One of the weirder problems with The Afterparty might be that it’s taking very funny people and then sticking them in not very funny situations. This isn’t to say that comedians can’t do drama—there are a million examples to the contrary—but that because The Afterparty isn’t actually a drama, you still get hints of how funny they are interspersed with the more serious stuff. While the drama in Brett’s Fast and the Furious-inspired episode was still ridiculous, the psychological thriller setting of the Chelsea episode allows for fewer winks at the camera, somehow.
There’s also an episode-long disconnect between the funny Chelsea, and the thriller Chelsea. Is there supposed to be this much whiplash between how she sees herself in her thriller, and how chill she seems the rest of the time? Aniq, Brett, and Yasper all seemed to be basically who they imagine themselves, but heightened, whereas Chelsea is actually pretty nice and friendly when she’s not peering wild-eyed around corners at what turns out to be definitely-not-a-murderer-Walt. But the whipsawing between genres means that you get constant glimpses of Ilana Glazer being very funny, before it’s taken away again. It’s a weird letdown each time, because it just reminds you of how much more you’d enjoy that show. Where it lands is a thriller that is only semi-satirical, a mishmash of tones that leaves Chelsea lurching from cowering in a bathroom from a tormentor to an earnest attempt to connect with Zoe in the hallway moments later. She also seems both scared by her anonymous threatening texts and somehow not scared enough? They’re seriously creepy, but she doesn’t ever really hesitate to go to either the reunion or the party. Is she on the edge of a breakdown thanks to these things, or just curious who’s spamming her?
The stalled conversation with Zoe is one of the biggest developments in the show’s growing universe of connections, as it’s part of the big reveal that Brett’s affair was with Chelsea. It doesn’t totally track that Chelsea would be into Brett? But it also doesn’t make any sense that Zoe was with him either, so we’re just going to have to accept that Brett has serious game until you actually get him in bed, at which point it devolves into very bad sex with an unexpected number of high fives. It’s a big shift in the dynamics between these characters, but it doesn’t exactly make it seem like Chelsea is teetering on the brink when she goes from trying to drug Xavier to a heartfelt apology to Zoe moments later. And despite her suggesting that Xavier and others made high school hell for her, she seems to be on pretty friendly terms with both Aniq and Yasper, who repeatedly goes out of his way to reassure her that she’s in charge of her own destiny.
That said, the episode still offers plenty to enjoy, with a few payoffs on baffling moments from earlier, such as why Chelsea is in the car with Yasper (standard friendly ride offer between friends) or why she and Brett are so tense around each other, or even why Xavier peed off the balcony (he was actually pouring out cat tranquilizers). It also offers the first glimpse of Xavier that isn’t filtered through the hatred of a jealous man, even if it still shows him through the filter of someone who hates him. He’s sort of a doofus, as you’d expect, even though the episode’s refusal to get into the particulars of his misdeeds at the St. Patrick’s day party takes some meaning out of Chelsea’s forgiveness of him. What, exactly, ruined her life for 15 years, yet was simultaneously mild enough to forgive over the course of one night? And more importantly, what did he do to Aniq?
- “One look at that guy and you’re like: This is a person who cannot handle their pet sedatives.”
- “Did you see her hair? It looks like she made out with a tornado.” “It’s just Jewish hair.” is one of the many examples of chill and funny Chelsea, even though it takes place within her thriller.
- “Who won here?” is a great question about sex with Brett, although it seems pretty clear that the general winner is him.
- I rewatched the pilot with some friends after writing the recap, and this show really does benefit from your ability to stitch together disparate threads from the pilot. Like Brett awkwardly yelling “I’ll kill ya” in Aniq’s drugged memory becomes “koala!” in Brett’s version of the tale. I was a little surprised we didn’t see what Chelsea heard in that interaction.
- Did anyone else predict that Chelsea’s X-marked flask was drugged? I had been wondering, since we’d already seen her react so strongly to Aniq drinking it, plus he sure seemed drugged.
- Solid payoff that Chelsea’s canceled revenge plan was a waste of time anyway, since Xavier has already leaked his nudes to the press.
- Possibly just coming at this from a lifetime of pet ownership, but why does Jennifer 2 not realize vets have receptionists? Who does she think checks the pets in while the vet is seeing patients? I have spent too much time thinking about her saying this, and now you have, too.