TV: The Afterparty (Season 2)

Having pulled off something extraordinary once, The Afterparty faced, upon its renewal, the steep challenge of doing something extraordinary again. It doesn’t quite manage it, although the effort is commendable. The show’s high-concept core does most of the heavy lifting here—a murder mystery with an Agatha Christiesque roster full of suspects, each episode following a different character’s perspective, conveyed in a different genre. It’s another varied and creative season, but the comedy isn’t quite as consistent.

Once again, our nerdy hero Aniq (Sam Richardson) finds himself, along with girlfriend Zoe (Zoë Chao), at the center of a complex murder mystery. Attending the wedding of Zoe’s sister Grace (Poppy Liu), the couple is at ground zero when the groom—an eccentric tech-industry tycoon named Edgar Minnows (Zach Woods)—is murdered. Grace seems to be the most likely suspect, but Aniq and Zoe are positive she’s innocent. Desperate to win the approval of Zoe’s family, Aniq calls in retired detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish) to help them solve the case before the police get involved. Once again, the investigation involves serially interviewing potential suspects: a quirky collection of wedding guests from both sides of the family, each with their own motive for committing the murder.

With the surprise of the concept diminished, The Afterparty becomes more of a formal exercise in season two: a process of decoding the genre being satirized, alongside clue-finding speculation and detective work. On the plus side, the season does have its structural ducks in a row, and once again there’s plenty of richness and intricacy to the plot machinations. Chao and Richardson are delightful once again, and the suspect list this year is loaded with talent, including John Cho, Paul Walter Hauser, Ken Jeong, Anna Konkle, Elizabeth Perkins, Jack Whitehall, and Vivian Wu. The opening credit sequence is pure perfection, and one episode in particular—“Hannah,” which focuses on Konkle’s character in a delightful Wes Anderson pastiche—is outstanding. Overall, though, the laughs weren’t quite as consistent for me this season; at times it felt like logistics were getting in the way of genuine humor, the show so focused on ticking its boxes that the jokes occasionally felt like an afterthought. Even so, it remains an entertaining contraption and a unique project, and Chao and Richardson are so delightful together I would happily follow them into another misadventure.

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