wed 12/08/2020

After Life series 2, Netflix review - Ricky Gervais's study of bereavement continues | reviews, news & interviews

After Life series 2, Netflix review - Ricky Gervais's study of bereavement continues

After Life series 2, Netflix review - Ricky Gervais's study of bereavement continues

Second series opens slowly

Ricky Gervais and his co-star Brandy

It's interesting to note that this Netflix series – the second of Ricky Gervais's study of bereavement, which he writes, directs and stars in – is broadcast during lockdown. We've quickly become used to a different pace of life – slower, less rooted in strict timeframes of work or family routines – so we should, in theory, be able to ease ourselves into the slowness. But there's slow, and there's “nothing much happening here, mate”.

The first season of After Life, in which Gervais plays Tony, a journalist on a free local newspaper in the fictional town of Tambury, who lost his wife, Lisa (Kerry Godliman), to cancer, was in many ways a rounded tale with a beginning, middle and end. In the final episode Tony started to at least try to live again after feeling suicidal and was even making tentative moves to start dating again (as Lisa, in her messages recorded from her hospital bed, had instructed him to do). There's a danger in the second series of going over the same ground, slowly.

The opener started briskly enough with a nicely efficient update on where everyone is now, in a wordless montage of their morning routines; his brother-in-law and boss Matt (Tom Basden) is sleeping on his office floor as he's still having problems with his wife; annoying colleague Kath (Diane Morgan) is therefore on a mission to date him; photographer Lenny (Tony Way), is happily in a relationship; and we saw a glimpse of young trainee Sandy's (Mandeep Dillon) exacting home life.

Series one ended hopefully when Tony asked out nurse Emma (Ashley Jensen, brilliant as ever), who works at the home where his father lives. In the second-series opener, it's clear that things didn’t work out as Tony feels that it's like cheating on Lisa. So, again, we find we're rooting for Tony and Emma to find a path to true love and a route into that sunset. Is that a lazy writer, or a truthful reflection of life, that we keep repeating mistakes until we realise we are making them?

As ever with Gervais's work, there are gems among the caustic view of humanity. Last night Tony interviewed a 100-year-old local resident; the character wasn't believable for one moment, but it was good to see Annette Crosbie giving it some welly as the cantankerous old bird, liberally using the word “cunt”. And while his shtick is to fashion a drama around some beautifully crafted lines rather than create a logical narrative arc, those lines always make viewing worthwhile. “I'm gonna be more Zen about it,” misanthropic Tony says of dealing with irritating people. “I'm not going to let cunts wind me up.”

In the first series Gervais captured – beautifully, poignantly, honestly – the reality of bereavement. I'm interested to see how he tops that in the rest of series two.

As ever with Gervais's work, there are gems among the caustic view of humanity

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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