TV Review: Afterlife (Series 1)

Lesley Sharp and Andrews Lincoln are perfectly cast in Afterlife, a surprisingly effective supernatural drama from 2005

“I don’t see why my opinion isn’t the most important thing”

My quest to properly work through the DVD boxsets I’ve picked up in charity shops over the years isn’t really helped by the fact that I no longer have a DVD player, not standalone or in my laptop or work PC either. A cheeky external drive purchase on expenses and a renewed determination though should see me through some very random autumn viewing and hopefully clearing some space on my shelves.

First up is Afterlife, a supernatural ITV drama from 2005. I don’t really remember it from the time but then I was footloose and fancy-free having only just moved to London so it is hardly surprising it wasn’t on my radar (although Andrew Lincoln always was, and will be!). Lincoln plays Robert Bridge, an academic whose scepticism about the paranormal draws him into the orbit of Lesley Sharp’s Alison Mundy, a medium for whom the supernatural seem all too real.

Created by Stephen Volk, this six-part series took me by surprise at how effective it was. Opening forcefully with the death of a child, it really took no prisoners (the end of that first episode is also hugely brutal), pushing hard into its mystery thriller ethos without tipping over into abject silliness. That’s not to say that there isn’t a fair deal of hokum at play but it is all played with an absolutely straight bat so you can’t help but get sucked in.

Chief in this is a hugely compelling performance from Sharp as Alison. Thoroughly haunted by all that she sees, and the responsibilities that that lands on her shoulders, she’s a hugely magnetic character with enormous empathy. Set against her is Lincoln’s grief-stricken non-believer and his journey towards opening his mind towards what he’d previously scarcely thought possible is plotted with sensitivity and sense.

A cracking guest cast livens things up throughout – Kate Duchêne and Anna Wilson-Jones recur across the series as Robert’s boss and ex respectively. And as we skip through murder, schizophrenia, dementia and group trauma, the likes of Adrian Lester, Saskia Reeves, Marks Benton and Bonnar and Nikki Amuka-Bird carry us from gruesome discoveries to often horrific revelatons. An unexpected pleasure.

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