Warning: Spoilers for After Life.
Ricky Gervais’s exploration of loss and the journey toward healing reaches its poignant and emotional climax in the third season of After Life.
Tony has been grappling with his struggles for some time now, facing setbacks in his attempts to move forward. However, his circle of friends remains a steadfast support, ready to assist him on his path.
The ending of Tony’s story unfolds in true Gervais fashion—far from straightforward. Fortunately, in an exclusive conversation with Digital Spy, the cast shares their insights and reflections on what lies ahead for Tony.
Discover all the details you need in this exclusive reveal.
What happened to Tony?
In the series finale, viewers witness Tony and his cherished companion Brandy gradually fading away after a day at the Tambury Fair. The interpretation of Tony’s fate is left in the hands of the audience.
However, in an exclusive discussion with Digital Spy, Ricky Gervais sheds light on the conclusion, emphasizing its simpler essence compared to initial perceptions.
“It’s just about the continuity of life, you know? Even when we’ve all reached the end of our journeys, that field will persist, the Tambury Fair will endure, the tree will stand tall. Essentially, it conveys the message that we all meet our end, but not today,” he explained.
“The ending is a reflection of that idea—’We all die, but not today.’ […] Embrace the present, as life is remarkably finite. From the moment of birth to the moment of passing, it’s a fleeting experience. So savor that brief span,” he urged.
“For 13 and a half billion years, you don’t exist, then you get 80-90 years if you’re fortunate, and then you depart, never to exist again. All you have is the richness of experience, and then you become a part of the earth, forgotten in time.”
“It might hit some people hard,” Diane Morgan remarked. “They’ll analyze it and ponder, ‘What does this signify?’ You know, and they’ll draw various interpretations from it. But ideally, you need to grasp that this is it. Life persists.”
Jo Hartley, portraying June, expressed uncertainty, stating, “It’s very subtle and could hold different meanings depending on where you find yourself. I’m on the fence. I appreciate its simplicity, and it’s, I suppose, about life moving forward. Contentment, acceptance, the realization that we all depart from this place, and we must make the most of our time here. It’s a love story, he was in love.”
Ricky Gervais, in an interview with The Radio Times, highlighted the significance of the fair, stating, “The fair is meaningful because it has endured for 500 years. It’s a place where people from different times have converged for centuries.”
Describing the ending as good, hopeful, and real, Gervais reflected, “It’s just acknowledging, that was that. What comes next? Because the entire show revolves around endings and beginnings. It’s about people thrown together randomly.”
“You can’t pick your place of birth. You can’t choose your brain. You can’t really choose who you are or who you encounter. We’re just souls drifting on the breeze. That’s the underlying theme,” he concluded.
For a detailed breakdown, here’s how the story unfolded.
Striving to Move Forward
From the outset, Tony (Ricky Gervais) grapples with the formidable task of moving on from the loss of his wife, Lisa (Kerry Godliman). Anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one knows that this is easier said than done.
In the third season, Tony finds himself hesitant to act on his emotions for Emma (Ashley Jensen), the nurse who cared for his late father. Despite their efforts to connect, the relationship falls short, with Tony consistently measuring Emma against the memory of Lisa, leaving her unable to measure up.
Ultimately, they decide to part ways, and Lisa is presented with an opportunity to go on a date with an old schoolmate, an encouragement from Tony.
Meanwhile, life continues in the town of Tambury, with Tony exploring the quirks of the locals alongside his co-worker Lenny (Tony Way). Despite prior episodes portraying Tony’s anger and thoughts of self-harm, this time, he seems more hopeful, investing more time in the company of those around him.
Unexpectedly, this involves his interactions with Pat (Joe Wilkinson), the local postman, who is navigating the challenges of being in a relationship with Roxy, a sex worker.
As the series concludes, Pat and Roxy decide to part ways. Roxy, portrayed by the absent Roisin Conaty, refuses to relinquish the job she loves when faced with an ultimatum from Pat.
The Culmination at the Tambury Fair
In the series finale, Tony finds himself at Lisa’s graveside, joined by her brother Matt (Tom Basden). The two share a reflective moment before Matt heads off to work at the Gazette. Anne (Penelope Wilton) later joins Tony, and they exchange stories of meeting their significant others. Anne emphasizes the impact of angels on earth, embodied in charity workers, NHS nurses, and dogs.
Later that day, Tony, accompanied by Lenny, visits a cancer hospice where they encounter two resilient young girls. Despite a poignant revelation about one of the girls sharing Lisa’s name, Tony chooses to tell a comforting lie, bringing a touch of joy to the children’s lives.
This encounter sparks a change in Tony’s perspective. As Lisa’s voice recites the Bereavement Poem, he decides to cash in her life insurance policy, totaling £150,000, which he had previously resisted doing. Instead of keeping the money, he chooses to use it to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Tony distributes generous cheques, acknowledging the losses of those around him and emphasizing the importance of kindness and caring.
While Tony admits to ongoing struggles with depression, he expresses a desire to help others, inspired by his interaction with the young boy in the hospice. At the Tambury Fair, Tony encounters Kath, who has been on a journey of self-discovery. Kath finds solace when a dog at the Dogs’ Trust tent connects with her, and her luck takes a turn for the better when Tony introduces her to Postman Pat.
As the fair unfolds, Tony seems more content, exchanging pleasantries with Emma and acknowledging the cyclical nature of life. Meanwhile, Brian faces a low point but experiences a glimmer of hope when Coleen finds his humor amusing and agrees to join him for coffee.
In the closing moments of the episode, Tony observes his friends and loved ones enjoying the fair, reminiscent of his time with Lisa. Brandy looks up at him, and together they walk away. Lenny captures a photo of Tony, who salutes before departing. However, Lenny’s subtle concern hints at a deeper emotional undertone.
The series concludes with Tony walking through the common with Lisa and Brandy. As Lisa and Brandy fade away, followed by Tony himself, the poignant ending signifies acceptance and closure.
After Life is now available for streaming on Netflix.