January 18, 2022 9:02:07 am
After Life season 3 cast: Ricky Gervais, Tom Basden, Kerry Godliman, Ashley Jensen, Penelope Wilton
After Life season 3 creator: Ricky Gervais
After Life season 3 rating: 4 stars
Grief is a strange thing. For many of us, the last two years or so have been nothing short of abominable. Many of us had to confront the tragic losses of our loves ones, and many others had to live in perpetual terror of undergoing that infernal cycle shrinks refer to as stages.
And yet, tragedy and grief are nearly always shared experiences. Like a common enemy, it is only by banding together and healing that they can be overcome.
The first two seasons of Ricky Gervais’ Netflix series After Life unerringly captured that inevitable why-did-it-happen-to-me resentment those struck with tragedy get, along with mind-numbing despair.
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The third season provides a conclusion to the story of Tony Johnson (Gervais), a depressed, suicidal widower who we saw descend into depression after losing the love of his life, his wife Lisa (Kerry Godliman) to cancer. A feature story writer with a local newspaper in the fictional small town of Tambury, he finds it easier to be a jerk to everybody around him, preferring to lash out against everything that moves to avenge Lisa’s death, instead of actually coming to terms with the tragedy and find peace.
This is how Tony summarised his newfound worldview in the first season: “If I become an a***h**le and do and say what the f*** I want for as long as I want, and then when it all gets too much, I can always kill myself. It’s like a superpower.”
He seeks whatever comfort he can in the video recordings left by Lisa on her deathbed to help him adjust to the reality that will certainly come upon him after she has passed. Those videos, and his dog, is what’s keeping him from killing himself.
Gervais, a comedian and writer who can also act very well, has a biting, irreverent sense of humour that often ventures into pitch-dark territory, and does not appeal to everyone. For him, absolutely nothing is sacred and he often likes to poke fun at the pious.
Indeed, he has carried a lot of those sensibilities into After Life. But through this show, he has also presented a heartfelt and earnest facet of him. Although he has had a hand in creating a couple of excitingly original and witty TV series like The Office and Extras, but After Life, despite being completely contrary to his public image, feels like the definitive Gervais show. It’s like he has mellowed with age, and we don’t mind.
The first two seasons had Tony growing into a less bitter and angry man thanks to the people around him, who helped him understand that being a good person really does matter. In the third season, he is still unsure if killing himself would not solve a lot of problems, and is still pretty much in that funk.
In fact, a lot of what happens is the same. We find him still friendzoning Emma (Ashley Jensen), the nurse who he genuinely cares about but is afraid to fall in love as he sees that as betraying Lisa. His brother-in-law Matt (Tom Basden) is still doing his best to keep him from falling over the edge — literally.
The people he interviews for his weekly features are still weird. His postman is still annoying and he is not suddenly over the loss of Lisa. But he is slowly realising that perhaps he can redirect that anger he feels at the world towards something that is both fulfilling to him and makes the world a little kinder place.
While the subjects of his interviews continue to piss him off, he tries to empathise at their attempts, however feeble, to get attention in this uncaring world.
The end is pretty muted, and there are no big moments. The plot threads are not neatly wrapped up in every case. Things do not fall into place all of a sudden. Not that you would expect from a show that restrained. Like the first two seasons, the process of Tony finding his humanity again is a gradual process.
There is no definitive denouement, per se, but a contemplation upon its themes. The six episodes, as many have noted, do repeat a lot of prior themes we have seen the show explore and even paraphrase the lines from the second season as to how Tony should try to find happiness, as that is what Lisa wanted.
But After Life season 3 still serves as an emotion-laden, poignant closure to Tony’s story. As Penelope Wilton’s Anne, Tony’s companion in this tortured journey of grief, summed it up in the first season: “Good people do things for other people. That’s it. The end.”
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