As someone who tries to find the balance between optimism and realism, a show like After Life is something that should frustrate me, but it didn’t. The six-episode series is nihilistic at its core as it follows Tony (Ricky Gervais), a man who takes on a rude and aggressive persona after the death of his wife.
Majority of the episodes portray how Tony would be a total A-hole to all the people he interacts with, including the ones he’s known for years. This shift in his character is also proof that he’s still stuck in the “anger” phase of grieving, which is something his brother-in-law Matt (Tom Basden) has acknowledged and excused several times.
Tony would also repeatedly mention that being rude to people is a “superpower” and that if things go horrible, he still has suicide to fall back on. (Yes, it gets pretty dark.) On his more emotional days, he’d admit to people that he’s acting this way because he can’t live without his late wife.
Despite the hopelessness and deadpan humor that this show offers, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, After Life also brings to light men’s vulnerability, and how it’s valid and doesn’t diminish them and their manliness. At some point, we see how some of the people around him discredit his emotions and outbursts as him simply hating the world. This was mostly evident with how his psychiatrist wouldn’t pay attention to his rants and would rather smite him than help him, as well as Tony’s blind date who tries to coax him into committing suicide. These characters obviously suck.
But, of course, when you’re attacking people unprovoked for a long period of time like Tony, it’s not always excusable. What I appreciate with the show is how it teaches Tony that rage and rudeness won’t always favor him—just like other people who seem to think that lashing out will give them what they want. Tony needs to be accountable for his bad attitude so he could live a full, renewed life that his wife wanted him to have after her death.
Some important life lessons you can pick up from After Life: 1) Not every person has a perfect life and they could be going through something, so be kind and considerate; 2) Death affects people differently and their emotions are valid; and 3) Seek help when you feel hopeless or suicidal.
Despite being a nihilistic show, there’s still some semblance of positivity after all.
Art by Marian Hukom
Photos courtesy of Netflix
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