Wednesday, July 12, 2023

The Afterparty, Season Two, on Apple TV

Apparently, Aniq Adjaye is a lot like Jane Marple and Jessica Fletcher. He is not a little old lady, but murders seem to follow him around. He successfully cleared his name when he was accused of killing pop star Xavier in season one, so this time around, he must prove the innocence of his girlfriend Zoe Zhu’s sister Grace. Unfortunately, he uncovers a lot of embarrassing dirty laundry for the Zhu family in season two of creator Christopher Miller’s The Afterparty, which premieres today on Apple TV+.

Despite being a murder suspect, Adjaye managed to win over Zhu, his high school crush, during the Xavier investigation. He wants to take things to the next level, but her parents really seem to hate him. At least Grace likes him and so does the groom, as far as Adjaye can tell. Edgar is a wealthy tech tycoon and crypto investor, but he is definitely a cold fish. He only shows real affection towards Roxanna, his pet lizard he always carries on his shoulder. Awkwardly, he will also be murdered on his wedding night.

Edgar’s boozy mother Isabel immediately accuses Grace, so Adjaye calls Danner to find the real killer. She retired from the force after solving the Xavier murder, for reasons that will be explained during her flashback. Like season one, each
Rashomon-style witness statement is rendered in a different style, but it is not always immediately obvious what genre each episode is spoofing.

The black-and-white film noir homage is obvious for Travis, Grace’s schlubby conspiracy theorist boyfriend. Edgar’s adopted sister Hannah seems to exist in a Wes Anderson film, while the victim’s business partner Sebastien gets the split-screen caper treatment of the
Ocean’s movies or The Thomas Crown Affair. Danner’s story is sort of a 1980s erotic thriller, much to Adjaye’s discomfort, whereas the perspective of the bride’s father, Feng Zhu (Ken Jeong doing his sad clown shtick), unfolds entirely through smart phone videos. Unfortunately, the longest episode is also the slowest: Grace’s Austen-esque costume drama explanation of her unlikely romance with Edgar.

Adjaye and the bride provide a lot of exposition in the first two installments, but the second season gets much funnier once they finish. The assorted directors helming episodes, including Miller, Eric Appel, and Anu Valia, nicely handle the flashbacks, rather slyly revealing more context and explanation with each eye-witness account. Each guests’ recollections fit together rather cleverly.

After the wall-to-wall cringe of his opening episode, Sam Richardson settles into Adjaye’s likable loser charm that worked so well in season one. His deadpan delivery scores a lot of laughs and makes him a credible surrogate for viewer reactions. Tiffany Haddish is still mostly annoying as Danner, but Elizabeth Perkins constantly upstages everyone as the
Dynasty-worthy Mother Isabel, with what might be the funniest performance of either series. Zach Woods is also very weird, often in an appropriately unsympathetic but droll kind of way, as Edgar. However, Vivian Wu (who starred in important films like Dead Pigs and The Pillow Book) is sadly under-utilized as Zoe and Grace’s namesake mother.

Miller and a handful of co-writers keep the dialogue consistently sharp and the mystery business is probably smarter than it needed to be, but viewers will appreciate their overachieving. Those who saw season one will be amused a handful of cameos from the Xavier case, but those who haven’t will find them bafflingly random. Recommended for fans of comedic mysteries, season two of
The Afterparty starts streaming today (7/12) on Apple TV+.