Series 2

Starring: Lesley Sharp and Andrew Lincoln
2 Entertain
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 26 December 2006

In the climax of
Series One Alison collapsed and nearly died during a seance in which she made contact with Robert's son. Sceptic Robert witnessed this and starts to question his disbelief as he turns to Alison to try and make sense of it. Now recovering, Alison realises that she will never be free of the spirits and decides that her life's purpose is to help the dead resolve their problems with the living. She is deeply disturbed when she learns of a terrifying presence from the past tormenting her life and has to confront it before she loses her sanity...

Series Two of Afterlife continues shortly after the end of Series One. Alison has, until recently, been in a coma since the seance in which she reunited Robert with his dead son. While it's not essential that you've seen Series One, it will help to give you more of a background to the Alison/Robert relationship.

Episodes in this series include:

Warning! The synopses below contain spoilers on the episodes.

Roadside Bouquets: Alison Mundy is still recovering from the traumatic seance that put her in a coma. She realises that she has dedicated her life to helping the spirits and when she sees one on the roadside, she is determined to find out what has happened. Before long she is entangled in a story that involves a car crash and some friends. But this time, she won't be able to help everyone.

The Rat Man: Alison and Robert visit a prison after a series of mysterious suicides take place behind bars. There they encounter a serial killer, who blames a malevolent spirit called the Rat Man on his own murderous spree. As Alison strives to banish the evil from the place to help the other convicts, she puts herself in terrible danger.

Lullaby: A father comes to Alison to ask her about a baby monitor that whispers to his child. Alison is sure it is a spiritual event, but the mother isn't so sure. Alison herself, is being contacted by her own mother's spirit and Robert doesn't believe that it's happening. Just when everything seems to have been organised, it gets worse.

Your Hand is Mine: Alison visits a woman who starts exhibiting symptoms of the disease that her fiancé's first wife was killed by, and realises that she is possessed by the dead woman's spirit. Meanwhile, Robert's sudden scepticism baffles Alison, who is unaware of his fatal illness.

Mirrorball: A woman called Gemma comes to Alison, asking for her help, after her best friend was killed by a ghost. Alison is sure Gemma knows more about the spirit than she is letting on. But Alison has other things to worry about - her mother's spirit is still around and still cleaning. In the mean time, Robert comes clean to Jude about his tumour.

Mind the Bugs Don't Bite: With the household being taken over, Alison is unable carry on, and gives into her mother's spirit. Robert decides to contact the psychic's estranged father, who Alison is reluctant to talk to. But sooner or later, she has to deal with her own past, and the death of her mother.

Things Forgotten: When a teenager, who has been haunted by a young boy, claims a psychic he visits is an impostor, Alison tries to sort things out. However, she find that on this occasion, she can't contact the spirit world. Robert still hasn't told Alison of his tumour, but will he ever get the chance, before it's too late?

A Name Written in Water: With Robert in a coma at the hospital, Alison rushes to his bedside, finding Jude there, who is less than happy to see her. Whilst in the hospital, waiting, the psychic witnesses a strange nurse wandering the corridors. This is confirmed by many of the workers, who have heard rumours about this unusual being. Why is she there - and does she mean the end for Robert?

The episodes in this series are fairly hit and miss. The opening episode, Roadside Bouquets, helps to drag in newcomers to the series. Although, I can't believe that I fell for the biggest cliché going. In my defence the twist in this episode is very cleverly concealed.

Similarly, Mind the Bugs Don't Bite has an equally satisfying twist - one that you'll kick yourself for not spotting earlier.

I started to wonder what it was about Bristol, where this series is set, that meant that everyone seemed to have '60s/'70s wallpaper and decor. This was most noticeable in Alison's house, as well as the family in Lullaby. It was only at the conclusion of Mind the Bugs Don't Bite that I realised why the writer wanted us to feel at ease with this style of decor - originally I thought it was someone's idea at being arty; trying to make the series appear timeless and not of this earth. Only after Mind the Bugs Don't Bite did I realise it was a cheap trick - but one that works incredibly well.

Mirrorball and Things Forgotten are fairly mediocre episodes. It's not that they are particularly bad, just that they aren't strong enough to carry the bulk of the episode - both feeling like b-plots to something else. And, as though realising that there's not much you can do with this series other than Sixth Sense style plots, the writer quickly constructs a couple of story arcs to try and tie everything together. First we have Alison's dead mother who is haunting Alison and then there's Robert's illness - which stretches on until we have a conclusion that takes elements from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Ghost and Always, and mixes everything up to provide us with something that feels more American in style (i.e. slushy pap with a sickly sweet conclusion).

The only extra on this three disc collection is a 45 minute Behind the Scenes featurette. While this is interesting, I couldn't help but feel a little cheated. An audio commentary on the opening and closing episodes, as well as a couple of features on the music and look of the show (two elements that set it apart from other shows) would have been interesting.

While Afterlife is enjoyable entertainment, I couldn't help thinking that if the BBC had made it it would have been a lot darker and grittier.

Pete Boomer

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