After Life, Series 2 (Netflix) – Review
After Life, Series Two
by Steve Crabtree / @stevecrab
How’s that new Netflix subscription you’ve taken out because of lockdown going? Well, it’s just got a tad better – with the second series of the Ricky Gervais penned After Life now available for your bingeable interests.
Series one was a huge hit. It (rightly) scooped awards and earned huge acclaim – and since last year fans have been longing for this sequel. And series two still packs the punches. To the head, to the stomach and to the heart.
Thankfully, life goes on for Tony as we sit down to watch After Life 2. At the end of the first series he’d found some sort of peace, but the dark undertones from back then are still present. He remains heartbreakingly suicidal after the death of wife Lisa (Kerry Godliman). His coping mechanisms are bluntly on show to us, the viewer; but not always to the people he comes across in everyday life.
He continues to have battles with mental health and grief, and at 30 minutes an episode the pacing is fast. But there’s enough space to let you relate and enjoy and more than occasionally it’s a challenge not to shed a tear. Maybe you’ll be itching for a bit more suspense in some quarters, but the balance of drama, comedy, emotion and intrigue ensures After Life 2 remains a very compelling watch. That said, a couple of episodes did end abruptly, and you could be forgiven for wondering why each show isn’t longer.
You see Tony doing a lot of ‘paying-it-forward’ in After Life 2, a lesson he learned in the first series. His colleagues at the newspaper benefit from this, as does his sparring partner postman (Joe Wilkinson) – but their scenes together still raise some of the best laughs. However, as you relate more to Tony, you also wish he’d be a bit kinder to himself. He’s more mellow and understanding in his visits to see his dementia-suffering dad (David Bradley) in the nursing home. This means he’s also frequently reacquainted with Emma (Ashley Jensen), his dad’s nurse, thus bringing out another perfectly executed element of internal conflict in Tony.
Like series one, After Life 2 links pretty much every part of the plot really well. And I like that journalist Sandy (Mandeep Dhillon) features more strongly this time round. The sub-plots that she’s involved in bring a nicely sprinkled freshness to the series.
But in such a well-written and well executed series, do we have any grumbles? Yes, we do. We’ve got the psychiatrist character played by Paul Kaye again. In After Life 2 Tony’s friend and boss Matt visits as a result of marital problems. Now, a naff psychiatrist is often a fixture in comedy, but this one is (purposefully) far from realistic, but also out of place. The scenes jar and the comedy fails and ends up being a huge annoyance and interruption to the overall story. I don’t get it. If Gervais writes a third series, perhaps it’s the turn of this character to see a shrink. A proper one.
Episode five is the season highlight – perhaps of After Life as a whole – and makes the deepest marks. There’s comic absurdity at its best with a local talent show, then a hammer blow comes out of nowhere. You witness Tony on his sofa at his lowest, and this punch to the stomach isn’t what he needed.
All six episodes are over in a flash and it’s one of those that are over too quickly. But I’m sure we’re going to be in for series three at some point in the future. The ending is open but satisfying after a hard hitting finale where Gervais pulls out all the stops. It’s that good it leaves you wanting more.
After Life 2 hits the spot and leaves you with plenty of after-thought – especially right now.
All six episodes of Series 2 of ‘After Life’ are on Netflix