After Life is one of the few black comedy-drama programmes that can truly make you empathise with a main character, regardless of whether the viewer can truly understand the emotional depths of the individual. The second season, whilst not quite being able to measure up to the first season, still pulls off an gut-wrenching performance and ties off the programme wonderfully.
After Life’s second season follows shortly from the first season with our suicidal protagonist, Tony Johnson (Ricky Gervais), mourning the loss of his wife, Lisa Johnson (Kerry Godliman), due to terminal cancer. Tony continues his depressive odyssey at little closer to the light at the end of the tunnel. He continues to be surrounded by his friends and colleagues who are similarly going through life’s many struggles. Within his office Matt (Tom Baseden), Tony’s brother-in-law and boss, finds himself towards the approaching the end of his marriage, and Tony’s potential romance with the carer at his father’s nursing home, Emma (Ashley Jensen), goes cold.
We are gracefully reintroduced to Tony’s story of battling grief and depression immediately as he and Lenny (Tony Way), the Tambury Gazette’s photographer, interview an indelicate centenarian on her birthday as she expresses her cynicism for life with more utterances of the word “c*nt” than one might hear in an Australian sitcom. An appropriate epithet for the prior season.
The second season greets the viewer with more of what made the first season great. From its ability to take you from laughing and jeering to sobbing and wailing instantaneously, to its non-PC humour and ironicisms, to its distinct ability to portray, blisteringly accurately, severe depression, not just on the surface but within the psyche. Some, however, will be disappointed that Tony is not quite as cantankerous and choleric as before. In spite of this, viewers are still able to get their fill of Tony, albeit in a lesser intensity, as the character undergoes great growth.
Tony is able to use his is emotional backboard, widower Anne (Penelope Wilton) and sex-worker Daphne (aka “Roxy“) (Roisin Conaty), greater than before. However, new challenges arise for Tony, Pat the postman (Joe Wilkinson) becomes a greater daily irritant, the threat of redundancy rears its ugly head, and a new man in the care home draws the attention of carer Emma. Tony’s brush with death becomes ever more pervasive as the series progresses, and we are left wondering what choices he will make.
The second season, just as the first, carries forth its great performances with the few scenes it utilises. Said performances would be nothing if it weren’t for the advancement in the depth of character-development for all the friends and colleagues interacting with Tony. Moreover, The choice of songs cannot be quibbled at, evoking sentiment that can take an individual from mere sadness to emotional desolation.
While much of us were left questioning the decision of Ricky Gervais and Netflix to allow for a second season of After Life to be produced, many of those will find comfort in the new season. And, we will hope that the second season is the final season.