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Now Apocalypse is a kinky stoner comedy for the end times

Tyler Posey and Avan Jogia star in Now Apocalypse
Photo: Starz
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On Now Apocalypse, everyone is having sex and doing drugs like their days are numbered—which they very well could be in this mash-up of science fiction, entertainment industry critique, and dating comedy.

The series, from film festival darling Gregg Araki and Slutever founder Karley Sciortino, follows a group of twentysomething friends, lovers, and roommates in Los Angeles who, quite naturally, have plenty in common with the disaffected but endangered youths of Araki’s Teen Apocalypse Trilogy. The prepossessing ensemble is made up by Ford (Beau Mirchoff), the latest of TV’s beautiful fools; his girlfriend Severine (Araki collaborator Roxane Mesquida), an astrobiological theorist; and Carly (Kelli Berglund), a cam girl and aspiring actress. Though they all get plenty of screentime, the series lead and head conspiracy theorist is Ulysses (Avan Jogia of Caprica and the upcoming Zombieland sequel), who has very little direction but a high success rate for dating app hookups. Like his namesake, he’s on a quest for something grander even if he has no idea what that is. In the meantime, he’s content to work the graveyard shift at a junkyard, smoke copious amounts of weed, and bang married men in their bedrooms.

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There are two things that jolt Ulysses out of his weed-and-Grindr routine: First, he meets Gabriel (Teen Wolf’s Tyler Posey), with whom he has an instant and intense connection, the kind that leads to mutual handjobs set against the background of a sky-rending explosion that may or may not have actually occurred. It’s right around this time that Uly, who introduces himself by telling us he gets into “these situations where my heart’s pounding so fast I can barely breathe”—like narrowly escaping discovery by the spouses of the guys he tops—begins to have a recurring dream about a reptilian alien that disturbs him enough to make him seek out an extraterrestrial expert played by Henry Rollins.

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What these things mean and whether or not they’re connected are low on the list of priorities for Now Apocalypse, which also has a frank sex comedy and a send-up of the Hollywood power complex crammed inside of it (ahem). In its first five episodes, the show mostly focuses on the sexploits of the group—there’s almost as much fucking as there is dialogue—instead of getting to the bottom of its alien conspiracy. Early on, that theory and whatever the hell is going on at Severine’s lab present a vague threat (but a threat nonetheless). As a sex comedy, Now Apocalypse explores different types of release, from sexual to emotional; it gives the same weight to Uly’s many orgasms as it does the first “I love you” between Ford and Severine, as well as Carly tapping into her dominant side in an attempt to finally connect with her boyfriend Jethro (Desmond Chiam).

Kelli Berglund and Avan Jogia
Photo: Starz
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Now Apocalypse boasts a game and talented cast—Berglund in particular shows off great comic timing—which is more than capable of narrative curves, infrequently thrown though they may be. Even as the show delves into non-monogamy and bemoans the state of pop culture (“movies are more irrelevant than books now”), it lets the science-fiction angle go untended. Araki, who’s been at the forefront of New Queer Cinema, combined similar themes in his Queer Palm-winning film, Kaboom, to greater effect, building a sense of paranoia along with the relationships between characters. Now Apocalypse is equally as ambitious, but not nearly as well executed.

Where Araki and Sciortino do succeed, in addition to making sly, poignant commentary about power and relationships, is in subverting expectations, first in giving viewers a queer story that’s a bit fraught, but mostly fun. Tragedy drives so many LGBTQIA+ narratives, but on Now Apocalypse, Uly and Gabriel aren’t the only ones in peril. Though he’s built like one, Ford isn’t any more capable of fending off whatever lurks in the shadows; in fact, his girlfriend Severine, who looks like a gorgeous stock photo of a scientist but also actually is one, might be the person most equipped to deal with the paranormal threat. Araki’s oeuvre is full of young people navigating threats both real and intangible, a reminder that he began his filmmaking career during the AIDS crisis. But sex has never simply equaled death for him, and that’s the case once more on Now Apocalypse. Sex is a distraction and a delight, a way to connect and keep people at arm’s length, and just as worthy of the spotlight as an intergalactic showdown. And when the end times are invoked by non-believers as frequently as churchgoers, it’s just as valid a way to spend your final days as any.

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