On The Afterparty, even a cartoon isn’t funny [Apple TV+ recap] |

This week on Apple TV+ show The Afterparty, we hear from the final suspect who attended the reunion that ended with pop star Xavier’s murder. So, if you’ve loved hearing about these events over and over — congratulations! You’re getting them one more time, this time delivered in the form of an unremarkable animated TV show.

Newly single mom Zoë takes Detective Danner through her version of the events that took place that deadly night. Naturally, she makes plenty of detours to talk about her life as a mom and a divorcee, and how hard all of this has been for her.

Her story would prove more compelling if these points hadn’t already been made in the previous five episodes of this dreadful show. It only took half of this short season for The Afterparty to run out of steam. All in all, it’s a pitiful display from comedy performers who should know better.

The Afterparty recap: ‘Zoë’

In this week’s episode, titled “Zoë,” our last suspect in the murder of Xavier (played by Dave Franco) faces her interrogation. It’s the responsible Zoë (Zoe Chao), and Detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish) really doesn’t think she did it. However, Zoë cares too much about Aniq (Sam Richardson) to let him take all the suspicion. So she demands to be heard.

Her version of the story, about showing up at the reunion looking to make mistakes with whoever’s around and hottest, is rendered like a Saturday morning cartoon, kinda. People pity Zoë because of her divorce from Brett (Ike Barinholtz). She wants to party, but the nicer side of her (animated as a fully different person who talks to her and walks next to her all night) wants to be with Aniq. Her wilder side just wants to drink and have sex with the hottest guy, whoever that may be at any given moment.

Meanwhile, Aniq and Yasper (Ben Schwartz) place a phone in the interrogation room so they can listen in. This works at first. But then Yasper’s phone starts dying, and they go looking for a charger. In so doing, they blow their cool with Culp (John Early), Danner’s second in command, who figures out that they’re eavesdropping on her statement.

Culp’s also finally been given orders to shut down Danner’s investigation, much to her chagrin, but everyone’s lying to him, so he’s over this whole night, stamping his feet in frustration. You know how cops are.

Drawn together

The Afterparty’s format is to send up various TV genres, with each episode shot in a different style. When it comes to this week’s cartoon, I confess that I have no idea what it’s supposed to be specifically.

If there’s a particular show it’s referencing, I either haven’t seen it or can’t remember it. That’s not a great sign if you’re attempting to make something universal, which is what The Afterparty has to be by default because its creators haven’t decided any specific signifiers.

Q: What musical is Yasper’s episode supposed to be? A: Any musical ever. That’s The Afterparty‘s depressing MO.

Zoë’s cartoon recollection just looks like basic animation, meant to look sort of like enough things that you as an audience member go, “Oh, it’s the cartoon episode, I guess” and not think too deeply about anything.

Lazy animation

Coming from Chris Lord and Phil Miller, who worked on the likes of The Lego Movie, Clone High, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse, This is frankly lazy and unacceptable.

I don’t have much affection for any of those products, but they aren’t forgettably animated. Some of them you might wish you could forget, but you won’t. They are distinct. This is not. Not even close.

We see a couple of striking images, like when Zoë attacks Brett at the afterparty, but mostly it’s just very broad. (That scene, by the way, ends with an image of her making bear claws with her hands in front of Danner, and uttering dull roaring noises to show that she’s become the mama bear character in the cartoon telling. This is meant to be cute and funny but it sinks. Again I must ask: Was anyone laughing while they were filming The Afterparty?).

Zoë as a character doesn’t come into much sharper focus in the episode because by now we’ve pieced together everything they’re revealing, which makes her story a wash. We knew all this stuff. Hearing it again from her doesn’t help us at all.

An entitled joke that’s just not funny

The third laugh I’ve had watching this series finally showed up when the cartoon Aniq throws up, smashes the guitar he’s playing by accident, loses his pants and passes out, all within the same three seconds. Otherwise, the novelty of The Afterparty‘s ideas have long since worn out their welcome and failed to impress either on their own terms, as homage or as comedy or drama.

This show spins its wheels, relaying the same events with only the most superficial changes in the various suspects’ stories. It simply fails to cohere as anything but a chance for comedy writers and actors to get paid.

I have firmly and fully lost my patience with The Afterparty‘s attitude of accomplishment. And with its continued insistence that its jokes are funny. It’s time for this charade to end.

Watch The Afterparty on Apple TV+

New episodes of The Afterparty arrive on Fridays.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.

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