These souls that are stuck between this world and the next should form a support group.
In 2005, two very similar shows, both with main characters named ‘Allison,’ premiered in their respective countries. In the United States, Medium, starring Patricia Arquette, began its seven season run on NBC, then moved to CBS. On ITV in Great Britain Afterlife, starring Lesley Sharp, began what would be two very short seasons before it was cancelled. Although the two programs have similar themes, they are very different from each other in tone and feel. While Medium takes a more lighthearted approach, Afterlife is a much darker, yet more convincing look at what life might be like for a woman who can communicate with the dead.
Cynical psychology professor Robert Bridge (Andrew Lincoln, The Walking Dead), takes his class to see a medium named Allison Mundy, hoping to show them the phony techniques used by so-called psychics. But Allison reveals personal details to one of his students about her mother, things only she could know, and Robert blames Allison when the girl commits suicide. His boss however thinks Robert should write a book about the experience, and surprisingly Allison agrees to collaborate with a man who doesn’t even believe in her abilities. But things almost end even before they begin, when Allison reveals to Robert that she only agreed to do the book because his deceased son, Josh, (Joshua David-Kennedy) asked her to.
I think we all have some curiosity in regards to what happens after we die. Questions abound about our destinies. Do we just return to the earth as dust? Is there a Heaven or Hell we are subject to? Or do we wander around lost, stuck between this world and the next? In ITV’s Afterlife, we see the wandering sort of soul who use Allison to help them move on, but to where we don’t quite know. Long before Andrew Lincoln began killing the walking dead in the popular A&E series, he was Robert, the skeptic from Afterlife. A man suspicious of any paranormal claims, his own life is a continuous downturn since his son Josh was killed in a car accident while Robert was driving.
Allison is the medium struggling with a life plagued by a constant barrage of dead spirits, and who is still haunted by a near fatal train wreck from six years earlier. She resents Robert’s skepticism, but decides to work with him anyway because of the pleas of his dead son, Josh. The boy wants Allison to reassure Robert that he’s okay, because it’s Robert’s guilt and despair that are keeping Josh trapped in between worlds. In fact, most of the souls who Allison comes into contact with are imprisoned in a weird middle ground because of loved ones who are unable to move forward.
Episodes include “More than Meets the Eye,” “Lower than Bones,” “Daniel One and Two,” “Misdirection,” “Sleeping with the Dead,” and my favorite “The 7:59 Club.” This season finale cliffhanger introduces us to survivors, and loved ones of the survivors, of the train wreck that nearly killed Allison. She is courted by a wealthy patron named Irene Moser (Phyllida Law, The Time Machine), whose husband died that fateful day. Irene hopes Allison will join her and the rest of the group for a séance on the anniversary of the crash. All they want is for her to give messages to their deceased loved ones — simple, right? Wrong, my friend, because what they neglect to tell her is the last medium died under mysterious circumstances. (Gasp!)
Afterlife is blessed with wonderful acting; especially that of Lincoln and Sharp, who also have great chemistry together. There are no hints of any sexual attraction or future love connections; they are, simply put, two people trying to work their way through very horrific and defining moments in their lives. And maybe developing some kind of friendship as a result. For as much as I loved me some Medium back in the day, I found Afterlife to be a more engaging and far more frightening experience.
Afterlife: Season One is a standard def 1.33:1 full frame presentation, that gives us the sharp colors and clear images we’ve all come to expect from our DVD experiences. The dialogue is easy to hear thanks to the Dolby 2.0 stereo track, and the film’s soundtrack does a good job of highlighting the spooky parts without being too obvious. All that’s included in the way of extras are audio commentaries by the cast and crew.
I am a sucker for these kinds of supernatural type shows. Afterlife does a great job of playing things straight, while exploring the mysteries of life after death.
Wait, I’m getting a sign from the spirits…They say Not Guilty.