Season 1 of Ricky Gervais’ After Life is a darkly comical, poignant exploration of life following the death of a loved one. The season concluded on a cynical yet positive note and earned a reputation for being one of Gervais’ finer creations. Unfortunately, Gervais ruined the show by making a second season.
Season two begins in a similar way to season one. Tony is struggling with everyday life and confesses that he feels sad all the time. It turns out that he didn’t pursue things further with the nurse and he is still a jerk to the people around him. The only time he seems truly happy is when he is watching old home videos of his deceased wife. These moments are touching and effective but offer nothing that we hadn’t already seen in season one.
On the plus side, we get to see more of Joe Wilkinson as a postman named Pat and Roisin Conaty as Daphne. The moments the show moves beyond Tony’s grief and onto their budding relationship are more entertaining, although begrudgingly predictable.
Worse still, the female side characters in season two are given unforgivably disappointing dialogue. In one scene, Tony’s colleague Sandy makes him promise to save the paper, just because she quite likes working there. In another, Matt’s ex-wife decides to go out with Matt just because another woman, Kath, is showing interest. Kath spends the season pining after Matt, failing to pick up any social cues. Her only genuine moments are when she is bonding with Tony about the death of his wife.
You know things are bad when the best comic relief character is a drunk therapist obsessed with downing pints with his mates and chasing after women. It’s cringy to watch but somehow still better than watching Tony’s terrible office banter with his poorly-written colleagues.
The ending of season two is touching but given the state of the rest of the series, Gervais would have been better off concluding the series with season one.