Ben and his wife and kids are living a perfectly nice life in Chicago, replete with gadgets and refrigerators and all manner of electrical goodies. And then the power goes out. And it doesn't come back on.
Fifteen years later, the power is still out, despite all manner of irate calls to ConEd. Ben has established a nice little settlement for himself; his two kids, Charlie and Danny; and his new girlfriend, Maggie. But then trouble rides into town and Ben gets himself shot by Breaking Baddie Giancarlo Esposito, and Danny gets kidnapped. Turns out Giancarlo works for the local strongman, General Sebastian Monroe, who seems to fall somewhere between Charles Taylor and Joseph Stalin on the list of awesome people you don't want running your local government. Before dying, Ben sends Charlie and Maggie off to find his brother, Miles, in Chicago.
Turns out Miles owns a bar in Chicago, and he's way smarter than Charlie, who keeps getting herself almost stabbed or raped or sold into white slavery or whatever because she likes to trust people. He's smart enough not to want any part of her insane let's-go-find-Danny goose chase, but after a bunch of Monroe's men try to murder him four different ways, Miles packs up all the whiskey he can carry and sets out to find his nephew... and his former buddy, because it turns out Sebastian Monroe and Miles used to be Marines together.
Also, this one lady still has power. And she is bogarting it. Not cool, lady.
Somewhere in Chicago, Charlie, a small child, is watching Bugs Bunny cartoons. Her brother is playing with an iPad. Charlie's mom tries to make her talk to her grandmother on Mom's iPhone, but Charlie is engrossed in Bugs. Brat. Charlie's dad, Ben, who looks eerily like Martin Donovan but is not him, arrives home in a panic and tells Charlie's mom to fill the sinks and tubs with water. She stops his hurry and says flatly, "It's happening. Isn't it."
Port Royal, South Carolina. A man in a car is texting on another iPhone. It's the Cape! Six seasons and a movie! He's making fun of his friend -- whom you might recognize as Bella Swan's dad but who I enjoyed as one of Jordana Spiro's (she's the Mob Doctor now, you know) hot boyfriends on the very decent TBS sitcom My Boys -- for having a non-smart phone. As a fellow Luddite, I sympathize. Ben calls the driver, who explains that Ben is his brother. Ben says, "It's all going to turn off and it will never, ever turn back on."
Before Ben can explain what "it" is (although it seems pretty self-explanatory to me), the power goes out. And it's not just the plugged-in things that turn off. Cell phones, laptops, car engines: everything dies. Ben is fiddling with some sort of flash drive, downloading something from his laptop, and it finishes just before the power goes out. Charlie's brother starts to cry. On the highway, Ben's brother's car has come to a stop; he and the Cape get out and look around and ask, "What the hell's going on?" Everyone else on the highway is all, Jesus Christ, not the zombies again. Ben goes outside and sees all the other houses going dark, then the Sears, er, Willis Tower, and then planes begin falling out of the sky. Which is pretty damn scary, and thanks, J.J., for not dwelling on that. From space, we watch as the entire Western Hemisphere goes dark, one light at a time. It's suitably creepy.
Fifteen years later. Cities are overgrown, flooded, overrun with wildlife, as a voiceover tells us about what we just saw -- the power is gone, even the power in batteries and cars, and it never came back. "Governments fell," the voiceover says. "Militias rose up. If you were smart, you left the city. If you weren't, you died there." Ugh. The idea of living without Seamless makes me sad.