I have been waiting for a show to come around like 2022’s The Afterparty—one in which the central mystery is as compelling as the acting performances. The dark comedy is perfectly on brand for this collection of character actors to each have a moment in the spotlight. Perhaps the single most exciting thing about the project was the involvement of creatives Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. The duo has churned out breakout projects The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, among others, and have been developing this one since 2013. Originally conceived as a feature film, the television format allows the audience eight full episodes to grow attached to its motley crew, and draw their own conclusions from its various curiosities.
Tonight is the 15 year high school reunion for the class of 2006, but at the afterparty, caked in what smells like whiskey and ginger ale, lies the body of pop mega star Xavier (Dave Franco). Known for going platinum with his big hit “X Marks the G-Spot,” and his film roles in hysterical fictional flicks such as Hungry Hungry Hippos and Private Eyes, a Hall & Oates biopic costarring Channing Tatum, Xavier’s work is legendary. Xavier was loved by the masses, but almost universally hated by his high school friends and peers. Despite her superior advising her to just take simple statements until the real people in charge arrive, Detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish) takes matters into her own hands. She forbids all the suspects from leaving Xavier’s huge hillside mansion, and begins interviewing them, one by one. From diarrhea games to ska bands, cat tranquilizers, a senior-year St. Patrick’s Day party, and private jets, The Afterparty’s brand of mystery comes tinged with sharp and fast-paced black humor.
This is the mystery show that I wanted Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building to be. Each episode tackles the night from a different perspective, with distinct character personalities coloring the narrative with their own unique sensibilities. Escape room designer Aniq (Sam Richardson) is extra awkward and still pining after his crush, Zoe (Zoe Chao), so his reciting of events has light and fluffy rom-com vibes. Brett (Ike Barinholtz) is a hardened drunk bro (but surprisingly good father), and his version is heavy on the action element, complete with stunts. Yasper (Ben Schwartz), the dorky musically-inclined white guy, naturally has an episode filled with cleverly-written musical numbers. A later episode is animated nearly from start to finish, and a flashback one evoking Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer prequel is probably the most hilarious one yet. Each piece of the puzzle begins to form a cohesive snapshot of the entire night, from reunion to afterparty, and as such also fills in traits, history, and drama from the diverse cast’s backstory.
The first episode runs nearly an hour long, setting up the specifics of what will follow, and each subsequent one is just over half an hour. It barely feels like a show; rather, a splendid lengthy comedy movie split into parts, executed by two masters of the craft. The team ups between characters, especially Ike Barinholtz and Dave Franco’s “strongest pisser” bathroom stall rapport, are laugh-out-loud funny. Filled with one-liners galore and memorable sequences, The Afterparty may be a television show l revisit over and over again. Like Clue and several great mysteries before it, I can only see The Afterparty growing stronger after each viewing, dependent of course on the delivery of its conclusion.
Screeners for critics only extend to the first seven episodes, leaving the wait to reach the eighth episode (and ultimate reveal!) to be laboriously slow. The cliffhanger is enough to drive me crazy for several weeks, with ultimate guesses as to the identity of the killer hanging in the balance. I have no doubt in my mind that the answers to all of these questions will be satisfactory, knowing the talent involved behind the lens. Unless there are further mysteries up its sleeve, I can see The Afterparty closing out in an explosive fashion with the final episode in the series. “Even autotune won’t save you!”
The Afterparty invites you to attend one killer high school reunion when it comes to Apple TV+ on Friday, January 28th.