Of all the Amazon pilots, my expectations were highest were for The After. Well, perhaps not expectations, but certainly my hopes. Written and directed by The X-Files creator Chris Carter, it attempts to delve back into his cozy home of supernatural shenanigans. Unfortunately, this pilot is more of a mishmash of poorly cobbled tropes and a modicum of intrigue.
The tagline that shows up along with the show is fairly accurate: “Eight strangers are thrown together by mysterious forces and must help each other survive in a violent world.” The title refers to the fact that this group of people come together after some unknown event results in a new chaos-ridden civilization. You probably can’t call it post-apocalyptic quite yet, but it’s certainly headed that way.
Taking place in Los Angeles, there’s a French actress in town for an audition, a “wrongly accused” escaped convict, a police officer, a literal clown of the birthday party variety, an old woman with diabetes, an Irish asshole, a powerful lawyer dude, and a high society prostitute. It is basically an after school special representation of real life diversity, everyone fulfilling some misguided caricature of stereotypical character design.
None of the characters seem smart enough to survive in a regular situation let alone a dire one like the pickle they’ve found themselves in. Not smart enough and not real enough, actually. The actress continually watches videos of a daughter and husband she left in France and then becomes bewildered when the battery dies. The prostitute inexplicably goes skinny dipping in front of six strangers, one of whom is a foul-mouthed Irishman that looooooves drinking.
The old woman, despite having sugar packets in her purse she could use to stave off a diabetic fall, chooses instead to only complain that she needs to eat something and then passes out in the corner. And no one seems to remember that without electricity, electric-powered gates won’t open. The only interesting person (and by that, I mean most likely to not be a cardboard cutout) is the clown, and that’s really only because he’s a clown and we know nothing else about him.
There are some mysterious circumstances that have forced these people together. One of them is the fact that they all share the same birthday, which doesn’t inspire much in the way of mystery ginning/solving. It’s just so generic; how do you make another fake-coincidental encounter interesting? I don’t really know, but it’s not what Carter tries here.
A strangely corporeal supernatural resolution appears towards the end of the pilot, and it features tattoos that two of the strangers also happen to have on their bodies, leading you to believe that the others have some sort of physical marking linking them to this oddity. One of the few genuinely intriguing developments of the event is that the strangers, after being stuck in a parking garage for what they think is a few hours, have lost upwards of an entire day of time.
And loud, ominous explosions fire off in some intangible distance every once in a while. I would really like to see where the connection is between those and the thing in the forest, but that would involve the rest of the show not being so terribly rote. There’s not an awful amount that falls into under the This Blows umbrella, but there’s also not enough that makes me think an entire show could work on what’s presented here. There are some pieces in place with The After, but Carter needs to know how to use them.
Final Score: 5 out of 10