Ricky Gervais (and Brandy the German Shepard) are back in the second season of emotional comedy drama After Life, which continues to be Gervais’ most moving and earnest work yet. Consisting of six utterly bingeable half-hour episodes, the second series is as equally brilliantly written and wonderfully acted. You’ll once again laugh and cry, (sometimes both at the same time!) but most poignantly, be reminded to be strong, as everybody’s struggling.
Following his battle with grief and depression after losing his wife to cancer, Tony (Ricky Gervais) decides to try and change his outlook on life and attempt to help those who helped him.
After the fantastic first series, I was a little hesitant when Netflix announced a second series. Maybe that’s because there was something rather rare about the show; Gervais managed to pair his usual unapologetically honest humour with a genuinely real portrayal of grief that was somehow both equal parts heartbreaking and uplifting. Thankfully the second series continues in a similar vein, documenting Tony’s progress as he aims to help those around him, while still reporting on the daft local stories which proved such a laugh in the first outing.
While tonally missing the mark when it comes to some of the comedy, Gervais’ sophomore outing truly shines in the quieter moments. The narrative is definitely more optimistic and poignant than the first season, particularly resonating in his core friendships with Anne and Roxy who bring a lot of warmth and joy to the show. But aside from Tony’s main arc, the secondary story involving drama surrounding the Gazette and Tony’s brother in law does fall a little flat. However, Gervais cleverly gives more depth to Tony and Lisa’s marriage with interconnecting heartwarming home videos and simple yet affecting little stories which will undoubtedly bring tears to the eyes.
Through Tony’s personal journey, Gervais has portrayed the exploration of loss and depression in such a touching and sentimental way, nicely balancing comedy and pathos. It’s also refreshing and important to see grief explored from a male perspective, particularly following Phoebe Waller Bride’s wonderful Fleabag. While similarly proving deeply sad yet often life-affirming, After Life definitely makes you stop and think about those who you hold dear, with a message that will undoubtedly resonate in these times.
There’s so much depth to Gervais’ performance; he’s still struggling with the loss of his wife, but he’s genuinely much more compassionate and caring. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of laugh out loud moments too, particularly when Tony tries a yoga and meditation class for the first time! Gervais is supported by a fantastic ensemble with highlights including Penelope Wilton’s Anne, who’s friendship with Tony is just so kind, caring and honest. Joe Wilkinson’s postman and Roisin Conaty’s sex worker are also rather amusing – I genuinely love how they’ve both adopted him. Extra’s Ashley Jensen also returns as the nurse who proves a fiesty match for Tony, but the dog is still the MVP of the show!
After Life season two is a genuinely sweet, moving and earnest portrayal of a man coming to terms with life, love and loss. Whilst not quite reaching the heights of the first outing, Gervais and co have produced a tender and affecting series which will prove a glimmer of hope for some, while bringing some much needed humour to others.
After Life returns to Netflix 24th April 2020.