Ricky Gervais is a class act as a childfree widower in his Netflix series “After Life”

By Nina Steele 

Ricky GervaisI often know how good a show is going to be from the moment I start watching it, particularly when it comes to comedies. Finding myself laughing out loud from the word go, is often a sign that I am in for a treat. And that’s exactly what I got watching After Life. The show, a black comedy, is about carrying on after the death of a loved one, which in this case is the death of a spouse. Ricky’s wife, played by Kerry Godliman, passed away a few days short of her 46th birthday, after a battle with cancer.

Tony, Ricky’s character, has been having suicidal thoughts since losing his wife. He cannot see the point of life without her. And even though he does not carry through with his plan, he makes up for it by assuming a new personality. He decides to no longer play by society’s rule of being nice and turns into a completely unpleasant character. And no one is spared, not even his kind-hearted brother–in-law, who, as his employer, has to put up with him both in the office and outside of it.

Losing his wife may have turned him nasty, but what it has also done is give him a level of confidence he didn’t have before. That new found confidence is in full display when he is almost robbed by two teenage tearaways. Even with a real possibility that he could get stabbed, he stands up to them, with one of the would-be robbers ending up with a bloody nose.

In spite of death being the main theme, the show’s brilliance is in the hilarious ways it deals with everyday life. From the mundane, to more serious issues such as dealing with a parent with dementia, laughter is never far away.

As in real life, Ricky’s character is childfree and proud to be. When asked by a co-worker why he and his late wife didn’t have children, he replies that children are annoying. Well he said more than that, actually. But let’s leave it at that, as his exact words are rather on the rude side, albeit funny too.

With all its comic brilliance, the show touches on a more serious subject, and it is the unpredictability of life. Ricky’s character summarises this very well in a conversation he has with a sex worker, played by Roisin Conaty. As a sex worker, she does not expect anyone to take her seriously, let alone give her respect, and Tony does both. She may be a sex worker, but one thing his wife’s death has taught him, is how everything can suddenly change. Of that he said: “You never know what’s around the corner. One minute you’re happy and safe and smug about it, the next minute, everything is taken away from you”.

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