I May Destroy You review - Michaela Coel's new drama

You know what was a whole lot? 2020. I don’t need to tell you that. Feels fitting that for my 10th anniversary of this silly thing, it’s a year when we all watched a lot of TV whether we wanted to or not. As always, I am so grateful for my friends to give me their time and energy to write about what excited or inspired them in a year where we desperately needed entertainment. Without further ado…

Aunty Donna Big Ol’ House of Fun — “Treasure”
(Season One, Episode 2)

The genius evolution of Aunty Donna's Ellen skit

By Erin Oechsel

Aunty Donna, an Australian absurdist comedy group, has released their first Netflix Series this year and, man, it could not have come at a better time. Because, after all, 2020 has been absurd at every turn. The jarring shifts in tone, multiple realities and seemingly random choices fit right in with this weird year. I found myself lured into a false sense of reality many times only to be slapped in the face with a fantastically strange and joyful musical number. 

I would be remiss if I did not mention how delightful their accents are. The Australian accent makes everything better in life. My name is Erin and this is my TED Talk.

MVP Episode: “Treasure”

MVP Sketch: “Ellen”

The sketch begins with Zach receiving a call from “Ellen DeGeneres” (played by Brodin) who tells Zach to go outside. 

“OH MY GOD!! IT’S A TOYOTA COROLLA!”

“What’s inside the Corolla, Zachary?”

“OH MY GOD!! IT’S MY LONG LOST FATHER!” 

The sketch continues to escalate from there to the highest possible degree. It’s so excellent…I’m laughing recalling it. 

Honorable Mention Sketch: Episode 1: “Stray Man”

If you’ve seen The Boys on Amazon (another favorite of mine…totally different tone from what I’m discussing with you today) you know the character Homelander. The actor who plays Homelander appears in this sketch as a “Stray Man” that Mark picks up off of the street. 

Musical numbers of note: “Morning Brown” is a particular favorite. The three actors, Broden, Zach and Mark all gather in the kitchen and sing about coffee, or in this case, “morning brown.” They transition almost immediately into each roomie’s f*cking styles. So there’s that.

There is another song Broden sings about who his organs should go to upon his death – He has only one request…anyone but Steve. “PLEASE DON’T PUT ME IN STEVE.”

Allow your mind to be blank while consuming this show. Thinking will get you nowhere. In fact, smoke something. Actually, maybe don’t. Watching this while under the influence could either make all of the sense or result in a very confusing and alarming nightmare. Also Weird Al shows up. 

Erin’s Top 10 Episodes of 2020

  1. Sex Education, “Episode 7” (Season Two, Episode 7)
  2. After Life, “Episode 4” (Season Two, Episode 4)
  3. The Queen’s Gambit, “End Game” (Season One, Episode 7)
  4. Dead to Me, “It Had to Be You” (Season Two, Episode 8)
  5. Schitt’s Creek, “The Premiere” (Season Six, Episode 5)
  6. The Boys, “Over the Hill with the Swords of a Thousand Men” (Season Two, Episode 3)
  7. The Last Dance, “Episode I” (Season One, Episode 1)
  8. The Crown, “The Balmoral Test” (Season Four, Episode 2)
  9. Love is Blind, “Is Love Blind?” (Season One, Episode 1) Don’t hate me — it’s ironic but so real
  10. Too Hot to Handle, “Love, Sex or Money” (Season One, Episode 1) Don’t hate me. I have no excuse.

Bridgerton — “Diamond of the First Water”
(Season One, Episode 1)

Bridgerton - S01E01 - Diamond of the First Water [Transcript] - Scraps from  the loft

By Katherine Lakin

Gossip Girl, but make it regency softcore. 

This show was basically created specifically for me.  The show will become many things over the next seven episodes (porn, it becomes porn), and this first episode manages to establish (via the numerous sex scenes and classical covers or Ariana Grande) that although this is regency, it’s regency unlike any we’ve probably seen before.

This world has a very full cast of characters who, despite distinguishing themselves later on, honestly tend to bleed into each other upon a first viewing.  Thankfully what I believe to be the real strength of the season, the relationship between the leads, is on full display this episode.  It has just about every wonderful classic romance trope.  The meet cute, initial misunderstanding, enemies to friends to lovers, and of course, the ultimate: fake dating.  Both Daphne and Simon are traditionally gorgeous (particularly Regé-Jean Page’s Simon goddamn) and have a sparkling chemistry that is visible from the first moment.  

Of the many things that I find absolutely enrapturing about this episode, two moments in particular stand out.  First, is the classic but entirely necessary Regency Girl Talks About Being A Woman scene.  Little Women 2019 gave us Amy’s iconic, “Don’t sit there and tell me that marriage isn’t an economic proposition because it is.  It may not be for you but it most certainly is for me.” Bridgerton gave us Daphne’s, “This is all I have been raised for.  This is all I am.  I have no other value.”  The interplay of how Anthony and Daphne view the world and their duties within it is easily one of the strongest throughlines of the show, and this conversation in particular is a necessary part of it.  It gives context to so many of Daphne’s choices and actions (that I will not go into in order to avoid spoilers) throughout the remainder of the series.  

The second scene is, of course, the ending.  That beautiful, classic hook.  Some tropes are popular for a reason, and in my opinion fake dating is the best of the best.  I could wax philosophically on its many virtues, but honestly fake dating is just fun.  And while I would never recommend anyone turn to Bridgerton for nuanced takes on romance, or gender, or race, or sexuality; I would wholeheartedly recommend it to someone looking to have some fun.

Katherine’s Top 10 Episodes of 2020

  1. What We Do in the Shadows, “On the Run” (Season Two, Episode 6)
  2. The Good Place, “Whenever You’re Ready” (Season Four, Episodes 13/14)
  3. Bridgerton, “After the Rain” (Season One, Episode 8)
  4. What We Do in the Shadows, “Colin’s Promotion” (Season Two, Episode 5)
  5. Supernatural, “Despair” (Season Fifteen, Episode 18)
  6. Rick and Morty, “The Vat of Acid Episode” (Season Four, Episode 8)
  7. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Debbie” (Season Seven, Episode 5)
  8. Bridgerton, “The Duke and I” (Season One, Episode 5)
  9. The Circle, “Hello Circle” (Season One, Episode 1)
  10. Bob’s Burgers, “A Fish Called Tina” (Season Ten, Episode 12)

The Circle — “The Last Rating”
(Season One, Episode 10)

The Circle' Boss on Connecting Contestants and Catfishing - Variety

Season/conclusion spoilers for Season One

By Tara Olivero

Thinking back to January when I first watched the full season of Netflix’s premiere U.S. version of The Circle, it feels like a different time. Wow, all of these people living in isolation in their own solo apartments, only able to communicate through social media profiles and online messaging! What a fresh, new idea! Oof. Little did I know that we’d be starring in our own versions of The Circle within three months (albeit with less focus on being popular, though with arguably equal focus on survival).

Still, despite all of the tv that I managed to binge-watch in the months (and months, and months) I’ve mostly been at home this year, The Circle tops my television list for 2020. I did also binge-watch the French and Brazilian versions of the show, and while they have arguably better twists and far more cutthroat gameplay, there’s something about the first-aired American version that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. In a certain light, it is truly wholesome, in a way that’s hard to find in reality television. 

The episode I picked as my top fave, Episode 11, is the one where they do their last round of ratings. Of course, the premise of the show (if you’ve lived under a rock???) is that they rank all of the other players, with the top-ranked players then becoming “influencers” and having a say in the game, sometimes to the point of kicking one player out. The final rankings determined who would win the show, and the grand prize of a whole lot of money. 

These stupid Americans genuinely took into account who they made the strongest connections with over the course of the show; no strategy, nobody rating more popular players lower to try to skew the results in their favor. Just… legitimate friendship and personal attachment. 

The final six players (seven people, counting Ed and his mom as a single team) are seen in this episode individually agonizing over who to grant their cherished #1 ranking and who was less deserving, and therefore got ranked #4 or #5. Joey Sasso, the guy who instantly came across as a loud, stereotypical Jersey “bro” in episode 1 (Bro-ey Joey) but who actually has a heart of gold and who was easily one of the most lovable of the bunch, has a moment where he’s trying to rank fellow player Shubham, aka “Shooby,” a player he’d been close friends with since the beginning. He knows that everyone else loves Shooby too, and that’s the issue. Joey verbalizes his concern that Shooby will rank higher than him, and therefore, despite their friendship, decides to put him #4, coming in just above the #5 spot he’d already granted to the guy (Ed) who only showed up in the game four episodes prior. 

And yet. When it comes down to it, before submitting his rankings, Joey reverses his decision. To pay homage to their BFF status and brotherly bond, he decides to rank Shooby as his #2, and rightfully so. 

Like… !!!! It’s enough to expand a grinch’s heart however-many sizes. The full final five, in fact, were all players who came in on day 1, versus the players who’ve replaced others blocked from the Circle throughout the game. The bond that the final five had, strengthened by the obstacles they overcame, carried them through. And when they find out at the end of the episode that their final “Circle Chat” will take place face-to-face instead of in their online chat room, and they all freak out about meeting these people they’ve grown to know and love throughout the game, it’s absolutely precious. 

Anyway, if you want to watch actual strategic gameplay, dive into The Circle: Brazil or The Circle: France (the latter of which had the best and most entertaining catfishes in all three versions, in my opinion). But if you want to watch something that warms your anxious/hopeless/frigid soul, please watch the original Circle and its cast of majority bizarrely sweet people who, for the most part, just wanted to be themselves and believe that others would do the same. 

Tara’s Top 10 Episodes of 2020

  1. The Circle, “The Last Rating” (Season 1, Episode 11)
  2. BoJack Horseman, “The View from Halfway Down” (Season 6, Episode 15)
  3. The Haunting of Bly Manor, “The Altar of the Dead” (Season 1, Episode 5)
  4. The Wolf, “Episode 9” (Season 1, Episode 9)
  5. Schitt’s Creek, “Happy Ending” (Season 6, Episode 14)
  6. What We Do in the Shadows, “On the Run” (Season 2, Episode 6)
  7. The Circle France, “The Finale” (Season 1, Episode 12)
  8. What We Do in the Shadows, “Nouveau Théâtre des Vampires” (Season 2, Episode 10)
  9. Love is Blind, “Will You Marry Me?” (Season 1, Episode 2)
  10. The Circle: Brazil, “House Party” (Season 1, Episode 2)

Honorable mentions: this year’s quarantine version of The Great British Bake-Off, and specifically the episode where they have to try to make cakes that look like celebrities, because Cake Freddie Mercury and Cake Lupita Nyong’o feature regularly in my nightmares. Also, this last season of Survivor! An all-winners season! Incredible! Big Brother 22 never happened & we’re ignoring it. Please note that The Mandalorian is missing from my list because I haven’t watched the new season yet, but I’m sure the new episodes are list-worthy.

The Circle Brazil — “Painting Truths”
(Season One, Episode 8)

The Circle Brazil on Netflix Is Straight Fire And It Will Scorch You

By Austin Lugar

I believe that when we look back at television in 2020, two things would be true. A) I May Destroy You will be considered a masterpiece. And 2) we will always remember what we watched in quarantine. We will never remember what month it happened, but all of these rewatches/binges/Tiger Kings we’ll remember was watched during that year when we couldn’t go outside.

And the show that perfectly reflects that sense of being outside of time, is The Circle Brazil. The US version of The Circle was popular and that, ironically, came out before March. Later in the year, Netflix released two international seasons filmed in the same building in London as they compete in similar challenges. The French version was okay until a fun paranoid back half. But Brazil….they knew what the show really is.

As Tara articulates very well in her article, the US version defied the reality show cliché and was there to make friends. In Brazil, fuck that. This is a game.

The Circle Brazil, like all great pieces of art, is about madness. As we had to learn this year, how do you channel that madness when you’re living in isolation? While he can’t order a Pelaton, JP does spend an extraordinary amount of time in the Circle gym. The Luma boys have a puzzle they work on. Dumaresq directs energy towards his makeup and fashion. Akel thinks he can find love. Marina twerks a lot. A lot and nothing happening all at once.

It’s not clear what happened in Brazil was the show’s intention. The voting structure in The Circle is confusing. It takes the clean system in Survivor and awkwardly flips it. For the run of the show, you’re supposed to rank the players on how good of a person they are. It’s only in the finals when you can really strategize to help you win. It’s a show that wants to promote honesty—lots of judgement towards catfish—and finding the truth and connection through social media.

At the beginning of “Painting Truths”, the show demonstrates how those tools can also be weapons. They begin updating their status as they usually do. From the previous episode’s drama, JP is not thrilled with Akel. When he sees that Akel didn’t give a “like” to his status, he publicly unlikes Akel’s dumb status. In the real world, who cares. But when this is your only form of connection to anything, it’s a dagger. And so unnecessary!

To have them interact as a group, the show provides each room with materials to make a painting for another player. They are each assigned a person and away they go. Later in the day, each painting is shown on the screen for all to see.

Most of them are sweet. The one for Dumaresq is actually quite beautiful. But a lot aren’t. The Luma boys draw a vicious painting of Marina depicting her as a monster with writing on it about her duplicity. The new “girl” Ana is drawn as an irrelevant player for the whole group to see. JP continues to hate Akel so he draws him walking a dog who is about to shit in front of him. Akel tries to save face in the group chat, saying that he’s not entirely sure what it means. In his room, JP mutters “It’s a possessed ram with the face of the devil. What’s not to get?”

While it is the result of cabin fever, it’s also the contestants’ only option to raise themselves into a position to win. You have to bring everybody down. Marina was beloved early on, but painting her as a demon makes people think she’s not who she claims to be. Akel starts to freak out and claims his crush, Lorayne, is lying to him. She ends up crying in her bed wondering how can that be true because why would she try to deceive someone who is already doing horribly in the game. The new “girl” Ana actively uses each posting as a lie to trick the others and to mess with alliances.

Since the show is nothing but drama on top of drama, the influencers are eventually picked. They are Dumaresq and the Luma boys—oh did I mention that two gay identical twin males are pretending to be a straight woman and they inadvertently were part of the strangest discourse of transgender dialog. Watch this show. Don’t worry, queer godfather Dumaresq immediately punished the wrongdoer.

Instead of just letting the influencers go to their special room and decide to vote out, the show throws a curveball for funsies and opens up the chat to the whole show and makes the influencers each publicly save one player before going back to private and removing someone. Chaos reigns.

As we’re stuck in our bubbles, we have Facetime and boy do we have Zoom. But when we aren’t digitally looking face to face with someone, so much nuance is lost and misinterpreted. That’s what the Brazilians understand. Each comma matters, but also everything has a crazy ripple effect. It’s sabotage and insanity. Some are still playing nice—Ray often has no idea what’s going on. Others gleefully aren’t.

I won’t say who is in the final five but when they all do meet each other irl at the end before the winner is revealed and…it’s delightful. There aren’t any grudges! They all laugh around a table and applaud each other for a game well played, as if they just completed a game of Secret Hitler. Months later, they even made a charming video on Instagram of the whole cast virtually throwing a ball to each other in quarantine. (I stopped following all but Dumaresq because I don’t speak Portuguese. Dumaresq is beyond language.)

It’s an awareness that social media is a perpetual paradox of reality and unreality. It’s a game and a lifeline. And unlike us, as we doomscroll or enviously look at someone’s Instagram, The Circle Brazil gets to end in a triumph. A winner is chosen and a prize is given. There is a conclusion to their madness. For us, nothing ever ends.

Austin’s Top 10 Episodes of 2020

  1. BoJack Horseman, “The View from Halfway Down” (Season Six, Episode 15)
  2. I May Destroy You, “Someone is Lying” (Season One, Episode 2)
  3. The Crown, “Fairytale” (Season Four, Episode 3)
  4. The Good Place, “Whenever You’re Ready” (Season Four, Episodes 13/14)
  5. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, “Heart (Parts 1 & 2) (Season Five, Episodes 12/13)
  6. The Magicians, “Apocalypse? Now?!” (Season Five, Episode 5)
  7. How To with John Wilson, “How to Cook the Perfect Risotto” (Season One, Episode 6)
  8. Better Call Saul, “Bagman” (Season Five, Episode 8)
  9. Ted Lasso, “The Hope That Kills You” (Season One, Episode 10)
  10. What We Do in the Shadows, “On the Run” (Season Two, Episode 6)

11. City So Real, “You Gotta Make It or You Gotta Take It” (Season One, Episode 5)
12. Rick and Morty, “The Vat of Acid Episode” (Season Four, Episode 8)
13. Mrs. America, “Houston” (Season One, Episode 8)
14. The Good Fight, “The Gang Deals with Alternate Reality” (Season Four, Episode 1)
15. Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, “Mythic Quest: Quarantine” (Season One, Episode 10)

Honorable Mentions

Avenue 5, “This is Physically Hurting Me” (Season One, Episode 8)
Babylon Berlin, “Episode 28” (Season Three, Episode 12)
Better Call Saul, “Bad Choice Road” (Season Five, Episode 9)
Better Things, “Listen to the Roosters” (Season Four, Episode 10)
Big Mouth, “Horrority House” (Season Four, Episode 9)
The Circle Brazil, “Painting Truths” (Season One, Episode 8)
Corporate, “Black Dog” (Season Three, Episode 2)
The Crown, “Favourites” (Season Four, Episode 4)
The Crown, “48:1” (Season Four, Episode 8)
Dark, “Paradise” (Season Three, Episode 8)
Devs, “Episode 5” (Season One, Episode 5)
Evil, “Room 320” (Season One,, Episode 11)
Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal, “Plague of Madness” (Season One, Episode 7)
The Good Lord Bird, “Meet the Lord” (Season One, Episode 1)
The Great, “Parachute” (Season One, Episode 6)
Harley Quinn, “Bachelorette” (Season Two, Episode 9)
I May Destroy You, “The Alliance” (Season One, Episode 6)
I May Destroy You, “Ego Death” (Season One, Episode 12)
Into the Unknown: Making Frozen II, “A Year to Premiere” (Season One, Episode 1)
Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time, “Match 4” (Season One, Episode 4)
Little America, “The Manager” (Season One, Episode 1)
The Magicians, “Oops!…I Did It Again” (Season Five, Episode 6)
The Mandalorian, “Chapter 13: The Jedi” (Season Two, Episode 5)
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “As I Have Always Been” (Season Seven, Episode 9)
Middleditch and Schwartz, “Law School Magic” (Season One, Episode 2)
Pen15, “Play” (Season Two, Episode 6)
The Plot Against America, “Part 3” (Season One, Episode 3)
Ramy, “Can You Hear Me Now?” (Season Two, Episode 2)
Ramy, “Miakhalifa.mov” (Season Two, Episode 4)
Ramy, “They” (Season Two, Episode 6)
Rick and Morty, “Never Ricking Morty” (Season Four, Episode 6)
Schitt’s Creek, “The Pitch” (Season Five, Episode 12)
Schitt’s Creek, “Happy Ending” (Season Five, Episode 14)
Sex Education, “Episode 7” (Season Two, Episode 7)
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, “Launch,” (Season Five, Episode 2)
Staged, “Who the F#!k is Michael Sheen?” (Season One, Episode 3)
Ted Lasso, “Two Aces” (Season One, Episode 6)
Vida, “Episode 20” (Season Three, Episode 4)
What We Do in the Shadows, “Colin’s Promotion” (Season Two, Episode 5)
Wynonna Earp, “Holy War Part 2” (Season Four, Episode 6)

Dark — “Paradise”
(Season Three, Episode 8)

How the season 3 finale of 'Dark' brings the series full-circle - Insider

Massive series spoilers for Dark
By Pedro Aubry

…the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.— Albert Einstein
Dark, Season One, Episode 1, Minute 1

This illusion that our friend is talking about is so stubborn, so persistent, that try as I might to break free of its spell (and oh do I try), I must sit here, now, and learn in real time (whatever that means) what in the world my article is that purports to “celebrate 2020”. I have no idea what lies ahead or where this is going, so let’s find out together! Turns out there are spoilers after the sixth paragraph, and if my tenses seem like they’re all over the place, fret not; it’s just an illusion.

Austin is no-doubt prettying this up with a title and all that, so by now we both know that the show I’m covering is the hit German sci-fi thriller Netflix original series Dark, whose third season hits the digital shelves this 27th of June, 2020.

I love this show. I LOVE this show. I don’t research much for this article, but after seeing three statements likening it to Stranger Things, I must say I mostly contrast the two. Indeed, thinking of the two side-by-side, one clearly sticks out as an intentionally palatable amalgamation of all the low-hanging fruit that can be extracted from the nostalgia for a decade (or perceived nostalgia for all those who weren’t alive or weren’t effectively people yet). Not saying Stranger Things is a bad show – I’m actually fond of it – but you get the sense that Netflix took that Everest-sized mountain of data on all their subscribers and their millions and billions of views, gave it a good shake, and pieced together the Legos that fell out into an instantly lovable hit.

Dark is no such toy kit, but an excessively ornate hand-crafted work of art of which there is but one and nothing else quite like it. Every minute is unapologetically imbued with plot, as naturally as if it were a law of the universe, much like the Higgs field imbues mass unto every particle that flows through it. Dripping with detail at every turn, there isn’t a lazy line or an ill-framed shot to be found. There’s not an ounce of fat to be trimmed. The score, often combining the traditional and non-traditional, is rich and heavy when appropriate, and delicate when it needs to be, and always thick with emotion. A show that thrives on its use of technically dull, faded (dark?!) colors, this show has some of the greenest landscapes, bluest skies, and warmest fall forests I’ve seen in a work of fiction. Shot in 4K, it’s a gorgeous watch and they do not hold back when they need to dip into the color wheel for some added oomph, a touch of texture, or a soupçon of shock-value.

Especially impressive and apparent is the show’s effort behind casting. Lots of shows have great casts, but most of them only really do it the once. Not so, Dark. Of its roughly thirty-one unique characters (shall I add that the entire show runs only some 24 hours and 10 minutes?), only four are portrayed by a single person. Thus, the remaining TWENTY-SEVEN characters are portrayed by two-to-three actors (and in at least two cases, four actors). Don’t worry, I’ve left out a couple of non-trivial actors we only see in the finale.

I suppose I start spoilers here: the reason we need upwards of (in excess of?) sixty faces to portray 30 characters in a plot so thickly woven is because a central facet of this story is time travel. Not to spend much time on it, there’re a handful of ways to bounce in time (only really in increments of 33 years), and people exploit it, people are confused by it, blah blah blah, story. Let’s circle back to the five-dozen individuals who were cast; did I mention this show has 26 episodes? The average episode length is just under 56 minutes, so if you want to give each character more than an hour of screen time for the entire series, you’re going to need a lot of overlap. And there is overlap. Anywho, back to why it’s impressive… anyone can cast 60 people. But here, the character comes first, and they somehow managed to find sets of individuals who look like each other and act like each other, mannerisms and all (is it fantastic directing? great makeup? excellent talent? all of the above?) and never do I doubt the fact that yes, these are the same person separated by 33-66 years. No-one is particularly weak, nor does anyone steal the show. Everything is balance throughout.

I could keep going, but honestly just watch the show. If subtitles turn you off, give it a shot in English (or whatever available language you prefer). If you like DENSE plot, sci-fi, time travel, or just shows that organically stick to the plan for under 30 episodes and end gracefully, give this a whirl. If you’ve seen the show, I point you to this dedicated website where you can have some fun clicking around.

Alright, now I need to pick an episode.

If you’re at this paragraph and you read things top-to-bottom, you know more than I do where this is going. You’re reading something capped with the episode name and number, while I’m struggling to find out which episode it is that I write about. I have very strong feelings for episode 25. It’s quite good, and a quite well-told wrap of the first 24 episodes. As I reflect, however, the fact that it touches each of the preceding 1,377 minutes (22h57m), I don’t want to try to do it justice here. As I’m getting to above, this show at any given point has a ton of plot points in motion, so writing instead about the finale, “Paradise”, makes more sense and is more satisfying.

Why do I love the finale? Many reasons. Yes, this show is about time travel, but it’s never a gimmick, and that’s true throughout, but the final episode wields it in a completely novel way from any time prior in the show, with the penultimate episode setting up the alley-oop marvelously. Does that mean they came up with some surprise cop-out in the last 70 minutes of the series? Hell no. Do all the timelines get resolved in the end and do all those loose-ends get tied up? Kinda! Not going into too much detail here, the last episode of the show is a marvelous ode to all that came before, but touching on all that insane plot barely at all. It’s not a new story, there aren’t new characters (save a couple of faces that were alluded to before but whom we’ve not met in person yet), there aren’t any new mechanics or laws or anything; but the episode still feels new and fresh. The score is expanded on a little, and they make a couple of good soundtrack choices, but that’s it. For a show as complex as this, does it end simply? One could argue that it does! But do I feel a hollow victory, or breathe a sigh of relief when the final credits roll? Not at all. Among all the complicated thoughts and emotions all stirring at the same time, I feel satisfied (a feeling greatly helped along by the palate-cleanser choice they made for final song). You get the sense of the weight of the thing that just finished, and the care that went into every one of those carefully premeditated 24 hours. If that sounds short, remember it’s just an illusion. Dark is fourteen-hundred-and-fifty individually, hand-crafted minutes of art, and I’d say a pinnacle of what one can do with this medium.

Conveniently, the apocalypse is also happening throughout! All mid-2020! They wrapped filming the third season in December of 2019, so the editing room (home office?) must’ve had an interesting time getting ready for their release date, which coincided with the date of the apocalypse in the show (27 June 2020). It was a bit of a trip to watch these people in 2019 freaking out about how “the apocalypse is happening in 2020!”. Only reality could give it that extra dash of authenticity. Congrats, 2020. You made Dark even better.

Pedro’s Top 10 Episdoes of 2020

  1. Dark, “Paradise” (Season Three, Episode 8)
  2. Avenue 5, “This is Physically Hurting Me” (Season One, Episode 8)
  3. The Outsider, “Must/Can’t” (Season One, Episode 10)
  4. Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal, “Slave of the Scorpion” (Season One, Episode 10)
  5. Dark, “In Between Time” (Season Three, Episode 7)
  6. Rick and Morty, “The Vat of Acid Episode” (Season Four, Episode 8)
  7. Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal, “Coven of the Damned” (Season One, Episode 8)
  8. Avenue 5, “Is It Your Ears” (Season One, Episode 6)
  9. The Queen’s Gambit, “End Game” (Season One, Episode 7)
  10. The Mandalorian, “Chapter 16: The Rescue” (Season Two, Episode 8)

Devs — “Episode 8”
(Season One, Episode 8)

By Ryan Lugar

Warnings: Upcoming spoilers, if you haven’t watched Devs yet, proceed with caution.

Warning Follow Up: If you haven’t watched Devs yet, stop what you’re doing and watch Devs.

Cautious Proceeding Follow Up: Seriously, stop what you’re doing. It’s on Hulu. Don’t have Hulu? Bum if off a friend. Don’t have any friends? Go to Hulu’s website, sign-up for a free trial, and watch Season One.

I swear if you haven’t watched Season One yet…

Alright, let’s talk Devs.

Now that you’ve seen Season One of Devs we can both agree that this is the best show of 2020, and probably the best thing to hit TV since Breaking Bad. This will be the show people catch up on in 3-4 years and say, “Damn, how did Garland know?”. Alex Garland has been top dog in the sci-fi thriller genre since his arrival. 28 Days Later…, Sunshine. Ex Machina. Annihilation. Now Devs

ONLY BANGERS.

Oh you like technologic, sci-fi thrillers clearly based on the tech giant Google? 

Let’s take it a step further.

Insert the debate between determinism and free will.

This is not Stranger Things, to enjoy Garland’s writing and directing, you have to pay attention and maybe even take notes to keep up with the depth of Devs. I am not up to date on the current rules and restrictions to The Emmys, but just give Garland all the awards. Save yourself the time and money for the show’s production, just mail all the trophies to Garland because nothing else stacks up. All secondary awards, send to Carmen Cuba for her job casting this show.

From Nick Offerman to Sonoya Mizuno, all the way to Zach Grenier, Cub was hitting home runs in the casting department. 

Grenier plays a man named Kenton, Kenton is a man who will haunt your dreams and gaslight you into thinking the nightmare is your fault. He is the absolute worst, but played perfectly by Grenier.

Mizuno (who also teamed up with Garland in Ex Machina), is amazing from start to finish. My first time watching the show I was at first disappointed that Sergei, played by Karl Glusman, was killed off and not going to be the show’s protagonist. Then after episode one, it was the Mizuno and Lily Show. After Sergei failed at his James Bond mission, Mizuno was front and center and was the audience’s eyes into Devs. She was learning as we were learning. Her strong performance created a gravitational pull towards Lily.

The hardest character to crack into is Forest, played by Offerman. He is NOT Ron Swanson, not even close, which will take the entire first episode to shake off when looking at Offerman.

However, once he appears in the dark forest in this image, and ruthlessly has Sergei killed, this is no longer the man from Parks and Rec who said, “I’ve cried twice in my life. Once when I was 7 and hit by a school bus. And then again when I heard that Li’l Sebastian had passed.” He’s crazed, focused, determined (literally), and terrifying. His actions and dialogue are detached from human emotion, and will do anything to be with his daughter again. Seems a bit contradictory to me, but get over it, he’s essentially a Zuckerberg-Musk cyborg who believes himself to be a God.

This is revealed in Episode 8 when Forest tells Lily that Devs is actually Deus, God. Although he acts like it was originally a joke, let’s be real, only people with God-complexes make those jokes. Episode 8 is a perfect episode in TV history because you can watch it over and over again AND TOTALLY MISS the climax every single time. Lily “breaks the wheel” of determinism, ditches the gun as to make her own decision in life, and yet, still drops to her ultimate death with Forest. 

Guess f***ing what?! IT WAS STEWART BOTH TIMES. 

This is from the projection Lily and Forest watch together. Their and our focus, as it should be, is on Lily pointing the gun at Forest. What everyone misses, including myself both times I watched the show, is Stewart walking to the control panel as they drift across the vacuum. The show concludes, Lily and Forest both ascend into the system’s simulation, and we believe this breakthrough occurs because of Lily’s broken wheel. Nope. Garland takes a note from Diddy and mind fucks us all. It was determined no matter what Lily did, they were going down and Stewart was going to make sure of it. 

Episode 8 is the perfect conclusion to a perfect show. It provides the audience with enough closure to be satisfied, but enough left open to continue the discussion after the last line is delivered. I just pray that it is determined there will not be a Devs Season 2. 

Devs tells an amazing story and it would be a shame to see it stretched out, as much as I’d like to watch more.

Ryan’s Top 10 Episodes of 2020

  1. Devs, “Episode 8” (Season One, Episode 8)
  2. The Queen’s Gambit, “End Game” (Season One, Episode 7)
  3. Devs, “Episode 1” (Season One, Episode 1)
  4. The Last Dance “Episode X” (Season One, Episode 10)
  5. Letterkenny, “Mitsvah” (Season Nine, Episode 4)
  6. Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time, “Match 1” (Season One, Episode 1)
  7. The Queen’s Gambit, “Openings” (Season One, Episode 1)
  8. The Mandalorian, “Chapter 14: The Tragedy” (Season Two, Episode 6)
  9. The Bachelorette, “Week 4” (Season Sixteen, Episode 4)
  10. Love is Blind, “Countdown to I Do’s” (Season One, Episode 8)

The Good Lord Bird — “Mister Fred”
(Season One, Episode 3)

Until John Brown Becomes the Messiah of the White Man, Black Lives will  Never Matter to White Americans”: Darnell Martin on The Good Lord Bird |  Filmmaker Magazine

By Sarah Staudt

“The most immoral of all means is the non-use of ANY means.” – Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals

I happen to have learned a lot about John Brown as a child. Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, was driving distance from my childhood home in the DC Suburbs. It’s a national historic site, so they have ranger tours, and the truth is, other than the pretty location, there’s only one thing to talk about – this crazy guy who led an unsuccessful raid short lived raid trying to set off the civil war and end slavery.

I now work in racial justice full time, and I understand a little more what motivates someone to do what John Brown did. I understand much more clearly how witnessing suffering and injustice can radicalize you; how simply seeing with your own eyes the brutality of American race relations can take you in, chew you up, and spit you out with a new mission in life. And I’ve also seen lots of white people stand right next to me, see the same things, and shrug it off as “above their pay grade”, “too complicated”, or, worse, “justified”.

I’ve also had lots of people want me to write a book. To which my response is basically, “no…literally every person directly affected by this situation is more qualified to tell the story of racial oppression than I am.” My story is not the story that needs to be told – as is true for probably 99% of white allies in racial liberation work.

John Brown is definitely one of that 1% – but telling his story is complicated. He was a failure – but two years after his death, his name would be in a Union army marching song. The Good Lord Bird based on a book of the same name, does the smart thing, and places John Brown in context by viewing him through the eyes of “Onion” a (fictional) young compatriot who he freed from slavery in Kansas. Onion is a 15 year old young man, but, in a joke that pays dividends all season, dresses up as a girl early on to escape, and John Brown never notices he’s definitely, obviously, a boy.

The question of being able to recognize that Onion is a guy – and, notably, also the ability to actually differentiate Onion from other Black people, is a pretty great metaphor for the uncrossable divide between Brown and Onion throughout the series. Brown may be deeply committed to Onion’s safety and happiness, and willing to die for it – but that doesn’t mean he knows him. The Black characters, on the other hand, nearly all immediately ask why the heck Onion is wearing a dress. In the third episode, Mister Fred, we meet the first major character who doesn’t see through Onion’s disguise – and it’s none other than Frederick Douglass (played by the inimitable and hilarious Daveed Diggs). The episode centers around a true event – Brown came to Douglass, and asked him for support in, essentially, starting the civil war, by leading a force of Black Americans, enslaved and free, in a military revolt. Brown doesn’t have a good plan. From the beginning, it’s a suicide mission, and Douglass isn’t up for it. He refuses to help.

Onion, meanwhile, spends his time around the people in Frederick’s household in upstate New York – including the Black servants, who are fans of Douglass’s, but certainly don’t think he’s perfect. Douglass has two partners – his longtime wife, who is Black, and his newer, younger white wife. And, he’s very quick to chat up young “miss” Onion.

Onion also gets his first real opportunity at real freedom – the underground railroad tunnel under Douglass’s house. The other Black people around him urge him to take it, and to choose the life of freedom – and the relative comfort and distance from the suffering in the south that Douglass’s life represents, and leave the crazy white guy behind.

 In the end, Onion chooses to go back with the crazy white guy. Because in the whole episode, Brown is the only person saying that there is no excuse for suffering, that it must stop now, and that it is worth the lives and livelihoods, and indeed, the souls of everyone to fight that fight.

It’s a weird year to tell the story of a white ally. But if you’re going to tell one of those stories, this is the one to tell, The show never makes Brown the uncomplicated hero – Ethan Hawke always plays him as, well, crazy, not particularly well organized, and frankly pretty annoying. Did he succeed in getting anything actually done? Who the hell knows. Certainly, he made an impact. We call it John Brown’s “raid” now – but at the time, it was called a rebellion and treason. No one in 1859 was unclear about how big a deal it was to call for an end to slavery at all costs. And most, even most abolitionists, Black AND White, were not eager to start that war. That’s an understandable position, and though Douglass is painted as silly and a little out of touch, it never goes so far as to call him wrong exactly.

But when we’ve got a genocide on your hands, we should always be asking ourselves whether it’s better to wait until some undetermined “right time” – and how much that waiting costs. Say what you will about John Brown, but no one can say he stood on the sidelines while his fellow humans suffered. And that is the most example that he can set for anyone seeking to be an ally in the future. There are good means, bad means, means that work, means that are lost causes…but inaction is not an option.

Sarah’s Top 10 Episodes of 2020

  1. The Good Place, “Whenever You’re Ready” (Season Four, Episodes 13/14)
  2. Devs, “Episode 8” (Season One, Episode 8)
  3. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, “Corridors” (Season Five, Episode 3)
  4. I May Destroy You, “Social Media is a Great Way to Connect” (Season One, Episode 9)
  5. The Good Lord Bird, “Mister Fred” (Season One, Episode 3)
  6. The Good Fight, “The Gang Tries to Serve a Subpoena” (Season Four, Episode 2)
  7. How To with John Wilson, “How to Cook the Perfect Risotto” (Season One, Episode 6)
  8. The Great, “A Pox on Hope” (Season One, Episode 7)
  9. Mrs. America, “Phyllis & Fred & Brenda & Marc” (Season One, Episode 5)
  10. Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, “West African Giant Black Millipedes” (Season One, Episode 5″

Honorable Mentions

Better Call Saul, “Bagman” (Season Five, Episode 8)
Better Call Saul, “Bad Choice Road” (Season Five, Episode 9)
Better Things, “Listen to the Roosters” (Season Four, Episode 10)
Big Mouth, “The New Me” (Season Four, Episode 1)
Big Mouth, “Horrority House” (Season Four, Episode 9)BoJack Horseman, “The View from Halfway Down” (Season Six, Episode 15)
The Boys, “What I Know” (Season Two, Episode 8)
The Good Lord Bird, “Smells Like Bear” (Season One, Episode 4)
The Good Lord Bird, “Last Words” (Season One, Episode 7)
Harley Quinn, “Bensonhurst” (Season One, Episode 10)
Harley Quinn, “New Gotham” (Season Two, Episode 1)
Harley Quinn, “Bachelorette” (Season Two, Episode 9)
Little America, “The Manager” (Season One, Episode 1)
Little America, “The Rock” (Season One, Episode 7)
The Mandalorian, “Chapter 10: The Passenger” (Season Two, Episode 2)
The Mandalorian, “Chapter 13: The Jedi” (Season Two, Episode 5)
The Magicians, “Apocalypse? Now?!” (Season Five, Episode 5)
Mrs. America, “Bella” (Season One, Episode 7)
Mrs. America, “Houston” (Season One, Episode 8)
Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, “Dinner Party” (Season One, Episode 2)
Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, “Mythic Quest: Quarantine” (Season One, Episode 10)
Ramy, “Little Omar” (Season Two, Episode 3)
Ramy, “They” (Season Two, Episode 6)
Rick and Morty, “The Vat of Acid Episode” (Season Four, Episode 8)
Saved By the Bell, “Rent-A-Mom” (Season One, Episode 5)
Schitt’s Creek, “The Pitch” (Season Five, Episode 12)
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, “Heart (Parts 1 & 2) (Season Five, Episodes 12/13)
Staged (All of Season One)
Ted Lasso, “The Hope That Kills You” (Season One, Episode 10)

Note — Small Axe’s “Mangrove” would be my #1 of the year…but it’s a movie.

The Good Place — “Whenever You’re Ready”
(Season Four, Episodes 13/14)

TV Review – The Good Place: Whenever You're Ready & Season 4 | TL;DR Movie  Reviews and Analysis

Series spoilers for The Good Place

By Dennis Sullivan

It seems fitting to write about The Good Place during 2020. The show centers around morality, life, death, and how to be a good person in spite of, well, everything; not exactly normal topics for primetime television, but describes this year succinctly. It’s the little show unlike anything I’ve ever seen, full of twists and turns interspaced between surrealist moments while making you care for these mismatched characters. It challenges the viewer to be a better person and is a nice dose of positivity during the reign of the anti-hero television star.

Even better, The Good Place didn’t choke in this finale. Instead, ‘Whenever You’re Ready’ far exceeded my high expectations. Our merry band of misfits finds themselves dealing with the repercussions of the final twist of the show. After finally earning the right to go to the real good place (a show-long goal), they realize that something isn’t right. What they found was a forever-afterlife that meets your every wish and grants you every experience possible, and then has you wait around for nothing in particular…for eternity. Your mind goes numb, and you become a shell of what you once were, quasi-existing out of habit. And that’s it. Forever.

Not thrilled with this reality after working so hard to get there, the gang scrambles to find another solution and eventually land on this: let people leave the Good Place when they want. They leave the afterlife, ceasing to even quasi-exist, but it would bring the excitement back to the afterlife and allow everyone to find an internal peace. Let people experience everything they want, let their souls become complete, and then let choose to be done whenever they’re ready.

I have to admit that I didn’t expect the solution to the afterlife to be letting people end it, but the show made a strong case that life is great because it ends. That’s what makes it special, dramatic, intense, and worth cherishing. If it lasts forever, it ceases to be those things eventually. Additionally, there’s no pressure for anyone to leave the Good Place. It’s just helpful knowing that choice is there, and that seems to do the trick for everyone involved.

The rest of the extended finale deals with how the characters end up spending their afterlives, living thousands and thousands of lifetimes. It leads to a series of goodbyes for the characters we’ve come to know and love. It’s emotionally and intellectually compelling, goofy and light-hearted, serious yet playful. Most importantly, it does the characters justice in their final scenes and brings closure to their stories that makes the whole journey worth the experience. Eat your heart out, Game of Thrones.

Dennis’ Top 10 Episodes of 2020

  1. The Good Place, “Whenever You’re Ready” (Season Four, Episodes 13/14)
  2. Schitt’s Creek, “Happy Ending” (Season Six, Episode 14)
  3. I May Destroy You, “Someone is Lying” (Season One, Episode 2)
  4. BoJack Horseman, “The View from Halfway Down” (Season Six, Episode 15)
  5. The Good Fight, “The Gang Deals with Alternate Reality” (Season Four, Episode 1)
  6. We’re Here, “Gettysburg, Pennsylvania” (Season One, Episode 1)
  7. High Maintenance, “Blackfish” (Season Four, Episode 4)
  8. What We Do in the Shadows, “On the Run” (Season Two, Episode 6)
  9. Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun, “Housemates” (Season One, Episode 1)
  10. Rick and Morty, “Never Ricking Morty” (Season Four, Episode 6)

The Haunting of Bly Manor — “The Beast in the Jungle”
(Season Two, Episode 9)

The Haunting of Bly Manor' Finale Recap: Episode 9 | TVLine

Season finale spoilers for The Haunting of Bly Manor

By Jaclyn Jones

While I loved Victoria Pedretti in The Haunting of Hill House, she just didn’t feel right to play the role of Dani Clayton. It seemed like her character was written to be stronger than how she portrayed it. The other characters would talk about what a brave nanny she was, though she was blubbering and her eyes fluttered whenever she found herself in a slightly tense situation.

Not saying that she didn’t have plenty of cause to be terrified in that house, or that she couldn’t possibly be traumatized from the tragic life she left back in the States. But the near-constant weepy expression she had really began to wear on my damn nerves.

With that off my chest, I will say that there was some excellent acting. Particularly T’Nia Miller, Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, and Rahul Kohli.

In the finale of The Haunting at Bly Manor, we open to Viola with a tight grip around Dani’s throat. She’s making the same journey that she’s made every night for centuries: emerging from the lake, wandering through the manor, looking for her daughter.

By crossing Viola’s path, Dani has found herself choking to death in the hands of the Lady of the Lake. At the end of her walk, when Viola has made it to her old bedroom and just as the nanny starts to slip away, Flora leaps in front of them and begs for Dani to be let go. Believing the little girl in front of her is her daughter, she releases Dani, picks Flora up, and begins her walk back to the water.

To save Flora, who is locked in the arms of Viola, from drowning, Dani invites Viola’s soul into her body. Viola accepts, but Dani finds she still has control of her body and mind. For now.

Henry and the kids head to America to start a new life; Dani and Jamie do the same.

But this isn’t the end. For years, Dani and Jamie are able to live a happy, loving life together. But as they knew she would, Viola begins creeping into Dani’s mind, slowly starting to take over. To ensure Jamie’s safety, Dani flies back to England, returns to Bly Manor, and takes her place as the Lady in the Lake.

Present-day, we see that it was Jamie telling the story to the wedding guests from the beginning of the first episode, and the wedding she’s at is Flora’s, who is now a young woman that has no memory of her time at Bly Manor.

I so heavily wept both times I watched this episode. An ugly cry. A sob. The love and relationships we see are so full and so real, that the way things play out in this final episode shattered my heart.

If you’re looking for a good scare, you’ll find a few in Bly Manor. But not nearly enough to make up for the amount of PURE SADNESS.

Tl;dr: Sorta scary, but yikes, it’s a sad one.

Jaclyn’s Top 10 Episodes of 2020

  1. The Mandalorian, “Chapter 10: The Passenger” (Season Two, Episode 2)
  2. Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun, “Treasure” (Season One, Episode 2)
  3. The Last Dance, “Episode IV” (Season One, Episode 4)
  4. The Last Dance, “Episode I” (Season One, Episode 1)
  5. Dark, “Adam and Eva” (Season Three, Episode 3)
  6. Dark, “Paradise” (Season Three, Episode 8)
  7. The Crown, “The Balmoral Test” (Season Four, Episode 2)
  8. The Crown, “Terra Nullius” (Season Four, Episode 6)
  9. The Haunting of Bly Manor, “The Beast in the Jungle” (Season One, Episode 9)
  10. The Haunting of Bly Manor, “The Great Good Place” (Season One, Episode 1)

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark — “The Motherlode”
(Season One, Episode 4)

I'll Be Gone in the Dark episode 4 recap - "The Motherlode"

By J.C. Pankratz

Much like its eponymous predecessor, the HBO docuseries I’ll Be Gone in the Dark begins with a preface from renowned thriller author Gillian Flynn: a recounting of how she came to Michelle McNamara’s work as a true crime author. She gives us the lay of the land, and any true crime podcast listener or reader knows how clumsily and offensively these topics are often handled. The victims and survivors are faceless, cast away in favor of ogling at the face of evil and cracking jokes in the face of suffering. It’s a whole new bloodsport, and Flynn reminds us above all else to be choosy about whose narratives we choose when it comes to the true crime genre. 

But Michelle McNamara was very different. Her sense of humanity, paramount above all else, touched everything she did. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is not only about Michelle’s long journey to uncover the identity of the East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer, but about her dreams, her flaws, her strengths, her hopes as a person and a writer, her experiences as a woman and a mother. (One of her most famous pieces, an excerpt called “Letter to the Golden State Killer” is a truly incredible piece of writing, and perfectly characterizes her determination and tenacity.) The docuseries understands that this was Michelle’s life’s work, and coping with this life’s work led to her death. There is no judgment–this is what happens when you stare at the abyss, and the abyss stares back at you. 

I could honestly choose any episode from this series, but what’s stuck with me long after is episode four, “The Motherlode.” It recounts the period of time leading up to Michelle’s untimely death. We experience the highest of highs and lowest of lows right alongside her through the windows of her correspondence with others. This series works tremendously because it affords Michelle the same dignity and humanity she so strived to give everyone else. It has the authenticity of a love letter and the sober understanding of a eulogy. As the episode creeps towards the end, we know, even as Michelle doesn’t, her life will soon be over. It’s in those last few texts with her husband, Patton Oswalt, that we are most keenly reminded of what a loss this will be. Her warmth, her passion, her perseverance. And then, just like that, as the episode cuts to black–she’s gone. 

J.C.’s Top 5 Episodes of 2020

  1. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, “The Motherlode” (Season One, Episode 4)
  2. The Crown, “Fairytale” (Season Four, Episode 2)
  3. Stump Sohla, “Astronaut Thanksgiving” (Season One, Episode 7)
  4. The Queen’s Gambit, “Doubled Pawns” (Season One, Episode 3)
  5. The Crown, “The Balmoral Test” (Season Four, Episode 2)

Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time — “Match 4”
(Season One, Episode 4)

Jeopardy Greatest Of All Time: Episode 4 Results — Ken Jennings Wins |  TVLine

By Keith Jackson

What can I say about Jeopardy! that hasn’t already been said?*

The quintessential game show has been running so long in the 7:30pm slot of my local NBC affiliate I can’t fathom a time before Jeopardy!. It’s a staple of American television, which is an awfully trite phrase to use but is all too true. Hearing Johnny Gilbert’s “THIS! IS! JEOPARDY!” blare out from the TV when you’re in another room, accompanied by the ubiquitous Merv Griffin theme, you know: “oh, it’s 7:30pm it’s time to sit down and watch Jeopardy!.”

That is to say, Jeopardy! is not often appointment viewing (except for a brief period in the early ‘10s when I was trying to watch every episode, and track how well I did with a goal of eventually assuring myself that maybe I could be on the show… but I digress!). Some days I’ll make a point to sit down when Jeopardy! starts and watch and try to answer every clue. Some days (especially earlier this year) I’ll just be doomscrolling Twitter, occasionally hear a category that sounds interesting and pipe up with a question to the answer. Some days I just catch Final Jeopardy. The show is just there and it is assuring to know it will always be there.

There are some events, however, that get you really invested. Some of these are scheduled: the different tournaments (Teen, College, Teachers, Champions). Some, however, cannot be planned for and just… happen. I remember when this “Ken Jennings” guy started getting on a streak and having to tune in thinking, “surely this is the last one, he’s on game 20/30/40/50/etc.!” But no, he kept going. There was then a similar, though slightly different situation last year in James Holzhauer. This time he wasn’t just winning games but he was also taking risks and making bank. It was thrilling to watch night after night.

(Apologies to Brad Rutter, I don’t have any memories of his run.

So now we come to a unique situation: an appointment viewing event for the top three Jeopardy players — the “GOATs”, if you will — on an unfamiliar channel, ABC, at an unfamiliar time, 8pm. Those last two things are seemingly insignificant, but for such a consistent show it was just out of the ordinary enough to think, “huh, this must be special”. It certainly earned all the luster it gave itself. I particularly enjoyed how the three contestants, Ken, James, and Brad, despite competing for the “top prize” in Jeopardy! lore were able to banter and have fun.

And I would be remiss if I did not mention the absolute legend, Alex Trebek. Just as I can’t imagine a weekday evening without Jeopardy!, I can’t imagine it being hosted by anyone but him: the unparalleled quiz show host. Throughout his entire 36-year hosting run, he never got jaded, he never phoned it in. I think he undeservedly got a reputation that he was aloof or snobby, since he had “all the answers” and would sometimes sound short if a contestant got an answer wrong, or just chuckle and say, “okay” to a contestant’s interview story. But what I always saw was genuine curiosity, and an eagerness for a good battle of wits. You could see him get excited when a game was close, or someone was able to give the correct response to a true Daily Double, after initially hesitating.

I obviously don’t want to try and speak for him, but Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time must have been the perfect capstone to Alex Trebek’s career. It was always incredibly touching whenever he would provide an update to his pancreatic cancer battle. It was remarkable that he kept going and was always honest about how he was reacting to treatment, physically and mentally.  To be going through that and have the opportunity to present to the world a competition on this level, hopefully was a very bright period in an otherwise extremely difficult time.

* mid-way through writing this I thought, “should I do the corny thing of writing a phrase in the form of a question?” only to realize I did so in the very first sentence! Welp.

Keith’s Top 10 Episodes of 2020

  1. Schitt’s Creek, “Happy Ending” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  2. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, “Monsters Recede But Never Vanish” (Season One, Episode 5)
  3. Middleditch and Schwartz, “Parking Lot Wedding” (Season One, Episode 1)
  4. The Great British Bake-Off, “The Great Festive Back-Off” (Season Ten, Episode 12)
  5. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, “Trump & the Coronavirus and William Barr” (Season Seven, Episode 28)
  6. The Mandalorian, “Chapter 16: The Rescue” (Season Two, Episode 8)
  7. Bob’s Burgers, “Worms of In-Rear-Ment” (Season Eleven, Episode 2)
  8. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Debbie” (Season Seven, Episode 5)
  9. Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time, “Match 4” (Season One, Episode 4)
  10. America’s Funniest Home Videos, “Happy Hollidaze, Pranks, and Kids Getting Upset for Dumb Reasons” (Season Thirty-One, Episode 7)

The Last Dance — “Episode VII”
(Season One, Episode 7)

The Last Dance' Episodes 7 and 8 - How to watch and stream ESPN's Michael  Jordan documentary

By Robbie Mehling

As a young boy in the 90s, it was impossible not to be aware of the cultural dominance of Michael Jordan, from the championships of the Chicago Bulls to the animated romp of Space Jam. Over the course of ten episodes, The Last Dance looks at the Bulls in their 97-98 season which would turn into their sixth championship while also jumping back to explore past seasons and the life of Michael Jordan.

In a series about basketball, however, the episode that stood out most to me, was the seventh episode where Jordan wins his third title with the Bulls and then quits to take up baseball. To me, this episode really showed the mythos of Michael Jordan in its heightened form.  A man who refuses to fail at all costs. A man who loves his family. And most importantly, despite his mythic status, still just a man. 

Robbie’s Top 10 Episodes of 2020

  1. Ted Lasso, “The Hope That Kills You” (Season One, Episode 10)
  2. Doctor Who, “The Haunting of Villa Diodati” (Season Twelve, Episode 8)
  3. Star Wars: The Clone Wars, “Victory and Death” (Season Seven, Episode 12)
  4. The Mandalorian, “Chapter 11: The Heiress” (Season Two, Episode 3)
  5. Superstore, “Floor Supervisor” (Season Six, Episode 3)
  6. Better Call Saul, “Something Unforgivable” (Season Four, Episode 10)
  7. Animaniacs, “Jurassic Lark / Suspended Animation, Part 1 / Of Mice and Memes / Suspended Animation, Part 2” (Season One, Episode 1)
  8. The Last Dance, “Episode VII” (Season One, Episode 7)
  9. Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time, “Match 4” (Season One, Episode 4)
  10. The Queen’s Gambit, “End Game” (Season One, Episode 7)

Lovecraft Country — “Jig-A-Bobo”
(Season One, Episode 8)

The Safe Negro Guide to Lovecraft Country: 'Jig-a-Bobo'

By Alan Gordon

Carnivorous shape-shifters that appear at sundown; malevolent ghosts; dark rituals seeking immortality that require human sacrifices; giant, nameless beasts that appear out of nowhere to devour. But do you know what’s really terrifying?

Being Black in America.

I’m not about to claim direct knowledge of being a victim in an oppressive society, but I’ve had a career as a public defender that has put me, shall we say, adjacent to it. Lovecraft Country, based on a novel by white author Matt Ruff, plays with conventions inspired by the white horror writer and notorious racist H.P. Lovecraft, and flips them into a world where the Lewis and Freeman [!] families are in as much danger from moving into the wrong Chicago neighborhood or eating in the wrong small-town coffee shop while traveling as they are from the predations of generations of Braithwaites, the white family with a penchant towards dark magic.

“Jig-A-Bobo” starts with one of the most significant cultural landmarks in American history: the lynching of 14 year old Emmett Till and the display of his brutalized body at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago. Till was actually a character in earlier episodes, referred to by his nickname Bobo, whose fate is signaled by a possessed Ouija board in the “Holy Ghost” haunted house episode. When his friend, teenager Diana Freeman, can’t face the prospect of viewing his body, she flees the crowd, only to be waylaid by a pair of white cops seeking information about her family. When she refuses to co-operate, one of them performs an invocation. And then it gets weird.

I think we all have an image from childhood of some illustration or book cover that terrified us, that we thought might come to life when we weren’t looking. Diana’s image leaps straight off the cover of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and is imbued with a century of racist caricature — a Topsy. In fact, two of them, with blood-red lips, nappy wigs and long, lethal nails. The two of them contort, dance and pursue her, and they are the scariest creatures in the entire series. (Credit to performers Kaelynn Harris and Bianca Brewton as well as Jamaica Craft’s choreography.)

There are other plot lines continuing, with a surprise appearance by a shoggoth in the last act of one of them, but it the constant pursuit of Diana by these demons that drives this episode. As with the entire series, the attention to detail — sets, costume, props, cinematography — is stunning. A later episode brings in the Tulsa massacre [also mentioned in Watchmen], which is also horrifying, but this the episode that haunts me. I couldn’t look away — and I wanted to.

Alan’s Top 10 Episodes of 2020

  1. Lovecraft Country, “Jig-A-Bobo” (Season One, Episode 8)
  2. The Plot Against America, “Part 3” (Season One, Episode 3) The family trip to Washington D.C. Yes, it could happen here. Chilling.
  3. The Crown, “The Hereditary Principal” (Season Four, Episode 7)
  4. The Crown, “The Balmoral Test” (Season Four, Episode 2)
  5. The Magicians, “Apocalypse? Now?!” (Season Five, Episode 5)
  6. The Magicians, “Oops!…I Did It again” (Season Five, Episode 6) Nice, snarky meta-references to a time-loop story, and Hale Appleman was superb.
  7. Dispatches from Elsewhere, “Simone” (Season One, Episode 2) The series had me for 8 1/2 episodes, then blew it with a self-indulgent meta-ending that explained nothing. But this one was beautiful.
  8. Briarpatch, “First Time Saint Disgrace” (Season One, Episode 1) As Chekhov didn’t quite say, “A tiger in the first act …”
  9. Dare Me, “Parallel Trenches” (Season One, Episode 5)
  10. The Queen’s Gambit, “Doubled Pawns” (Season One, Episode 3)

The Mandalorian — “Chapter 9: The Marshall”
(Season Two, Episode 1)

REVIEW: The Mandalorian – Season 2, Episode 1, "The Marshall" - Geeks +  Gamers

By Ken Jones

Controversial opinion: Disney is the best thing to happen to Star Wars. After the total garbage that was Episodes I, II, and III, as well as the terrible updates to the original trilogy, someone else clearly needed to take the reins to save the franchise. Disney’s Star Wars has brought us the best heist film of the decade in Rogue One and one of the best Westerns ever with The Mandalorian. The original trilogy holds a special place in my heart, having watched them just about every time I stayed home sick as a child. I’m thankful that I have memory of the movies without the dumbest CGI song to ever be created. But even with the warm fuzzies these movies bring, Rouge One and The Mandalorian are my favorite Star Wars things ever created.

Admittedly I’m not a super geek, I haven’t read any Star Wars books or watched the cheap animated shows so I’m sure there are a lot of references that I’m missing, but this show stands on its own. The Mandalorian benefits from this rich and diverse story material by exploring a vast galaxy that feels fully flushed out. And much how the original trilogy borrows from the Western genre, namely The Searchers, The Mandalorian takes this and runs with it, also taking inspiration from Sergio Leone. Yes, this is clearly sci-fi, but the sets, costumes, props, and music all scream Western, so I’d consider it a Western with sci-fi elements, and not the other way around. It just works in a galaxy where Han shot first.

In such a dark year with a limited number of new shows and movies coming out, The Mandalorian Season Two has been a bright spot. The season opener, titled “The Marshal”, gives perhaps the strongest Western vibe as the “cowboys” team up with the “Native Americans” to defeat a common enemy. Back on the very familiar Tatooine, our hero agrees to help a town marshal kill a menacing Krayt dragon in exchange for the return of the beskar armor he wears. As we have learned so far in this show, Mando is much better at killing people than creatures, so this is no easy task. Thankfully he doesn’t care about local beefs and is adept in getting people to do what he wants. Sand People and the human residents of Tatooine are no different to him, which is a major survival advantage. Tusken Raiders were only ever painted as savage beasts in the movies, but here we learn they are capable of complex communication, strategy, and generational knowledge. They even had a deaf actor help create the Sand People sign language used. Yay dimension!

Naturally, the pairing of groups is less than smooth, but Mando doesn’t care about their interpersonal problems and uses his cold ethical stance to provide the firm foundation to get very different peoples to work together. This sets the stage for a very fun, very unique battle with a giant monster. There’s a mix of lasers, explosions, and crude weapons. Plus, there are banthas used as fodder, which is inspired.

And that’s what I love about this show. It is clearly helmed by people who love Star Wars and want to build on an ever-growing galaxy. I may not have all the background knowledge about Star Wars that they do, but I’m glad they are super geeks, because it makes everything feel deeper. I abhor Episode I, but a character driving a makeshift speeder that may or may not be built around an engine from Anakin’s pod racer is still cool. There are other such reuse of old Star Wars items, but let’s not spoil too much.

I have spoken.

Ken’s Top 10 Episodes of 2020

  1. The Mandalorian, “Chapter 16: The Rescue” (Season Two, Episode 8)
  2. The Mandalorian, “Chapter 15: The Believer” (Season Two, Episode 7)
  3. The Mandalorian, “Chapter 9: The Marshall” (Season Two, Episode 1)
  4. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, “Walk Into the Light” (Season One, Episode 6)
  5. The Crown, “Fagan” (Season Four, Episode 5)
  6. The Plot Against America, “Part 6” (Season One, Episode 6)
  7. Dead to Me, “Where Do We Go From Here?” (Season Two, Episode 10)
  8. Little Fires Everywhere, “Picture Perfect” (Season One, Episode 7)
  9. Dracula, “The Rules of the Beast” (Season One, Episode 1)
  10. Unorthodox, “Part 4” (Season One, Episode 4)

Honorable mention: McMillions, “Episode 1” (Season One, Episode 1)

The Midnight Gospel — “Mouse of Silver”
(Season One, Episode 8)

The Midnight Gospel Season 1 finale recap: Mouse of Silver

By Leigh Montano

Hey hey! It’s your girl, Leigh, back again to talk about DEATH!

I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Hi! Welcome, we’re going to talk about The Midnight Gospel. Have you ever thought to yourself, “I wonder what Finn and Jake from Adventure Time would be like if they grew up and got really into weed and Buddhism…” Well, you’re in luck! Pendleton Ward, creator of Adventure Time, had a similar idea so he teamed up with his buddy, Duncan Trussell, took some audio that Trussell recorded as part of his Duncan Trussell Family Hour podcast, got some animators together and created The Midnight Gospel

This show is not for everyone. I’ve recommended it to many people and have had about a 50% success rate, which is by far my lowest success rate for a TV show recommendation. And I’m not gonna lie! It’s a weird show! The animation is abstract and absurd (cat pirates), the topics are weirdly deep (death, magic, reincarnation), there isn’t really a “plot” per se? There’s an overarching theme paired with some real life events. It’s hard to explain without spoilers so I’m throwing up my Spoiler Warning now!

You wouldn’t expect a show this absurd to be about death, but it is, so of course I had to talk about it.

There are a LOT of topics discussed in this show, but the one topic that is sprinkled into every episode is death. It’s here and there at first, just mentions of overdoses and then metaphorical, spiritual deaths until BAM, last episode has you knee deep in deep discussions about death with a woman who has terminal cancer, with her son, and coming to terms with that. 

WHA-BAM! 

I know, you wouldn’t expect a show about an interdimensional podcast host to get that deep but woah does it. 

For me this was such a natural “frog in a boiling pot of water” progression from absurd to poignet that I didn’t fully recognize what was happening until I was crying. You, as an audience member, are taken on such an absurd journey that you completely don’t understand that the whole show was so naturally leading up to this moment until it’s happening. The entire show is a meditation on the absurdity of life and death and the universe. It has moments of hilarity and disgust and beauty and darkness, all leading to a conversation about one’s own mortality with their progeny. 

Again, this show isn’t for everyone. But if it’s for you, it will EXTREMELY be your shit. 

The episode, “Mouse of Silver,” is set up much like every other episode of The Midnight Gospel; Clancy enters his inter-dimensional virtual reality thingy and has a conversation with his mom. The topics are largely Clancy/Duncan’s life and his mother’s life. The audience learns about her career as a psychologist, her opinions on how it shaped her children and herself, and eventually, her terminal cancer diagnosis. All the while, the audience watches Clancy/Duncan and his mother and an adorable troupe of doctor-bears as Clancy and his mother grow old and she eventually dies. 

And then is reborn from Clancy. It’s absurd, remember that. 

The discussion goes towards the spiritual as most of the discussions in The Midnight Gospel do, but it is indescribable to hear someone talk about coming to terms with death in such an optimistic way. I have struggled with finding words honestly for a while but it’s something that I recommend you experience. 

Ya know, if this sounds like your type of thing. 

Then some other shit happens and a pony made of ice cream is murdered and a dog with a black hole for a stomach saves the day and then Ram Dass is there. It’s a lot.

Maybe this show impacted me especially because of a relatively recent death of a parent of mine. Maybe it’s because I’m a weirdo who is introspective about my own mortality more than is probably healthy. Maybe it’s because we’ve been living through a pandemic and death is all around us. Who is to say. But finding new interpretations and optimisms about death while we are faced with an ongoing murder of thousands due to our own government’s lack of consideration for its people, has been marginally helpful. 

Leigh’s Top 10 Episodes of 2020

  1. Dark, “Paradise” (Season Three, Episode 8)
  2. Dark, “In Between Time” (Season Three, Episode 7)
  3. Dark, “Life and Death” (Season Three, Episode 5)
  4. The Midnight Gospel, “Mouse of Silver” (Season One, Episode 8)
  5. Devs, “Episode 7” (Season One, Episode 7)
  6. What We Do in the Shadows, “On the Run” (Season Two, Episode 6)
  7. The Great, “The Beaver’s Nose” (Season One, Episode 10)
  8. UNHhhh, “Straights” (Season One, Episode 131)
  9. Infinity Train, “The New Apex” (Season Three, Episode 10)
  10. She-Ra and the Princess She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, “Heart (Parts 1 & 2) (Season Five, Episodes 12/13)

Worst Episode of 2020: The Haunting of Bly Manor Episode 8. Fuck that episode so hard.

Modern Family — “Finale”
(Season Eleven, Episodes 17/18)

Modern Family' Finale: Series Creators On The Last Goodbye, Potential Mitch  & Cam Spinoff & Hugs In Time Of Social Distancing – Deadline

Series spoilers for Modern Family

By Sara Rust

Saying that this year has been a heaping pile of garbage with a burning fire custard filling is redundant, but saying that the week where both Modern Family and Schitt’s Creek aired their series finales was the lowest point of the year is incredibly accurate. Just when I needed my comfort shows the most, they both up and leave. Which ironically enough is also exactly what happens in the final episode of Modern Family.

A family that spent more time together than any other family, were splitting up. With one job offer presented to Cam, the whole dynamic shifted and everyone started spinning in different directions. All of the kids we’d watched grow up were transitioning into the positions that the adults had held at the beginning of the series. Dingbat Haley became a mom and took over the house that Cam and Mitchell started their family in. Then the two younger Dunphy’s left for a job in Switzerland and the University of Oregon. Even Manny was leaving to travel the world. Claire and Phil decided to go for an RV trip, something Phil’s father had done until his recent passing. Finally, Gloria was going to Columbia for the summer, creating the biggest change of all. Stubborn, old school Jay had finally given up his attitude of not caring about anyone and anything by learning Spanish for his wife and agreeing to spend the summer in Columbia as well. 

The amount of growth that each character had across this series is astounding. The best part is that it was never obvious, we thought we were just watching a light hearted family sitcom without much weight. When the show is looked back on though, it’s so neat to see how every single person morphed into a much better version of themselves. The only other show that has mastered the art of creating and laughter and crying in the same scene is Scrubs and that’s saying a lot in my opinion. I’m grateful that the show was able to have the ending that it deserved even if it did happen at such a raw moment in time. Thankfully, they left the porch light on.  

Sara’s Top 10 Episodes of 2020

  1. Schitt’s Creek, “The Presidential Suite” (Season Six, Episode 8)
  2. The Last Dance, “Episode IX” (Season One, Episode 9)
  3. Sex Education, “Episode 7” (Season Two, Episode 7)
  4. Modern Family, “I’m Going to Miss This” (Season Eleven, Episode 16)
  5. A Million Little Things, “One Year Later” (Season Two, Episode 17)
  6. Superstore, “Zephra Cares” (Season Five, Episode 17)
  7. Single Parents, “Welcome to Hilltop” (Season Two, Episode 12)
  8. The Great British Bake-Off, “Chocolate Week” (Season Eleven, Episode 4)
  9. The Crown, “Fairytale” (Season Four, Episode 3)
  10. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Ransom” (Season Seven, Episode 12)

Schitt’s Creek — “Happy Ending”
(Season Six, Episode 14)

Schitt's Creek' Finale: The Rose Family Gets Their “Happy Ending” |  IndieWire

Series spoilers for Schitt’s Creek

By Rachael Clark

SLOW BURN! What makes Schitt’s Creek such a beloved show is due it’s slow burn. The show is about a wealthy, obnoxious, self-absorbed family that loses all their money due to embezzlement by the father’s business partner. They end up living in a hotel located in the small town of Schitt’s Creek. Over six seasons you see all four family members slowly evolve and become better, more loving people. It isn’t really until the season two finale when the audience starts to see how each family member is growing as a better person. The episode I am talking about today is the series finale, “Happy Ending.” It is one of the better finales I have seen because we have watched these people slowly evolve over years, and now get to see their final time together in Schitt’s Creek. The parents, Johnny and Moira, are moving to California for Moira’s show, Alexis is moving to New York for her job, and David is staying in Schitt’s Creek.

We open with the family waking David up on his wedding day to inform him of some bad news. His first thought is about his fiancé, Patrick. “Did Patrick Die?” For many shows, comedic or dramatic, often times the gay characters get really depressing and tragic backstories and they never seem to have a happy ending. Thankfully this is not one of those scenarios. The bad news is they have to find a new officiant and change venues for the wedding both due to the huge rainstorm. It is decided that the mother, Moira, will officiate because she can keep her composure and she has done it before for Pat Sajack, the host of Wheel of Fortune.

As Moira sits down struggling to try to find the right words to say at the wedding, “Are we ready to spin the wheel of life today? Ugh, even Vanna White didn’t laugh at that one,” Alexis, comes in to talk. Alexis is sad because she realizes this is the last time the family are going to be together like they have been for the past few years. “I remember there was a whole year we didn’t even see each other. A part of me is saying I’m almost glad we lost the money,” she explains. Alexis’ growth on the show has been so much fun to watch and probably the biggest out of her family. She started out as the brattiest and most self-centered character on the show, but now she has graduated high school and community college, launched her own business, and has become selfless…for the most part!

Earlier in the episode Patrick knew that David would be stressed out for they day, so he paid for David to get a massage. Turns out the massage had a happy ending, if you know what I mean! When Patrick finds out, he is upset and angry, but David thought that is what he wanted. Patrick replies, “All I did was leave an envelope full of cash and a note that said to take very good care of you and now that I’ve said those words out loud, I can see how a certain kind of person would interpret that the wrong way.”

Next, we go to my favorite (and funniest) scene in the episode, where David comes back to the motel to get dressed and ready for the wedding with Alexis. The chemistry between these two actors is amazing, I love watching scenes they have together because they complement each other so well. Turns out Alexis is in a wedding dress, but she assures him it is not:

Alexis: “It is NOT a wedding dress. It’s a white, floor length gown.”

David: “Did it come with a veil?”

Alexis: “No…it came with a headdress.”

David: “A whhaattt?”

Alexis: “It came with like a white, tulle, headdress, but I thought it overwhelmed the dress so I decided not to wear it.”

David: “You’re walking me down the aisle, everyone is gonna think we’re getting married to each other.”

Later in the scene, David’s best friend and maid of honor, Stevie, says the town has seen weirder things, and she is probably right.

The wedding is now taking place at Town Hall and many of the towns people have come together to make it look beautiful for the event. As the wedding procession starts, the local choir, the Jazzagals, get up and start singing “Precious Love” acapella style. Moira walks in as the officiant, dressed like the pope. Now, Moira is known for her loud outfits and interesting wigs she wears every day, but this one definitely tops them all, and yet it seems fitting. Next, Johnny walks Stevie down the aisle. These two have become business partners over the last three seasons and they developed a really strong father/daughter type relationship that will melt anyone’s heart. Finally, Alexis walks David down the aisle. But before she does, they have a sweet moment where they talk about how much they love and are impressed by each other (and Alexis comes to the realization she might be wearing a wedding dress). This is very different from their first scene together when they arrive at the motel for the first time and they start fighting over who sleeps on the bed closest to the door because that person will get murdered first.

The actual scene of the wedding is short, but we see everything we need to and nothing more. David and Patrick exchange their vows and you can tell they really do care and love each other. Patrick sings a part of Mariah Carey’s “You’ll Always Be My Baby” as part of his vows, and David reflects on the hard road he has had in life but knowing Patrick is there it is not as terrifying.

Our last scene is the family saying goodbye to each other the next morning outside the motel as Johnny and Moira are heading to the airport for California. It is filled with tears and you can tell there is a blur between the actors and their characters because this was the last scene they all filmed together. It also made for a simple and sweet ending to a show where the characters have ended perhaps one of the biggest chapters of their lives as a family. I often find myself watching reruns of this show because it brings me so much peace. It’s a humble little comedy about family, friends, and love in a place where everyone does in fact, fit in.

Best Wishes. Warmest Regards.

Rachael’s Top 10 Episodes of 2020

  1. The Queen’s Gambit, “End Game” (Season One, Episode 7)
  2. Schitt’s Creek, “Happy Ending” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  3. The Haunting of Bly Manor, “The Beast in the Jungle” (Season Two, Episode 9)
  4. Lovecraft Country, “Strange Case” (Season One, Episode 5)
  5. The Queen’s Gambit, “Openings” (Season One, Episode 1)
  6. Perry Mason, “Chapter 8” (Season One, Episode 8)
  7. The Good Place, “Whenever You’re Ready” (Season Four, Episodes 13/14)
  8. Bob’s Burgers, “Poops!…I Didn’t Do It Again” (Season Ten, Episode 20)
  9. What We Do in the Shadows, “On the Run” (Season Two, Episode 6)
  10. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Captain Kim” (Season Seven, Episode 2)

Sex Education — “Episode 7”
(Season Two, Episode 7)

Sex Education" Episode #2.7 (TV Episode 2020) - IMDb

By Alex Manzo

The latest season of Sex Education came out way back in January, and after watching this episode, I set a reminder in my phone for December so I wouldn’t forget I wanted to write about this for Austin’s end of year TV blog. I really planned ahead (except for the fact I’m writing this at the last minute).

“You should be careful what you wear”

“And you should be careful perpetuating old-fashioned patriarchal ideology.”

The episode opens with this dialog exchange and really help sets the stage for a great storyline this episode. There are plenty of “other things” that happen in this episode, but all I care about is the storyline with all the ladies.

The girls all end up in detention together for a crime they didn’t commit. They’re tasked with preparing a presentation of what “binds you together as women”, which the teacher later calls “an impossible project about female solidarity”. It doesn’t take long for bickering to begin as these girls with such varied interests and backgrounds struggle to come together.

Then, it becomes clear they need to be there for Aimee, who is still struggling with the fallout of being victim of sexual assault  on a bus. In the ensuring conversation, they find what binds them all together: unwanted attention from men.

This episode was part of the momentum brought on by #MeToo, but frankly this commonality among women and those who present femininely is timeless, evergreen content. I’m a non-binary human who tends to present on the masculine-end of the spectrum, but I don’t want to be perceived as male. Being a man is not an experience I have ever identified with and when forced to fit myself into some kind of binary gender definition, I align with women.

Why? Because we have this shared experience in the world, this unspoken understanding and bond. Female friendships are powerful and amazing.

This episode managed to capture that camaraderie perfectly with this group of young women. For me, the scene where they’re smashing the car while “Make Your Own Kind of Music” plays in the background is just perfect. It’s a scene that grabs me, gives me a moment I relate to and want to celebrate in. Then to top it off with all the girls riding the bus with Aimee, well that’s a moment for a couple happy tears.

Alex’s Top 10 Episodes of 2020

  1. The Good Place, “Whenever You’re Ready” (Season Four, Episodes 13/14)
  2. The Good Place, “You’ve Changed, Man” (Season Four, Episode 10)
  3. Schitt’s Creek, “Happy Ending” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  4. Schitt’s Creek, “The Pitch” (Season Five, Episode 12)
  5. Schitt’s Creek, “The Bachelor Party” (Season Five, Episode 11)
  6. The Good Place, “Mondays, Am I Right?” (Season Four, Episode 11)
  7. The Good Place, “Patty” (Season Five, Episode 12)
  8. The Mandalorian, “Chapter 11: The Heiress” (Season Two, Episode 3) Disclaimer: At the time I’m making this list, this is as far as I am in Season Two.
  9. Schitt’s Creek, “The Incident” (Season Five, Episode 2)
  10. Schitt’s Creek, “Moira Rose” (Season Five, Episode 7)

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power — “Heart Part 2”
(Season Five, Episode 13)

She-Ra Season 5 Ending Explained | Den of Geek

Vague series spoilers for She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

By Andrew Rostan

Making a satisfying television show is hard. Perfectly sticking the landing on a television show is harder.

Over the course of five seasons and 52 episodes, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power never failed to satisfy with its tireless melding of great animation, humor, emotion, and so many plot threads and memorable characters in an ever-expanding world; indeed, one of my best friends criticized the show for never seeming to take a breath. The potential downside of this was an increased chance things could be left dangling in the series finale.

It didn’t happen. In “Heart, Part Two” (taken in conjunction with head writer Josie Campbell’s Part One), series developer Noelle Stevenson ensured that everything set up was paid off, that every character’s arc reached a fine conclusion, and did so with ethereal animation reminiscent of a more pastel Ghibli production.

The episode had its share of great moments. SPOILER ALERT BUT NOT REALLY: we know that good will triumph over evil. What hit harder was one antagonist’s final, complicated, self-congratulatory death scene, and another character’s defiant stand against Horde Prime, whose all-ivory, all-male army easily brings cults and fundamentalist Christians to mind. (And in that latter scene, Stevenson inserted more twists than you’d expect.)

But what it really came down to was the final seven minutes.

Stevenson (and I’m paraphrasing here) was once asked what this show is about and described it as a tragedy between two people who love each other but stop seeing life the same way. Adora and Catra, in Stevenson’s words, are an inseparable team who always rely on each other, who are ready to rise and rule the Horde together, until Adora discovers the Sword of Protection and becomes She-Ra. This makes Adora realize there are so many people worth caring about and defending from evil, and Catra, who sees others’ lives as not worth a second thought, can’t and won’t understand how Adora can think this way and counts Adora caring for anyone apart from her as the ultimate betrayal.

What plays out is Adora taking the mantle of the universe’s savior on herself to the point of exhaustion and near-death, while Catra becomes ever more domineering and cruel to even those who want to support her until her isolated hubris makes her fall.

Then, in the fifth season, things happen where Adora learns the value of a bit of selfishness and having her own needs, and Catra learns to be ever more selfless and empathetic. They reconnect. And despite a lot of fantasy-action travails, their story concludes with a moment that I had to rewind and watch three times when I first saw it. I couldn’t believe how perfectly done it was. And I sobbed for about five minutes straight. (I can’t tell you how many scenes in the finale made me cry, period.)

As a writer, I am jealous of how Stevenson executed this climax and resolution (and how well Aimee Carrero and AJ Michalka live these lines). As a television watcher, I can only shake my head at having seen some of the best we can get.

Andrew did not wish to submit a top 10 list

Staged — “Ulysses”
(Season One, Episode 5)

Staged" Ulysses (TV Episode 2020) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

By Jim Huang

A few weeks back when network shows returned for fall, a comment flew by on Facebook: they’re wearing masks!  I can never watch the episode again!  It’s easy to understand why one wouldn’t want to experience 2020 again: the year’s been hard on all of us.  Actors David Tennant and Michael Sheen are taking it especially hard.  They were on the verge of starting rehearsals for a production of Six Characters in Search of an Author when quarantine hit, and now they’re going a little crazy.  “I should be happy at home,” Michael says.  “You’re not?” David asks.  “I’m trying,” Michael responds.

The trying isn’t working.  David confesses to his wife, Georgia Tennant, that homeschooling their kids makes him realize that he is “alarmingly uninformed on every subject under the sun.”  Michael and his partner Anna Lundberg are drinking a little too much, so much so that they’re embarrassed about the number of bottles in their recycling bin, a situation that leads to a fraught entanglement with their neighbor.  Their Six Characters director, Simon Evans, doesn’t want to let go of the opportunity to direct these great actors, so he convinces them to start rehearsals over zoom so that they’ll be ready when the quarantine is lifted.  But Simon is in over his head and he’s staying uninvited at his sister Lucy’s house.  Lucy’s fiancé is trying to get her to break quarantine and return to where he’s staying in the south of France.  “Do you like him?” Lucy asks Simon.  “No,” he replies.

David and Georgia Tennant, Michael Sheen and Anna Lundberg, Simon Evans and Lucy Eaton.  Six characters, mostly floundering, in search of an author indeed!  They are, like us, also real people, six actors playing versions of themselves: David and his real-life wife Georgia, Michael and his real-life partner Anna, and Simon and his real-life sister Lucy.  Staged works on every level — the heartfelt and funny dialogue flows beautifully, what these characters are going through is totally believable (because we are all going through it all too), and the show fully captures the insanity of quarantine and of zoom.  But what really makes Staged work is the way it’s built on these real people and their real connections.  No, of course David isn’t really this hopeless and petty and of course Simon isn’t really this incompetent.  But the ways in which household members live and deal with each other, and the ways in which they connect with others in other households is totally real.  The zooms between Michael and David aren’t just great acting, they are friends who are counting on each other to get through this awful time.

“You stop feeling useful,” David says to Adrian Lester, an actor Simon has enlisted to talk him up (which of course goes amusingly wrong).  David goes on: “The theaters close.  The audiences go away.”  But in fact the audiences haven’t gone away.  Much of Staged is told through zoom (by necessity, of course, but also by canny choice), and in this medium the audience is in on the proceedings, just another window in the gallery.  We may be on mute, but we are just as much in on the conversation as are David and Michael.  We are the same distance from them as they are from each other.  So they’re not just commiserating with each other, they are commiserating with us too.  They’re not just each other’s friends, they’re our friends too.  Staged, written and directed in its six-episode entirety by Simon Evans, takes full advantage of the intimacy of zoom and of the insanity of quarantine to create something lovely, a small and timeless little tour-de-force that we can turn to today and again in a post-covid future that can’t come soon enough.

Jim’s Top 5 Episodes of 2020

  1. Staged, “Ulysses” (Season One, Episode 5)
  2. The Good Place, “Whenever You’re Ready” (Season Four, Episodes 13/14) Nailed it!
  3. Ted Lasso, “The Diamond Dogs” (Season One, Episode 8) “Be curious, not judgmental”
  4. The Queen’s Gambit, “Fork” (Season One, Episode 5) Picking up the pieces
  5. Some Good News, “Graduation 2020” (Season One, Episode 6) That’s how you do graduation.

Transfomers War for Cyberton Trilogy: Siege — “Episode 6”
(Season One, Episode 6)

Transformers: War for Cybertron: Siege | Netflix Official Site

By Josh West

It’s that time of year again where Austin asks his friends to write things about TV shows he’ll probably never watch. But not in my case! See, you might not know this, but Austin is a huge Transformers fan. I don’t mean any of the tv shows or the toys. Austin LOVES the Michael Bay Transformers movies. He’s even been reported as saying “Transformers: The Last Knight is my favorite film of all time and it is truly peak cinema.” His words, not mine. While I enjoy the Transformers movies for what they are, The Last Knight is probably my least favorite. I guess my palate is not as sophisticated as Austin’s. 

For this years favorite episode of television article, I’m going to cover Netflix’s Transformers War For Cybertron Trilogy: Siege: Episode 6, or as i like to call it “NTWFCTSE6.” Let me get you caught up before we talk about the episode. There is a war. For Cybertron. The tyrannical ruler Megatron has a majority control over the planet. His adversary, Optimus Prime is the leader of the Autobots, a faction of Cybertronians who believe that freedom is the right of all living things.  Yes, even living robots who turn into cars. The Autobots have almost no resources and are in hiding. The Decepticons are trying to seek out and eliminate the Autobots so that Megatron can rule over the planet and his followers without ridicule. There is an artifact called the All-Spark that legends say if it leaves Cybertron, the planet will die. So that’s Optimus’ plan! Lets kill the planet!

Episode 6 is one of my favorite episodes of television this year because it was an action packed cliffhanger! Optimus is racing back to the Space Bridge (think of it like a Stargate), Elita-1 is getting the Autobot ship The Ark up and running so they could escape the planet, Jetfire, who had been a decepticon until Megatron murdered a prisoner of war in cold blood, comes swooping in and laser swords his old seeker comrades. One of the hardest hitting moments is when Ratchet, who is worn down from the many years of combat, is running to activate the Space Bridge but one of the Decepticon seekers starts shooting at him from the sky. Impactor, a Decepticon who has temporarily left the Ds to “help the people of Cybertron regardless of who is leading them,” leaps in front of Ratchet and takes a fatal hit. Ratchet, obviously shook up, pauses before carrying out his mission. The episode culminates with a giant Autobot called Omega Supreme fending off the Decepticons so that the Autobots can get through the Space Bridge. 

As the title of the show suggests, this is part of a trilogy. Part Two is going to be called Netflix’s Transformers War For Cybertron Trilogy: Earthrise. As you can probably guess, Earth is where the Autobot Ark is going to land. But, now here is where everything gets exciting, the third part of the trilogy is called Netflix’s Transformers War For Cybertron Trilogy: Kingdom. Hasbro has already revealed some of the toys based on Kingdom and they are based on animals! More specifically, a good number of characters that share the same name and likeness of character from 1996’s Transformers: Beast Wars are coming back! We are talking about purple T-rex Megatron, gorilla Optimus Primal, Rattrap, Cheetor, and Blackarachnia! So really, what i’m saying is to not watch Netflix’s Transformers War For Cybertron Trilogy: Siege and instead go watch Beast Wars on Tubi for free right now! It’s my favorite Transformers series and has some really great characters! The animation is rough, but actually pretty good considering this was a tv show and not Pixar. Best TV episode of 2020, or best TV series of the late 90’s? You decide.

Josh’s Top 10 Episodes of 2020

  1. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, “Swan Thong” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  2. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “As I Have Always Been” (Season Seven, Episode 9)
  3. The Mandalorian, “Chapter 13: The Jedi” (Season Two, Episode 5)
  4. Schitt’s Creek, “Happy Ending” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  5. Steven Universe Future, “Homeworld Bound / Everything’s Fine / I Am My Monster / The Future” (Season One, Episodes 17/18/19/20)
  6. Star Wars: The Clone Wars, “Shattered” (Season Seven, Episode 11)
  7. Supergirl, “Reality Bytes” (Season Five, Episode 15)
  8. Supergirl, “Alex in Wonderland” (Season Five, Episode 16)
  9. Stargirl, “Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. Part 2” (Season One, Episode 13)
  10. The Walking Dead, “Walk With Us” (Season Ten, Episode 12)

What We Do in the Shadows — “On the Run”
(Season Two, Episode 6)

Jackie Daytona lives in FYC Ad for What We Do In The Shadows

By Sam Tilmans

I’m a sucker for vampires. 

While they may swell and ebb in popularity over time, vampires never truly go out of style. I love how every vampire story builds on common folklore or subverts it, and I’m intrigued by vampires from cultures all over the world. While I do appreciate the novel Dracula, I tend to lean towards the vampire media that is more fun, a bit weirder, and often queerer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Near Dark, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, The Hunger, Fright Night, The Lost Boys, and, of course, Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows from 2014, which spawned this delightful, wonderful show I wanted to write about this year.

I adore What We Do in the Shadows. Often, movies don’t translate well to television shows, but as it turns out, this universe works better in the episodic format. What We Do in the Shadows was one of my favorite shows from last year, and continued to be this year. With this show, we get a chance to delve deeper into the characters and their ongoing journeys, and I appreciate that.

There’s so much I love about this show – the acting, the writing, my vampire queen Nadja, and the sweet and frustrated familiar Guillermo in particular. Each episode adds a new piece to the mythology of this universe and expands on the misadventures of existing as a centuries-old being in a modern world, and every episode is an utter joy to watch. I mean, how many shows have an Emmy-nominated episode that includes ghost masturbation? THIS ONE. JUST THIS ONE. IT’S GREAT.

Which brings me to another one of What We Do in the Shadows’s episodes that was nominated for an Emmy this year.

I would be remiss if I did not write of…Jackie Daytona.

One of our four main vampires, Laszlo Cravensworth, exudes charisma. He’s cheeky, charming, sexual, and…a total dick. He once turned a baby into a vampire because he was bored and framed someone else for it. He shoves his lovely wife Nadja before him at the hint of danger, stubbornly refuses to admit he has a cursed hat, believes the quickest solution to most problems is murder, and skips out on paying rent. That last issue sets the events of the episode “On the Run” into motion, as imposing, gravelly-voiced Jim the Vampire comes to collect his money after being stiffed decades ago, and Laszlo ditches his friends and Nadja instead of paying up. 

Part of this show’s brilliance is how everyone plays it straight in a ridiculous world full of vampires, werewolves, ghosts, witches, zombies, and literal internet trolls. Anything’s possible, and we just roll with it. In “On the Run,” we have to believe in the power of a singular toothpick. With that toothpick stuck in Laszlo’s mouth, he is unrecognizable, even to Nadja. He is Jackie Daytona. Jackie is a normal human bartender in Pennsylvania who wears blue jeans, has a giant pickup truck, and falls in love with the local high school’s girls volleyball team. “On the Run” is the classic story of a person doing more work to avoid a very basic task, but it’s also the classic story of a charismatic stranger coming into a town and touching it with their magic for a brief amount of time, and Laszlo is having the time of his life on his own, removed from his wife and roommates, as Jackie Daytona. 

There is a considerable amount of growth and change for Guillermo and our vampires in the second season of What We Do in the Shadows. Initially, one might expect “On the Run” to be an episode where Laszlo confronts a part of himself and learns a lesson, but that’s not who Laszlo Cravensworth is. Of course, Jim the Vampire catches up to Laszlo, the charade is over, people die, and several buildings burn down. Does Laszlo learn anything? Absolutely not, he is the same as he ever was, but the episode is a fun diversion away from Staten Island. It’s a magical, brillant episode. If nothing else, I recommend it for the sheer dramatic emotion Mark Hamill displays over a Big Mouth Billy Bass – it’s simply irresistible.

  1. The Magicians, “The Mountain of Ghosts” (Season 5, Episode 3)
  2. What We Do in the Shadows, “On the Run” (Season 2, Episode 6)
  3. What We Do in the Shadows, “The Curse” (Season 2, Episode 4)
  4. The Magicians, “Oops!…I Did It Again” (Season 5, Episode 6)
  5. What We Do in the Shadows, “Colin’s Promotion” (Season 2, Episode 5)
  6. The Magicians, “Apocalypse? Now?!” (Season 5, Episode 5)
  7. The Magicians, “The Wrath of the Time Bees” (Season 5, Episode 2)
  8. The Magicians, “Fillory and Further” (Season 5, Episode 13)
  9. The Good Place, “Whenever You’re Ready” (Season 4, Episode 13/14)
  10. BoJack Horseman, “Good Damage” (Season 6, Episode 10)

Honorable Mentions

  • Animaniacs, “Phantomaniacs / Fear and Laughter in Burbank / Bride of Pinky / Things That Go Bump in the Night” (Season One, Episode 11)
  • Bob’s Burgers, “Bob Belcher and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Kids” (Season 11, Episode 6)
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Trying” (Season 7, Episode 6); “The Takeback” (Season 7, Episode 8); “Valloweaster” (Season 7, Episode 11); “Lights Out” (Season 7, Episode 13)
  • Kim’s Convenience, “Birds of a Feather” (Season 4, Episode 11); “Bon Voyage” (Season 4, Episode 13)
  • The Magicians, “Garden Variety Homicide” (Season 5, Episode 8); “Purgatory” (Season 5, Episode 10); “The Balls” (Season 5, Episode 12)
  • One Day at a Time, “Boundaries” (Season 4, Episode 3)
  • Schitt’s Creek, “The Bachelor Party / Escape Room” (Season 6, Episode 11)
  • Sex Education, “Episode 3” (Season 2, Episode 3)
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, “Perils of Peekablue” (Season 5, Episode 7); “Heart” (Parts 1 & 2) (Season 5, Episodes 12/13)
  • What We Do in the Shadows, “Resurrection” (Season 2, Episode 1); “Witches” (Season 2, Episode 9)

The Group’s Top 10 List

The Good Place: was this the most devastating TV finale ever? | Television  | The Guardian

Using a simple point system where a person’s #1 pick gets 10 points, #2 gets 9 and so on, here are the Top 10 Episodes of 2020.

  1. The Good Place, “Whenever You’re Ready” (Season Four, Episodes 13/14) [61 points]
  2. Schitt’s Creek, “Happy Ending” (Season Five, Episode 14) [49 points]
  3. What We Do in the Shadows, “On the Run” (Season Two, Episode 6) [35 points]
  4. The Queen’s Gambit, “End Game” (Season One, Episode 7) [30 points]
  5. BoJack Horseman, “The View from Halfway Down” (Season Six, Episode 15) [26 points]
  6. Dark, “Paradise” (Season Three, Episode 8) [25 points]
  7. The Crown, “The Balmoral Test” (Season Four, Episode 2) [20 points]
  8. The Crown, “Fairytale” (Season Four, Episode 3) [19 points, tie]
  9. Devs, “Episode 8” (Season One, Episode 8) [19 points, tie]
  10. Sex Education, “Episode 7” (Season Two, Episode 7) [18 points]
  • 148 different episodes were on a Top 10 list
  • 79 different shows were on a Top 10 list
  • 4 of the possible 4 episodes of The Good Place were on a Top 10 list
  • 7 of the 8 episodes of The Mandalorian were on a Top 10 list
  • 4 of the 7 episodes of The Queen’s Gambit were on a Top 10 list
  • 5 of the 10 episodes of The Crown were on a Top 10 list
  • 4 of the 8 episodes of Dark were on a Top 10 list
  • 3 of the 6 episodes of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark were on a Top 10 list
  • 5 of the 10 episodes of The Last Dance were on a Top 10 list
  • 7 of the 14 episodes of Schitt’s Creek were on a Top 10 list
  • 7 series finales were on a Top 10 list (Not counting miniseries)
  • 42 of the 148 episodes were Netflix Originals
  • 35 of the 148 episodes were on basic cable
  • 25 of the 148 episodes were on network broadcast
  • 17 of the 148 episodes were on HBO
  • 10 of the 148 episodes were on Hulu
  • 9 of the 148 episodes were on Disney+
  • 3 of the 148 episodes were on YouTube
  • 2 of the 148 episodes were on Amazon Prime
  • 2 of the 148 episodes were on CBS All Access
  • 1 of the 148 episodes was on Showtime