“The same thing could happen, but you see it in a different way.”
The Afterparty on Apple TV+ is an inventive and unapologetically silly whodunnit from the mind of Christopher Miller (21 & 22 Jump Street, The Lego Movie) with a cast made up of some of comedy’s best scene-stealers. At the outset, there has been a murder in the early hours of the morning at a high school reunion afterparty. The victim, and the host of said afterparty, is Xavier (Dave Franco), a slimy popstar/actor who nobody in attendance seemed to particularly like.
Detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish) arrives on the scene with partner Detective Culp (John Early) tasked with taking witness statements before a more important detective arrives on the first flight of the morning. But intrigued by the unusual circumstances, and perhaps with something to prove, she sets out to solve the case herself before the other detective shows up.
“We’re all stars of our own movie”, Danner tells the group of suspects. “The same thing could happen, but you see it in a different way.” With no witnesses to the crime coming forward, she invites each person to provide their own “mind movie” and give their account of how the night transpired. She’s ready to hear what they all have to say with not just a notepad in hand but popcorn too.
On top of the murder mystery at its centre, a key element of The Afterparty is that each suspect’s version of events takes on a different tone and genre, influenced by their own character and reason for attending the reunion. Aniq (Sam Richardson), who is the focus of the first episode, goes in the hope of reconnecting with his high school crush, Zoe (Zoë Chao), so his account of the evening positions him as the lead in a romcom – complete with a meet-cute, a wacky but supportive best friend, and a chase to the tune of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. There’s also a smooth rival vying for Zoe’s attention, in the form of Xavier, and a bitter ex getting in the way.
Meanwhile, Brett (Ike Barinholtz) considers himself a badass, so his version of the story is an action movie where his ‘mission’ is to make ex-wife Zoe regret their divorce and stop her from hooking up with Xavier. Because no matter how macho he seems, Brett shares in the Fast and Furious ethos that “the most important thing in this world… is family.”
Although sweet Aniq and meathead Brett have very different perspectives on the night, they do have something in common: a motive to hurt Xavier. In fact, almost everyone at the party seems to have a grudge against him for one reason or another, so the waters get muddier as the series unfolds.
Through the eyes of Indigo (Genevieve Angelson), we get a black-and-white arthouse version of events where Aniq is unquestionably the killer, and later there’s a psychological thriller from Chelsea (Ilana Glazer), who receives threatening texts at the party and believes that someone is following her. Perhaps the most fun though is the night according to the relentlessly positive Yasper (Ben Schwartz), who used to be in a band with Xavier at school and goes to the reunion hoping they can collaborate on a track. In his world, he’s somersaulting into the party and performing a motivational rap to big up his friend Aniq – and believe me, you’re going to have the Hamilton-esque ‘You Only Get One Shot, Twice’ in your head for days.
It’s a real strength of The Afterparty that the “mind movies” don’t just serve as clever genre parodies. By showing us the same evening from varied points of view, we’re continuously getting new information and encouraged to question who may be the most reliable source. In the first few episodes, characters whose perspectives we don’t get to see are just as suspicious, with nobody remembering awkward Walt (Jamie Demetriou) from high school, and one of the ‘two Jennifers’ (Tiya Sircar and Ayden Mayeri) going AWOL from the house.
The show has Miller and co spinning a lot of plates but they seem able to control them with ease. It’s a clever mix of murder mystery and laugh out loud comedy.Fitting each character into a different genre allows Miller to play to the strengths of his incredible cast. Ben Schwartz’s episode takes the form of a musical allowing him to explore his inner Jean-Ralphio. It’s a show that will instantly win you over with its warmth and inventive storytelling but also intrigue with its central mystery.
The After Party is available now on Apple TV+ with episodes arriving weekly.