Netflix’s After Life season 1 premiere recap


Episode 1 of Netflix series After Life introduces us to Tony, a man who nearly gave up on life but now settles on brutal honesty instead.

Ricky Gervais has the traditional view that comedy isn’t about holding back, and he honors that tradition pretty well in After Life, his new series. The premiere episode (simply titled “Episode 1”) begins with his character, Tony Braden, hearing farewell instructions from his dying wife (Kerry Godliman) on a laptop. It becomes clear that he misses Lisa. Soon it becomes clear that, shortly after her death, he had considered suicide. He appears to be getting over that but struggles with mundane tasks (for example, he forgot to buy food for his dog, so he offers a choice between baked beans or vegetable curry).

Brutal Honesty

We next meet Sandy (Mandeep Dhillon), newly hired by Tony’s brother-in-law Matt (Tom Basden) to work for Tony at their newspaper, the Tambury Gazette. He is sure to warn her that, due to Tony’s condition, he may occasionally say some brutally honest things. Matt isn’t lying. We see that, when Tony is reprimanded for not leashing his dog, there is hell to pay. Then Tony chastises Postman Pat (Joe Wilkinson) for being too lazy to bring the mail to his house. Even kids aren’t let off the hook. After walking past a school and waving to his nephew, George (Tommy Finnegan), another kid yells “Pedo” at him. Tony layers on the meanness in his quick reply (Hint: It’s not for sensitive ears).

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The next scene lets us get more insight into his depression. He tells his psychiatrist (Paul Kaye):

"“A good day is when I don’t want to shoot random strangers in the face, then turn the gun on myself.”"

While Tony seems at his wit’s end, it’s the main source of After Life‘s wit— or, quite often, non-wit. That’s one interesting aspect of the show: It’s not about how clever his character’s jokes are. There’s a sense of spontaneous, honest insult. In that sense, it’s a situation comedy that actually emphasizes its main character’s situation and its realness.

No more mister nice guy

Tony elaborates his burgeoning “After Life” philosophy to Matt, arguing there’s no advantage to being a nice guy. He also compares saying whatever he wants to a superpower, adding that, if he feels he goes too far, he can always take himself out of the equation. When he first meets his new employee Sandy, he’s quick to tell her:

"“It should be everybody’s moral duty to kill themselves.”"

Nice introduction, right? That’s another thing: Tony’s honest about his current job, which he doesn’t happen to like. In fact, he seems to not like his co-workers much, either.

While Tony doesn’t hate his father (David Bradley), he laments his declining years and his failing memory. He tells the nurse, Emma (Ashley Jensen), that if his father was a dog, it would be “put down.” Largely due to such cheery moments, Matt invites Tony to a pub for lunch, along with co-worker Len (Tony Way). Awkwardly, Tony denies they are journalists. To be fair, he’s at least close to being right. Some of their stories are about things like a potato that looks like Lionel Richie. In fact, they eventually interview a man who received 5 identical birthday cards from 5 different people. While Tony could no doubt be ultra-rude about it, he relents when the man says his wife passed away a year ago, and that strange event like this make life more interesting. Rather than offer insult, Tony wishes him a happy birthday!

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Later, however, Tony is brought back down again, when two youths threaten to kill him if he doesn’t give them money. He tells the leader (Islam Bouakkaz) off big time, briefly using physical force to send them on their way. While this event could darken Tony’s day, there’s a sense of relief, as it may be easier to cope with than a world in which he’s just the source of the world’s bitterness. It’s also a reminder that, when it comes down to it, we are partially what the world makes us. We may have some control, but a person who’s constantly fighting off nonsense will likely be more bitter than someone who’s life is going perfectly.

What are your thoughts on After Life? Let us know in the comments!