REVIEW: ‘The Afterparty’ Is A Wild, Genre-Warping Whodunnit Worth Watching

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The Afterparty - But Why tho

The Afterparty is an Apple TV+ Original Series created by Christopher Miller and produced by Sony Television Studios & TriStar Television. At an afterparty for his high school reunion, pop star Xavier (Dave Franco) falls to his death on the cliffs below. Detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish), who winds up in charge of the investigation, starts to interrogate everyone who was at the party. The suspects include lovelorn Aniq (Sam Richardson); his best friend Yasper (Ben Schwartz); Aniq’s high school crush Zoe (Zoe Chao); her ex-husband Brett (Ike Barinholtz); the mysterious Indigo (Genevive Angelson); loner Chelsea (Ilana Glazer); and wallflower Walt (Jamie Demetriou). As Danner conducts her investigation, Aniq works to solve the mystery and clear his own name when suspicion falls on him.

Miller and his longtime creative partner Phil Lord (who also executive produces and even scripts an episode of The Afterparty) have shown they have a firm grasp on various genres, and how to tap into the deeper meaning behind each genre, with their various projects. The Lego Movie was a hero’s journey that deconstructed the very idea of the “chosen one”. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse doubled as an origin story for Miles Morales, and a journey to discover who he was as an individual. And The Mitchells VS The Machines featured a father and daughter reconnecting during a machine uprising. The Afterparty takes it to a new extreme, as each episode is told from a different character’s point of view and serves as a mini-movie of its own.

Aniq, whose statement serves as the premiere episode, frames his recollection of the night as a romantic comedy featuring multiple attempts to win Zoe’s heart. Yasper, who is an aspiring musician, tells his story like a musical complete with a Hamilton-inspired rap number about second chances. Brett’s testimony is a send-up of action movies. And in perhaps the most chilling episode, Chelsea’s testimony takes the form of a horror film. Miller directed the entirety of The Afterparty, and with each episode, he shifts gears and techniques; Chelsea’s episode feels claustrophobic with shadows creeping in on her, and Brett’s episode features a dark blue filter with enough lens flares to make J.J. Abrams blush.

The series is also a great opportunity for the ensemble to stretch their acting chops, as everyone comes off differently in the various recollections. Richardson, Schwartz, and Chao are the standouts; Richardson’s been great in films including Werewolves Within and The Tomorrow War, but now he gets to take center stage as Aniq works to clear his name—and figure out who drew on his face with magic marker-I couldn’t help but crack up every time the camera was close upon him.

Schwartz brings the same jittery yet charming energy that made him a great fit for Sonic the Hedgehog and turns out to be a phenomenal singer. Chao, however, leans into the shifting element of the story the most. Zoe is presented in various forms throughout the series, including the “dream girl” in Aniq’s story and the “one who got away” in Brett’s; when it comes to her sequence, which is fully animated, the audience will finally see her as a human being with flaws and all.

The most consistent characters in the show are Danner and Xavier, with the latter appearing mostly in flashbacks and providing some of the series’ best laughs, including an in-universe biopic about Hall and Oates co-starring Channing Tatum. As Danner, Haddish has to somewhat dial down her usual energy to play the straight man to the rest of the ensemble. This results in some clunky dialogue (she literally says everyone is the star of their own movie, a rather hamfisted way to set up the premise) but also some genuinely well-placed pop culture references (she mentions having a crush on Steve Urkel).

The biggest draw of The Afterparty, however, is how each story reveals a little bit about each character and the regrets or dreams they’ve carried with them. Chelsea wants revenge for how she was treated in high school. Brett slowly realizes that his controlling nature drove a rift between him and Zoe. Both Aniq and Yasper are looking for a second shot to achieve their dreams. Miller and his writing team use the high school reunion setting as a way to explore how people either cling to or want to escape who they were; this leads to some genuinely heartfelt moments, including conversations between unexpected characters.

The Afterparty features an all-star comedic ensemble and a genre-bending approach to its murder mystery, making it one of the most unique TV shows I’ve seen in a while. If you loved Knives Out or you’re a fan of Miller’s previous work, this is a whodunnit that’s definitely worth your time.

The first three episodes of The Afterparty are currently available to stream on Apple TV+. New episodes premiere every Friday.


The Afterparty
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

The Afterparty features an all-star comedic ensemble and a genre-bending approach to its murder mystery, making it one of the most unique TV shows I’ve seen in a while. If you loved Knives Out or you’re a fan of Miller’s previous work, this is a whodunnit that’s definitely worth your time.

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