17
Oct 06

After (This) Life

FT1 comment • 638 views

When Afterlife turned up on ITV’s schedule recently, I was a bit baffled to see it billed as the second series. It’s not that I go out of my way much for this sort of thing, but had I seen ONE trailer for it, I would have been interested. And that’s probably the most mysterious thing about the show.

The first series is reviewed here by offthetelly, and the same criticisms can be levelled at the second series. Egg is still rubbish in it and the stories are simply not “tight” enough – feeling less like stories than often unconvincingly strung together set pieces. The first three episodes each had one thing to commend them (story twist, acting, visual impact, etc), but the fourth episode was too dull to keep me going.

The third episode “Lullaby” was the most interesting because the ending was “wrong”/”brave”, and there’s not enough of that in modern telly drama, and it was almost worth it for the one spooky effect that the whole story had been built around in the writer’s mind.

(NOTE spoilers ahead.)

Most intelligent viewers can predict the resolution of a drama when there are only 10 minutes to go, and in the case of ghost stories like these it is very often “ok, they do the thing, the spirit is appeased, peril is relieved”. But in this case the peril was reLIVED! Like having the being-defused bomb exploding on our hero, in this story the baby, in peril throughout, dies… AND IS INSTANTLY HEARD CRYING AND BEING COMFORTED ON THE BABY MONITOR THAT IS CONNECTED TO THE “OTHER SIDE” OMGZ! Cue credits.

An effective moment, spoiled by just two things: the slackness of what could have been a much tauter build up, and the directorial decision to NEVER SHOW THE BABY. Actually I am willing to be contradicted here, but it was certainly very noticeable that the baby was just out of our PoV most/all of the time. You can understand that with the resolution in mind, that the director was saving the poor viewers the agony of empathy, but that just undercut the impact of the nasty and spooky end that was the point of the show. In addition it distracted us by making us think there was something unusual about the baby that was being kept from us for narrative purposes.

The fatal fourth episode, the week after, had a most disappointing resolution – we made up a couple of better ones ourselves just to keep us going – and was notably only for some grisly, if not always convincing, makeup.

So I’m still looking for a solid British supernatural drama. Any suggestions?

(See also:Sea of Souls)

Comments

  1. 1
    Martin Skidmore on 17 Oct 2006 #

    I like Lesley Sharp enormously, so have watched this regularly from the start, except I sometimes forget it’s on – as you say, underpromoted. I think she is up to her usual standards, but Lincoln is useless, and just has to keep doing the same things and learning the same lesson virtually every episode (reminds me a bit of early Mulder & Scully). It’s pretty dull, really.

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