Dark Season 2 (Netflix)
Written by Jantje Friese, Daphne Ferraro, Ronny Schalk, Marc O. Seng, & Martin Behnke
Directed by Baran bo Odar
You know how when a serialized show in American starts a new season and they sort of ease the audience back into the story, maybe using new characters to reintroduce the cast? Yeah, Dark just says, “Where did we leave off last time? Yes? Let’s go” This show does not let up for these eight episodes, and it is all the better for that. By the time you reach the prophesied final moments of Winden, your brain will have been stretched and tied into a knot. Yet, the showrunners throw a curveball that sends your mind hurtling into questions about what the third season could possibly be. This is science fiction on a human relationship level done oh so right!
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Black Mirror Season 5 (Netflix)
Created by Charlie Brooker
Written by Charlie Brooker
Directed by Owen Harris
We live in an era where the boundaries between sexuality and gender are blurring more and more, allowing people to explore their identities in ways never before possible. Technology also offers opportunities to rewrite and redesign yourself via the anonymity of the internet. Once users could change their identities through text-based interfaces but now the digital mapping of faces you can apply overlays over your visage that transform you into a different gender, a different species, or an entire fantastical being. Where Black Mirror will typically travel to the dark side of how humans interact with technology, Striking Vipers is a spiritual successor to San Junipero, one of the more hopeful entries into the series.
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Barry Season 2 (HBO)
Written by Alec Berg, Bill Hader, Taofik Kolade, Jason Kim, Duffy Boudreau, Emily Heller, and Liz Sarnoff
Directed by Hiro Murai, Minkie Spiro, Liza Johnson, Bill Hader, and Alec Berg
The tagline for Barry is “a hitman tries to make it as an actor,” a premise which sounds like the worst Hollywood pitch of the post-Goodfellas 1990s. Think about pictures like My Blue Heaven or Analyze This, where mob stereotypes are played for laughs. It’s the theme of Barry that keeps us coming back every week, “Can people who have done bad things still be good people?”. Co-creator and star Bill Hader, known for his comedic chops honed on Saturday Night Live, manages to find the perfect middle ground where he can have moments to play things for laughs but then flip things around in an instant to discover the most heart-rending moments of pathos. Barry is a funny tragedy.
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Game of Thrones Season 8 (HBO)
Written by Dave Hill, Bryan Cogman, David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by David Nutter, Miguel Sapochnik, David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Winter has come, and all the players are aligned for the final battle for Westeros. Daenerys Targaryen has arrived with dragons bringing her armies from the East. An alliance has been formed between the exiled monarch and the people of the North. The Wall has been breached and the Night King marches south to destroy anything in his path. Meanwhile, Queen Cersei Lannister has brokered deals with the Iron Islands and the Golden Company of Essos to serve as her protection against the inevitable battle with Targaryen. Jon Snow learns of his true parentage and how this could affect his relationship with the newly arrived leader. The table is set for a new age to begin in Westeros, but will it be any better than what has come before?
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Pen15 Season 1 (2019, Hulu)
Written by Maya Erskine, Anna Konkle, Sam Zvibleman, Jessica Watson, Andrew Rhymer, Jeff Chan, Gabe Liedman, and Stacy Osei-Kuffour
Directed by Dan Longino, Andrew DeYoung, and Sam Zvibleman
It’s 2000; Maya and Anna are starting middle school. The two young ladies have been friends for as long as they remember, but nothing will test the strength of their friendship more than this time in their lives. They must deal with boys, parents in crumbling marriages, band, cliques, periods, and their first multi-night sleepover. The thing is, Maya and Anna are played by two women in their early 30s recreating their youth. While the characters in the universe of the show see thirteen-year-old girls, the audience is fully aware of the reality of the actors in the roles.
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Arrested Development Season 5 Part 2 (Netflix)
Written by Mitchell Hurwitz, Hallie Cantor, Richard Day, Evan Mann, Gareth Reynolds, Chris Marrs, and Jim Vallely
Directed by Troy Miller
In 2003 Arrested Development debuted on Fox and was a breath of fresh air in the television landscape. It combined elements of classic television like Soap and the banter of The Golden Girls (where Mitch Hurwitz cut his writing teeth). There was a labyrinthine plot that rivaled Lost and inspired just as many rewatches. Arrested was the first show where I saw callbacks to jokes that hadn’t happened yet. The primary example being all the foreshadowing about hands in season 2 that led up to Buster’s hand being eaten by a loose seal. The show was referencing an event that hadn’t happened yet, but these visual gags and pieces of dialogue would be heightened when fans went back to the episodes for a second time. It was some truly brilliant and inspiring television. Then we reach today.
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True Detective Season 3 (HBO)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto, David Milch, and Graham Gordy
Directed by Jeremy Saulnier, Daniel Sackheim, and Nic Pizzolatto
In 1980 two children go missing in a small Arkansas town. The detectives assigned to the case are Wayne Hays and Roland West. Hays is a stoic and determined investigator having spent his tour of duty in Vietnam as a tracker, wading deep into the jungle often alone. West is a more boisterous personality, a hard drinker, and a man who knows how to navigate the political game that makes up policing. The two men find themselves going down a rabbit hole of dead-end leads as they race against the clock to locate the children. In 1990, after the case is rushed to a close by the district attorney a new lead emerges that brings Hays back from a desk job. These new revelations confirm doubts Hays had about the person ultimately charged. However, they also create a whole new host of questions and confusion about what happened to the kids. Finally, in 2015, Hays is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and the passing of his beloved wife, whom he met back in 1980. Hays’ son has worked with a true crime television series to have his father sit down and be interviewed about the case that has haunted the old man for so many years. As Hays’ mind slips away his hold on the present begins to crumble and soon finds himself pinballing across decades in his brain, finally intent on uncovering the truth.
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