Gregg Araki’s first full foray into television is loose, colorful, and over-the-top.
Director Gregg Araki is dependable when it comes to providing strange and hilarious stories of beautiful people and the end of the world. His filmography is a lineup of over-the-top parables of the end of days, but it has never been so lovingly explored as it is with his new limited series, Now Apocalypse. This show is stuffed with buff dudes, sex, and lizard aliens. It’s one of the funnest shows I’ve seen in a long time. Eat your heart out, Riverdale.
When you’re young and living in Los Angeles, you must feel like you can take on the world. Ulysses (Avon Jogia) pines over Gabriel (Tyler Posey), a flakey guy he met on a dating app. His friend Carly (Kelli Berglund) is trying to be an actress, but she’s a cam girl on the side. Ulysses’ roommate, Ford (a magnetic Beau Mirchoff) is an aspiring screenwriter, and he is head over heels with his French scientist girlfriend, Severine (Roxane Mesquida). But in the Araki-verse, it can’t be all that simple, can it?
Ulysses is haunted by weird dreams of lizard men (yes, lizard men) and strange symbols, but maybe he is just smoking too much pot? His vape pen is almost always in his mouth. There is an insatiable curiosity to Jogia’s performance that makes him the perfect protagonist for a sun-drenched adventure about being lost while waiting for everyone to meet their end.
The further Ulysses delves into his dreams, the crazier Apocalypse, and his reality, become. It’s refreshing to see a series go berserk and just give you something satisfying and silly. The dialogue is quick and the people are gorgeous. What better way to satirize the city of angels than show the inhabitants struggling while enjoying some drugs and casual sex? While Jogia is our wayward and easily influenced center, Mirchoff’s Ford is a perfect mixture of dim machismo and lovable jock. He still carries around his perceptions of what a traditional relationship should be, but he’s not a jerk. He could have easily been written as a one-note moron, but he’s sincere. Who doesn’t love a sweet, muscled dude whose bulb is a bit too dim?
One of the best ongoing conversations throughout the series is how Severine tells Ford that she’s not interested in a strictly monogamous romantic relationship. He is perpetually declaring his love for her (he even repeats saying I love you while she gives him a pity handjob at one point), but she is incredibly straightforward about not being sexually restricted. Carly is able to explore her dominant side with her boyfriend, and Ulysses has a number of different encounters. These characters are just allowed to have sex. Araki removes the stigma around sexuality in his work, and maybe Apocalypse can teach us all to not be so uptight?
Apocalypse has a unbridled porno theatricality that infuses the show with a looseness that is rarely seen in the self-serious limited series world. It’s absurd, yes, but it’s so free and, dare I say, pleasurable. I got drunk on how graphic and silly it is–and that’s just from the first 5 episodes screened for critics. The glossiness of this series contrasts to the grittier settings of Araki’s Teen Apocalypse Trilogy from the early 1990’s, and it incredibly self-aware. It’s almost as if the characters are going to lift up their colorful sunglasses and wink directly at you.
And why wouldn’t they? We’re all going to die anyway.
Now Apocalypse debuts on Starz on March 10.