Three important things you need to know here, so let’s knock those out first, for efficiency…
NUMBER ONE: The Afterparty is a new limited series coming to Apple TV that follows a murder mystery throughout an entire season, with each episode focusing on a different character and potential suspect, told from their point of view, with altered facts and perspectives based on their own interpretation of the events.
NUMBER TWO: It comes from Christopher Miller (of Lord and Miller, the creative minds behind like half of your favorite comedies), who styles each episode like an entirely different genre of film, with a little rom-com and a little Fast & Furious inspired action and a little musical and a little psychological thriller, among others, which makes for a really cool storytelling device over the course of the season.
NUMBER THREE: It features so many of your favorite comedic scene stealers from the past few years, everyone from Sam Richardson (Veep, Detroiters) to Ben Schwartz (Parks & Rec) to Ilana Glazer (Broad City) to Tiffany Haddish (everywhere) to John Early (Search Party) to a slew of other notable faces, many of whom will have you saying things like “hey why isn’t this person in more things?” before you realize they’ve already been in like six things you like.
So, that’s what we’re working with here. It’s all just about a perfect premise on paper. But sometimes, too often, like a slugger taking a monster cut at a fastball in an attempt to hit the ball straight to the moon, ambitious projects like this can whiff on the execution. That’s always a bummer. The effort is appreciated, and I’m glad people are trying new and cool things, but still. Bummer City.
Luckily, that’s not the case here. The Afterparty is a delight. It’s another in a cool run of comedic mysteries, too, along with other winners like Only Murders in the Building and The Flight Attendant, that twist the genre into a pretzel to create a delicious… well, a delicious pretzel. Pretzels are great. So is The Afterparty. This is the point I’m getting at.
Let’s back up, though. Let’s discuss some plot, briefly, just in the name of professionalism. The whole thing takes place at a 15-year high school reunion and the subsequent post-party shindig at the home of a character named Xavier (Franco) who has gone on to fame and riches after high school. Which is nice, for him, until he ends up dead, a few dozen feet below the balcony of his swanky beach house. Clues abound. Motives abound, too. Everyone is somehow both innocent and extremely guilty. Enter: mystery.
Also enter: Tiffany Haddish and John Early as detectives who show up and are intent on solving the murder that night, for reasons that become clear pretty quickly. Do you want to see Tiffany Haddish question a bunch of ridiculous goofs, all of whom have secrets dating back over a decade, most of whom are up to something, some of whom may or may not have been drugged with animal tranquilizers? I’ll answer that for you: You do. It’s kind of like if Knives Out were a little less linear and occasionally featured impromptu songs performed by potential murderers. I suppose we can’t rule that out for the sequel, though. I, for one, would like to see Daniel Craig attempt to rap in a southern accent that is thicker than grits. This has very little to do with anything but it’s still worth typing just for the “speak things into existence” aspect of it all. We can dream. I can dream. I don’t need to pull you into this.
But back to the style thing. It’s probably the coolest thing the show does, one of those things you’re kind of shocked hasn’t been done a million times already, and a great way to tell you more about each character without a slew of very straightforward exposition. One character’s version of events plays out with him as the sweet-hearted lead of a romantic comedy. Another version has one character portraying himself as a kind of Dominic Toretto meets John Wick, complete with flashes of neon and devastating one-liners and a hilarious urination showdown that I kind of don’t want to describe any further, in part because I want you to experience it with fresh eyes and in part because I don’t think I can improve on the phrase “urination showdown.” Another is the aforementioned musical. There’s some Gone Girl in another episode, a cartoon in another, it’s all just a blast to watch them play around with a format we’ve seen for decades. It’s like Agatha Christie on, well… on pet tranquilizers. I promise this is a compliment.
The result of it all is one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve seen in a while. The story trickles out drip by drip with single events getting shown from multiple viewpoints, changing your own interpretation of what happened as each unreliable narrator spins a yarn, building and tearing down and rebuilding as it goes along. Once the episodes start dropping weekly (the first three drop in a lump this weekend), the whodunnit of it all will make for some good speculating. You love speculating. You’re always doing it. Even when no one asked you to. But here you have an excuse. Which is helpful.
Watch The Afterparty. Tell your friends to watch it. Get together and talk about it. Have an Afterparty viewing party. Just try to make sure none of you end up dead. And try to not accidentally consume pet tranquilizers. I cannot stress this last part enough.
The first three episodes of The Afterparty premiere on Apple TV Plus on Friday, January 28.