Why is the breezy millennial whodunnit getting a second season?
By all rights, The Afterparty should be a madcap, must-watch hit for AppleTV+. The show was brought to life by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, the Oscar-winning duo behind hits like Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, The Lego Movie, and the 21 Jump Street movie. It features a veritable cavalcade of stars, each one more eager than the last to chomp every bit of scenery in the way, while selling their zany character’s trope. Overall, it’s a fun watch, though better for a leisurely watch than a binge.
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Things go bad fast at the afterparty of an East Bay High School’s fifteen-year reunion, most especially for pop sensation Xavier (Dave Franco), who ends up dead. When Detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish), an investigator with something to prove shows up, every attendee’s story ends up scrutinized à la Rashomon. Danner needs to figure out who killed the superstar, and why, before her superiors rush in to give the case to a more experienced member of the force.
As the detective learns what went down, each episode pivots to a different character’s point of view, which leads to a genre-hopping roulette of storytelling. One character sees his life as an action movie, while another feels like the lead in a teen drama. During the episodes where the style and story hit the sweet spot, the Afterparty feels satisfyingly silly and fresh.
Unfortunately, not every episode sticks the landing, and things get clunky at an alarming rate. Viewing life from each character’s disparate perspective should be a giddy delight, but since the story centers on the exact same limited segment of each person’s life, the source material run a little lean. The show runs longer than the actual span of time the characters recount, and at a certain point, The Afterparty feels like an okay television show that would have been a banger of a movie.
While the high concept often falters and goes a little low, the actors are consistently fantastic. No matter who’s telling the tale, Xavier is a relentless douchebag who probably got what he deserved, Chelsea (Ilana Glazer) is a hapless trainwreck everyone rightfully ignores, and Walt (Jamie Demetriou) Is blander than Wonder bread. It’s hard to choose the best actor here, though Ike Barinholtz channels Marky Mark in Fear with hilarious abandon, and Ben Schwartz probably never expected to get paid to sing and dance so much.
The real surprise of The Afterparty, though, is Tiffany Haddish. She’s always been entertaining to watch, but perhaps never granted the materials needed to truly shine. Here, she is luminous. Her Detective Danner is like the love child of Jessica Fletcher and Colombo, fronting with docility while cunningly noticing everything around her. In an all-star cast, she manages to carry the show.
It’s a shame flimsy storytelling failed to do justice to The Afterparty’s top-shelf performances and slick gimmicks. Though it was a contained and fully resolved mystery, Apple renewed the series for a second season. Logistically, it seems unlikely to work unless it’s an entirely different afterparty with a fresh band of stars. And if that’s the case, what’s the point?