The Afterparty, Apple TV + ‘s Rashomon-style comedy of perspectives, finally looks back at the party before the party. Outkast is on the stereo, the cast get bad haircuts, and everyone makes embarrassing mistakes. Could this explain Xavier’s death?
The show hasn’t done much to engender any good will toward its cast of characters, and this week’s stunt episode doesn’t help things. The Afterparty seems quite taken with the idea of the cast reliving their glory days. But the sight of them all looking younger isn’t quite the gas the writers and director Chris Miller seems to think it is.
The Afterparty recap: ‘High School’
In the show’s fifth episode, titled “High School,” it’s finally Walt’s (played by Jamie Demetriou) time to shine. Detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish) wants to know what happened at the St. Patrick’s Day party all those years ago, when everything seemed to seal the fates of everyone at Xavier’s (Dave Franco) afterparty.
Walt hosted the party. And by virtue of being someone nobody knows, remembers or pays attention to, he was able to see everything that happened.
So while everyone, for instance, thinks that Chelsea (Ilana Glazer) rebounded from Ned (Kelvin Yu) by sleeping with Xavier and Walt, Walt knows that Xavier tried to make out with her while she was drunk and she rebuffed him. Walt also knows that Aniq (Sam Richardson) destroyed Xavier’s car, because Xavier pushed him in the pool. And that made him lose his shot with Zoe (Zoe Chao), who got together with Brett (Ike Barinholtz) instead.
When Walt finishes the story, it’s starting to look like everyone had a reason to hate Xavier, and it’s mostly stemmed from that party. Danner is not amused. And when Aniq finally reveals what he thinks is his bombshell evidence (a revenge note, torn up and thrown in the trash), it turns out it’s just lyrics Xavier discarded.
So we’re back to square one, except Zoe now has something she wants to share.
Blast from the past
This episode is, I take it, meant to suggest teen comedies like She’s All That but they’re firmly in the wrong decade for the signifiers to work, despite the Lewinsky jokes (?). The Afterparty tries over and over again to play with tropes and genre. But it really doesn’t have a very firm grip on what the conventions mean, or why anyone likes or remembers them.
This week’s episode feels especially perfunctory because there aren’t even any jokes. Everyone behind the camera seems to think that giving every character a bad haircut to suggest youthful appearances is funny enough.
It’s also kind of head-scratching, too, because yes the “joke” is that these are old people playing their younger selves. But by 2006, when the episode is set, actor Ike Barinholtz was on his last season of Mad TV. He would have graduated high school about 10 years earlier than that. Kelvin Yu was already on a season of the show Popular five years earlier. Meanwhile, Zoe Chao and Ilana Glazer would have graduated in 2005, if my math is correct.
There’s just too much going on here, and none of it makes the show funnier.
An unfortunately rare laugh
I confess I did laugh when Walt gave Aniq a shirt to wear after he fell in the pool – and it’s a Bush / Cheney ’04 tank top. So that’s two laughs during the whole season of The Afterparty so far.
I remain truly baffled by the decisions made every step of the way here. The show wants at once to be a deadly serious version of a different movie every week, but it’s not having any fun with any of the ideas it’s borrowing or revising.
If you can’t mistake these episodes for the things they’re parodying, and if you can’t laugh at the ways in which it’s being parodied, and you’re not letting the funny cast improve the very dry writing, and you aren ‘t doing anything outlandish or even fun with design or the camera, then what are you doing?
There are three episodes of The Afterparty left. That means three chances to pull this mess together. Let’s see how that goes.
Watch The Afterparty on Apple TV +
New episodes of The Afterparty arrive on Fridays.
Watch on: Apple TV +
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.
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