What starts off as an opportunity for Ricky Gervais to go on sarcastic, snarky, cynical rants, soon turns out to be one of the most heartwarming, and sincere, takes on dealing with grief one can have the pleasure of viewing.
The show revolves around Tony, a small town journalist who has lost his wife to breast cancer. Through the course of the season, he contemplates suicide as life without his wife is painful while being surrounded by simple people who are odd characters you’d only find in small towns removed from the streamlined bustle of major cities.
Nothing major happens to upset the status quo of the world as the story goes on. But similar to life and how we deal with loss and sadness, time passes and things go on. While this is counter intuitive to what one would consider when writing a show, it is nevertheless effective because it is so well punctuated with colorful characters and Gervais’s hilarious bits.
As there is a season 2, it is safe to ‘spoil’ that Tony does not kill himself. He does grow and yet the growth is gradual. This again feels authentic to how we deal with grief. In contrast, films where characters come to terms with loss over the course of a film, feels incredibly disingenuous. I’ve seen season 2 as well and the show continues its brilliant streak through it, exploring the process of overcoming grief further while also unpacking the supporting characters to reveal more authentic depth and fun.
An aside: I am often accused of not having a stomach for slow paced content. I would argue that it’s not whether the story is slow or fast but rather if it is well paced. Afterlife does not have action packed scenes, it often takes its time with moments, letting them breathe. But it does not dilly dally. It does not squander the time I am giving to it. And by doing so, it feels well paced. Not slow or fast. I guess you could argue that stories that do dilly dally are in fact well paced from someone else’s point of view. But as they are not the ones writing this post, I don’t care.
Anyway, the well paced journey of Tony in Afterlife, is sincere, dark, funny, incredibly relatable in its pain and cathartic in its closure.