After Life review: Ricky Gervais’ grief-com ends

Kathleen Keane

Ricky Gervais created a show that grips you through it’s mundane depiction of everyday life, it’s agonizing depiction of the motions of grief with an added sprinkle of dark, cynical humour. Shows of this caliber are far and few between.

Gervais has decided that After Life will not be renewed for a fourth season. I think this may leave fans of the protagonist, Tony reeling for the authenticity of his melancholic, but relatable character.

Throughout the course of the series, Tony grieves the loss of his beloved wife Lisa and season three is no different. The audience continue to meet Lisa through home video footage while Tony ploughs through a bottle of wine in his sitting room.

The one significant difference between season three and it’s preceding seasons is that, in season three Tony becomes acquainted with the emotion of hope.

While Tony sits with Lisa in at the cemetery he tells her in a monologue, “I’m still going through the stages of grief. Denial is a tricky one, I was never in denial that you were gone. I was in denial that I was suffering from mental illness….it was only recently that I realized I was ill. I guess that was the glimmer of hope to getting better.”

Lisa had left Tony £150,000 in life insurance, for months he refused to cash it in. A touching  encounter with June where she told him that the money is not symbolic of Lisa, and that she only took out the money so that he would’t have to worry.

After his revelation of hope, he decides to use the money to help those who had touched his heart on his journey through grief following an interview he did with a young girl with cancer named, Lisa. 

This cynical comedy is lifted through sentimental segments like this throughout. The ending shows that Tony’s character has grown around his grief, through the contribution of the various group of people in his community that have lifted him up.

The show as a whole is undoubtedly resolutely human, and it may not be too everyone’s taste. It’s an important piece of work from Gervais as it shows the power that grief can hold over a person but with a little help and support, you can see that there is kindness and hope in the world.

In the series finale, the viewer is taken on a journey through the Tamberry fair while Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’ superbly fills the background and adds a refreshing, optimistic twist from the prior tear-jerking passages throughout the three series’.

Perhaps, Gervais has saved himself from the critics by ending the series in it’s third season and savouring the impact it had without a need to drag it out. The finale leaves the viewers with a sense of optimism that Tony will be okay, and ultimately that was all that viewers longed for.

According to Netflix, over 100 million households have tuned into After Life since the first season.

By Kathleen Keane

Image credit: SpoilerTV