After Life: Season Two Review
After Life season two is possibly the worst timed TV show with some of the most uplifting dialogue. Given the current status of the UK and rest of the world, we have never been more vulnerable or felt more apart from our families and friends, but while Ricky Gervais creating a second season of his hit TV show perfectly passed some time, providing much needed laughter; it’s a reminder of our needs and desires in these difficult times. On the flip side, one of the final lines of the season sums it all up beautifully:
“In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.”
Season two (click here for our season one review) picks up almost directly after the first with few, if any, character differences. Tony (Ricky Gervais) is still an emotional, suicidal wreck still grieving the loss his wife, and is saved on a daily basis by his dog Brandy. He still works for the Tambury Gazette and visits his dad daily, while continuing the will-they-wont-they story with Nurse Emma (Ashley Jensen). For the first few episodes at least, it’s difficult to wonder why a second season was made at all, it’s nothing more than a rehash of the first with only subtle changes.
From a comedic perspective it’s just as brilliant as the first; there are plenty of gut-wrenching sketches, and the performances given by seasoned stand-up comedians (most notably Joe Wilkinson and Roisin Conaty) are nothing but a pleasure to sit back and digest. This season continues to act as a social commentary on PC culture, though this time around is far more in your face and borderline unnecessary, mainly with the offensive, over-the-top, womanising therapist (Paul Kaye) whose character is a little too ridiculous to accept, even in this fictional out-of-the-box world.
After Life season two takes you on an emotional roller-coaster, once again sharing home video footage of Tony and his wife’s happy life together, widening the picture of the relationship they once had. In an uplifting character development, Tony chooses to try and be more empathetic by helping his friends and colleagues with their problems, simply offering a listening ear or shoulder to cry on. This not only showed excellent character progression but allowed the supporting cast to have a purpose outside of being a precursor to a sketch or joke at their expense. It was also a nice nod to the benefits of talking about your problems and being a sympathetic human being.
It’s nice to see the chemistry between all cast remain as strong as ever, with many scenes offering a giggle and a cry simultaneously. The scenes at the cemetery between Tony and fellow widower Anne (Penelope Wilton) were some of my favourites; the dialogue between the two was insightful, uplifting and hilarious. In a fictitious world where everything is overly abnormal, Matt the newspaper editor offers a grounded look, almost being the voice of reason to some of the more outlandish emotional responses to difficult situations. This helped otherwise overlooked scenarios feel more relatable to everyday life.
Season one climaxed beautifully; the story was complete and satisfying, offering hope for Tony and depicted growth, which often feels forgotten here, and in some respects, hinders the loveable nature of the first season. While understandable that Tony’s character would still feel loss and not wanting to start a new relationship through fear of, in his words, “feeling like I’m cheating on my wife”, did we really need to see this?...it’s arguable I suppose. So the biggest question, to the detriment of season two, is it really necessary? Throughout, the formula, emotions and general feel were inescapably reminiscent of the previous season, causing the whole thing to fall into the realm of forgettable and repetitive, leaving the question of ‘why?’ lingering.
After Life season two isn’t as immediately likeable as the first as, rather than developing on the events of the last season; it feels more like a simple continuation, a second part rather than a second season. The subtle character developments are nevertheless superb. Between Tony’s more empathetic nature and strengthened bond he’s created with his work colleagues, the uplifting nature remains the season’s focal point. Once again the fast paced nature, being only six, thirty minute long episodes, promotes quick viewing and a ‘why not?’ attitude, which will no doubt play a part in its success. If you enjoyed the first season, it’s undeniable that you will find comfort in this and in these difficult times. Hope and a good cry should never be seen as a weakness.