The Afterparty Season 2 Plays with Pets and Poison

Episode 1. Zach Woods, John Cho, Zoë Chao, Paul Walter Hauser, Ken Jeong, Poppy Liu and Vivian Wu in "The Afterparty," on Apple TV+.
Courtesy of Apple TV+

The following review contains spoilers for The Afterparty Season 2 Episode 1, “Aniq 2: The Sequel,” and Episode 2, “Grace,” on Apple TV+

The incredible murder mystery comedy is back! The first two episodes of The Afterparty Season 2 dropped July 12th, and if there’s one battle in the streaming wars Apple TV+ is winning, its comedies; from Ted Lasso to Shrinking to Trying to The Afterparty, their comedy department is killing the game. The first season of The Afterparty was a hilarious and unique piece of television, both satirising the murder mystery genre and paying homage to the tropes and personalities linked to other beloved genres. Each episode is framed around the perspective of a ‘suspect’ and told through their preferred genre of TV or film, like rom-com, action, thriller, etc.

The Afterparty Season 2 is set up the same: there are ten suspects/witnesses, all with their own forms of motive and holes in their story; the victim also has suspicious characteristics and unexplained disappearances throughout the night and, get this, an AFTERPARTY – ououou…

Aniq with his arm around Zoe
Courtesy of Apple TV+

The Afterparty Season 2 has three returning characters: Aniq (Sam Richardson) and Zoe (Zoe Chao) are still together, having dated for a year, and are attending Zoe’s sister’s wedding together—the destination of the murder. Detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish) returns at Aniq’s request to help prove that Zoe’s sister, Grace (Poppy Liu), didn’t murder her new husband, Edgar (Zach Woods)—a cryptocurrency and silicone valley mogul.

The first episode is “Aniq 2: The Sequel” to Aniq’s episode in the first season, when his retelling of the night is framed as a rom-com about him trying to win Zoe at their high school reunion. Sam Richardson plays into an awkward, anxious persona that works well within the rom-com genre and the murder mystery genre, clueless socially yet brilliant logically. This episode in the new season takes on less of the meet-cute kind of rom-com and more of the meet-the-parents rom-com. There’s a bit of a Meet The Parents (2000), Wedding Crashers (2005) vibe: high-stake antic comedy, struggles with the in-laws, and cooky characters. Aniq’s introduction of Edgar made me kind of fall in love with him—Zach Woods can make the weirdest of quirks cute and charming—like Richardson’s character, Edgar is clueless socially yet brilliant logically but with more signals of possible neurodivergence given his obsession with his pet lizard, Roxanna, and his need to point out social awkwardness otherwise left alone.

Grace and Edgar sit under a tree, looking 19th century
Courtesy of Apple TV+

Episode 2 comes from Grace’s perspective; her retelling of the wedding and her six month relationship with Edgar leading up to the nuptials plays out in a historical romance style, costumes and all. It reminded me most of Pride and Prejudice (2005) with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen—it even mimicked the ever-famous close-up of Macfadyen’s hand flexing after touching Knightley. However, there were still moments where the illusion had to be broken by 21st-century concepts; it made for comedic elements but also poked holes in the illusion of Grace’s glossy perspective. Poppy Liu portrays Grace as very sweet; she looks at life through a lens of innocence with a significant emphasis on romanticism. Grace has an antique stall and likes to knit puppets and trinkets for her loved ones.

It’s exceedingly hard to believe she would poison her beloved husband, Edgar, and that much is clear when Grace confesses to spiking the mogul’s drink with his prescription for Adderall rather than any lethal narcotic.

Episode 1. Jack Whitehall and John Cho in "The Afterparty," on Apple TV+.
Courtesy of Apple TV+

A few suspects jump out to me from the tidbits of information and pieces of personality we’ve seen of the other characters so far in The Afterparty Season 2. First, the most blatant villains are Sebastian (Jack Whitehall)—Edgar’s best man and business partner—and Isabel (Elizabeth Perkins), Edgar’s jagged mother. Jack Whitehall plays arrogant jackass very well, and if I’m honest, considering his other performances in other projects, his comedic style and stand-up and presence at press junkets have me a little convinced he may well be an arrogant jackass in real life—my speculation, of course—but with that in mind, it makes him a perfect casting choice for this role. Sebastian has some selfish stake in his closeness to Edgar and seems more interested in the money Edgar makes than his unique interests. Elizabeth Perkins plays a cook-cook-bananas old money kind of mama who seems angry that her husband ‘chose’ to die…? Isabel is a stickler about family and, at times, seems apprehensive not only about the difference in economic classes between herself and Grace’s family but also… perhaps… a little… racist?

Either way, these two characters seem to have the most at stake due to Edgar’s death. It will be interesting to see how their perspectives play out in their dedicated episodes and what genre they’re presented in. I predict Sebastian (Jack Whitehall) will get some unironic Wolf of Wall Street (2013) style, all high-roller business and corporate espionage. In contrast, Isabel (Elizabeth Perkins) could take on an Out of Africa (1985) or Gosford Park (2001) style with historical elements like Grace but darker motifs and older, scandalised or melancholic women.

Episode 2. Tiffany Haddish in "The Afterparty," on Apple TV+.
Courtesy of Apple TV+

As for the rest of the characters, I don’t see them so much as capable of murder. From what we can see, Zoe has a somewhat strong motive that she didn’t think Edgar was right for her sister, but I don’t think she’s the murderer. Grace and Zoe’s parents, Vivian (Vivian Wu) and Feng (Ken Jeong) seemed very pleased with Edgar—I doubt they have the motive to murder the guy. However, there appears to be a secret they share with Grace and Zoe’s Uncle Ulysses (John Cho) that piqued my interest in why the family grew estranged from Ulysses. I also have a slight suspicion that John Cho’s character may be capable of murder should he have some disagreement with Edgar’s business practices. That leaves two characters, Hannah (Anna Konkle)—Edgar’s adopted sister—and Travis (Paul Walter Hauser), Grace’s conspiracy theorist ex-boyfriend. Travis keeps a file on him all the time that appears to hold significance against Edgar, which puts him in a very suspicious position, but I think his obsessions are a red herring. As much as Hannah appears to be a loving sister, the repeated emphasis on “adopted” leaves room for emotional turmoil to be discovered in Edgar’s familial dynamics.

And so, yet again, The Afterparty has captivated me and enveloped my curiosity. I’m analysing characters, alibies, and motives and loving the adventure it’s taking me on. Creator Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse) has hit the perfect tone with his show. There seems to be a wave of murder-mystery comedies coming out, Only Murders in the Building, Poker Face, Based on a True Story, etc. Although, due to how Afterparty shows its uniqueness through the stylised confessional retellings of the mystery’s events, a brilliant second layer of satire separates it from the rest. As much as outlandish comedian Tiffany Haddish may be a lead character, her comedy doesn’t dominate the show due to its structure, nor can Ken Jeong or Jack Whitehall. The episodic stylised element presents a very balanced comedic and mysterious story with no overpowering player or performance dictating the tone—it operates as a true ensemble show and is a pleasure to watch.

Written by Isobel Grieve

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