“That’s what ghosts are – they’re our own pasts haunting us, they’re our fears and our inadequacies.”
Another emotional episode from Afterlife, and although I think it’s one of the more powerful of the series, there’s not actually very much to say about it – it’s simple and potent.
Things Forgotten sees Alison alone. The ghost of her mother is gone, but so are all the other ghosts. When a teenage boy, Harry, calls on her for help, haunted by a horribly creepy child spirit with the face of a clown, she can see nothing and do nothing, and she’s horrified by the theatrics of Jennifer, another medium who Harry’s parents have called in to help. Eventually, it’s Robert and the rational wonders of Psychology that save the day, leaving Alison (and us) wondering whether there were ever any spirits at all. And if that’s true, where does that leave what Alison has been?
But, as always, the show is too clever to pin us down to one reading, and its ending casts doubt once again on the primacy of the rational. We can’t believe in Jennifer’s performance, over-the-top and over-assured (“you’re not one of us,” she spits angrily at Alison as she supports Robert’s scientific intervention. “Good,” Alison replies); but the ending of Things Forgotten leaves the rational interpretation feeling impoverished and inadequate. The answer lies somewhere in between: not as mystical and chaotic as Jennifer would have us believe, nor as mechanical and methodical as Robert thinks.
I remain impressed with the nuance of this show, its skilful treading of a line between scepticism and belief, its ability to remain between truths episode after episode. It’s still occasionally campy (although, it has to be said, much less so than in earlier episodes), and still occasionally troubling with its gender politics; but, my, has it got under my skin.