage (also, Friday Night Lights where he played “Voodoo”) is an escaped convict that swears he was wrongfully accused, Jamie Kennedy is a weary clown and Sharon Lawrence is a rich old lady who seems disoriented by the gravitas of the situation.
The After is a frantic hour of television, throwing our characters into disarray almost immediately, while only offering morsels by way of answers along the way. That’s okay because the characters immediately draw us in and play incredibly well off each other, insuring this “in the dark” approach succeeds. I’ve already seen a few complaints about the accents (Monot’s as well as that of Andrew Howard’s who plays a drunk Irishman and Kebbel who speaks as a Southern Belle here) but that seems like nitpicking.
Carter is embracing the freedom to produce premium-cable level content here by including heavy profanity and nudity in this pilot. The profanity certainly makes sense, given the circumstances (although it seems a little much at times), but the nudity is absurd. It’s a skinny-dipping scene tacked on for no discernable reason other than the most obvious one. I watch countless premium cable shows and understand sex is a often a part of that, so this isn’t like a prudish response. I just haven’t seen nudity this unnecessarily included in a series in a while. This show is better than that. It’s a gripping post-apocalyptic drama from Chris Carter; it doesn’t need boobs to sell itself.
I mentioned that it drags for a bit in the middle and it’s true. There are a few minutes when things slow down and I get that this is an opportunity for us to get to know the characters, but it’s in those few minutes where the dialogue seems forced and things start to feel cheesy. Part of this dialogue includes an awkward interjection about the book of Revelation that doesn’t seemed earned by the series or natural for the character saying it. It seems like Carter just really wanted to make it known that there would be some Revelation-type stuff going down in this series so he made sure one of the characters mentioned it, whether it made sense or not.
Things quickly recover and the closing five minutes will leave you breathless. There are a lot of intriguing mysteries about our characters, their connection and what exactly is happening that will leave you clamoring for more and hoping against hope that Amazon customers are smart enough to recognize that this is a show that deserves to be ordered as a full series. Amazon’s first batch of original series (Alpha House and Betas) failed to generate a whole lot of buzz, but The After is the type of show that could become a cultural obsession if given the chance and I surely hope it’s given that chance.
For those who have seen it–what did you think?