- Creator: Christopher Miller
- Starring: Sam Richardson, Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, Ben Schwartz, Dave Franco, Ilana Glazer, Zoë Chao
It’s easy to compare The Afterparty, Apple TV+’s newest show, to another recent comedic-murder-mystery series, 2021’s Only Murders In The Building. Both shows deal with a shocking death in the first episode and both feature seasoned comedic actors. But whereas Only Murders In The Building sought to subvert our current true-crime obsession, The Afterparty takes a different, sillier approach to solving its mystery. The show is born from the mind of creator Christopher Miller, who directs each episode and writes a couple, as well as serving as a co-producer along with his regular partner Phil Lord. Indeed, in each episode, Miller manages to balance the zanier bits of humor along with realistic character development that his best projects are known for.
The titular afterparty takes place after a 15-year high school reunion in L.A., where a group of former classmates reconvenes at the luxurious hillside mansion of Xavier (Dave Franco), a now famous pop star. Unfortunately for him and his burgeoning movie career, which includes appearances in the Hall & Oates biopic and the adaptation of Hungry Hungry Hippos, Xavier is found dead in the opening minutes, fallen off the side of his balcony – or was he pushed? Called in to investigate are Danner (Tiffany Haddish) and Culp (John Early), the former a detective with something to prove and the latter her dim but loyal sidekick. In order to get the full picture, Danner calls in each of the partygoers one by one to get their versions of the night’s events.
Her prime suspect is Aniq (Sam Richardson), who wakes up from a drug-induced stupor early on and can’t remember most of the night after arriving at the party. He fully admits to coming into the evening with an unspecified grudge against Xavier, but what Danner will soon realize is that nearly everyone hated their former classmate to varying degrees. Part of the fun of the show is in its structure, with each episode showing a different character’s perspective.
Aniq’s episode serves as the base of the equation, and each subsequent iteration gets weirder and more self-serving. Brett (Ike Barinholtz) styles his retelling as an action thriller and he’s definitely the blowhard hero; Yasper’s (Ben Schwartz) is basically a musical. While the show rightfully directs its focus on its bigger stars, the cast is also filled out with less familiar performers like Zoë Chao, Tiya Sircar and Jamie Demetriou that hold their own well enough. As the story unfolds, the complicated web of conflicting motivations gets more and more intriguing and we begin to sympathize with, and despise, nearly everyone.
Does the show take some unnecessary leaps in logic in service of its premise? While it’s great to see these actors tackle some grounded, universal feelings, the best moments are when it really gets wild and embraces the characters’ bloviating self-images. It’s unfortunate that the show’s weakest aspect is Aniq’s pursuit of Zoe (Chao), his “one that got away”, though Richardson and Chao have decent chemistry in their scenes together. And while plenty of the characters are likable enough, I was never fully invested enough to worry what would happen if they’re found guilty. There are, inevitably, a handful of intriguing characters that get left by the wayside – one episode later in the season feels frustratingly like the show is simply trying to fill an episode order, a la the Coach Beard episode of Ted Lasso season 2 – but the actors nevertheless bring their own unique energies to them.
A high school reunion ends up being the perfect setting for a murder mystery, as each character brings their own burdens, missed opportunities, regrets, and transformations. After last year’s underrated The Last Duel, it’s enjoyable to see a fresh approach at Rashomon-style comedic storytelling. The show may not garner as much critical attention as some of Apple’s other original offerings, but Miller and his talented team of writers have crafted a breezy, enjoyable character-based mystery that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
The first 3 episodes of The Afterparty will premiere on Apple TV+ on January 28 with subsequent episodes released every Friday.
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