An awkward opener and a few months late arrival do little to dampen AppleTV+’s extremely fun murder-mystery series.
When last we saw Aniq (Sam Richardson) and Detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish) in The Afterparty, both were doing great. Aniq had exonerated himself for the murder of classmate Xavier (Dave Franco)—albeit at the cost of sending his friend Yasper (Ben Schwartz) to jail—and had a date with his high school crush Zoe (Zoë Chao). Danner had solved the crime of her career and put her rival Detective Germain (Reid Scott) to do it.
At the start of The Afterparty Season 2, things are less steady. Aniq and Zoe have gotten serious. Therefore, as night follows day, it is time to meet her parents Feng (Ken Jeong) and Vivian (Vivian Wu). And at her sister Grace’s (Poppy Liu) wedding, no less. Predictably, it’s a task that he’s too wracked with anxiety to ever carry off well.
Danner, on the other hand, has left the force and has a book deal tied to the Xavier case. The only problem is she hasn’t written a word and doesn’t seem likely to be rectifying that issue any time soon. Then Grace’s newly mined husband, tech billionaire Edgar (Zach Woods), turns up dead. Ghoulish or not, it presents them both with an opportunity to get back on top.
It’s a solid setup for shenanigans. If you don’t believe it, don’t worry, the first episode, scripted by series creator Christopher Miller and executive producer Anthony King, won’t stop telling you so. “Aniq: The Sequel” does what the entire first season successfully avoided: repeatedly calls out the pastiche of the episode. In this case, it’s a “Meet the Parents”-style super vicariously uncomfortable rom-com. No one will need to have it pointed out to them, much less by Haddish multiple times, but there it is.
If anything, the homages may be even more surefooted than Season 1, which sometimes failed to embrace the genre fully.
Thankfully, however, the series rapidly rights itself after this sputtering launch. Like season 1, every episode tells one character’s perspective via a different subgenre. This time out, The Afterparty Season 2 dips into Jane Austen-style romance, heist, erotic thriller, and mockumentary stylings, to name a few. Post-episode 1, they trust the audience to recognize the style, and the episodes are stronger for that trust. Episode 4’s parody of a specific filmmaker’s style is a particular favorite, but of the nine screened, every installment after the first nails it. If anything, the homages may be even more surefooted than Season 1, which sometimes failed to embrace the genre fully.
The new supporting cast—only Richardson, Haddish, and Chao return in significant roles—are also quite strong. As Grace’s ex, Travis, Paul Walter Hauser gets to tap into a new kind of comedic persona for him. Besides just being plain funny in the part, he gives what could’ve easily been a simple buffoon part some dignified pathos. Anna Konkle, as Edgar’s adopted sister Hannah, similarly digs into a role that gives her a new palette to use, and she’s great at it. Other highlights include Michael Ealy as an incredibly sexy—and a little odd—therapist, John Cho as the sisters’ globetrotting funcle (fun uncle) Ulysses, and Jack Whitehall as the suavest Best Man in human history, Sebastian.
The absolute favorite, though, is Elizabeth Perkins as Isabel, mother of the groom (and Hannah). Unfiltered, frequently unblinkingly cruel, and never without a drink in her hand, she’s the nightmare of a WASP-y mother-in-law. The sly ways she adds nuance in each episode to fit in with the titular character’s POV is a treat. Nearly everyone sees her through the same prism, but she finds the slight variations in each judgment. The result is that when she finally gets the spotlight, each reveal seems equally likely to be accurate, her knowingly lying, or the result of a deepening disconnect from reality brought on by grief.
So, like many weddings, The Afterparty Season 2 does get off to an awkward start. However, by the time Haddish reassures Whitehall, “Oh don’t worry, blue eyes,” in episode 2, viewers can already feel they’re in safe hands again. Like its film cousin, Glass Onion, the series succeeds in creating a sequel with an almost entirely new cast in a completely different place that feels every bit as intelligent and fun as the original. If not, perhaps, even more so.
The Afterparty Season 2 is on the case July 12 on AppleTV+.