There’s no way to review Amazon’s latest series Forever without giving away a massive spoiler that would effect your enjoyment of the show, so if you’ve not seen it yet, and I recommend that you do, I’d close the page now. And even if you’re half way through the series this discusses events in the final episode so you may not want to read it either.
Okay, those remaining who have either seen it just don’t care, Forever is a series which is not exactly predictable. Created by Alan Yang (Parks and Recreation, Master of None) and Matt Hubbard (also Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock ), at first it seems it’s about the lives of a fairly likeable if very middle class couple, June (Maya Rudolph) and Oscar (Fred Armisen). They’re genuinely funny individuals, who are clearly in love, but as the years pass and we see a long montage of their day to day lives, it’s clear that June is slowly becoming restless, even if Oscar couldn’t be happier with their quiet routine. But June’s insistent that something needs to change, hence why instead of spending their vacation at the waterside lodge they visit every year they decide to shake things up by doing something different. Unfortunately this leads to tragedy, which seems to be a bit of a theme in the series, as it’s only when Rudolph accepts a job offer which sees her travel first class to Honolulu that she ends up dying too. It’s a depressing idea, and one which is echoed a third time as when Rudolph becomes tired of the afterlife events take a darker turn. But I’m jumping the gun a little here, and will return to that in a bit.
At the end of the first episode where the holiday isn’t going as well as either hoped, Oscar skis in to a tree, and at the beginning of the second it becomes apparent that he didn’t survive the accident. At this point I was wondering how the title of the show would relate to the content, as initially I presumed it would be about the difficulties of being in a long lasting relationship. But with Oscar long dead and buried, as the action takes place a year later, I guessed I must be wrong. It turns out I wasn’t though, as whilst the episode covers June’s attempt to get her life back to some semblance of normality, and even find happiness, she chokes to death in the second to last scene, only to turn up in the afterlife, where Oscar is waiting for her. And it seems like they really are going to be together forever.
The afterlife they find themselves is an unusual concept, essentially they’re ghosts but stuck living in an abandoned housing estate and unable to stray too far from a fountain in the centre of it without starting to feel weak, and it’s hinted that they might even disappear for good if not careful. With them is a seventeen year old boy, Mark (Noah Robbins), who’s been there ever since dying in a car crash in the seventies, along with a variety of dull characters who we never really learn much about, other than that like Oscar they’re more than happy to be stuck in their unremarkable ways of life. There aren’t many of the undead around which is never explained, but then those looking for a Lost style mystery show will come away disappointed in general as this is a series about relationships rather than the unusual aspects of life after death.
Things are shaken up when Case (Catherine Keener) moves in next door, at first anti-social, and clearly not a fan of Oscar and June, after June breaks in to her house she slowly warms to the latter. Case seems to be everything that June is looking for in the afterlife, someone who isn’t prepared to sink in to this tedious oblivion and wants more out of her death, especially as she feels her life was largely pointless. And so one night they find themselves far away from their homes, and encounter a mysterious stranger who tells them of another location, Oceanside, where the dead also reside.
The following episode is a departure from the rest of the series in that it follows two characters who have nothing to do with previous events, other than that they’re close by to Oscar and June’s home. And unlike everyone else, they’re alive too. Both are realtors who slowly fall in love with each other, and it’s a tender and likeable portrayal of a relationship that shouldn’t happen but inevitably does. But it’s a chance not taken, as both fail to leave their respective partners and so end up unhappily separated until one dies. June witnesses the distress this causes, and it’s this which prompts her to leave Oscar and go with Case to Oceanside, the possible paradise which at the very least is at least something different to the boring humdrum existence she’s experienced post death.
However, and somewhat inevitably, Oceanside doesn’t live up to her expectations. A small mansion near the beach filled with the undead, at first it seems like a hedonistic paradise as the inhabitants spend every evening dancing and drinking, whilst taking part in various events like getting run over by trucks (which being dead only causes them to briefly disintegrate before reforming) and burning all of their possessions. But once Oscar arrives, outraged that June left him via a Dear John letter and not a face to face confrontation, June slowly begins to realise what she misses about him, and that the negative aspects of Oceanside, like gradually losing her memory of her life pre-death, aren’t what she wants. The ending is unfortunately a little disappointing though. Oscar and June reunite far too quickly and conveniently, and given that she originally planned to never see him again she seems won over by him after only a brief conversation or two. Their escape from Oceanside is a beautiful moment, with imagery that will remain in the memory for a long time, but the final scene feels like a bit of a cop out. Though for the first time in the series the concept that changing your life isn’t always a terrible idea is a much needed one and finally offers hope for the couple who clearly both need to change their ways and are at last prepared to do this.
It seems unclear as to whether there will be a second season, certainly in interviews it’s been suggested that is a one off, though Alan Yang has said he’s possibly open to a second batch. I don’t think it’s really needed though, even though some questions have been left unanswered they weren’t important ones. Ultimately this is a series about two individuals and the love they share, it’s subtle, intimate, and poignant, and whilst not completely satisfying despite it’s minor faults it’s definitely worth viewing.