Æon Flux
Peter Chung crafts an antiheroine to die for
Æon Flux
(Colossal) Pictures
Created by Peter Chung
USA, 1991
When Æon Flux first appeared on MTV/(Colossal) Picturesí Liquid Television series in 1991, it seemed rather shallow: sexy in an angular, anorexic, Euro-comic sort of way, the title character did little more than kill plenty of people in interesting ways. She was every science-fiction action movie hero rolled into one animated engine of destruction.

Shortly after, the show took on a mysterious tone, where things were quickly established as not necessarily being what they seemed. The more visceral elements of the show were still there, but it was clear that this was the thinking personís sex and violence. In more than one interview, Flux creator and director Peter Chung has made clear his intentions with respect to the show: the idea was to take the clichés and conventions of action and science fiction movies, and twist them around in such a way that viewers would question their acceptance of these conventions, and scrutinize the show a bit more carefully. Further, there was no dialogue in the show, meaning that no explanations were handed on a platter--the viewer had to try to make sense of everything on his or her own. In fact, knowing that MTV would put Liquid Television into heavy rotation, Chung specifically designed the show in such a way that complete comprehension might require repeated viewings.

The first "season" of Æon Flux was in fact one short that ran about twelve minutes or so. This was broken up into 6 shorter segments, each of which was aired during a Liquid Television episode. With the second season of Liquid Television, there was another series of Æon Flux shorts--only this time, each episode was self-contained, and presented in no particular order. Plus, another twist of convention: Æon died in every episode.

Æon Flux was easily one of the most popular segments of Liquid Television, and was one of two to be spun off into a series of half-hour episodes (the other being Beavis and Butt-Head.) This ten-episode series forms Æon Fluxís "third season," which diverged significantly in structure and tone from the first two. The mayhem diminished somewhat, and Æon now had a concrete, definite nemesis--Trevor Goodchild, the only other major character to recur from the first two seasons. Then there was the addition of dialogue; Æon actually became chatty.

However, these changes did not dilute the show. Rather, these self-contained episodes added depth to the characters, while keeping them consistent with the first two seasons. And, contrary to what one might assume, the addition of dialogue did not make the show any less strange, confusing, or thought-provoking. Æon Flux, in all three incarnations, has consistently been some of the best science fiction to come on North American TV.

Originally appeared in Parsec vol. 2, no. 1 (October 1996)