‘The Afterparty’ entertains viewers with a modern take on the murder mystery

Murder Mysteries are making a comeback. Over the past decade we’ve seen adaptations of classic material, including “Sherlock” (2010-17) and “Murder on the Orient Express” (2017), as well as original stories, such as “Knives Out” (2019). In recent years, a new subgenre has emerged: the murderous and mysterious comedy, which is exemplified in recent television series like “The Flight Attendant” (2020–) and “Only Murders in the Building” (2021–). Combining humor and suspense, these shows – when done right – can keep viewers laughing while keeping them on the edge of their seat with twists and turns. The latest example is “The Afterparty” (2022–), an entertaining new series that premiered on Apple TV+ in January.

“The After Party” tells the story of a group of former classmates who attend their high school reunion in San Franciscofollowed by an after-party hosted by Xavier (Dave Franco), one of their classmates, who is now a famous actor and pop star. The twist? At the end of the night, Xavier is found dead in front of his luxurious perched mansionand everyone in his house is a suspect. The murder investigator is Detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish), who takes the case despite her superiors trying to convince her otherwise. Suspects include Best Friends Aniq (Sam Richardson) and Yasper (Ben Schwartz), former couple Zoë (Zoë Chao) and Brett (Ike Barinholtz), as well as Chelsea (Ilana Glazer) and Walt (Jamie Demetriou). In each episode, Detective Danner sits down with another suspect to hear his version of the night’s events. As each character tells the story from their perspective, we learn a bit more about what really happened at the fateful after-party.

Throughout the series, the testimony of each character is presented in a different genre: For example, Aniq’s story is a romantic comedy, Brett’s is an action movie and Yasper is a musical. This helps each episode feel new and interesting, as each person tells their story in their own unique style. However, it can feel jarring to switch between genres, and sometimes it seems like the series has pulled itself into a corner. Forced to recount the events of the same night over and over again, the story has little room for growth. This narrative pattern is broken by two standalone episodes, one which effectively recalls the characters’ high school days and another explores Danner’s career as a detective – a good episode, but a weird diversion from the main story when the big reveal is just around the corner.

One of the show’s biggest strengths is its cast, with plenty of familiar faces that comedy fans will recognize. In the distribution of the large set, Aniq de Richardson stands out among the pack. Smart and down-to-earth, Aniq is easy to root for, as he seeks to bond with Zoë, his high school crush., and prove his innocence in the ongoing murder investigation. As Detective Danner, Haddish brings a certain levity to the show without distracting too much from the mystery. Other notable performances include Ben Schwartz as Yasper, an aspiring musician, and Zoë Chao as Zoë, a high school teacher. In “The After Party, the characters are more than just murder suspects. As thirtysomethings attending their high school reunion, the characters all try to escape their mundane daily lives, seek second chances, and make up for past mistakes.

The series pokes fun at classic murder mystery tropes while planting itself firmly in the present, with numerous references to technology and millennial culture. The script is full of running jokes, like The strange musical career of Xavier and Walt, the classmate no one seems to remember. Additionally, the show makes good use of its the score and production design, both of which help set a distinct tone for each episode.

Of course, the most important part of any whodunit is the big reveal, which “The Afterparty” deftly pulls off. In last Friday’s release of the season finale (don’t worry, this article won’t spoil you), Danner solves the mystery and eventually reveals the identity of the murderer, that you might not have expected. Finally, the season ends with a satisfying conclusion that answers lingering questions and wraps up the stories of the main characters. The series was recently renewed for Season 2, which will feature Haddish’s Danner along with a new batch of would-be criminals. Although the real mystery of the series sometimes gets lost in the multitude of characters and gags, the series is still an entertaining experience. Ultimately, it’s not really about finding out who the killer is – it’s the thrill of getting there that’s worth watching.

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