Aftermath Review: “Fever of the Bone,” in Which Aunt Sally Needs to Stop Touching ThingsOctober 18, 2016
Late last month, the SyFy Channel debuted Aftermath, an original series about what happens to one family at the end of the world. I talked with Taylor Hickson, who plays Brianna in the show, in case you missed that, and have since just totally been sucked in. The fourth episode aired tonight and OH MAN do I got some feelings about it. Sit down, let’s talk.
YARR, THAR BE SPOILERS AHEAD.
Let’s Catch You Up:
The Copelands are your every day normal family. Josh, an archeologist who specializes in mythology and religion, and his wife Karen, a former air force pilot turned fierce farm mom, are raising their twin daughters, Brianna and Dana, and their son Matt to be level-headed, empathetic, sharp-shooters. As the world ends around them, the family continuously holds together through storm after storm, including solar flares, mass panicked insanity, and hurricanes. They wake up each morning to pick hundreds of dead fish, twisted metal, and car parts out of their yard with the calm determination afforded to those who are used to waking up with the sun to just do what needs to get done–until a supernatural missing kid shows up and drags Brianna off by her leg. The family loads up into their RV and takes off after her into the post-apocalyptic sunset.
A frenzied sickness is sweeping the nation, characterized by irrational, zombie-like behavior and blood in the mouth. Those afflicted are referred to as “Fever Heads.” As if the insane weather knocking out cell reception in addition to people literally going crazy left and right wasn’t enough, the Copelands also have their hands full with supernatural entities: mermaids, dragons, and violent spirits possessing people that the family just decides to start calling “skin walkers” (because it’s not really a mainstream thriller series if you can’t huck a “native americans believed” in there at LEAST once).
In their quest to get everybody back together, the Copelands end up gaining an air-headed Aunt Sally and a friendly Dr. Rollins who happens to know the correct drug to administer Fever Heads to clear up the disease. Meanwhile, Brianna runs into a dragon and some campfire rapists before leaping onto the back of a go-kart with some Amish-looking kids. Deus Ex Cell Signal means Brianna tells her family where to scoop her up. Which brings us to tonight’s episode! WHEW! Strap in kids, it gets bumpy from here.
RECAP: Episode 4: Fever of the Bone
The episode opens with Brianna pouting at the religious mean girls calling her a Demon Commander or something. She then gets locked into a spare room until The Reverend Brother can decide what to do with her.
Cut to the rest of the Copelands running into some flesh-eating bugs having Thanksgiving on bodies in the middle of the road and OF COURSE Aunt Sally leaps out of the RV and starts touching stuff, resulting in a gnarly rash. The Copelands find the Fever Head containment center and make a pit stop, remembering that Dr. Rollins said he would be there with the drugs. Aunt Sally ends up pretty itchy and Karen sends the kids off to find Dr. Rollins, but what they find instead is the world’s worst rave pit and some military-type meat heads. One of them ends up being a friend of a friend of Karen’s from her air force days (besides they’re wearing matching aviators indoors, so you know, besties for lyfe). He decides to help everyone and turns into the streetwise but tender gun-toting Mr. Miyagi to Dana’s earth-loving, pacifist ways.
Back in religious isolation, Brianna’s new uber-sheltered admirer, Dev, peeps on her while she’s bathing (not cool, bro) before she discovers that the Reverend running the compound is actually possessed. After the demon reveals itself to only her, she’s thrown in a barn to wait out the night until her “trial” in the morning. Brianna and Dev fall in love through the barn door while her family, back at the containment center, do some good ol’ fashioned bug-outta-skin-ripping before Dr. Rollins sends the now-escaped Fever Heads into an office full of the parasites.
Dev breaks Brianna out of the barn and the two take off–cue creepy chase scene thru the woods mixed with the type of desperate teen romance that’s all the rage these days. You know, filthy kids in apocalyptic settings still finding time to make out. Teenagers, right? But Dev gets points for smoothing down Brianna’s edges.
Crazy Aunt Sally decides she’s gonna stay behind with the air force dudes and everyone collectively whispers “Thank God, we do not need that woman leaping out of RVs and touching dead bodies all the time” (okay, it may have just been me whispering BUT STILL). The family RV is back on the road, headed directly in the path of Brianna and they find each other on the highway just in time for her and Dev to kick some demon Reverend ass. Which was simultaneously satisfying but unconvincingly short. Everyone immediately commences joking and laughing and feeling good for about 30 seconds before a tank of Fever Heads pulls up behind them and starts shooting.
And then the episode ends. BECAUSE OF COURSE IT DOES.
So Whatdya Think?
So far the Aftermath crew has done an awesome job of building their world and characters at a rip-roaring pace while maintaining a sense of flawed humanity. The show carries some hallmarks of mass-market entertainment but in a good way–it’s not overly campy but neither does it constantly take itself too seriously. Karen’s character especially stands out to me as multi-dimensional: she loves her husband, she’s tough as nails, she worries about her kids, she shoots Fever Heads without wincing. She’s a HELLUVA TV mom. There’s so much happening with her I cannot wait to see where her character goes for the rest of the series.
Unfortunately, Aftermath also has a disappointing habit of killing its diverse characters. The leads in the show are all white and any persons of color who get lines are usually killed shortly thereafter or simply disappear (but that’s an essay for another day). The dialogue can sometimes feel a little soapy or stilted, but the cast manages to carry it through with enough energy that I’m willing to let it go. I’m a firm believer that a first season needs space to say things like “I sinned for you” with seriousness and get it out of its system.
Also, I SEE YOU HEELED SHOES. Sure, I’ll buy that Aunt Sally doesn’t know any better but you expect me to believe that a former air force pilot with special ops training is greeting the apocalypse in black wedges? No dice, guys.
If you wanna get all caught up before next week’s episode, you can watch full episodes of Aftermath online and be sure to check back with Geek Chic Elite next week because I’ll be here, being sassy about post-apocalyptic footwear and rooting for the heroes anyway.