After an extremely successful first season, Gervais is back. How well does the show fair?
My review of After Life season two is almost entirely inspired by the words of someone else. Someone described Gervais’ work (post the Office) as “every effort since has been packed with unbelievable, outright silly characters all centred around him, the one sane person in a world of stupid”. This pretty much summarises how I feel about After Life Season 2. I throughly enjoyed season 1, at the time I was massively into Gervais, having just watched the Office, Derek and started watching Extras. After Life is extremely Gervais, his creative style is extremely evident, which is to be expected when you star, write and direct. This, for a fan of Gervais, is amazing. However, I also feel it is the show’s downfall.
I’m writing this having just written my review of Normal People, and the two shows couldn’t be anymore different. After Life is almost entirely void of subtlety. Characters express their innermost thoughts almost directly to camera, leaving us with no sense of tension or intrigue. Everything is literal and nothing is left for the audience to interpret.
This can be particularly jarring for us a viewers. It’s hard to gain an understanding of each character, what truly makes them tick, when they all seem to have the same defining character trait: their openness. So ironically, by characters stating their intentions and internal dialogues so openly, we lose their individuality. I felt little connection to any of the characters, even a grief stricken husband that is our lead, which feels odd.
This is not to say that the show is without merit. Gervais, at points, plays grief extremely well, his acting talent is definitely on display here and that has to be commended. There are definitely laugh out loud moments, and incredibly heart-warming ones too. This is by no means meant to be a review that attempts to paint anyone involved in the show as untalented or unskilled, there are definite shining moments. Kerry Godliman, for example, radiates in her role. We really believe in the relationship her character has with Gervais- the chemistry is evident and shows Gervais’ writing at its best.
"Glimmering moments are just that, moments"
However, despite the show’s deep and potentially very impactful subject matter: a man’s battle with depression and grief after the loss of his wife, the show feels very surface level. The glimmering moments are just that, moments. I felt little for the characters, outside these brief flashes. It get hard to connect when characters felt so painstakingly bland, despite being over the top to the point of parody. Everyone in the show appears to be playing themselves, which is fine. Shows can be perfectly enjoyable and heart warming light entertainment, yet it feels like the show wants to be so much more. It feels as if the show believes itself to be a poignant character study, or a commentary on mental illness and grief, yet it appears to fail at doing so.
This show is a mixed bag. It is perfectly enjoyable, it has its moments of humour and tenderness that have to be commended. Yet I finished watching it and felt almost nothing. Meh is perhaps the best way to describe it, and that feels like an awful shame given the talent involved in this show. 5/10.
If you feel differently, let me know. I’d love to talk about it with you! I know the reviews have been almost overwhelming positive, so perhaps I’ve missed something, or drawn the wrong interpretations. I’d love to hear a different take. Contact me on my socials or drop me an email.