[Editor’s Note: This post contains spoilers for The Afterparty Season 2, Episode 10, “Vivian and Zoë.”]
The Afterparty delivered its second-season finale on Wednesday, tying up the monthslong mystery of who killed aloof (and, it turns out, kinda sinister!) tech bro Edgar (Zach Woods). With suspicion falling on, alternately, at Edgar's bride, Grace (Poppy Liu), mother Isabel (Elizabeth Perkins), sister Hannah (Anna Konkle), and business partner Sebastian (Jack Whitehall), not to mention Grace's entire family, there was plenty to be sorted out.
There was also the hope that The Afterparty could pull things together for a satisfying conclusion to a disappointing sophomore season. The show's determination to repeat last season's feat of a new genre parody for each episode resulted in a hit-and-miss series of efforts that suffocated the story as often as it enhanced it. But a murder mystery can often live or die on how satisfying its conclusion is, which left The Afterparty with a chance to go out on a high note.
The season's penultimate episode appeared to be building to a scenario in which Edgar had essentially killed himself, accidentally ingesting a poison that he'd intended for his own mother. And then when that theory was disproved, Isabel went right back to pointing the finger at Grace, just in time for a police officer (Martin Mull, not exactly a stranger to a whodunnit) to arrive on the scene. But, of course, it couldn't be quite that easy. After ruling out Zoë (Zoë Chao), who had merely killed Isabel's dog (or so she thought), Aniq (Sam Richardson) and Danner (Tiffany Haddish) put the clues together and landed on the true culprit: "funcle" Ulysses (John Cho).
One of the big revelations of the season was that Grace and Zoë's mom, Vivian (Vivian Wu) had an affair with Ulysses, and depending on which genre parody the show used to examine this relationship, it was either an epic romance (Ulysses' version) or a tawdry soap opera (Vivian's). Regardless, Ulysses was determined to be with Vivian, even if it meant killing his brother, Feng (Keng Jeong) to get him out of the way. Ulysses brewed up some poison using a deadly flower from Hannah's garden and slipped it into Feng's whiskey glass. But then Edgar picked up the wrong glass (picking up the wrong glass: a first-ballot entry into the Murder Mystery Plot Device Hall of Fame), fatally dosing himself with the poison meant for his father-in-law.
Actually, no. Despite the episode's title, the genre parodies earmarked for Zoë and Vivian were very brief. Zoë engaged in a scene of campy horror (or a rip-off of There's Something About Mary, depending on your POV) when she dispatched Isabel's demonic dog, followed a bit later by Vivian's soft-focus '80s-soap flashback to her encounter with Ulysses. The bulk of the episode was a fairly straightforward murder-mystery comedy, and that worked out quite well. These scenes were less burdened by a genre conceit and thus more free to let Elizabeth Perkins nail one-liners, or have Cho and Wu deliver a surprisingly tense moment of truth. That relaxed finale vibe also delivered the one really successful Aniq/Zoë moment of the season.
After Aniq spent most of the season bumbling around, being decidedly unimpressive around Zoë's parents, he pulled it together and finally asked them for their blessing to propose to Zoë. This led to a cute moment where Zoë proposed to Aniq instead, and the two of them cutely bantered about whose surprise proposal should be the big one. They're still far from TV's most dynamic couple, but the show finally gave us a reminder of why we wanted them to get together in the first place.
By far the most exciting part of the Season 2 finale was the flash-forward at the very end. After a bemused Aniq wonders why Danner's writing a novel when she's always talking about making mini-movies in her head, we suddenly jump ahead a year, and Danner has done just that. Aniq and Zoë visit Danner on the set of X Marks the Murder, the new film she's written based on the events of Season 1 of The Afterparty. And the cast is an all-star affair: Keke Palmer as Danner, Gemma Chan as Zoë, Elijah Wood as Yasper, Daniel Radcliffe (shown only as an artistic rendering on a poster) as Xavier, and in the role of Aniq, it's Danner's new fiancé… Jaleel White. Urkel himself!
So is this a setup for a third season of The Afterparty? Apple has yet to renew the series, but if they can manage to pull in all these cameoing actors for full-season arcs, it would be an intriguing venture. The setup is reminiscent of what Only Murders in the Building did at the end of its second season, flashing forward a year to a big show-within-the-show, featuring a major guest star (Paul Rudd, in that case). Like The Afterparty, Only Murders slumped in its second season, and that time jump helped build momentum to what's thus far been a welcome return to form. And while The Afterparty doesn't leave us with a new murder to solve, the idea of filming a movie version of Season 1 could give the show a new meta conceit, one that doesn't require the writers to concoct 10 new genre parodies over the course of a season. This could be the breath of fresh air The Afterparty needs to get its second wind.
The Afterparty Season 2 is streaming on Apple TV+. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.
TOPICS: The Afterparty, Daniel Radcliffe, Elijah Wood, Elizabeth Perkins, Gemma Chan, Jaleel White, John Cho, Keke Palmer, Martin Mull, Paul Walter Hauser, Poppy Liu, Sam Richardson, Tiffany Haddish, Zach Woods, Zoe Chao