Tea in the Sahara
Kev – Fiction Podcast Critic
Hello podcast lovers, this week let’s shake things up like a loose can of soda with my review of the awesome ‘Aftershock’ (pun intended!) However, before we jump in with both boots on let me quickly give a shout out to Imran over at Great Pods for Introducing me to this week’s podcast review.
Imran, the creative engine behind Great Pods are absolutely crushing it as a platform for pioneering, professional, podcast critics helping the listener to find your first or next podcast to listen to. Imran reached out to me about a month or so back, and it appears we read from the same hymn sheet when it comes to podcasts, the podcasting industry, and exactly how exciting this niche space is going to get.
If you are a podcast freak like me, constantly looking for the next best podcast to listen too definitely check Great Pods website for indie reviews on every imaginable podcast genre!
Great Pods, Tea in the Sahara salutes you!
Man alive why didn’t I listen to this podcast earlier!
If you are looking for a podcast packed with zing, intensity, stunning audio, and a cocktail of emotions riding on the pulse of environmental events, then Aftershock should definitely be the next scripted podcast you must listen to.
Aftershock was recorded locally at actors homes in multiple locations against a backdrop of a global pandemic, directed & created by Sarah Wayne Callies (Prison Break), co-written by Patrick Carman, Ben Haber & Sarah Wayne Callies, co-produced by iHeartRadio, with Nomadic Engine & Salmira Productions.
There are a ton of super talented, creative people attached to this podcast so if I do miss anyone out within this review my apologies.
The podcasts hinge point is set around an enormous earthquake within Los Angeles that levels buildings, and creates widespread pandemonium across the cities population. Amongst the chaos is a giant island that seemingly emerges ten miles off the mainland from the depths of the Pacific Ocean.
What is it about islands that signify a touch of drama for the audience? Treasure Island, Lord of the Files, heck even sodding Jurassic Park to name but a few books about islands proving that throughout time Joe public loves a drop of mysticism when it involves an island.
The show darts back & forth through past & present timeline’s like Reservoir Dogs, as the series opens with what appears to be a military interrogation between lead character Cassie (Sarah Wayne Callies) and a starchy jobs-worth Major.
Cassie & Wayne Sharpe (David Harbour) of Stranger Things fame provide the narrative following recent events that led up to our current timeline. We learn that twenty-four dead bodies were found on the island and that the military is now onsite having seized control.
(Remember that choppy timeline?) We then cut to some playful byplay banter between lead character Cassie, and her married lover comfortably lulling the listener into thinking life couldn’t get any better. The moment is shattered as their world literally caves in around them.
The atmospheric sound design created within this podcast is outstanding, dragging the listener through the frantic carnage of what sounds like the end of the world! Sirens, screams, overhead helicopters, underwater scenes, and distant car alarms bring this drama’s soundscape to the extreme forefront as LA is brought crashing to its knees.
Not quite the opening twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan, but equally not Netflix & chill either. Aftershock is an equal blend of pace & character development for those wanting their cake, and enjoy eating it too. A huge amount of credit should be bestowed on Jeff Schmidt for the sound design, and phenomenal contribution to this podcast making ground zero almost a reality for the listener.
The stories emotional backbone is Cassie’s hunt to find her now-deceased lover’s teenage daughter McKayla (Tati Gabrielle) last seen sailing, and now stranded on the island. Knowing that Cassie is the ‘other lady’ adopts a modern approach to the usual married couple & missing kid format Hollywood often likes to present. Through her struggles, Cassie stumbles upon Wayne, a prison guard from the local clink now with nothing left in his life. Wayne is an interesting character seemingly willing to drop everything and aid Cassie with her quest to get to the island and rescue McKayla.
Wayne has my caution antenna at half-mast, and I do hope he is who he claims to be however, I also enjoy a left-field blindsided plot twist that you never see coming (here’s hoping!) Be that as it may, my money is on the island being something engineered by the government, as the military action following the earthquake has all the hallmarks of a national cover-up conspiracy. Again here’s hoping!
So to my favourite segment of a review, why should you listen to this podcast? For a start, the series totals only ten episodes in length which is just enough for any newbies to submerge yourself into if you are new to fiction based podcasts.
This audio drama deals with some very current issues, raising the importance of our impact on climate change. The message is not delivered in a Sir David Attenborough educational format, more suggestively with references on previous cataclysmic climatic events that have taken place within recent times.
The show is bang on trend for the here & now quoting hand sanitiser, and a possible contagion outbreak for the military to contend with which neatly links back to the previous eighteen months of our own Covid world.
The fabulous depth & emotions displayed through its actors whilst dealing with an earthquake emergency is awesome. Casting David Harbour adds a touch of je ne sais quoi to the show with his recognisable voice adding character, and carefree aloofness into the mix.
A quick shout out should also go to Jeffrey Dean Morgan for killing the staunch Navy Captain character Mark Dover to a tee. Slipping into the arrogant “wheres my coffee” & “drop-down and give me twenty” military-type with ease.
I mentioned earlier that I was impressed with the progressive idea of Cassie’s character being the mistress, not Laurence’s wife. Flipping the lead heroine on its head, and firmly giving the two-finger salute to the status quo; the inner anarchist in me really admires this approach for sure.
The decision to include an inter-racial relationship into the drama adds yet another dynamic to the storyline which should be something we see/hear more of within podcasts.
Aftershock is not all education & seriousness it also includes a healthy dose of comedy, proving that even when facing immense danger, and potential harm you can defuse a heart-stopping moment with a cheeky throwaway comment from David Harbours character Wayne.
Apart from the education on tsunami’s, earthquakes, sailing, and kayaking techniques I even managed to learn what a go-bag was. So cheers Aftershock for giving my nearest & dearest Christmas present ideas for 2021.
All of the good stuff does not mean that the show is completely showered in gold. In my unique opinion although the show moves in parts with blistering pace, at times it feels like we learn nothing about the island and why it suddenly popped up in the first place.
Slight critique I know, and I can appreciate that Sarah Wayne Callies is probably building the ‘how’ bit into the end of this current series for a grand finale. And I guess depending on how successful the show is will look to potentially further develop the ‘why’ part into season two.
Final thoughts from me – now I am not sure if this is Sarah Wayne Callies first crack at writing, directing, and starring within a podcast or not? Personally speaking, she definitely added another string to her bow, and I look forward to series two of Aftershock or any other audio dramas that she might be linked with.
‘Aftershock’ can be found on Apple Podcasts & Spotify or from wherever you get your podcasts from. If you are a writer/creator looking to release your podcast and require a bespoke review ahead of your podcasts release date feel free to get in touch via my contacts page, or directly – email@example.com.
As you can see my reviews are not machine box-pressed, and I do not shy away from giving my own opinion; if that approach is your bag, then maybe (just maybe) I am your guy for your podcasts grand premiere.
For further Tea in the Sahara reviews or any other business please do check out my other podcast & audio-book reviews cheers Kev.