AFTERMATH takes a dramatic look at how a family might deal with the chaos of the biggest storm in history with its first episode “RV 6768.” The arena for this show is nothing new; there is a huge apocalyptic event, there is a family of survivors with different skills and dispositions, and they face dangers everywhere while trying to maintain what’s left of their humanity and rebuild for the future of their children. The situation is familiar. The fun is in exploring the themes related to survival and pushing the characters.
The event that kicks off Aftermath is a massive solar flare, followed by super tornadoes, mega earthquakes, and precision meteor showers. It also rains fish in one neighborhood, snakes in another, and then car parts. So, it’s bad. The good news; there is still a little cell service, some military survivors, and many civilian survivors.
The entertainment value of this show, and all like it, relies mostly on the group of characters we follow week to week. There’s no denying the staying power of “…the movie star, the professor, and Mary Ann.” The Copeland family is at the center of Aftermath. There is no doubt Karen is the leader of the Copelands. She is former Air Force, pistol packing, mom with a plan. Joshua, her husband, is a professor at the local university with specialties in archaeology, theology, and mythology. He sounds like a hell of a lot of fun, and also pretty useless. Matt Copeland is the oldest son. He seems like a good boy that takes after his mother, we don’t learn much about him in this episode. Finally, there are the Copeland twins. Dana is the book smart nerdy one; Brianna is the boy smart, lawsuit magnet.
One way to spice up a group of survivors is the addition of a traitor character. This doesn’t have to be a person with diabolical intentions, maybe just a lusty, rebellious kid that would rather spend the end of times with her Romeo in Seattle. Having only seen one episode, I put a lot of entertainment hopes on the twins; they are oil and water, flame and gasoline, a little Spock and McCoy, and a lot Ginger and Mary Ann. They are more interesting together than apart. Aftermath chose to separate these two in the pilot. Brianna gets whisked away by a skinwalker, and Dana uses her twin ESP-mail to constantly remind the rest of the family Dana is still alive.
This is not an interesting choice in my mind and they have very few episodes to make it interesting. Still, Aftermath has some other things going for it, interesting little pieces of story scattered in the aftermath of this biblical family of storms. Instead of “walkers,” Aftermath offers “skinwalkers.” At first, it sounds like an argument between Trump and Hillary, but it’s actually loaded with possibilities. These skinwalkers only squat in their human hosts. The host is normal one minute, and an angry gravity defying demon the next. It’s unclear what they want and they don’t seem organized yet. If you kill the host, the skinwalker flies off to another. This is a great storytelling choice. There is a finite distance you can go with someone who dies or turns instantly, with no chance of reversal. Give that same person a terminal wound or infliction that could be treated and the options open up. A wounded soldier causes much more trauma to the squad than a dead buddy.
The pilot episode did not explore this, but I’m sure it’s coming up. Someone close to the Copelands, if not one of the RV Copelands should suffer an infliction soon. Skinwalkers are just one of the pieces left in the aftermath. There is also the fever. The fever is so bad, the Army has orders to shoot anyone with symptoms. The main visual symptom is blood in the mouth, but there is also rapid memory loss. Ozzy Osbourne wouldn’t stand a chance, but he would make the RV crew more entertaining.
The Aftermath pilot suffers a slight tonal fever too. It isn’t a show killer, but it could be. There is a scene where the main Copeland group stops to top off the RV at a gas station. The attendant, suffering from the fever, washes their windshield with bloody squeegee, then a severed head. This scene is an example of tonal indecision. Don’t do the head and the pilot still rolls on as planned. Do the head, but go all in, surprising, creepy, scary. Aftermath made a weak, half-measured, choice here. It makes me wonder if it has the stamina to stand up to all the other competition it faces. Next time the creators have a discussion about the guy in the salmon dress holding a machine gun, please listen to whomever argues not to just pass that beautiful piece of story by.
Season 1, Episode 1 (S01E01)
Aftermath airs Tuesdays at 10PM on Syfy
Eric lives in a world where the television is great, the smiles are warm, the pizza is hot, the puppies are playful, and the zombies are slow and meander while he reloads.
Follow Eric on Twitter: @Etom2012
Keep up with all of Eric’s reviews here.
Eric Rodriguez | Contributor