I have this love/hate relationship (to be clear, its mostly the latter rather than the former) with Ricky Gervais that is akin to that between me and James Cameron, and I’m more likely to avoid a film or tv show because I see Gervais involved. Its possibly resulted in me missing out, but what can I say? Its just chemistry or something, irrational as it might be, and he has gotten filthy rich enough without me so he’s on a winner anyhow. To me, his success and popularity has been mystifying, but hey ho.
So thats why last year’s first season of After Life was such a shock and surprise to me, because it turned out to be so bloody brilliant. It was a view shared by the public at large, because it proved incredibly popular on Netflix and has resulted in this second series. I suspect that this success proved as surprising to Gervais as anyone, because that first season was remarkably self-contained and its clear that the biggest weakness of this second series is that it feels almost an afterthought, at worst a needless reprise.
When it works, this second series works, and its surprisingly poignant and effecting; at other times it fails, particularly some of its humour, which increasingly resorts to bad language for laughs, and feels terribly lazy and awkward. Its almost as if Gervais isn’t certain where the popularity of that first season lies: was it the “death is easy, life is hard” subtext, the drama of grief, or is it the reckless, breaking-social-niceities abandon of Gervais’ character’s interactions with others? I have a suspicion that this second season may have been rushed into production too soon, and that it results in an uneven show that lacks the sophistication it warrants. But to be clear, when it works, the show is quite beautiful and powerfully moving. I’m just not certain it knows what it really wants to be, or where its balance truly lies.
Maybe a third (and final?) series may nail that balance, we’ll just have to see.