If Only I Had Died First… – Reviewing ‘After Life’
May 18, 2020
Shiven Kumar: Shiven can often be found either binge-watching or binge-reading his favourites time and time again. A management student with a love for writing, he can turn the conversation on its tail with his out of the world thought process. When not busy with start-ups and running his college-fest Atharv, he can be found on the badminton court or the football field. An avid follower of sports, he also has a love for the piano.
Content Warning: mention of sensitive mental health topics including suicide.
Usually, while watching characters that have contemplated suicide on-screen, you do not tend to laugh every five minutes, cry the next, and then crack up again. ‘After Life’ tends to bring out the best in people by showcasing the worst in people. We, as students, are so immersed in our schools and colleges that we often fail to see the bigger picture. The ability to acknowledge our community is missing, and we lack resources that expose us to those needs. In just twelve episodes, this show created a diverse community, integrating valuable members of society in unconventional ways. The show is set in ‘The Tambury Gazette,’ a free local newspaper covering the events in and around town, trying to get the
scoop of the day.
Our protagonist is Tony (Ricky Gervais), a man bitter at life and himself after his wife died of cancer. Ricky brings out the emotions splendidly, engaging with the viewers on multiple levels. Tony has a rather interesting take on his suicidal tendencies, calling them his ‘superpower.’ According to him, he could say whatever he wanted to whoever he wanted to and punish the world. And he could just ‘off himself’ conveniently whenever he wanted. There is a lot of content today that tries to help people dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts. This British dark-comedy has done an exemplary job extracting the harsh reality and portrayed our lives as opportunities to help others rather than focus on the individual.
Grief is not an objective metric for people to answer and comment on. The universe comprises billions of different people, all with varied emotional levels, who deal with grief in their own way. Contemplating his existence after his wife’s death, Tony unconsciously looks to the people in his life for help. “A society grows great when old men plant trees the shade of which they know they will never sit in” ~ Penelope Wilton (a widow, and one of the few people Tony listens to). Interacting with the once annoying people of Tambury gives Tony a fresh perspective. He tries to quantify and qualify pain, feeling guilty about his constant complaining. “Is it genuinely a revelation to you that other people have problems?” ~ Matt (Tony’s
brother-in-law and boss at work). The show exposes us to people across all economic classes, highlighting their struggles.
There is a beautiful blend of experience and youth, which we see in the interactions between Tony and Sandy (a new intern at work). From 100 year-olds having no intention to live to young George (Tony’s nephew) bursting full of life, this timeless classic covers everything. Tony’s transformation as we shift seasons is a painful individual journey, a person accepting his past yet struggling with the future. He doesn’t want to stop missing Lisa (his wife), which is evident across his beautiful narrations of their time together. “I don’t miss doing things with Lisa. I miss doing nothing with Lisa” ~ Tony. At the same time, we see new love interest in the form of Emma (Ashley Jensen). Viewers are hooked right till the end, waiting to see if Tony can get his Groundhog Day.
We see profound character growth across the seasons as Tony learns to deal with his grief. “Humanity is a plague. We’re a disgusting, narcissistic, selfish parasite, and the world would be a better place without us.” ~ Tony. As he floats through life like a ghost, living mainly for Brandy (their dog), our hearts go out to him. Every effort to comfort him results in an
unwanted snappy comment. As Dana (a colleague at work) rightly puts, “You are like a troll on Twitter, just because you are upset, everyone has to be upset.” Tony is a mess and does absolutely nothing to change it. Life can show you the most beautiful instances when everything seems miserable. We don’t even have to try, just keep our eyes open. “I still have my downs, but then life throws you these interesting little things, doesn’t it?”
If you are looking for a series filled with drama, love, intelligent humor, and a ton of unrelated weird stuff, ‘After Life’ is the perfect catch. Content that entertains viewers and leaves an impact is rare to find these days. This is a show for everyone, across ages and backgrounds. A constant struggle between the dead and the living, Tony grew up.