After Life teaches us what it means to be human in emotional final series

Ricky Gervais’ After Life comes to an emotional, triumphant end.

After Life teaches us what it means to be human in emotional final series

After Life is one of Netflix's biggest dark comedy shows, written and directed by Ricky Gervais. The series follows Tony Johnson, a cynical, self-loathing, middle-aged man (Ricky Gervais) who is navigating the world, working for a free local newspaper whilst grieving for his late wife Lisa (Kerry Godliman). 

Characters also include Kath, the lonely advertisement seller (Dianne Morgan), Anne, the lady who Tony sits with when visiting his wife's grave, Pat the postman (Joe Wilkinson) and newspaper journalist and friend Lenny (Tony Hawk).

The previous two series show Tony drinking heavily, trying illegal substances and spending his time watching videos of his late  Lisa – longing for happier times. 

In these snippets we see of Tony’s wife during and before her cancer treatment, it’s easy to see why he feels his world can’t go on without her. Kerry Godliman’s portrayal perfectly executed the beacon of light Lisa was in Tony’s life and the joy and laughter they shared.

Series three picks up after care home nurse Emma (Ashley Jensen), who cared for Tony’s late father before he passed away at the end of series two, decides to try romantic relations with Tony. However, other than that and the incredibly brief mention of the pandemic the show pretty much stayed the same, and character development didn't seem to be at the forefront, but perhaps in a world of uncertainty, familiarity is exactly what we need. 

Despite the lack of character progression, poignancy and the portrayal of the spectrum of human emotion and circumstance remain the show's greatest strength. 

In the previous series, it was suggested that Tony wanted to pursue romantic relations with Emma, however we now see that he is still understandably grieving his late wife, and that Emma will never compare despite her best efforts.

In one scene we see a video clip of Tony drawing a face on a lemon, to which Lisa then declares she can’t cut it now. In contrast, when Tony draws the face on the lemon Emma brought round for her gin and tonic she doesn’t understand this and immediately cuts the lemon in half without a second thought, leaving Tony with the realisation that Emma is not and never will be Lisa. 

Although Tony seems to not care about the consequences of his actions after his wife’s death, in reality, he's still a man trying to make everyone happy perhaps because he can't give happiness to himself.  If he's taught us anything over three series it's that life is fleeting but we should give it a good crack while we're here, and maybe not care so much. 

One of the most heart-stopping moments in the show is when Tony visits a children's cancer ward, interviewing two young sisters – one of which had terminal cancer and was also named Lisa. He then met a young boy in the corridor who was also going through chemo who asked him whether he would be coming again to which Tony replied “I'll come in every day until you're better” to which the boy replies, “or until I go to heaven, do you believe in heaven?” Tony, a man who doesn't believe in heaven or God, insists “definitely”.

In the final scene, we see all the recurring characters of series three come together for the Tambury fair. As Tony walks slowly into the distance with his dog he turns to gently salute his best friend and work colleague Lenny as Lisa and each of them fade away. A reminder that life goes on and there's hope for everyone.

Series three had the perfect ending. All loose ends were tied up, and Tony finally realises that even without Lisa life is still worth living.

At the heart of it all is an honest and sometimes brutal depiction of grief and mental health that has resonated with many around the world. After Life is without doubt Gervais’ best work. It brings laughter and a shed load of tears whilst proving time and time again that dog really is man's best friend.

Header Image Credit: Netflix Media Centre


Faith Martin

Faith Martin Kickstart

Faith worked as a freelance journalist for a year after finishing her studies at Portsmouth College, writing for a number of esteemed publications as well as running her own music blog before joining Voice Magazine as a Kickstart Trainee Journalist. An avid vinyl collector and gig-goer, Faith also campaigns for disability rights and better disabled access at live music events.

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