“You can sing, dance, play two recorders with your nose. You can knit. You’re great with wool. You’re great with wool! If you’re a loser, what chance have the rest of us got?”
Ricky Gervais’ latest show After Life comes to a conclusion with its third season without losing much of its writers’ humour that we all know and love, even though at times resemblance between the show and his previous work can be a bit too apparent to the degree that it is almost recycling jokes. Nevertheless, the uniqueness of Gervais’ humour also stands firm in the latest installation of the series.
After Life willingly abandons some of its edginess in favour of coming to a full-circle finale, able to make the audience content with tying up most of the story. We see a different Tony this time. He is still depressed, he is still very cynical, yet for a change, he shows a softer side. In fact, Tony even goes to such lengths that he ends up complimenting a few people. This, in itself, was not unexpected, as the last two seasons were already showing signs that the protagonist was going through a phase after losing his beloved wife to cancer, and he could – or would – eventually recover. Nevertheless, this change feels a tad abrupt, as Tony did not necessarily have the time to evolve much as a person, given the entire runtime of the show, consisting only of eighteen half-hour episodes.
Furthermore, while bringing every string together for the finale, too much emphasis is put on side characters who were previously only shown on rare occasions. None of these characters are boring at all, on the contrary, especially Diane Morgan as Kath and Tom Basten as Matt are great in their roles, yet it feels unfitting to allow them that much screen time, especially when attempting to wrap up the series. This especially feels as such since Sandy (Mandeep Dhillon) was replaced by Coleen (Kath Hughes), who brings almost nothing new to the table. If the series were to be longer, all of the side characters are definitely good enough to even have their sub-plots, but given the very British runtime of only eighteen episodes, the season should have been a little more condensed.
Though these problems, even if they sound significant, are still outweighed by the positives. After Life, first and foremost, is a comedic drama series. Thus, when a sequence is not emotional, it more often than not does a fantastic job making the viewer laugh. If the scene is not spectacularly funny, it will still guarantee a smile at the very least.
Furthermore, how much Ricky Gervais has evolved in terms of acting through multiple films and previous series is also apparent throughout After Life. The fact that he also wrote and directed the series was also most likely helpful in achieving such great delivery of his jokes.
One could argue that After Life deserved quite the number of seasons after the third, and Netflix previously had said that they were up to it, but ultimately it was Gervais’ decision. Indeed, if After Life was a US production instead of UK, few more seasons would have been guaranteed, at least content-wise. Though this would not have suited Gervais’ style at all, as we know from Derek, The Office, and Extras, all having even fewer episodes than After Life.
To sum up, After Life’s final season feels just a bit weaker than the previous two, attributed mostly to Tony not evolving enough to become his less depressed and hateful self, and some of the side characters getting unnecessary attention. Nevertheless, After Life altogether is quite a fun watch. It is even more so given the fact that it cannot steal much of one’s time, even if they wanted it to.