Synopsis: Aftermath follows a family of five as they navigate a world overrun with demons and creatures of myth in this Syfy original. This review focuses on the first four episodes.
The show follows one family as they attempt to regroup in the wake of the apocalypse. The mother, Karen, seems highly trained with weapons, having been in the military. The husband, Joshua, is a university professor who studies, wait for it, myth. How appropriate. Finally the family has three children; one 22-year-old son named Matt who was planning to join the Peace Corp after an injury prevents him from joining the military, and two 16-year-old twins.
The family becomes separated when Brianna, one of the twins, is carried off by a “Skin Walker,” and thus far, the show has revolved around the family trying to meet up with limited communication abilities and only the vague direction of heading to Seattle.
Brianna seems to meet a new friend every episode, either leaving them when they drop her off at her current location of choice, or when they turn on her forcing her to fight her way out. She encounters flying demons, meteors, motorcycle gangs, demon possessed individuals, bratty teenagers, and the Amish. Seriously, every episode has some new trope.
The family joins up with caravans, finds their hippy aunt, and meets up with their mother’s former military personnel.* Hippy aunt gets infected, although the family seems not to notice, and the remaining twin is forced to give up her respect for all life by shooting a gun. You would think when your peace-loving father can cyanide an entire gang, you’d be able to shoot a gun, but hey, what do I know.
Over the course of – presumably – a few days, these main characters go from your ordinary suburban family to a finely tuned military machine. They hardly shrug at the possibility of killing other people (with the exception of Dana, the peace loving twin), with the son violently attacking a mentally handicapped individual, and the father using cyanide poison to kill another group who threatens them.
It’s all very Rick Grimes in that one bar scene. Except you don’t feel like these characters have earned it. While I can understand the need to fight for your own survival, I certainly hope I don’t turn to murdering others within a day of the apocalypse. I hope I have more humanity.
While these characters certainly turn easily enough to the violence of the apocalypse, they don’t figure anything else out very quickly. Given that every other group they encounter checks their throats for blood, you would think they would use this as their own gauge for infection. But no.
They continue to attempt to help people, taking “infected heads” at their word, and often finding themselves in danger because of it. You better believe I would check every person I met. You can’t trust anyone in the apocalypse. But neither would I just kill them. Not unless I knew they were infected.
Perhaps the biggest issue with this show is that it seems uncertain in the tone it is trying to set. Does it want to appeal to a broader audience a la Revolution? Or does it really desire to fit in with The Walking Dead crowd? Maybe they should head for The 100 mark.
That seems like a good level of intensity meets teen drama. While the majority of the story holds a lighter feel (other than people going mad and killing each other), there are some extremely brutal scenes and moments that the show uses as shock value and then moves past with little penance.
While some of the horror moments might appeal to a viewer, including one particularly intense but oddly pleasurable moment where an “infected” individual attempts to clean the windshield of their vehicle with a severed head, others leave the viewer completely unsettled, and even make odd half jokes at the expense of those moments.
In particular, at one point a father and son join the family. The son is a little off, leading Matt to suspect him of being possessed. Instead of checking for any of the signs that various groups and doctors have suggested, Matt instead chases after him when he has a breakdown and guns him down in the forest. When his father runs up, Matt simply explains, “You heard his voice. He wasn’t himself.” The father’s only response is, “He had schizophrenia.” Matt sits sadly by for a moment, blaming the father for not informing them of his son’s illness, and his mother agrees.
Somehow this is the mentally handicapped person’s fault, and his father for trying to protect him. The show gives little to no apology for this; however, shortly after, when the family has arrived at their grandfather’s, the mother heads upstairs to check the house, prompting the father to say, “Don’t shoot my dad.” I am honestly trying to forgive this show for it’s faults, but they keep popping their heads up and I can’t avoid it.
Finally, the show lacks a clear mythos. Instead of giving the viewers a frame of reference from which to draw, each episode seems to introduce a new idea, without connecting it directly to any of the others. There are demons that possess people, South-Pacific water goblins, leeches that consume the host, and flying dragon-monsters. Thus far, it is unclear how any of these connect other than all being supernatural in nature.
If the show plans to make a strong stand, it needs to flesh out this world and decide on an overall tone. As is, it is difficult to find the characters and their survival compelling.
Have you watched the show at all? What do you think? Are you willing to continue on with the way things are going? Let us know!
*“Because they wouldn’t let women fight in combat.” Ugh. I get strong female characters, but really?