Everyone knows the afterparty is better than the main event. It’s looser, more fun, and gives you a chance to really spend time with an often wild, entertaining group of people. It’s fitting, then, that The Afterparty’s sophomore season can be seen as a bit of an afterparty for its first. The Apple TV+ mystery-comedy series stretched its premise ultra-thin with its high school reunion-set first season, but instead of shutting down the bar and waving audiences towards the exit with its finale, series creator Christopher Miller (of Lord & Miller fame – Phil Lord executive produces) decided to keep the party going. It turned out to be a great decision because the new season of The Afterparty is just as funny as the first, with a stronger mystery and a more cohesive cast.
Season 2 leaves behind the majority of the initial cast, with the exception of Tiffany Haddish’s Detective Danner, Sam Richardson’s Aniq, and Zoë Chao’s Zoë. The plot picks up with Aniq and Zoë, now a couple, attending the wedding of Zoë’s sister Grace (Poppy Liu, a great addition to any cast). Grace is marrying Edgar (Zach Woods), a blunt and eccentric rich guy with an interest in crypto, and a lizard named Roxana who constantly sits perched on his shoulder. Unfortunately, the pair’s whirlwind romance isn’t built to last, as Edgar ends up dead in his bed the morning after the couple ties the knot. The suspect list this time around is even more silly and star-studded: Grace’s ex (Paul Walter Hauser), Edgar’s adopted sister (Anna Konkle), a world-traveling fun uncle (John Cho), a paranoid mother-in-law (Elizabeth Perkins), a sketchy business partner (Jack Whitehall), and Grace and Zoë’s own parents (Ken Jeong and Vivian Wu) are among the possible culprits.
The Afterparty Season 2 differentiates itself from the first season in several ways, including by laying out the pieces of its central puzzle in a more satisfying way. While the show’s first mystery basically felt like a retelling of the same events again and again from different angles – a gimmick that grew tiresome before major clues were revealed – the latest update on the formula scatters clues liberally throughout the 10-episode season takes fantastic narrative tangents that keep the stories feeling fresh, and dovetails each episode perfectly into the next. The show never tests our patience as armchair detectives because it makes sure that each chapter of its story is as interesting as the overarching mystery, thanks not just to the aesthetic shifts and comedic cast but also to writing that feels on par with, say, the Rian Johnson whodunnits that have become the standard for the murder mystery genre in recent years.
Those aesthetic shifts are something to behold, too. The show covered an assortment of popular genres in season one, from the romcom to the movie musical, and that frees up season two to get more creative in its spotlights and homages. This bouquet of cinematic delights includes not just a black-and-white noir episode and an Ocean’s Eleven-like heist film but also a damned fine Wes Anderson imitation (eat your heart out, TikTok impersonators), a Regency-style romance, and – perhaps the niche crowning jewel of the season – a paranoid hagsploitation thriller. The show isn’t just aping fun genres but using them to tell fully realized stories in an extremely vivid and exhilarating visual style. A goofy noir foray into the conspiratorial mind of Grace’s ex utilizes the rich, deep shadows of the genre’s best, while an erotic thriller episode starring Danner provides hilarious commentary on the excesses and plot holes of the now all-but-extinct genre.
The Afterparty Season 2 is both a successful celebration of all things film and a pretty great cinematic work in its own right. It’s also funny as hell. The entire cast is strong here, but Community alum Jeong, PEN15 star Konkle, and Silicon Valley actor Woods – one of the funniest actors working today, in my opinion – are special standouts. The show mines all sorts of comedy, from genre-specific idiosyncrasies to cheesy wedding faux pas to the type of lovably wacky one-liners Lord & Miller are known for. All of it works because the actors approach each version of reality with the seriousness the scene calls for, resulting in some truly laugh-out-loud funny deadpan moments, like when a sex scene parodying the 9 ½ Weeks fridge scene gets more ridiculous than mouthwatering, or when Edgar, in full Pride & Prejudice mode, says that the last time he danced ‘a vicar submitted him for an exorcism.’
The show also knows when to employ its dramatic actors to great effect, as it does with the episodes highlighting Perkins and Cho. Nothing in The Afterparty Season 2 is half-assed, and while some episodes don’t make quite as big a splash as others, the overall impact of the various homages is undeniably positive. Apple TV+ screened 9 episodes ahead of the premiere, so I can’t speak to the success of the finale, but it’s clear the show is firing on all cylinders in its second go-round. It’s all but impossible to come away from this funny, creative, film-loving mystery series without a smile on your face.
The Afterparty season 2 is currently airing on Apple TV+. Watch the season two trailer here.