Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Chris Carter's The After: Exploring Four Mysteries in the Pilot
I hope by now everyone has had the opportunity to watch the extraordinary pilot episode of Chris Carter’s The After (2014), available for free streaming at Amazon.com.
I wrote a review of the episode here, but today I want to discuss in detail some of the mysteries the drama establishes.
So if you haven’t watched the pilot yet, and you plan to do this, this post will spoil your sense of discovery.
Go watch the program and then come back after an hour or so, and read this, okay?
Now, for everyone else, I want to elaborate on some of the series’ mysteries as they appear in the pilot. If and when the pilot goes to series, then we’ll have other aspects of the central mystery to discuss, no doubt, and some of the implications discussed below may also be moot. As we learn more, some theories will gain traction, and others will become inoperative.
Mystery One: Missing Time
About mid-way through the pilot episode, Gigi (Louise Monot) seeks assistance from a harried and distracted policeman in the city proper, and he informs her that communications have been down for a day.
This comment does not seem consistent with Gigi’s time-line as we experience it, suggesting that, somehow, time has been altered for her and the other individuals in the parking garage.
Later in the program, if memory serves, Gigi repeats this information to the others as if she can’t understand why the policeman said it. The implication, I believe, is that they share her perception of time. The group of eight has been through something different, therefore, than the rest of the world.
We know that Chris Carter is familiar with the concept of “missing time.”
It featured, for example, in The X-Files pilot in 1993. Basically, it is a phenomenon in which alien abductees “lose” time because their memories have been tampered with. They have been abducted, forgot the abduction (or rather, had the memories of the abduction erased….) and when they return to Earth, feel like they are missing a piece of their lives. Clocks and other time-pieces also reveal a discrepancy.
In The After, we might assume that the survivors we meet in the parking garage and elevator have been singled out by the strange phenomenon -- whatever it is -- and they have similarly seen their reality altered. They remember time differently than the rest of the world remembers it, or at the very least differently than the police officer Gigi encounters, who has been “out” in the world dealing with the crisis.
So when did this group of eight lose time? When trapped in the elevator? When in the parking deck?
And why were they singled-out, targeted, and abducted, if that is indeed what occurred?
Mystery Two: March 7th
We learn in The After -- after all eight people in Gigi's group gather in Francis’s (Sharon Lawrence’s) house -- that every individual there share one birthday in common: March 7.
This could mean a couple of things, if we delve into the mystery.
The first possibility is one that a friend of mine in California e-mailed me about, and is based on a similar revelation from the movie Identity (2000).
To wit: what if in The After, we are not dealing with eight separate people in a group, but actually one person with multiple personalities and a splintered sense of reality? All the personalities -- essentially being just one person -- thus share a birth date.
The second possibility is that these survivors are part of a laboratory experiment of some unknown (alien?) sort. They have all been selected to be trapped together (and perhaps experience missing time..) because of their birth-date.
They are the March 7th experiment group, in other words.
This would mean that the Dark Shadows group people not in terms of actual date of birth -- because the characters are clearly different ages -- but by astrological sign, perhaps.
The third possibility is very similar to the preceding speculation. The survivors in The After who gather in the house share a birth date because they have all ended up in Hell, purgatory, or some alternate spiritual dimension.
In other words, this is the Hell of People Born on March 7th.
If the Dark Shadow is a demon, he has been assigned to monitor them, and their actions.
He has even been “branded” with their specific tattoos (like the 888, or the snake eating its tail) because he must keep track of them, and perhaps (with those red eyes…) he sees them differently than humans see each other. His vision is different, in other words.
So he keeps track of them, observes them, or perhaps even hunts them based on these identifying markings…which he also keeps on his body as a handy reference to his prey.
Mystery 3: The Dark Shadow
This intensely creepy being revealed in The After's denouement may either be an alien or a demon, but he certainly seems to be watching the survivors of the apocalyptic “event” very closely. Humanoid (meaning biped....) in shape, the creature seems to be able to re-shape himself at least to some degree. His bones and muscles re-form, and he skitters away in a kind of spider walk.
The very term “spider-walk” might remind some horror genre fans explicitly of The Exorcist (1973), and the cut-scene involving a possessed Regan (Linda Blair) spider-walking down a staircase.
This footage was unearthed more than a decade ago, and is seen in outtakes and some cuts of the film. The Exorcist reference or allusion may therefore suggest something important about the Dark Shadow’s nature.
He could be a demon, like the creature in the Friedkin film.
I should hasten to add, Chris Carter is an extremely knowledgeable person in terms of cinema and horror history, and his work often includes homage, tribute, and allusion. So we shouldn't take the manner of the creature's gait too lightly. It could be a clue.
I believe, at this juncture, that the Dark Shadow is an observer (at least at first), though he attempts physical contact with Gigi. The fact that he makes this effort suggests that he may not be afraid of being “seen” by his quarry.
Mystery 4: The Tattoos.
One character in The After – Tammy (Arielle Kebbel) -- has a tattoo: “888.”
That number represents Jesus “the redeemer” in Christian numerology circles. By contrast, the Devil is 666.
In Chinese numerology, 888 is a number that represents good fortune. But given what we know of Tammy (that she is from the Bible Belt, and talks specifically about the Book of Revelation…), we must assume that her 888 tattoo is Christian in origin, meaning, and importance.
What other meanings could 888 have? Well, the year 888 AD was a leap year, though I’m not certain why that would be important (except, after a sense, it could be termed a year with “missing time.”)
Finally, the tattoo has three eights, and as has already been established in these speculations, there are also eight survivors in The After, working together. So the 888 may have some secret significance, like the March 7th birthdate.
The Ouroboros tat -- the tail-swallowing-snake -- by contrast represents a repeating cycle.
It also represents a “primordial energy” or unity that cannot be extinguished. The man who wears it, McCormick (Andrew Howard) could therefore be a former member of the Millennium Group (!), or a member of some other organization we don’t know about.
Or, he might simply find the Ouroboros personally meaningful to him.
However, if we put the 888 together with the Ouroboros, we get the idea of Christ the Redeemer and a Cycle that Repeats. Does this mean that The After reckons with Judgment Day, the Second Coming of Christ, and Armageddon, his battle with Dark Forces (represented by the Dark Shadows)?
We shall see, I hope.
Anyone else have any thoughts about these or any other mysteries on The After? I’d love to read your thoughts and get a discussion going here about all of them.
I have noted before how much The After impressed me, and part of the reason why involves these (and other mysteries…), which seem highly symbolic, and related to Scripture.
Carter's work is universally symbolic, which grants it layers, and makes it eminently worthy of a re-watch.
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