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The Afterparty Explores Love in the Time of Wes Anderson

The Season 2 episode “Hannah” features a forbidden queer love affair.
  • Anna Konkle in The Afterparty (Photo: Apple TV+)
    Anna Konkle in The Afterparty (Photo: Apple TV+)

    Wes Anderson’s movies are incredibly visually distinct, and they defy easy categorization into one single genre. On TikTok, users share his delight in romanticizing the beautifully mundane aspects of everyday moments, filming them through a lens that riffs on Anderson's own whimsical and symmetrical approach. The Afterparty similarly pays homage in its second season, though it offers more emotional depth than the videos currently adorning our For You Pages.

    Set to the tune of Belle and Sebastian’s “Piazza, New York Catcher,” Hannah’s (Anna Konkle) story feels like a scene straight out of The Royal Tenenbaums. As a child, Hannah was denied proper affection from her parents. To pass the time, she and her brother, Edgar (Zach Woods), would engage in a series of atypical activities, ranging from taxidermy to macabre horticulture. But as Edgar got older, he became increasingly involved with his business ventures, and his attention waned from the shared hobbies that once bound the two siblings together.

    The most obvious parallel is between Hannah and Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), as they’re both adopted daughters who share an enigmatic (and maybe even slightly off-putting) aura. During a press day in June, the PEN15 actor and co-creator spoke about how revisiting the original film helped shape her performance. “I definitely thought of Margot immediately,” Konkle told Primetimer. “I mean, that’s the adopted daughter. There are some visual references too, just on the page and in the script that brings you right there.”

    Edgar invites Grace (Poppy Liu) as a guest to Hannah’s birthday party, where the two women immediately bond over their shared love for antique oddities. Their friendship deepens rapidly, and Grace finds herself spending more time with Hannah than she does with her own fiancé. On one occasion, a planned lunch date in Amsterdam with Edgar gets disrupted by another work meeting, which prompts Hannah to step in and accompany Grace instead. This pattern of substituting for her brother becomes a recurring theme in their relationship, further blurring the lines between their connection and the commitments they each have with Edgar.

    After an argument with Zöe (Zöe Chao), Grace confides in Hannah about her conflicting feelings. On one hand, Edgar hasn’t been present within their relationship, yet she still wants to be with him. She laments that all she really wants is love (“heart-bursting, mind-exploding, nipple-chilling love”). When Hannah explains that Edgar is incredibly lucky to be marrying her, the two women share an unexpected kiss.

    Many of Anderson’s films have a reputation for showcasing quirky love stories. Rushmore is a tale of unrequited love for teenager Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman); and The Royal Tenenbaums includes a semi-incestuous romance between Margot and her adoptive brother, Richie (Luke Wilson). Yet his movies have only recently begun featuring explicitly queer characters — Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright) in The French Dispatch, and Conrad Earp (Edward Norton) in Asteroid City. In some ways, Grace and Hannah’s relationship feels spiritually connected to his cinematic universe, one that is long overdue but warmly welcome.

    Konkle was especially concerned about how to keep Hannah alive, while still maintaining the distinct deadpan delivery and emotional repression that ties Anderson’s characters together. “It was important for me to go through a lot of the filmography and really try to break down what allows Wes Anderson to do this sort of, intentionally stilted storytelling,” she explained. “Very composed, very choreographed things, while having a really propellant emotional life and characters and propellant stories that you care about, because my fear was becoming devoid of emotion.”

    The episode’s liveliness comes through Grace and Hannah’s forbidden love affair, which also holds similarities to Moonrise Kingdom’s star-crossed lovers, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward). The young couple bonded over their shared experiences of feeling misunderstood and decided to run away together, much to the chagrin of the adults in their lives. Of course, Sam and Suzy find a much happier ending, as Hannah officiates the wedding between the love of her life and her brother.

    Initially, Hannah decided to team up with Travis (Paul Walter Hauser) to stop the nuptials. The episode features a stop-motion sequence of her shaky plan, which looks like an ode to Anderson’s two animated stop-motion films, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs. But upon hearing Edgar’s (awkwardly) tender vows, Hannah painfully realizes that she isn’t the only person who truly loves Grace and decides to let her go. It’s a subtly devastating scene, with the camera zooming in on Hannah’s eyes closing in despair.

    The prospect of witnessing Grace and Edgar together daily proves unbearable for Hannah, which prompts her decision to spend a year at sea. Before departing, she joins Edgar at the afterparty for a final toast, symbolically gifting him the letter “G” from her beloved typewriter.

    With Edgar dead, there remains a glimmer of hope for Hannah and Grace to potentially find their way back to each other (provided neither of them turn out to be the killer). But “Hannah” adds an intriguing twist to the unfolding mystery by introducing a new suspect: Sebastian (Jack Whitehall), the groom’s best man and former business partner. It’s revealed that Edgar had fired Sebastian before the wedding but hadn’t yet announced the news. As tensions mount, the episode’s closing scene showcases Sebastian answering a work call while impersonating as his late friend, catapulting him to the top of the suspect list. The plot thickens, indeed!

    New episodes of The Afterparty drop every Wednesday on Apple TV+. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Dianna Shen is a TV Writer at Primetimer based in New York. Her work has been featured in Paste Magazine and Decider, among other outlets.

    TOPICS: The Afterparty, Apple TV+, Anna Konkle, Jack Whitehall, Poppy Liu, Sam Richardson, Tiffany Haddish, Wes Anderson, Zach Woods, Zoe Chao