Recurring Cast: Mia Pistorius, Callum Gittins, Grae Burton, JJ Fong, Ravi Narayan, Ivan Essin
AFK is a web series filmed in Auckland, New Zealand and can be viewed for free right here.
It can be tricky tracking down a genuinely good web series out there. It is an untapped source of media at the moment, so the decent series are too few and far in between. This makes it even more special when you stumble across something like AFK. A fantasy web series, filmed in some beautiful New Zealand locations and production values so immense that it is like nothing we have seen before from the web series market. For that reason alone, this is a must-see for anyone that loves independent film-making.
The story is a very intriguing one too, meaning that you are constantly drawn back in to chase down the elusive mystery at the centre of AFK. The world of AFK revolves around a MMORG game (think Runescape or World of Warcraft). For some reason, several players wake up and find themselves trapped in the game. They have no idea how they got there or what is happening, so they blindly wander into the game, as the world around them breaks down into anarchy. As the series unfolds, you question the rules along with the characters. Do the players share the traits of their characters? When a character dies, do they wake up outside of the game or are they dead in real life as well? It is a fascinating subject to dive into and that makes the plot of AFK so gripping. I have little knowledge of these sorts of games, yet you get so swept up in the character development that it doesn’t ever become a problem. The series also introduces some great characters to follow. Leading the series is casual gamer, Q, a fairly low level elf whose authority aura makes her the reluctant head of the group, despite never asking for the responsibility. Her character is an enigma until the last few episodes, when her character arc opens up beautifully. The other characters start of as playful stereotypes but evolve into something more. The show plays around with the perceived image of the players and their chosen character. Does the attractive warrior girl dressed in skimpy armour actually look like that in real life? How old is everyone? One of the more amusing characters of the show is the forty-something wizard, who is actually a fifteen year old boy trapped in an ageing body. He becomes a great source of depth in the show, as well as providing some humour. A scene in a tavern is very funny.
The performances hit the mark too. With even the higher quality web series, there is an inconsistent pattern in quality. For example, the budget runs short when the series tries to dial it up for the finale. The producers lucked out with some gorgeous Auckland locations, but a battle sequence to tie up the show is choreographed poorly with under-achieving extras. The pilot also is a little unfocused, the true talent not shining until Episode Three. This makes the acting all the more important, because it grounds the series. When a plot point suffers (usually with a limited run time for each episode), you stay for the characters. Star of the show is Mia Pistorius as Q. She quietly burns with intensity, holding it together for the good of the team, while she falls apart internally. The series plays with the assumed role of hero given to Pistorius, which it breaks down in the penultimate episode. It gives the actress a massive amount to show off with, hitting every bar the script sets her. She is the anchor of the show. While the other actors are impressive, their role is mainly set in comedy, only given a chance to properly act with the occasional emotional monologue. The only actor who could be accused of dropping the ball is Ivan Essin, who is trapped with the weakest character, a Russian villain stereotype with little depth. It works all the more for Pistorius, who gets to try out charismatic, dramatic and badass. She is Youtube’s very own Jennifer Lawrence.
Final Verdict: Amazing production values and performances better than you expect, make AFK the leaders of the pack in the web series movement.