Could Amazon’s The After be the new X-Files?
Chris Carter returns to television with an Amazon Original pilot, ‘The After.’ Can he recapture that old ‘X-Files’ magic?
UPDATE: Amazon announced on March 11 that The After and three other pilots, Mozart in the Jungle, Bosch, and Transparent have been picked up for series.
Amazon has been trying desperately to get into the original programming biz while watching Netflix take the lead in the new era of television with their hit original programs House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and the resurrected Arrested Development. Amazon has tapped major talents and launched a few shows, but none of them have had the buzz of any of the Netflix originals.
Amazon hopes to change that with the return of Chris Carter, head guru of the beloved The X-Files, to the world of television. Or this brave new world of television, as it were. Carter has created a new pilot for a proposed series called The After, and if anyone has the tiniest hope that it could be the new X-Files … I’m sorry to say their hopes may be dashed after watching the pilot.
The foundation for the story finds a group of cliches trapped first in an elevator, then a parking garage, then a fabulous Beverly Hills mansion. The reason for their entrapment — something bad has happened. There is no power, at least not on the nation’s power grid (batteries, cars and the such still work), there is a strange booming sound that has the power to shatter car windows, and civilization has come to a grinding halt … although if you can get to an airport, the planes are still flying.
Among the group we’re stuck with is struggling actress Gigi Generau (Louise Monot), an LA cop (Jaina Lee Ortiz), a drunk Irishman (Andrew Howard), a prison escapee (Aldis Hodge), a lawyer (Adrian Pasdar), a diabetic old woman (Sharon Lawrence, looking shockingly old), a prostitute (Arielle Kebbel) who can quote the Bible, and a party clown (Jamie Kennedy). This group of characters is in the dark, literally, as much as the viewers (figuratively) with neither knowing what’s happening. With the appearance of a strange being at the pilot’s climactic moment, one would be tempted to think aliens, but references to the Book of Revelation have me thinking we’re probably dealing with demons and the Tribulation.
As much as I want a new Chris Carter series, this pilot does not live up to what it could have been. The premise of the power being out has been done (Revolution) as has the apocalypse (Supernatural, Sleepy Hollow). Carter certainly has the talent to put a new spin on these situations, but the pilot lives or dies in its casting and for this show to even have a chance of surviving, it needs some major re-casting if it goes to series. Familiar faces like Pasdar and Lawrence do fine with what they’re given (and this is a surprisingly thin script with some surprisingly awful dialog) and Kennedy could be the comic relief if his character wasn’t so whiny. Monot, however, seems to be the “lead” and she also struggles with the script and her heavy accent. Ortiz, Howard and Kebbel seem straight out of community theater, having landed their first big break (and again, I have to blame Carter’s script because they do have lengthy resumés), but Hodge does register, as best as he can, as a real person. (Although the number of F-bombs dropped during the pilot’s 55 minutes is comparable to The Wolf of Wall Street‘s record.)
The pilot is very well-produced and looks expensive, and the introduction of the humanoid at the end is a great hook but it would have been nice if it had been introduced sooner and Carter had done away with some of the extraneous material as the group explores the mansion belonging to the old woman, or having Kebbel take time to strip down for a quick swim in the pool. Yes, the power is out, the world may be coming to the end, but let’s all have one last swim before Armageddon. As it is, we spend a very long 51 minutes with a bunch of people we may end up rooting for to die before something truly interesting happens. If this were produced for a major network, or even a cable channel, I doubt it would get past the pilot stage.
Amazon thought they had something people wanted to see with a Zombieland pilot that went nowhere, and Chris Carter’s return to television should be a major event (and he even seems to put a nod towards The X-Files in the pilot with a small moment involving a bee), but unless The After gets a major casting overhaul and better writing, Carter’s return is going to be very short-lived. And that makes me sad. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can watch the pilot episode for free, or non-members can get a 30 day free trial and view the pilot for free as well. Viewers can then go to the Amazon Originals website and let them know if The After should sink or swim.