(Editor’s note: This article contains spoilers for “The Afterparty” Season 2, including the finale.)
If you paid attention to Season 1 of “The Afterparty,” the answer was obvious.
The high school reunion murder of Xavier (Dave Franco) at the hands of a classmate introduced viewers to Christopher Miller’s multigenre Apple TV+ series, in which each suspect recounts the night’s events as they experienced it. The murderer turned out to be the one with the most outlandish, exaggerated, and discrepant story of the bunch: Yasper (Ben Schwartz), who viewed the night as a wish-fulfilling musical.
Yasper was motivated by jealousy and revenge, the same emotions shared by Xavier’s other classmates but in comparatively low doses and without the means and opportunity. In Season 2 there’s a helluva lot of truly murderous motive; the unfaithful wife, the financially doomed father-in-law, the jealous sister, the gaslit mother, the disgraced business partner. After nine episodes, there was no obvious liar or conspicuously mismatched story from the rest, making it a different challenge for returning viewers or diehard murder mystery fans.
With so many believable suspects, Season 2 was about the target and timing. Who else at Grace (Poppy Liu) and Edgar’s (Zach Woods) wedding might someone have wanted dead? Why would a show with no dearth of originality choose to recycle the same plot twist — an intrafamilial affair — twice? The signs are there, hidden like the teapot Zoe (Zoë Chao) stashed from the crime scene, and they add up to one killer: Funcle Ulysses (John Cho).
“The Afterparty” Season 2 might not be as strong as Season 1, but it makes a strong case for the show to continue. The series has become a cross-genre comedy showcase for a specialized class of actor, led by Tiffany Haddish, Sam Richardson, and Chao. Each season reveals more about their own lives and relationships, all while they become more confident individuals and partners (romantic or investigative) right before the audience. The killer reveal happens early in Episode 210, allowing the rest of the episode to focus on what’s next for the characters, Zoe and Aniq especially. Their chemistry and command of unprecedented leading roles cements Chao and Richardson as masters of romance, comedy, and then some.
And most of all, this show knows how to commit to the bit in a way that few others have or will. Of course there’s the mind-movie framing device, a welcome treat with every iteration, and thus far there have been no genre repeats (even the Season 2 Aniq episode varies subtly from Season 1’s rom-com ethos). But “The Afterparty” commits just as hard to something like Feng’s (Ken Jeong) love of bao, Isabel’s (Elizabeth Perkins) demonic dog, or Xavier’s discography. The show is now two-for-two in a killer reveal that involves heavy (unconvincing) denial followed by a dramatic and satisfying reveal; Yasper in possession of Xavier’s cellphone in Season 1 and Ulysses stopping Vivian (Vivian Wu) moments before she drinks poison in Season 2.
Though there’s still no word on “The Afterparty” Season 3, the team has proved more than adept at refreshing the mind-movie mystery for another round (the frontrunning Season 3 premise in my group chat is a murder on Danner’s film set. Give us Elijah Wood’s fantasy epic mind movie, please). After the finale, that skill extends to delivering a twist on the culprit reveal, and on a season’s worth of fantastically deranged characters (who could return as they remain connected to Aniq and Zoe). “The Afterparty” is no longer a one-hit wonder or wacky experiment, but a consistently delightful piece of storytelling that Apple should protect.
“The Afterparty” is now streaming on Apple TV+.