“People get obsessed with whether we survive death; but that’s not the real question, is it? The real question is how we survive life.”
This episode of Afterlife (the sixth and last of the first series, if anyone’s counting) felt, for the first time, curiously insubstantial; I wonder if it’s because the first one I’ve seen of the first series. Alison is followed by the survivors of a train crash she was involved in six years earlier, and they ask her to hold a séance so they can contact those they lost in the crash.
The episode provides, via an irritating voiceover from Robert, a psychological rationale for Alison’s abilities (short version: she needed to make up a reason to be alive after her train crash. Yeah, thanks for that), but it balances that against apparently supernatural happenings towards the end of the episode; once again we have two ways of reading Alison, neither of which explain everything about her. This is, of course, what every episode so far has done, but The 7.59 Club feels a lot more by-the-numbers at the same time as it’s more overtly dramatic. (Because SEANCE!) It’s missing the savage repetition of The Rat Man, for example, or the atavistic, tropey horror of Lullaby, the constant reminders that we got from those episodes that we can never be exactly sure where we stand. And it hammers in its message – it’s not about death, but about life – more overtly than usual (though the ghostly appearance of the death-obsessed survivors is a nice touch).
This is a shame, because the episode retains the quiet emotional power of its characters: Lesley Sharp continues doing a mesmerising job as Alison, by turns peaceful and deranged, in control and helpless, strong and weak; and I’m even beginning to warm to Andrew Lincoln’s more obvious performance as Robert. It’s a credit to Afterlife‘s characterisation that even a relatively weak episode plot-wise can still draw its audience into the undramatic strangeness of the relationships it depicts. Certainly I’m still dreading watching any episode beyond Lullaby, given what we find out in that episode, and it’s a long time since I’ve felt that about a fictional character.
(Well, actually it isn’t – I felt pretty anxious for Arabella and Jonathan during Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell earlier this year. But it’s rare.)
Why don’t more people know about this show?