Netflix's After Life Season 1 Review
Gervais has come a long way since The Office
Ricky Gervais writes and directs this absolute gem for Netflix, which manages to be not only hilarious but also utterly heartbreaking.The Office was ahead of its time; a strikingly - and painfully - funny, scathingly satirical look at mundane office life, propelling home-grown Berkshire boy, Ricky Gervais to fame. Over the next 20 years he would find Hollywood a tough nut to crack, and return to TV for more success in projects like Extras and Derek, even doing a Netflix film which, undoubtedly, paved the way for this Netflix TV series.
After Life posits Gervais as Tony, a widower reeling from the recent loss of his wife and love of his life, finding little purpose in continuing to live and instead choosing to embrace this lack of fear of death as some kind of superpower that enables him to say and do anything, albeit on a small scale. In video diaries left by his wife, she reminds him how much she loved his sense of humour more than anything else, but now she's gone, he turns it on people with venom and bitterness, ripping his way through friends, family and complete strangers with a scathingly over-honest attitude that destroys everybody in his path.
The best work Gervais has done in years - and perhaps his entire career
One of the keys to After Life, is its ability to utilise Gervais' trademark humour - which is often very aggressive, sarcastic and biting, particularly towards his 'victims' - and reframe it with a backstory that makes it almost completely justified. The result is a comedy which is heartbreaking, heartfelt and hilarious, the best work Gervais has done in years - and perhaps his entire career.
Turning his filter completely off, Tony takes to the streets like a man on a mission to destroy everybody he meets - from the second he leaves his front door, nobody is safe, from the postman to the charity workers on the street, to young street thugs; and those are just the people he doesn't know. His friends, family and co-workers take the brunt of it, as he ravages through the small-town newspaper office he works in, tearing up his fellow journalists, mocking the work they do there, and pitching the place to a new intern as basically being a career death sentence.
Of course it doesn't help that many of those around him appear to be walking zombies, so restricted by social constraints that they function almost on autopilot (the cafe workers are hilarious - his skit on kid's meals feels like something from his best stand up days). In comparison to everybody else Gervais' Tony is completely set free from those same constraints, reminiscent sometimes of Robbie Coltrane's defining character in Cracker, who, aside from being a genius criminologist, was actually utterly (self-)destructive in polite company, refusing to adhere to any kind of social or societal rules, and turning his sharp words and wit against everybody around him. This is actually the first character that Gervais has played who has enough of a well-developed backstory to enable him to verbally rip people apart but escape being utterly hated for it.
This is actually the first character that Gervais has played who has enough of a well-developed backstory to enable him to verbally rip people apart but escape being utterly hated for it
A slew of supporting actors colour in the peripherals, and the show is structured into easily digestible bite-sized 30 minute episodes. And with just 6, it's completely bingeable, and utterly bingeworthy. Although there's no conventional 'story' to the narrative; no curious mystery to drive your interest like the similarly witty 30 minute episode Netflix show Russian Doll, Gervais propels this little gem along and compels you to see what his character is going to do next. Highly recommended, whilst the show doesn't immediately lend itself to further seasons, more of this would only be welcomed.
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