So it turns out that, despite being filmed in a much more linear and episodic manner, Beyond is a watered-down attempt at the Netflix opus The OA. We’re dealing with concepts of near-death-experiences or NDEs, life and death and the actual existence of an afterlife, and powers learned from touching the realms of these un-provable concepts. In all cases, it seems, these powers in particular are unstable and unpredictable, but are potentially catastrophic.
Holden Matthews (Burkely Duffield) is no stranger to this concept though, as he fell into a coma as the result of an accident when he was very young, and stayed there for twelve whole years before suddenly, inexplicably, waking. His body was being taken care of in the hospital as best they could, but when he woke Holden experienced no ill affects other than large gaps in his pop culture knowledge and dating experiences, at least at first. Holden begins manifesting what only can be described as otherworldly powers, mostly what looks like telekinetic emotional backlash when he’s scared or livid. But Holden also begins suffering visions, landscapes of ethereal plains that seem familiar and a haunting old man who wants him to harness his powers, both here in the otherworld and out in real life.
Spoilers live in the afterlife too!
We meet Willa (Dilan Gwyn), the enigmatic lover of Holden who has a clear agenda of her own, claiming she was with Holden the entire time he was in his coma, off in this transcendental world they refer to simply as the Realm. Willa’s grandfather, Arthur (Alex Diakun), off in his coma too but with some sort of magical sciencey phone app that allows him to communicate with her, happens to wear the face of the old man that’s been haunting Holden’s visions.
A fair amount of tedious backstory boils down to an interesting conceptual question – is there a real, knowable afterlife? Arthur and certain Isaac Frost (Martin Donovan) desperately wanted to answer this question, after Willa’s mother fell into a coma bringing her into the world. Long after they split over their philosophical differences, Frost used his power and influence to create this kind of death cult called Hollow Sky, while Arthur used one of the coma-inducing machines he built to send himself into the Realm. All this happened quite some time ago, but upon finding Holden and his somehow unique experiences in the Realm and special brain, everyone wants to use Holden for his, or her, own purposes in the here and now.
So what now? Holden is awake and being chased down by the Man in the Yellow Jacket, who technically works for Frost; Holden is dealing with his mom and dad being separated and his younger brother now acting out in college; and the memories of the Realm, which we now understand is more or less the anteroom to the afterlife, are coming on stronger too. Arthur and Willa were training Holden in the Realm, which apparently began to bleed over into the real world once he was awake, and unfortunately that makes him a good target for the Man in the Yellow Jacket and other Hollow Sky cronies. Jeff McArdle (Jeff Pierre), Kevin’s older and much more militaristic brother, is determined to avenge his little brothers murder and save Holden as best he can too.
Much of this is on the surface, and the underlying story of the afterlife question lingers in interesting use of CGI and green-screen effects. During commercial breaks in the show, the cast and crew of Beyond have snippets of effects used on the show, acting tidbits and mini character bios, which does make for interesting viewing but does rather take away from the attempt to build believable wonder in the Realm and the Afterlife inside the show itself. Despite the implausible atmosphere in previous episodes, the finale at least does deliver in a satisfactory manner on that score. With fairly simple concepts and effects reminiscent of the movie Ghost, Beyond brings across a comeuppance to most of the villains and a palatable pause to the good guys that brings approval from many skeptics.
Again like The OA, the show starts with a strong concept and pilot episode, staggers a bit in the middle with some gratuitous storytelling, and finishes with a pretty darned satisfying finale that closed off some major storylines and opened a few new ones for Season Two.
Explore the concept of an Afterlife with Beyond Season One on Freeform, and now available on Netflix!