Before I discovered Tilda Swinton, Anne Heche was my favorite onscreen weirdo. Robert Zemeckis’ Romancing the Stone is one of my favorite action-adventure, all-over-the-place love stories, so naturally, I liked Six Days, Seven Nights, where Heche bantered endlessly with Harisson Ford. While Heche hasn’t been in a lot of action-adventures, she is the best at it. She has that stoic expression that makes you doubt her intentions, and a credible face that makes her ideal to cast as a doctor, a seismologist, someone who can save the world while simultaneously flirting. That kind of face.
In the Canadian TV sci-fi series Aftermath, she is retired military Karen Copeland, a wife to a sexy nerd, and mom to twin daughters. As the end of the world dawns on their family and the world (but mostly focusing on America, as usual), they encounter the strange and do the unthinkable. As Karen, Heche is a one cocky woman who has the skills to back it up. She has an excellent shot and a dark side that only intensifies as the show progresses. Karen seems cold, even to her husband and kids. When she softens up (always only for a few seconds), it’s like a calm before the storm — she always ends up killing somebody afterwards.
To be perfectly honest, the show is a hot mess. Their struggle to make sense of the apocalypse changes them almost too abruptly. The dynamics of the family is established long-term, you have to watch the entire first season to understand why they are how they are, and even then, you won’t. You’d find yourself making excuses for their strange behavior, like I did, all because in spite of their questionable choices, you root for them.
In the first few episodes alone, Aftermath delivers hit after hit on the Copeland family. Freak storms, catastrophic solar flares, disappering populations, mythological beasts. It’s no wonder Karen is so uptight. Heche is the Clint Eastwood of this story. While it doesn’t revolve around her (several characters encouter their own troubles and have their fair share of kills), but she makes all the calls, in that sense, driving it to wherever it ends up. To some extent, it’s girl-power in reverse: she’s a powerful, strong woman dealing with situations like man would. Her background makes her the warrior of the family; and her academic husband Joshua (James Tupper) is her personal cheerleader. He never questions her. He never even bothers to offer to protect her. They all know their place in the story, and if you could get past the fact that they never explain how or why the unspoken designations came to be, you’ll enjoy it.
Aftermath is the kind of television series that you can watch in one sitting. To say that it’s fast-paced is an understatement. It is so relentless in serving up conflict after conflict that it can tire the viewer — either that, or it amuses them. The ridiculouslness of the plot and the fact that it seems to be going nowhere, just interested in keeping the audience busy and confused, makes it a trainwreck you just can’t take your eyes off of.
It’s not The Walking Dead, don’t expect profound drama from the show. And forget about knowing more about the characters. As far as Aftermath is concerned, who they are is what they do, no more, no less. I would say it’s a self-aware action-adventure comedy in the vein of Heche’s older films, with the comedy lying in the simple fact that it’s not a show that you should take seriously. Never try to explain a joke, they say. Just laugh along and you’ll get it one day.
* * *
Aftermath is available only on iflix. From today, subscribers in the Philippines can now stream and download all 13 episodes of the complete first season, just 24 hours after the season finale in the United States.
Created by Glenn Davis and William Laurin, the post-apocalyptic series follows the Copeland family as they embark on a cross-country exodus for survival. Along the way, Karen (Anne Heche – Hung, Men in Trees), Joshua (James Tupper – Revenge, Grey’s Anatomy) and their three teenage children encounter terrifying supernatural creatures and unprecedented disasters, including massive storms, earthquakes, meteor strikes,plagues and the rapid decline of civilization. Driven to the edge, the Copelands must fight to stay together as they endeavor to make it through to the mysterious next phase.