It’s hard to pin down my opinion on Now, Apocalypse – veteran director Gregg Araki’s latest offering for Starz – because after “This is the Beginning of the End” I’m still at a loss as to what exactly it’s supposed to be.
Gregg Araki used to be known for psychedelic queer sci-fi that told the story of LA through drugs, sex and alien invasions. I think the problem with “This is the Beginning of the End” is if you’ve seen any of his similar work, you know exactly where it’s going. Since 1993’s Totally F****ed Up (and really the entirety of the “Teen Apocalypse Trilogy”), we’ve seen the same story being told with no growth and little to no update.
I realize that this entire project is just a re-imagining of 2010’s Kaboom with Thomas Dekker, but did they not bother to update it to the times? For goodness sake, the main character Uly (Avan Jogia) keeps a videoblog? In this media obsessed culture, there’s no way Uly wouldn’t have an IG Channel. He would demand feedback. If this was a period piece, then fine, but this is supposed to be telling the story of now and it feels so hopelessly dated. I kept wanting to bring up the IMDB errors page and look for anachronisms.
At one point in “This is the Beginning of the End”, Uly is finally on a date with the coveted Gabriel (Tyler Posey) and they’re about to kiss. When suddenly a legit truck full of dudes, in the year of our Lord 2019, somewhere in Los Angeles drives by and yells “f*gs!” while one of the guys make blowjob motions. This prompts Gabriel to take Uly to the safety of a dingy alleyway and trade rough handjobs. I literally said out loud, “When is this?!” It was so unnecessary and… was it a plot device to get them into the alley? Couldn’t they just…?
Is this what the gays are settling for to get laid? Rough hand jobs from negging dudes with greasy hair who are 45 minutes late because they can’t keep their phones charged and can’t Waze right? Demand more. Also, love that they nearly found a way for Gabriel to no-homo on a Grindr date. Inspired. “I wanna see you again so no hook-ups! Well, hand-jobs I guess, *wink*”
It’s that kind of disconnectedness that makes “This is the Beginning of the End” seem more like performance art than a slice of life. During the episode Uly is discussing potential hook-up+ Gabriel with Carly (Kelly Berglund), and she advises Uly to set his bar low (I lol’d). I feel like this was an inside plea to the viewers of this show as well. There are just too many disposable moving parts to this series to keep it engaging. It’s flashy in a way that distracts from the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of plot.
For example, in “This is the Beginning of the End”, we have an entire scene where Carly and some other girl whose name and relation to Carly I’ve forgotten completely (yet I fully remember Carly’s palm tree leggings and I stan) are talking about Tindr disasters. The girl is complaining that she can’t find romance online and all guys want to do is hook-up. Carly tells her that’s just an excuse “old people” use when they can’t figure out how to use technology for sex, which… is kind of the opposite of what the girl was complaining about, but okay.
So then she proceeds to take pictures of her friend in a bikini top to make her look more sexy. To recap, her friend wants to find a connection online, not just sex, so Carly gets her more naked so she gets more guys who want to have sex with her. Which was never the problem.
Why did we need to see any of that? Ultimately that girl is never heard from again so was it just to fill time to get to Carly being a reluctant girlfriend to her actor boyfriend, Jethro (Desmond Chiam), who’s celebrating his part as a corpse on a popular show? And while they try to sell him as a yoga douche, he frankly doesn’t seem that bad (and he’s pretty beautiful). His bedroom talk in “This is the Beginning of the End” consists of wanting to worship her and she hates it for reasons that are yet to be explained.
Ultimately I have two concerns for this show: First of all, it should have been a movie. I already fear that in the 5 hours of content, there’s going to be about 3.5 hours of way too much filler. Secondly, we have an Araki problem. For Araki neophytes this outing might seem bright and shiny, but I’ve gone hard in the paint with Gregg Araki since The Living End (which I lived for).
If Now, Apocalypse is the no holds barred version of Nowhere… do we need that? Nowhere had a very specific place in the cultural zeitgeist and when it was released it did break a lot of barriers. This was the resurgence of queer media where queer cinema was starting to show sex positivity again. Will & Grace and Queer As Folk were just around the corner.
There were massive limitations, but the cinema was transitional. Before the idea of a “look”, a kiss, a subtle touch was enough. Movies like Six Degrees of Separation and My Own Private Idaho featured same sex kisses, but shrouded in the dark and clouded with consequences in the narrative. Queer audiences were getting sick of their stories ending in violence or sickness. They started asking for something more representational, sex without shame and it became media’s time to catch up.
Some writers and directors jumped on board and gave us as many queer characters and storylines as they could get past the sponsors and execs. While others tried to straddle the fence; hence the induction of “queerbaiting” or the act of setting up your characters in situations with the promise of queer content to entice and satisfy your queer and allied audience, but not actually delivering on it to pacify your sponsors and ad-base.
I’ve seen Now, Apocalypse get praise for delivering on the queer content but look at what we’re given in “This is the Beginning of the End”: An interrupted cheating sex scene, an unrequited crush, a rough handjob in an alley. Uly shares an apartment with his straight best friend Ford (Beau Mirchoff) and the first scene that we get between them literally has a vagina between them. Ford is planted inside of his girlfriend when Uly walks in early from a date and Uly laments that even though they fooled around while drunk, Ford is 100% straight (which… what? Not gonna elaborate? Ok!).
He’s completely in love with Ford and later in “This is the Beginning of the End” he gets his wish in a steamy kiss and Ford offering to take him behind the bushes and “F*ck!” but alas, it’s not real. Isn’t this just another form of queerbaiting? Sure, we got to see it, but is that enough? Casting fantasy gays to portray a relationship that can never actually be?
I’m not sure Gregg would know or that he ever took the time to find out. I find that there’s a remarkable lack of openly LGBTQIA+ talent on the callsheet for this show. Gregg Araki was given the privilege of a new generation of acceptance and a budget to match with barely any limitations and he created a ‘90s version of a 2000’s classic with more nudity and vaping. He’s catering to the world of tomorrow, but his tomorrow was twenty years ago.
Despite all of that, there were some things I liked in “This is the Beginning of the End”! I mean, hey, if I’m going to watch ten weeks of this, I gotta find something to hold on to.
- Severine (Roxane Mesquida): She’s a rocket scientist – excuse me, astro-biological theorist, (I guess to tie in the UFO/alien presence aspect). How she met Ford, who knows, but she does say he has world’s most magnificent cock with such a sincerity that the genuine pleasure that graces his face was easily mirrored by my own. She’s a beautiful, no-nonsense woman who doesn’t believe in monogamy and though she finds Ford to be extraordinary, doesn’t look to him to be her everything. Most of the reviews I’ve seen are taken with Carly, but I’d watch Severine all day long and I do love the non-couply couple she and Ford make.
- Ford: Is a pure delight and Beau plays him to perfection. Just naive enough to be charming, just cocky enough to be daring, he quite literally puts it out there and doesn’t mind if you take a look at the view. While in a coffee shop downing a smoothie and typing away on his laptop (lovingly adorned with a label that says “Ask me about my screenplay”) he’s approached by a man named Barnabas Powers (played by the hilariously underrated Kevin Daniels). Ford insists that Barnabas is legit (and not just pron as Avan insists Ford checks out) and he’s very excited about the opportunity. I’m actually interested to see where this storyline ends up. Experience tells me with Ford’s penis somewhere inside Barney, but I’m willing to be surprised.
- Jethro: He just wants to love his woman, celebrate his corpse being seen by 14M viewers, living the dream and positive thinking. And he does all that while being absolutely beautiful. I don’t ask a lot from my supporting characters, and Jethro delivers on every counts. Great comedic timing, absolute commitment and being the guy you know you should hate, but you can’t quite let go.
All in all, this isn’t a show I would suggest waiting a week in between. Let a few build up and then watch them all at once. Maybe in the background while you’re folding laundry.
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