Thursday, October 6, 2016

Aftermath, Season One, Episode Two: In Rats Alley

Holy shit batman dragons....where's khaleesi?  Yeah, I just couldn't resist.

I still don't have a clear understanding of this world.  It seems that solar flares are effecting the globe and this had lead to massive problems.  Society is crumbling because people are becoming infected and then being invaded by what Aftermath calls skinwalkers.  You'll have to correct me if I'm wrong on this but from my understanding, a skinwalker is a witch which has the ability to transform themselves into any animal.  This is far different from how Aftermath is using the term because skinwalkers in this universe are people whose bodies become invaded by demons.  This means that not only is Aftermath guilty of appropriation, they've decided to give a paranormal entity a brand new definition.  It's particularly problematic because thus far, there isn't an aboriginal person on the show, nor is there any other reoccurring character of colour.

One of the big themes this week was disability in a dystopian world.  People living with disabilities are almost uniformly erased in this genre. Sure, we occasionally see people living with PTSD (eg Rick talking to a dead Laurie on the phone on The Walking Dead) but more often than not, things move so quickly, said person never really deals with their PTSD.  Having not been able to meet up with Brianna, the Copeland family decides to join a convey headed towards Seattle.  Vince and Donald Chang are part of the convey.  Things go well at first, with Matt and Donald even bonding over the fact that they played football for opposing teams.  As time passes, Donald begins to act more and more weird but the only one who is concerned about this is Matt.  When Donald dislocates his shoulder, Sally, Karen's sister fixes it for him and the entire family is stunned when Donald doesn't even scream in pain.  Donny should be sending off warning flares to everyone given that they've already been told that the possession manifests as a sickness.

Matt is the only one to act and he ends up chasing Donny through the woods with Karen and Vince fast on his heels.  When Matt finally confronts Donny, a small scuffle breaks out between the two boys and Donny's voice suddenly changes.  With all of the strange behaviour, Donny's voice changing is enough for Matt to decide that Donny is infected and so he shoots him.  Donny simply slumps to the ground and dies. This shocks Matt because he was so sure that Donny was infected.  It's only when Vince reveals that Donny was schizophrenic and ran out of his medicine that all of Donny's strange behaviour makes sense.  Matt is ashamed to have killed someone for no reason and repeats that Vince should have told them.  Karen makes it better for her son by saying that he made a mistake and making him promise to take time to evaluate the situation next time.  Matt however is still worried that waiting might well mean that his family dies because he believes with the changes in the world what is needed is action.  Karen assures Matt that this isn't the case and  he agrees to investigate before acting the next time.

In the end, though Matt does take some blame; however, Aftermath clearly places the blame on Vince for his lack of disclosure regarding Donny's mental illness. There's very good reason for people with mental illness to hide from the general public.  Ableism is a terrible thing to negotiate and it has lead to things like forced sterilizaton, housing and employment discrimination and even death.  Revealing Donny's mental illness is something Vince would rightfully be afraid to do in a world in which the rule of law had broken down and people are desperate.  Even in the best of times, admitting to an invisible disability can mean problems.  Either way you look at this situation disclose or not disclose, it's a dangerous thing to be disabled in the real world, let alone a dystopian world.

All of this neatly ties in with the overarching theme this week: what kind of person are you?  Dystopians don't change people, they make them reveal exactly who they are.  We have Karen, who is arguably the muscle in the family go racing out into the field to stop an attack on a young woman. Then there's Dana, the family genius, doling out the science facts and explaining to both the family and the audience what it means that solar flares are going off.  Aunt Sally is a nurse whose priority is looking after people.  She's more than willing to sacrifice herself if she thinks that it will help someone. Joshua, the patriarch, is still very much an academic and he seems to spend his time suggesting that lore can explain what is going on. Brianna takes after her mother with her never say die attitude and her top priority is her family.  Finally, we come to Matt, who really doesn't have a secure place and is trying to figure out who he is.  On one hand, he greatly resents his sister's intelligence and wants very much to be a person of action like his mother but he is filled with self doubt. Of all the characters, the one I see with the most room to change and grow is Matt.

I've mentioned Aunt Sally a few times so far in this write up.  Aunt Sally is a new character and thus far all we really know is that she is very different from her sister Karen.  Yeah, Sally has a devil may care attitude when being shot at but she gets serious when it comes to treating the sick.  There seems to be some disagreement between the sisters about going after their father who is a deadbeat dad.  At this point, other than dealing with the supernatural, this seems the most viable plot point for tension. It will be interesting to see if Aftermath decides to follow up on this and add a more human based plot line.

Finally, I want to talk about Brianna because thus far, she's alone in this world.  This week she faces several challenges.Brianna is happy to get a ride to Seattle, only to find that the car she is riding in is out of gas.  If that were not enough, the driver promptly shoots herself once she realises that her friend is dead, thus leaving Brianna on her own again.  When Brianna meets Tatianna, a young woman about her age, things are looking up.  It seems that Brianna might just have found a travelling companion but it's not to be.  Tatianna wants Brianna's phone to get in touch with her boyfriend and she doesn't care what she has to do to get it.  This causes a showdown between the two girls, forcing Brianna to use the gun she took from the woman who killed herself.  Brianna then walks off with her phone and heads towards her grandparents home.

I love following Brianna's journey because she is tough and seems to handle whatever gets thrown her way.  That being said, I hope that next week, we will see Brianna start asking questions before teaming up with people.  As much as I like Brianna's journey, there's also the issue that it feels very separate from the main cast and pulls the viewer away as a result. It's almost like watching two shows simultaneously. Brianna needs to get together with the rest of the Copelands so that Aftermath can gain some cohesion.  There's too much going on with the supernatural to have the family split apart the way that it is.

I'm a little more sold on Aftermath after the second episode.  I like that they decided to get rid off the odd reactions by the family to each weird incident. Each character seems to have a purpose, even if they don't necessarily play off each other that well yet.  There's something good to be said about the way that Aftermath has flipped gender and made Karen a woman action and her husband the academic. The world hasn't been explained sufficiently as far as I'm concerned, but hey, there's dragons. Aftermath certainly isn't at the top of my list but after this week, I'm interested to see where it is going.