Ricky Gervais’s ‘Afterlife’
The sob fest that deserved its own blog post (spoilers ahead)
The last time I did a review post of sorts was after watching ‘Behind Her Eyes’ (you can catch that post here) because I finished the entire series on one Friday night and was left with a gaping mouth at the big reveal of whom the eyes belonged to. I also called it ‘the best thing to happen to me in 2021’. Luckily as 2021 has come to an end, I can reveal that things better than ‘Behind her Eyes’ did happen to me.
This time, the review comes as a result of watching a truly heartwarming series finale.
Ricky Gervais’s Afterlife had to do pretty much no work to convince me to watch it when it first came out. There was a dog in the promos and a Ricky Gervais, and cheeky humour and a cute little fur baby was all I needed to watch the show. I didn’t care that it might be properly depressing to watch a man who wants to kill himself and is basically the biggest prick known to mankind upon going through a devastating loss- and justifiably so.
Series two came out and brought with it an even more depressing storyline as Gervais’s character continued to navigate through life against the backdrop of the loss of his wife and then being faced with the loss of his father. Two in a row. Fucking unfair.
But series three prompted this post unreservedly. In this new installment, Gervais’s character tries not to be a knobhead. He tries to make changes in his life to veer from the sadness of loss to the hope of a new beginning. He stumbles, of course, and normalises the use of the word ‘cunt’ (thank you, Gervais), but he maps his own roadmap to recovery.
The series taught us that coping with loss does not mean replacing what you have lost with something else. The most obvious storyline was going to be Tony’s potential romance with Emma. Tony’s friends and colleagues insist that dating Emma might fill the void that Lisa left behind- but Tony was adamant that Emma was nothing more than a friend. This is what happens in real life. You don’t just randomly find a nice nurse who can cure you of your sadness. If you do, great, but more often than not, it isn’t that easy. Tony chose to embrace his grief instead of embroiling Emma into a pseudo-relationship where she would constantly question what she meant to Tony.
Emma had the courage to move on from Tony. She did have a semblance of feelings for Tony but when he made it clear that they were destined for nothing more than friendship, she made the smart decision to do what was right for her. The series taught us that self-care comes first and that friendships matter.
Acts of goodness made Tony a better person. He donated a massive amount of money from Lisa’s life insurance payout to a cancer relief fund and the rest to his friends who needed it, seemingly more than he did. The series taught us that being kind helps. Punishing the world for your grief is not the answer. Being of help to it could be, though. Acknowledging that we all suffer from something every day and that the smallest act of kindness could go a long way in helping us find a way to live can be a step forward in the direction of coping with our grief.
Dogs save lives and the series repeatedly teaches us that. Any time I come home after a night out, my dog is the only one I want to see. If my dog had a phone, I would drunk text him to say that I love him and he would leave me on ‘read’. Not because he doesn’t love me, but because he has paws and can’t type.
But dogs do save lives. A dog saved Tony’s life when he wanted to kill himself. And a dog saved Kath from loneliness.
The series also taught us that you could add Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now to literally any scene and you will find yourself bawling. I have watched that scene three times now. The first time I watched it I was PMS-ing so I assumed that it was my hormones and not me that was prompting this reaction. But twice more did not lead to a different reaction, rather even more tears, so I have had to conclude that it’s Joni Mitchell and not me prompting the tears.
Finally, the series taught us to make sure you have a box of tissues handy when you watch the final episode.