The Afterparty Season 2 Review – A lesser mystery wastes a dynamite cast

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: July 11, 2023 (Last updated: last month)
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The Afterparty Season 2 Review - A lesser mystery wastes a dynamite cast


There are still stand-out episodes, and the new cast is a murderer’s row of talent, but a lot of The Afterparty Season 2 feels like a step down from the surprising novelty of the first season.

This review of the Apple TV+ series The Afterparty Season 2 does not contain spoilers.

The Afterparty is a very odd show since its most essential gimmick seems like it could power a virtually infinite number of seasons but also can probably never live up to the fun and novelty of its first outing. This is the core issue with the second season of the creative Apple TV+ murder-mystery, which provides some returning characters, another murder, more unreliable narrators, and a slew of film and TV genres to pastiche, but also can’t help but feel like a cover band take on its own formula.

The Afterparty Season 2 review and plot summary

That formula, for those who didn’t see the first season or need a reminder, is this: Someone is killed in a specific location, everyone present might be guilty, and the hazy testimonial of each potential witness and suspect unfurls in the style of a different storytelling genre. The ten – detrimentally increased from the first season’s eight – episodes of this season run the gamut from stuffy period piece to monochrome noir to a Wes Anderson knock-off.

The first season’s high school reunion at the palatial estate of a pop star is here replaced by a wedding in a well-appointed vineyard, with the victim being Edgar (Zach Woods), the new husband of Grace (Poppy Liu), who is the sister of Zoe (Zoe Chao) from Season 1. Zoe and Aniq (Sam Richardson), along with former Detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish), whom Aniq ropes in to help him solve the mystery, are the main returning characters to connect what is otherwise a completely disconnected plot to the first season.

Oddly, though, Aniq and Zoe, who have been romantically involved for a year now, are mostly kept separate, so their dynamic isn’t entirely dissimilar from how it was before. And Danner, who has left the police force to instead become an author writing a sensationalized account of the first season’s mystery, fulfills the same function in largely the same way.

This reiterative structure hamstrings The Afterparty Season 2 out of the gate, and the focus on the familiar characters keeps the new ones – played by a who’s-who of talent – at arm’s length for a while. Woods, who was always the highlight of HBO’s Avenue 5, plays a similarly awkward and eccentric role here as a lizard-whispering tech billionaire, but virtually everyone is a show-stealer. Jack Whitehall plays Edgar’s best man Sebastian, a caddish James Bond – or perhaps Johnny English – type who likes the spotlight; Paul Walter Hauser is Travis, one of Grace’s old flames who fancies himself an amateur sleuth; and John Cho is an absolute riot as Grace’s estranged “funcle” Ulysses, a spiritual hippie adventurer who brings a horn full of fermented camel milk to the dinner rehearsal.

Everyone’s good, then, but the space they’re given to operate in varies wildly, as does the quality of the gimmicks chosen to frame their stories. The same structure of presenting the same events from new perspectives and with additional context and details persists but doesn’t feel as lively as it did before, and it’s hard to put a finger on why.

Is the second season good or bad?

Perhaps it’s because the central mystery isn’t especially mysterious, and that the show relies on the novelty of its presentation to keep the same events and predictable twists feeling fresh. The first season didn’t have a 100% hit rate in that regard either, but it felt stronger overall than this season does, and I’d say the core plot was a little better.

There’s even an argument to be made that the return of Aniq and Zoe, and potentially even Danner, remove some of the sense of discovery that came with getting to know the characters through the stories that were being told by or about them. Since we already know Aniq and Zoe we’re tempted to remove them from the suspect pool immediately, though the show is daring enough to perhaps subvert those easy expectations later in the season.

Is The Afterparty Season 2 worth watching?

Since this is an anthology, you can – and perhaps should, though you’ll obviously miss some details – watch this season without having seen the first. That makes it easy to recommend since it still filters a decent murder-mystery plot through an imaginative, fun gimmick, and the cast is a riot throughout. Those expecting the second season to reach the highs of the first, though, may find themselves slightly disappointed.

Everyone’s invited to the party, but whether or not you RSVP is up to you.

What did you think of The Afterparty Season 2? Comment below.

Apple TV+, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
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