‘The Afterparty’: In the funny mystery’s Season 2, more film genres are satirized in style

Great comedic talents tell their stories as noir, heist, Wes Anderson and more.

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One “Afterparty” episode tells the backstory of doomed Edgar (Zach Woods) and his bride, Grace (Poppy Liu), in the style of a Jane Austen movie.

Apple TV+

In the dark comedy/mystery tradition of “Knives Out” and “The White Lotus” and “Only Murders in the Building” and you could throw in “The Flight Attendant” and quite a few others in there as well, Season 1 of the Apple TV+ series “The Afterparty” kicked off with a murder of a pop star in the aftermath of a high school reunion in Marin County, and then doubled back as a number of prime suspects recounted events from their point of view. Each episode took on the style of a particular genre, from action movie to musical to animation to teen drama to police procedural. Think “Rashomon” meets affectionate genre parody meets Agatha Christie.

It was a clever premise, and thanks to the creative drive of showrunner Christopher Miller (“The Lego Movie,” “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”) and the wildly talented cast, nearly every episode was a gem. Now comes Season 2, which follows the same format and features a handful of recurring characters and a cast brimming with familiar and enjoyable comedic talents. While it’s a little bit more of a hit-and-miss effort than the premiere season, the sophomore season of “The Afterparty” is still well worth attending.

Season 2 kicks off with Aniq (Sam Richardson) and Zoë (Zoë Chao) having crossed over from the Friend Zone into a full-fledged romance. We catch up with them as they’re arriving at the insanely lavish estate where Zoë’s sister Grace (Poppy Liu) is to be married, to the deadpan, oddball, crypto-investing zillionaire Edgar (Zach Woods, who is a master at playing these types of characters). The estate is owned by Edgar’s eccentric family, with his recently widowed and deeply disturbed mother Isabel (Elizabeth Perkins) as the family matriarch. (When Edgar welcomes Aniq and Zoë in front of the main house, Isabel peers through the window and Edgar says, “My mother … wanted to be here, but she was busy with silence and alcohol.”)

‘The Afterparty’ Season 2

Untitled

Premiering with two episodes Wednesday on Apple TV+, with a new episode available each Wednesday through Sept. 6.

On the morning after the wedding — well, after the afterparty of the wedding — Grace discovers Edgar is dead. Could it be … MURDER? Isabel accuses Grace of killing Edgar for his money — but wait, isn’t the accuser immediately a suspect as well? As luck and plot contrivance would have it, the authorities won’t be able to arrive for a few hours, which gives Aniq enough to time to phone Tiffany Hadish’s Danner, who is now a former police detective working on a book about Season 1. (I mean, the events of Season 1.)

Each of Grace and Edgar’s family members or friends is a suspect, and each gets their own individual flashback episode. Grace’s friend Travis (Paul Walter Hauser), a bumbling fool who fancies himself an amateur sleuth, tells his story in a film noir that plays like it was directed by the Zucker-Zucker-Abrahams team or Mel Brooks. The icy and possibly delusional Isabel stars in a Douglas Sirk-esque melodrama. Edgar’s adopted sister Hannah (Anna Konkle) tells her story in Wes Anderson fashion, in a perfectly executed episode that’s even more spot-on than all those social media spoofs of Wes Anderson films. In another highlight, Edgar’s best friend, a dashing Brit named Sebastian (Jack Whitehall), tells his story in the fashion of Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s 11.” Aniq and Danner get their own chapters, with Aniq starring in a “Meet the Parents” broad comedy, while Danner’s back story has a “Basic Instinct” vibe.

The stellar cast also includes John Cho as Grace’s and Zoë’s globe-trotting Uncle Ulysses, Vivian Wu as their mother and Ken Jeong as their father, and they’re all terrific. (There’s never been a time when Ken Jeong hasn’t delivered comedy gold.) We also get some surprise cameos I won’t spoil, as our suspicions about Who Done It shift in accordance with the narrative. (I was given access to nine of the 10 episodes, so I’m still not sure who did it, but I’m almost positive it’s … ah, I’d never do that to ya!)

At times the pace lags; some of the episodes are a full hour and almost certainly would have worked better at 35 or 40 minutes. A couple of the characters are thinly drawn and not as interesting as the rest of this wacky bunch — but the genre-spoofing is top-tier, done by artists who clearly love the very types of movies they’re satirizing. “The Afterparty” is played in a lighter key than “The White Lotus,” but what they share in common is a brilliant premise that can play out with mostly new cast members for multiple seasons. It’s almost like the week-to-week changes on “The Love Boat,” only with sex and blood.

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