'The Afterparty' Confirms the Arrival of the Whodunit Renaissance

Created by Christopher Miller

Starring Sam Richardson, Tiffany Haddish, Zoë Chao, Dave Franco, Ben Schwartz, Ike Barinholtz, John Early, Ilana Glazer, Jamie Demetriou

BY Alex HudsonPublished Mar 25, 2022

We're in the midst of whodunit renaissance, as recent hits like Knives Out and Only Murders in the Building have taken the retro detective formula of Agatha Christie and updated it for a modern audience, adding meta humour and a playful approach to genre.

Christopher Miller's The Afterparty continues the trend. After pop star, actor and all-around douchebag celeb Xavier (Dave Franco) is murdered at the afterparty of his 15th anniversary high school reunion, the astute but over-eager Detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish) interviews all of the party attendees to determine which one of them is the killer.

It's a classic whodunnit setup: a limited pool of possible suspects, a number of potential motives, and a victim who's just dislikable enough that you don't feel too bad he's dead.

But The Afterparty doesn't stop there. As each suspect gives their own account of the night, their retellings dip into other genres: show protagonist Aniq (Sam Richardson) stars in his own rom-com, his crush Zoë (Zoë Chao) presents her version as a trippy cartoon, Zoë's ex-husband Brett (Ike Barinholtz) offers up a raunchy action comedy, and the fame-hungry Yasper (Ben Schwartz) gives a season-highlight episode that doubles as a musical. Yasper's Lonely Island-style rap anthem "Two Shots" and the theatrical pop-punk of "Yeah Sure Whatever" are incredibly catchy songs. Some episodes are more explicit than others in their cheeky genre parodies, but each new version of the story has an extremely different stylistic feel.

Somehow, all these the different genres cohere into a show that's consistent, full of funny inside jokes, and, perhaps most remarkably of all, a compelling mystery. When the pieces slot together in the very satisfying final episode, it's clear that The Afterparty isn't only for laughs. The clues are revealed and it becomes clear that the show has been dropping hints all along — so anyone paying enough attention might actually be able to figure out who the murderer is.

Then again, the appeal of a whodunnit isn't actually finding the killer. It's the fun of being in the hands of a smart writer and enjoying the ride, then being delighted at how it all ties together at the end. Christopher Miller is guilty of making a seriously great murder mystery.

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