Dark Season 3 (Netflix) Written by Jantje Friese & Marc O. Seng Directed by Baran bo Odar
Dark will go down as one of the most mind-melting complex series most people have ever seen. Its creators Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese, have been uncompromising in their vision for all three seasons, challenging viewers to follow the convoluted family trees and crisscrossing timelines. This is made even more challenging to comprehend in the third season’s introduction of multiple realities. Yet it all works and makes sense in the end. Dark is not a series you can play in the background and drift in and out of, it demands the viewer’s full attention or you will most certainly become as lost as Jonas does at times.
How Long Til’ Black Future Month: Stories by N.K. Jemisin
This is a beautiful melange of fantasy & science fiction told from a black perspective. Some stories feel like a red hot bullet right between the eyes in our current context. There’s a story about the spirit of a city becoming aware she not merely a human walking its street with the idea that these city spirits travel and awaken their kin across the world over time. We’re presented with a Jim Crow-era story of a black witch and her children encountering a demonic fey-like entity posing as a beautiful blonde white woman. There are stories of secret agents from an alternate universe Haiti sneaking through New Orleans to take out a white cabal. You get the transformational narrative of a young chef introduced to alien ingredients and becoming a sorceress who can create food that radically affects her customers. The most resonant for me was the opening story, “The Ones Who Stay and Fight,” where a beautiful utopia is described, a place where all prejudices are gone, and humanity lives in beautiful harmony and follows a path that parallels and reflect our own. You can read that story, and you most certainly should here.
The X-Files Board Game (2015) Designed by Kevin Wilson Published by IDW Games
After watching through ten of the best episodes of The X-Files this month, I decided to crack open a copy of the board game from IDW I’d bought a few years ago. I remember hearing good reviews when it originally came out in 2015, and I snatched up a copy. As so often happens when you buy a board game on a whim, it sits on your shelf for a while until you finally find the time to play it. The X-Files Board Game turned out to be quite an excellent experience, a game I definitely want to play again and again to explore the tactics and mechanics going on under the hood.
The Post-Modern Prometheus (Season Five, Episode Five) Original airdate: November 30th, 1997 Written & Directed by Chris Carter
By this point in the series, the mythology episodes were becoming more prominent and had a more significant effect on the overall direction of the show. To balance that out, the Monster of the Week episodes became a little wilder and tonally jarring in a good way. The Post-Modern Prometheus is one of the biggest stylistic shifts for the X-Files being shot in black & white with a wide-angle lens. Additionally, the tone throughout is comedic with appropriate touches of melodrama.
Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose (Season Three, Episode Four) Original airdate: October 13, 1995 Written by Darrin Morgan Directed by David Nutter
This was the period where X-Files was reaching its sweet spot. The show was firmly submerged in the pop culture zeitgeist, so the writers started to play around with the one-off Monster of the Week episodes. This might be the best episode the series ever produced. It has a tightly written, clever plot with genuinely surprising & well-earned twists. Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein, Everybody Loves Raymond) guest stars as Clyde Bruckman, an insurance salesman who gained the ability to see every person’s death. He becomes caught up in a case where Mulder & Scully are chasing down a serial killer who targets psychics and fortune-tellers. This entry into the series is incredibly dark & bleak while still injecting big doses of sly humor. Little touches like the injection of celebrity psychic the Stupendous Yappi and revelations about Mulder’s extracurricular activities help lighten a weighty & poignant study. The conclusion of this episode is just so satisfying and bittersweet.
Homecoming Season One (Amazon Prime) Written by Eli Horowitz & Micah Bloomberg, David Wiener, Cami Delavigne, Shannon Houston, and Eric Simonson Directed by Sam Esmail
Ever since I finished watching the British television show Utopia, I have been searching for another show that hit many of the same buttons as that one. While it is not an exact 1:1 match, Homecoming is the closest I’ve come to find a show that creates that same pleasant paranoid and heightened atmosphere. There are some supremely intelligent presentation decisions made with the music and cinematography that give the show an eerie feeling. Homecoming presents an urgently relevant story with the feel of a type of cinema from decades in our past.
If you weren’t alive or simply too young in the 1990s to remember, The X-Files was an insanely huge deal. UFOs, in particular, had a significant popularity resurgence in that decade, but this show was the most popular media to come out of all of that by a longshot. The X-Files aired on Fox for nine years and spawning two feature films, one of which came out between seasons 5 & 6 and a short-lived revival. Creator Chris Carter was inspired by his love of science fiction & horror media, with the most relevant source being Kolchak: The Night Stalker. That was a short-lived ABC series about a paranormal investigator in the Monster of the Week mold.
Little Joe (2019) Written by Jessica Hausner & Géraldine Bajard Directed by Jessica Hausner
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one of the most recycled narrative tropes in cinema, and more often than not, those adaptations fall short. The original and the 1970s remake stand above the fray. Little Joe is a secret Body Snatchers picture, telling a very well thought-out variation on the official story. However, there’s so little to the script that its slow burn actually becomes a hindrance to the character development and tension that should be present in a picture like this. Technically and aesthetically, Little Joe has a lot going on that entices the audience, but ultimately it fails to deliver on the promise of these things.
It’s not just important to support Black Lives, but you also need to engage in and promote Black Art. Here are some books I absolutely love that are written by Black authors. I hope you find something here to pick up and read. These are not just books by Black writers but also some of the best books period I’ve ever read.
The Vast of Night (2020) Written by James Montague & Craig W. Sanger Directed by Andrew Patterson
A story about an alien visitation in New Mexico during the 1950s doesn’t sound terribly original or compelling on the surface. However, the way The Vast of Night is presented with gorgeous cinematography, inventive scene framing, and a narrative that unfolds almost entirely in real-time is what propels into another level of filmmaking. I sat down with moderate hopes after hearing some positive buzz and walked away, absolutely loving this movie. The picture is made by people who fully understand the genre they are delving into and are intelligent enough to play with the tropes. This delivers a film couched in genre expectations but able to explode in fascinatingly unexpected directions.