Alison Mundy -
Robert Bridge -
THEY ALSO SEE DEAD PEOPLE
More Than Meets the Eye
Alison is a medium, a woman whose life is tormented by the spirits of the dead that come to her, asking for help, often in voices that she doesn't understand. Robert is a university lecturer, a man with his own demons around the loss of his son and the break up of his marriage. Their two worlds are about to collide over a student who attends one of the meetings that Robert is so keen to debunk only to be deeply affected by what Alison tells her. Whilst Robert tries to reassure her, the girl sees Alison again and receives a message of life. The spririts, though, have something else in mind.
The start to this series is about one of the best ever. It moves from charming to shocking without a beat, letting the audience know that they are in for something special and something special is what they get.
This is a drama about damaged people. Lesley Sharp is outstanding as Alison Mundy, a woman whose life and peace of mind have been shattered by the constant onslaught of spirits wanting things that she can't always provide. This is a woman only days from a nervous breakdown, fighting to keep her sanity intact and make some sort of life for herself in the world. She is utterly convincing in the role and that sets the tone for the rest of the performances. Andrew Lincoln is not quite a match as the university professor whose loss has made him angry and that anger is directed at those that say they can talk to the dead. Like a latter day Houdini, he wants to debunk them all, but in Alison he comes up against an example that is not so easy to deny.
The story is original, pleasingly domestic and full of surprise and shock, all of it perfectly played and well directed. We can hope for big things from this show based on the first episode.Top
Lower Than Bones
A young girl goes missing and Alison sees her in the supermarket, wet and shivering. When she tells the family that the girl is dead, sunk lower than bones, one policeman believes her and arrests the man who killed the child. The killer is released through lack of evidence and the vengeful spirit decides to take a revenge that nobody can do for her.
The second episode lives up to the opening. A child murder is always an affecting subject and this one is dealt with superbly. The torment of the family is utterly distressing and real. It is a hard-hearted person who won't be touched by the emotion (not false sentiment) on display here.
The spirit taking revenge on her killer is a strand of the story that fails to impress or engage, but everything else is magnificent. Lesley Sharp is once again spellbinding as Alison Mundy, giving the drama its heart and its grace. Robert Bridge can't keep up with her, his part being increasingly less convincing. Even so, their story has some really good things to come, we can tell.Top
Daniel 1 & 2
A young man stabs his girlfriend in the face and claims that it was done by his imaginary friend. Alison, visiting the asylum with Richard as part of their project meets him and comes to believe that he is actually in contact with a spirit, a spirit that is unlike anything that she has encountered yet.
This is the least convincing episode yet, a disappointment after the first two. You know that things have slipped a bit when the asylum looks just like the one you would expect to see in an old version of Dracula. The plot is also a bit contrived and ends up with scenes of people screaming at each other in the place of intensity, which is a shame.
Having said that, a disappointing episode of this show is way above many others in this genre. There is still so much going for it. Apart from the performance of Lesley Sharp (about which we could go on for hours, but have already) there are some magnificently scary moments with Daniel 2 proving to be a lot like those ghosts from Japanese horror films (only a boy, of course). There are also some pretty deep questions raised about the condition of our souls and religion and abortion, none of which are laboured and none of which are unwelcome. This is classy stuff, just not quite as classy as before.Top
Alison tries to take control of her life again and gets a job at a nursing home, not knowing that Robert's mother is there. There is a more immediate problem as one of the nurses is being tortured by the spirit of an old woman whom he promised he would help die in dignity and left to throw herself from a window.
Straight back to form after the slightly less effective last episode, this one takes on the theme of age, mental degeneration and euthanasia without even seeming to. The toll that it plays on the people we pay to be the carers of our elderly is also touched upon, but in a way that says so much whilst seeming to say nothing at all.
Melancholy is the tone of this show, an 'ordinary human sadness' that pervades each character, each story. Robert is starting to doubt and starting to deal with the grief that has been submerged for so long. Mark Benton gives a brilliant performance as the tortured co-worker and matches Lesley Sharp all the way. We could do to see more of him in the show.Top
Sleeping With the Dead
A young woman comes to Alison asking for help in ridding her apartment of ghostly presences. Alison goes there and sees a young woman smothered to death by her husband. Robert wishes to observe and he also sees something that he refuses to believe. When his wife challenges him over his relationship with Alison, he promises not to see her again, but then the story breaks that both he and Alison have been the subject of a hoax.
Now this is different. The story of the haunted apartment comes across as being a bit contrived, a bit false, which then turns out to be no surprise, because it is contrived, a fake that drives the wedge between Robert and Alison once and for all. Then comes the final scene which will either send shivers down the spine or leave you thinking that the show is getting a bit too tricksy. We positively loved it.Top
The 7:59 Club
The survivors of the train crash that almost took Alison's life come together and persuade her to take part in a seance that will allow them to contact the loved ones that they lost, a seance that will perhaps bring hope and peace to more than just them, but a seance that might just kill Alison in the process.
A series that started with an almighty bang of an opening scene ends with an almighty bang of a last one. Alison and Robert come together as Josh speaks to his father and Robert finally believes. If there isn't a tear in your eye then you're just not human, but just as it gets to the point of unbearable everything switches and danger kicks in, action takes over and an ambiguous ending leaves us wanting to know what happens.
If there is no second series to this show then the world is truly without justice. There is so much in this genre that is mechanical and false and fails to touch. This series managed to connect with its characters and those of its audience that could stay the course. The dark edge and the sense of loss and sadness would have been a barrier to a good deal of the mainstream audience, but for those who like to be challenged then this series showed others how to be brave and different and brilliant.Top
Three teenagers wake up in the aftermath of a car crash to find their friend lying dead on the ground outside the car. In desperation, they place her in the driving seat to save the real driver, but the dead girl's spirit visits them with a message they cannot understand. Alison is recovering from the month-long coma that followed her seance at the end of series one and seems to have come more to terms with her life now than before. She actively seeks out the spirit of the dead girl in order to help, discovering some surprises along the way. Robert has had his faith in science seriously shattered by the seance. Now something of a believer, he finds himself at odds with some of his own students, struggling with new and unwanted beliefs.
AFTERLIFE makes a welcome return to the screen, but unfortunately comes up with its least mpressive episode to date. The central story of the dead girl and her friends is a bit too SIXTH SENSE, but the revisiting of the actual crash is very effective. The final twist in the last shot will fool nobody.
The more personal story is for once the more effective part of the show. Alison is showing much more confidence in her purpose with the spirits, but still much less so with the people that she has to deal with. Lesley Sharp is still captivating in the role. Robert has the flashier moments at present, struggling with new thoughts and beliefs after the seance, Andrew Lincoln finally starts to match up to his co-star.
Whilst a touch predictable and, for once, unoriginal, it is still brilliant to see this show back.Top
A series of suicides in prison, all of which show disturbing similarities brings Robert and Alison to investigate. She suspects that the spirit of a dead ratcatcher is working through one of the other inmates and that both inmate and spirit have turned their attentions towards her.
After the slight disappointment of last week's opener, AFTERLIFE kicks back into high gear with this seriously scary story, but this time it's not so much the spirit that provides the scares, but the inmate through which it is working. In scenes reminiscent of Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, Alison faces Ian Garland (a startling and disturbing performance from David Threlfall) as he tries to undermine her sanity in the way that he did the other suicides. It is this face-off that makes this week's episode and then some.
The Rat Man himself is a sinister presence and gets the final climactic moments to himself, but then the final twist is neat whilst a little anticlimactic.Top
A house husband who is having problems coming to terms with his new position comes to Alison for help when he starts hearing a voice coming from the baby intercom in his son's bedroom. Initially sensing nothing, Alison determines that there is a spirit presence and that a child died in the house. She advises him to leave, but his wife refuses. Robert, meanwhile, is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour just as his life with ex-wife Jude seems to be coming together.
What has made this show so compelling all along has been its grounding in reality, both through the stories and the characters. Robert's plight is about as real as they come and his response to it is completely credible and understandable. This is Andrew Lincoln's best work in the series so far.
The story of the haunted baby monitor may not be original, but it is as creepy as hell and comes to a climax that is both sudden and utterly devastating.
AFTERLIFE continues to be astonishingly good.Top
Your Hand in Mine
A man whose wife died of a terrible disease finds his new fiancee suffering from the same thing. He believes that she is being possessed by the spirit of his wife and Alison comes to believe it too, but why should a woman who loved her husband so much want to bring him so much pain? Robert, meanwhile, is still coming to terms with his own problem and Alison's dead mother is threatening her already fragile sanity.
Alison's story with her slow mental breakdown continuing is brilliant. It is a credit to Lesley Sharp that she has made Alison so real and likeable that her deterioration is truly shocking.
The fiancee's physical deterioration is also visually shocking, so anyone with a phobia against medical shows ought to steer clear of this episode.Top
Alison is behaving more strangely as the effect of her mother's spirit grows ever stronger. Robert finally manages to tell his ex-wife about his condition and gets a surprising offer following initial rejection. A student at the university, Gemma, goes to Alison against Robert's better judgement because she is being haunted by the spirit of young man who is driving her to dangerous and damaging sex.
The ghost story this week barely moves at all. Gemma, the student, sees the scary spirit a few times and knows who it is, but refuses to tell. After a couple of angry sexual encounters, she frantically threatens Robert, but is saved by Alison's understanding that breaks down her resistance and brings out her confession. This takes up a little less than half of the episode running time.
No, the real story of this season remains the deterioration of the two main characters. Alison's mental state is not so much spiralling out of control and diving earthwards with full afterburners on. Apart from really tidy rooms, she is now faced with a bathroom painted red and a door she has to slam four times before she can stop. Lesley Sharp is playing this superbly and our investment in the character makes her decline all the more affecting.
Robert's decline is less obvious, but the moment when he tells Jude about his cancer is some of the best work that Andrew Lincoln has done in the show to date.Top
Don't Let the Bugs Bite
Robert's had enough. He's going to help Alison if it kills him, or her. He tracks down her father and then brings him into her house. He forces her to face the truth about her mother and her feelings towards her and the battle is on for the soul of Alison Mundy.
AFTERLIFE has occasionally been uneven, but it has never been bad. It has, on other occasions been remarkably good. This episode is astonishing.
It may be three people in two small rooms facing off and coming to terms with things, but it is some of the most amazing work that this genre has ever produced. The atmosphere is closed in, suffocating and that all serves the story. These characters are all scarred, battered, emotionally bruised and they will be even more by the end if they survive, but the goal is a normal life. The Holy Grail.
Superb acting all round, brilliant writing and characters that have been built up over 11 previous hours to the point where we really care about them, combine to produce an hour of drama that raises AFTERLIFE to amongst the very best genre shows ever produced.Top
Alison's mother is gone and with her Alison's ability to communicate with the dead. When a young lad comes to her about a spirit that is haunting him, she is unable to help, but Robert takes on the task and delves into the young man's past, looking for the source of the spirit. Is that all Alison's talent was, a way of dealing with her own disturbed past?
Be careful what you ask for becuase you might just get it. In this case, normality has come to Alison Mundy and she is finding that the spirits actually meant a lot more to her than she thought. Without them she is isolated and, well, ordinary. That's quite something to comes to terms with for someone who has always been able to say she was special.
Robert, meanwhile, is making his final preparations. He hasn't managed to tell Alison yet and there might not be time now to tell her at all.
After last week's firecracker, this was always going to be something of a quieter affair, but it is in no way a lesser one. The things that the two main characters are going through make for a thought-provoking and moving episode. Robert's medical condition has come to the fore and for once his character is the one demanding the attention and the sympathy.
All that and a fake version of Alison to boot and AFTERLIFE remains one of the best dramas on television in any genre.Top
A Name Written in Water
Alison is distraught after being visited by a vision of Robert. She finally locates him in an intensive care ward, but her welcome from Jude is hysterical rejection. Slowly, they reconcile and share a vigil at his bedside. Alison, though, can also see the spirit of a nurse, a spirit that guides the dead to the light when it is their time. Alison resolves to stop her taking Robert, even if it means taking her own life.
From the opening seconds of the first season we at THE SCI FI FREAK SITE have loved AFTERLIFE. Now the second season season has come to an end and we're already in mourning.
Everything about this last episode was about closure. In a series that was more about the relationship between two damaged individuals than it was about the ghosts that Alison could see, it's hard to see if the show will continue when one of those characters is dead. If it doesn't carry on, however, then this is a fine way to go.
As a drama about people dealing with the loss of a loved one, this was tremendous. The writing was at the pinnacle of what this show has delivered and that's saying something. The actors were its equal, note perfect.
The supernatural element was minimal and didn't interfere with the drama, but the ending, which showed Robert finally reunited with his son, was delivered with such grace and dignity that there was never any danger of sentimentality. Shows like Ghost Whisperer should take note.
We hope that everyone involved sees a way forward to a new series of AFTERLIFE, but if they choose to leave it as two seasons of brilliant drama then we will simply thank them for what they have provided, one of the most adult and absorbing genre shows ever.Top