[Editor’s Note: This post contains spoilers for The Afterparty Season 2 Episode 2, “Grace.”]
If a groom dies the morning after the wedding, the most obvious suspect has to be the bride, right? This becomes the central question in Season 2 of The Afterparty, the highly anticipated continuation of Apple TV+’s hit murder mystery series.
When Grace (Poppy Liu) wakes up next to Edgar’s (Zach Woods) lifeless body, everyone scrambles to figure out what to do next. To help unravel the mystery before law enforcement arrives, Aniq (Sam Richardson) phones Danner (Tiffany Haddish), who left the force and is in the process of writing — or rather, not writing — a book about how she solved Season 1’s Xavier case. In the format of a rom-com sequel, Aniq fills Danner in on the weekend’s events. However, his efforts to clear Grace’s name prove less than successful, as he reveals witnessing her suspiciously drugging Edgar’s drink towards the end of the night, ultimately making her the prime suspect.
Episode 2 delves into Grace’s recollection of their wedding weekend, told through the lens of a frothy period drama. During an interview with Primetimer, Liu expressed her excitement about paying homage to the genre. The Hacks actor bonded with us over that moment of recognition, as it was the first time at the press day that she’d been asked about it.
“I’ve seen the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice, like, 15 times,” said Liu. “It’s so good. Even last summer before I started filming, I watched it again to just refresh, and I still was just as giddy as when I watched it as a teenager, being like, ‘Ah, Mr. Darcy!’”
Grace takes Danner and Aniq back to her first encounter with Edgar, which occurs at her antique shop (it’s more of “an area inside of a crafting co-op,” she clarifies). Edgar enters the space, hoping to acquire a vintage typewriter for his sister’s birthday, and sparks instantly fly. Edgar (and his pet lizard Roxana) takes an immediate liking to Grace, and he asks her to accompany him to his sister’s birthday. As he leaves, the camera pans out to a close-up shot of Edgar’s hand clenching in an obvious tribute to Joe Wright’s 2005 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel that Liu adores so much.
Another notable reference is the rain scene in which Edgar proposes to Grace. The moment plays with the iconic line, “You have bewitched me, body and soul,” as Edgar tells Grace that she has “transfixed him.” Of course, Edgar is far more successful given that Grace accepts his hand in marriage, whereas Elizabeth outright rejects Darcy.
“There’s so many parallels that I think they did a great job of interweaving in,” says Liu. “Getting snide looks at the ball and people being like, ‘Oh, you’re an outsider,’ [There’s] the class distinctions between the families, there’s betrayal… there’s just so much.”
The family tension fits seamlessly within the period drama format, as Edgar’s affluent lifestyle is placed in direct contrast to Grace’s more modest upbringing. Edgar belongs to a very wealthy family and is considered one of Silicon Valley’s most eligible bachelors. On the other hand, Grace’s father Feng (Ken Jeong) mistakes potpourri for a fancy snack, and her mother Vivian (Vivian Wu) suggests reusing flower arrangements from the rehearsal dinner for the wedding, only to be openly mocked by Edgar’s mother, Isabel (Elizabeth Perkins).
Beyond their economic disparities, the couple’s personalities don’t really seem to match. As her sister Zoë (Zoë Chao) points out in the first episode, Grace is a “romantic, magical weirdo who loves antiques,” while Edgar is an awkward techbro who goes to bed at 9:30 every night. Yet this clash is what makes the period drama such a perfect fit for Grace’s story. The genre thrives on the classic trope of “opposites attract,” which allows the couple’s differences to unfold in an enchanting manner. It also lends itself well to the allure of forbidden love, which is a potent catalyst for the audience's emotional investment. There’s nothing more universal than the act of yearning.
“It’s the sexual tension without doing anything,” Liu says, about why she loves period romances so much. “Just the looks and the smolder, it’s so much!”
While Pride and Prejudice is the most obvious film allusion in the episode, it’s not the only period drama that’s referenced. When Edgar declines Grace’s invitation to dance (“the last time I danced publicly, a vicar identified me as a ghoul and submitted me for exorcism”), Grace directs him outside the house and away from the crowd. She encourages him to listen to what his body wants to do, demonstrating a variety of contemporary moves like “The Boy Soldier” (Soulja Boy’s dance) or “The Douglas” (a play on The Dougie). It parallels Greta Gerwig’s Little Women adaptation, which features a scene of Jo (Saoirse Ronan) and Laurie (Timothée Chalamet) sharing a similarly lively dance break outside a party.
As the wedding draws near, Grace and Edgar’s romantic spark appears to fade. His sudden absence for business purposes leaves Grace feeling lonely, and she finds solace in spending time with his sister Hannah (Anna Konkle) instead. Despite Edgar’s heartfelt gesture of searching for her estranged “Funcle” Ulysses (John Cho) as a surprise gift, Grace yearns for his presence and support above all else. The nuptials also deviate from her original vision, transforming into an extravagant and distracting affair when she would’ve much preferred to elope. To add to her disappointment, Edgar presents her with a prenup. Meanwhile, Zoë continues to express disapproval of their relationship, highlighting how Grace is sacrificing so much of herself while Edgar isn’t doing the same in return.
Despite these challenges, Grace and Edgar ultimately get married. However, their marital bliss is short-lived as Edgar abandons Grace in the middle of their first dance, signaling a breach of his promises to change for the better. He also abruptly decides to end the festivities early on their wedding night, while Grace still wants to celebrate. In an attempt to keep Edgar awake and engaged, Grace mixes Adderall into his drink, though Aniq misinterprets her action as a potential poisoning.
Of course, it’s far too early to tell if Grace is telling the truth or not, given that her episode is the first one to spotlight a member of the new cast. There’s a whole gaggle of suspicious guests lined up, each with their own set of unglamorous secrets waiting to be exposed. And as Danner mentions at the end, Grace could’ve easily lied about what she mixed into Edgar’s drink.
Nevertheless, “Grace” offers an intimate look into her headspace, as it emphasizes the character’s inherently romantic nature and desire to be swept off her feet. By placing Grace in the role of a Jane Austen-esque heroine, the episode draws parallels between her story and the timeless themes of forbidden love, societal constraints, and emotional turmoil.
“Grace” is also an excellent introduction to The Afterparty’s new set of genres, which all promise to expand upon the elements that made the first season so successful. The period drama is just the first example of the show maximizing its production and costume design in building an even more visually stimulating experience. While the first season of The Afterparty set the bar remarkably high, Grace’s episode proves that Season 2 is more than ready to deliver an equally, if not more, compelling mystery. We’ll just have to wait and see.
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, Chris Miller (showrunner), Elizabeth Perkins, Jane Austen, John Cho, Ken Jeong, Phil Lord, Poppy Liu, Sam Richardson, Tiffany Haddish, Vivian Wu, Zach Woods, Zoe Chao