We are in Hell at the moment. Well, the verge of falling into the pit. Between corona and the bubbling up of a new Great Depression, times feel rough. Here are some tv shows you should binge during this time of isolation. They may not make you feel better, but they are damn good and quality television.
Dark (Netflix, two seasons, the third season coming this summer)
Dark is a German production about the small town of Winden. The city was plagued by child disappearances sporadically since the 1950s and another one has just occurred. The series follows teenager Jonas whose father has just committed suicide. Jonas is dealing with his personal grief as well as the unfolding mystery in his hometown. Dark will absolutely surprise you with where it goes, but it can scramble your brains with the twists and turns. Every episode is actually fast-paced and chock-full of character development and information. If you were a fan of the strange places Lost went to during its six-year run, then Dark will scratch that itch.
Check out my reviews of Season One and Season Two.
Pen15 (Hulu, one season)
The creation of actor-writers Maya Erksine and Anna Konkle, Pen15, finds these women playing their thirteen-year-old selves in the early 2000s. The rest of their classmates are played by actual children which is one of the comedic elements in the show. Each episode explores some aspects of growing older, a young woman or kid at the beginning of the 21st century. There are episodes on thongs, playing with toys, first crushes, online boyfriends, and more. I find the show touches on the pathos of a series like Freaks & Geeks with its honest and loving look back but also delves into some absurdist territory at times. It’s light and fun, a good distraction at these times.
Check out my review here.
Flowers (Netflix, two seasons)
I have not yet watched the second season of Flowers, but everything I’ve heard is even more positive than the first season. I have seen season one, and it was one of the most honestly sad and emotionally touching things I’ve seen in a long time. The series is about Maurice Flowers, a children’s book author who is attempting to hang himself in the opening of the scene. He fails, of course, the rest of the first season is spent meeting his family and trying to figure out why Maurice did this. My personal favorite character in the series is Shun, played by the showrunner Will Sharpe. Shun is a Japanese immigrant who illustrates Maurice’s books and ends up playing a significant role in the story’s outcome. Flowers is a series about how easy it is to drift away from the people we love and become moored in our personal grief. But it also offers hope that we can crawl out of those holes when we begin to communicate again.
Check out my review of season one, starting here.
Twin Peaks (Netflix, two seasons)
This is a classic, thirty years old this week. Twin Peaks is the story of murdered Homecoming queen Laura Palmer and the investigation by FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper to uncover the identity of her killer. This is not a standard mystery series in form. It’s a small-town comedy, a dark crime thriller, a celebration of humanity, and a delve into the occult & supernatural. Twin Peaks gave television the space to have film quality storytelling and technique, the brainchild of David Lynch and Mark Frost. Be warned there is a notorious cliffhanger but don’t worry. If you enjoy this, there’s a feature film (Fire Walk With Me) and a continuation from 2017 (Twin Peaks: The Return).
So this was something I never expected to hear about again: Southland Tales. Writer-director Richard Kelly originally released this follow-up to Donnie Darko back in 2007 to quite a few people’s disappointment. I have never quite been able to wrap my brain around what exactly Southland Tales is trying to say but have gone back to it many times. I even found a bootleg of the director’s cut but still didn’t gain much from that. Apparently, Kelly has completed a 4k restoration of both the theatrical and director’s cuts and is working on a third edit…okay. There were graphic novels released by DC Comics that served as character prequels at the time and Kelly is looking at animating those and including them in this new version to help viewers better understand the story. Does that mean we’re looking at a near four-hour version of this movie? I will watch it when it comes out because as frustrating as Kelly’s work became, it is always hypnotic in its weirdness.
A second trailer for Pendleton Ward’s The Midnight Gospel has dropped. I like the vibe.