The Afterparty is the rare social event worth attending

The Afterparty Featured

A raft of talent behind and in front of the lens makes the high school reunion murder mystery comedy a success.

Reunions can be murder. You’ve got to fool yourself into thinking you look as good or better than you did at 18. Then you have to draw to make that delusion reality. Clothes. A new haircut. Makeup. Perhaps a fun new accessory you can pretend has always been your thing. Then you get there. You see exes, people you hated who have the nerve to look great and be successful, and former classmates who remind you that you were kind of terrible as a teenager, too.

For a reunion that is actual murder, however, why not turn to The Afterparty. The flawed but fun offering from AppleTV+ gives you the distance from the event to actually enjoy it. You’ll laugh significantly more and there will be no need to worry about remembering bleach or developing an alibi.

The Afterparty Dave Franco
Dave Franco is fashion. (AppleTV+)

The Hill Mount High Class of 2006 is getting together for 15th year high school reunion. The usual players are all there. Sweet smart guy Aniq (Sam Richardson) is an escape room designer still pining for former lab partner turned high school principal Zoe (Zoe Chao). Zoe is in the midst of a divorce from cool guy Brett (Ike Barinholtz) who she’s been with since senior year. Brett is raging to “save his family,” while doing his best to avoid Class President turned class pariah/cautionary tale Chelsea (Ilana Glazer). Aniq’s friend Yasper (Ben Schwartz) owns an audio installation company but is still dreaming of a recording career. No one knows who the hell Walt (Jamie Demetriou) is, then or now. Finally, Xavier (Dave Franco) is the nerd toward megasuperstar that everyone wants to curry favor from and hates.

Before the end of the night, Xavier’s dead and everyone is a suspect. Detectives Danner (Tiffany Haddish) and Culp (John Early) have until morning to solve the case. If they don’t, Germain (Reid Scott) a gloryhound and former rival of Danner’s will arrive to take the case. With time ticking down, Danner interrogates the classmates attending the afterparty at Xavier’s shrine
(to himself) of a home. The result over the seven (of eight) episodes provided for review is multiple takes on the evening—and the class’s past. Each installment puts a new classmate—and Danner—in the spotlight.

The cast is obviously stacked to the gills with talent.

With Christopher Miller at the helm and Phil Lord writing one episode, the series loves to use pastiche. Brett’s episode has a “lone man doing the right thing,” action vibe to it while the “High School” episode that gives Walt the spotlight feels like those teen “one big party” movies. “Danner” is a cop drama, maybe, but the lighting and tone make it feel more like a “Characters Welcome” era USA Channel procedural. Too often, that’s the case, as many episodes settle for only a light dusting of the tropes and symbols. The series’ two best episodes, “Yasper” and “Zoe,” go all out. The former is an episode long musical, the latter predominantly animated. The other 5 episodes are still good, but given how the show excels when it truly commits, they feel vaguely like missed opportunities.

The different perspectives gimmick is well utilized. It not only presents possible alternative interpretations of events, but deepens our objective understanding of the characters. Afterparty wisely challenges our cliché-based expectations along the way, especially in “High School.” In that installment, the eternally forgotten but desperate for inclusion Walt shows that the years spent on the outside looking in makes him the only evenhanded member of his class. Through his flashbacks we see how much the characters aren’t only misrepresenting the night’s events, but have been telling a fictional version of their lives since high school.

The Afterparty The Detectives
John Early and Tiffany Haddish do not have time for your nonsense. (Apple TV+)

The cast is obviously stacked to the gills with talent. It is fun to see them not only portray their character’s self-interpretation but then adapt it to others’ versions of events. Richardson, especially, gets to showcase his talents playing Aniq as ridiculously drunk, crippled by anxiety, or decent put-upon guy depending on who’s telling the story. It makes Schwartz’s performance increasingly fun as well as everyone, including himself, seems to see him in exactly the same not entirely flattering light.

As noted before, the episodes provided do not include the finale so it is difficult to say how satisfying the mystery’s resolution will end up. Still, that’s not really the point of The Afterparty. The murder mystery plot is more of a catalyst. The action is in the revelations and delusions of the characters, in how we write the stories of our lives as we go including and omitting things as they reflect our interpretations. Except, you know, in much funnier ways than we all do in real life.

The Afterparty tries to reclaim its lost youth beginning January 28th on AppleTV+.

The Afterparty Trailer:

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Tim Stevens

Tim Stevens is a freelance writer and therapist from the Nutmeg State, hailing from the home of the World’s Smallest Natural Waterfall. In addition to The Spool, you can read his stuff in CC Magazine, Marvel.com, ComicsVerse, and The New Paris Press. His work has been quoted in Psychology Today, The Atlantic, and MSN Ireland. And yes, he is listing all this to try and impress you.

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