Series discoveries: Highlights


Last week I said I’d do a series discoveries post, and here, as promised, it is 🙂

I watch entirely too much television. It’s true. But I enjoy it. I also get a lot of writerly goodness out of watching television series because I never just watch passively. I discuss what I watch with Phil, try to predict what might happen, plot-wise, and think about the story structure of the episodes and the seasons or series overall.

If I tried to say even a few words about all the shows I’ve watched since I last posted a series discoveries … I’d be writing a book (!) I’d rather save all those words for my novels.

Here are some of the year’s highlights.

Stranger Things

Of course this would be on my list. Isn’t it on everyone’s?

A lovely cast of young geeks and social misfits, Dungeons & Dragons, a mysterious series of disappearances, enough 80’s nostalgia to make me feel warm and fuzzy, Winona Ryder in her first solid role in … like forever, Mathew Modine as the villain, the awesome Eleven, and The Upside Down.

Assholes saw the error of their ways. Friendship triumphed over fear. The crazy lady was proven right (and not crazy).

And the storytelling was top notch. ST was a master class in foreshadowing and revelation. It wasn’t backstory heavy. The pacing was just right.

Travelers

Of the three new time travel series, I enjoyed this Showcase/Netflix collaboration the most. Both Timeless and Time After Time got tangled up in paradox (in my opinion). And not in a good way.

The means of time travel in Travelers was the transference of consciousness of the members of a future team of specialists into people in the past at the moments of their deaths. It’s a little hand-wavy, but it’s a clever way of trying to circumvent paradox.

Like many of the more enjoyable time travel tales, it doesn’t attempt to explain how the transfer of consciousness works. It’s not the story. It’s simply the vehicle for the story.

In the future, the world is in terrible shape. Teams of specialists, known as travelers, volunteer to have their consciousnesses transferred into people of the past in order to complete a series of missions in an attempt to avoid the catastrophic future. There are many teams, but no one knows any other travelers outside their team. They can’t. That’s half of the attraction of the show. The audience learns about the story world as the characters do.

Everything is organized by The Director and nobody knows who that is, either.

I found it fascinating because the travelers had to infiltrate the lives of the people they take over. These “normal” lives were the main complication for each of the travelers.

It was very well done.

The Crown

This was another well done series. It looks at the life of the young Elizabeth from before her marriage to Phillip and the death of her father through the first year of her reign as Queen Elizabeth II.

The acting was fabulous—John Lithgow as Winston Churchill was a-MA-zing! And Matt Smith isn’t half bad either 😉

Though I know the events of Elizabeth’s life have been dramatized for the series, it felt true. The characters were all human, all flawed, and all struggling.

It was a great character study.

Vikings

SPOILER ALERT!

Ragnar died. I have no idea where things are headed next season.

I still love the show. And Lagertha.

That is all 🙂

The Last Kingdom

This adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories continues to be compelling, despite a short second season.

It’s set a generation after Vikings when Alfred is king of Wessex (he’s a child in Vikings). Uhtred, the main character, was captured by the Vikings as a child and his uncle usurped his father’s lands. While it shares several of the same themes as Vikings, it’s a very different take on the historical era and its political intrigues.

It’s all about Uhtred’s survival and eventual rise. His ultimate goal is to retake Bebbanburg castle in Northumbia from his uncle.

I, Zombie

When Shomi closed up shop last year, Phil and I were disappointed. It was the only place we could watch I, Zombie.

Admittedly, the show struggled a bit this year with several characters switching sides, and then switching back, turning into zombies, getting cured, and then becoming zombies again. It was all very make-up-your-minds-already!

It retained its light feeling and comic book inspiration. It was still clever, but now that the zombie cat is out of the bag, I’m not sure about the future of the series.

13 Reasons Why

I am loving this series based on Jay Asher’s book. I think suicide is an important, if uncomfortable, topic to address, and I think the series has done it brilliantly.

The tapes are an effective (and analog) MacGuffin, and I wanted to hear the next one (or not) as much as Clay.

It’s a revealing look at the hell that is high school.

I honestly don’t know if I’d have survived high school if social media had been such a powerful force back then.

Sense8

Phil and I LURVED season 1 and were distressed when there was talk of not renewing the Straczinski-Wachowski series. We rejoiced when the Christmas special promised season 2 in May.

If anything, season 2 was even better than the first.

And then Netflix cancelled it.

It’s a beautiful show about difference and bonding, and how we can all bring the best out in one another, if we choose to. And, yes, psychics.

Like the time travel in Travelers, the sensorium (the bonded group of psychics) is merely the vehicle for a wonderful and uplifting story.

I really hope Netflix reconsiders.

Game of Thrones

GoT redeemed itself last season with some of the best episodes I’ve seen in years.

I can’t wait for tomorrow night’s season premiere.

Outlander

I’ve been a fan of Gabaldon’s novels for ages and what Stars has done with the series is excellent. I know a novel has to be reconceived for television. It’s a different medium and requires different writing. Unlike GoT, which has been hit or miss over the life of the series, the Outlander cast and crew have consistently made all the right decisions.

As I said to a friend after I saw the first season, it’s like Gabaldon had the chance to rewrite the novel given her current level of craft and experience. The series has been that true to the spirit of the books.

I’m eagerly awaiting the next season.

And that’s all I’m going to write for tonight.

Next week will be my last weekend post before I’m off on my grand adventure 🙂

Series Discoveries

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