Liam Hoofe reviews After Life season 2…
Long time fans of Ricky Gervais will know that his output over the last decade has been somewhat uneven. After scoring home runs with The Office and Extras in the early part of the century, shows like Life’s Too Short and Derek never managed to amass the same level of critical acclaim or fan adoration.
Many fans were pleased then when After Life season 1 turned out to be somewhat of a success. The show told the story of Tony, played by Gervais, a man who was struggling to deal with the loss of his wife. It took all of Gervais’ trademarks and threw them all into one big Netflix funded blender, and while it may not have been in the same league as The Office or Extras, it was still a largely enjoyable show.
The big issue with After Life season 2 however, is that season 1 told a complete story that didn’t really need revisiting. At the end of the season, Tony had come to terms with the loss of his wife and was ready to move on. The story had reached its logical conclusion and that was that.
This means that the first episode of season 2 is spent backpedalling on that ending and for a lot of its six-episode run-time, After Life season 2 struggles to justify its existence.
The themes that made the first season of the show so interesting, most notably grief, feel worn out by the time the end credits roll on the second season but Gervais continues to hammer them into the ground with scene after scene of Tony wallowing in his grief. The closing episode has one or two nice moments but largely, we just end up back where we started.
For the most part, the humour has also been sucked out of the show. Gervais’s trademark I can’t say that but I just did style of humour feels a little old that at this point. There are the occasional funny moments, largely the ones involving some of the town’s oddball characters but Gervais enthusiasts will have heard the jokes several times already.
The cast of supporting characters range from sweet and likeable to downright unwatchable and sadly, large portions of the show are spent with the wrong ones.
One character, in particular, a therapist played by Paul Kaye is particularly irritating. The character’s rants are clearly designed as a criticism of toxic masculinity but they go on far too long and lose any impact. They also force the viewer to suspend reality somewhat and as a result, take you away from any impactful moments.
Some characters, however, such as Mandeep Dillon’s Sandy are given tiny roles, which is unfortunate as they seem to be the most likeable and potentially interesting on the show. That being said, Diane Morgan’s character is given a little bit more significance this time around and she really manages to balance the absurd and the emotional incredibly well. A blossoming relationship between Gervais’s idiotic postman and the big-hearted sex worker, Lisa, also provides a few nice moments.
After being so fond of After Life season 1, it is a shame that season 2 struggles to find anything new and interesting to do with the themes or the characters. Gervais has typically done two seasons of a show and left it at that but with the money Netflix is throwing at this show, you can expect a third season to be announced in the very near future.
Verdict: Season 1 of After Life was a logical endpoint for Tony’s story and as such, and season 2 spends large parts of its time justifying its existence. The inevitable third season will no doubt be more of the same.