Summer is almost over–not that you’d know it in sunny ass California–so it’s about that time for my Occasional TV Superlatives. If you weren’t around for the last time I did this, it’s pretty straight-forward: I just gush and/or rant about whatever TV shows I’ve recently been watching (whether they’re currently airing or not) with awards like Favorite Ship, Favorite Fight Scene, Most Disgusting Moment, and Most Comically Tragic Character. As always, any awards with spoilers will be very clearly marked.
As a reference point, here are the shows I’ve been watching for the past few months:
Agents of SHIELD, Season 6
Into the Badlands, Seasons 2 and 3 (currently still watching)
Dark, Season 2
Stranger Things, Season 3
Kingdom, Season 1
Yuri on Ice
Infinity Train, Season 1
13 Reasons Why, Season 3
Los Espookys, Season 1
Hotel del Luna (currently still watching)
Young Justice, Season 3B
With that in mind, let’s get started, shall we?
Aziraphale – Good Omens
I’ve liked Michael Sheen since Underworld, but this summer I basically fell in love with him, partially due to this refreshing stance on fanfiction, but also because he is a goddamn delight in Good Omens. Aziraphale is precious. He must be protected at all costs. He is a fussy, clueless, benevolent, enthusiastic foodie of an angel, and I adore him desperately. He also wins for BEST PROFANITY, and if you’ve seen the miniseries, you know the moment I’m talking about.
Honorable Mentions: Enoch (Agents of SHIELD); Henry (Into the Badlands); Renaldo (Los Espookys); Atticus (Infinity Train); Alexei (Stranger Things); Lian (Young Justice)
FAVORITE NEW CHARACTER
Robyn – Stranger Things
Like the rest of the planet, I adored Robyn (Maya Hawke) on this latest season of Stranger Things. She’s smart, sarcastic, funny, and instantly charmed me; pairing her with Steve Harrington is easily one of the best decisions this show has ever made. In fact, these two also win BEST DYNAMIC DUO because I absolutely adore their friendship, particularly in this scene, which is obviously the best scene. (It does come with SPOILERS, however, for all ye who are not yet caught up to Season 3.)
I didn’t realize how much this show needed Robyn, but now it’s hard to imagine it without her. I can’t wait to see what she does next in Season 4, hopefully with Steve at her side.
Honorable Mention for Favorite New Character: Bajie (Into the Badlands); Snowflake (Agents of SHIELD)
Honorable Mentions for Best Dynamic Duo: Fitz & Simmons (Agents of SHIELD); Bajie & Sunny (Into the Badlands); Steve & Dustin (Stranger Things)
FAVORITE SCENE STEALER
Gabriel – Good Omens
Juan Carlos – Los Espookys
Jon Hamm is the best, and I say that as someone who’s never seen an entire episode of Mad Men in her life. He does comedy so well, and he’s especially great here as the angel Gabriel. I mean, every line out of his mouth and reaction face is pure gold. We have all these new GIFs now, thanks to his art. (“Shut your stupid mouth and die already” is my absolute favorite, of course.)
But Andrés’s trophy boyfriend, Juan Carlos, is pretty much the best, too, like when he insists that he can’t deal with spooky or ugly things (“when we watch Beauty and the Beast, I skip the scenes with the Beast”) or when he tries to keep Andrés on track instead of brooding about his mysterious past. (“No, no, no, don’t contemplate.”) He’s terrible and hilarious, the one semi-normal character in an ensemble of lovable weirdos, and I really enjoy him.
Honorable Mentions: The Cat (Infinity Train); Sad-One (Infinity Train); Alexei (Stranger Things); Ani’s Mom (13 Reasons Why)
Max and Eleven – Stranger Things
Sure, this friendship was an obvious attempt to appease audiences who were pissed off about how El treated Max in Season 2, but I’m totally okay with that. I actually like when a shows listens to its fanbase and–when appropriate–manages to course correct. Besides, Max and Eleven’s friendship is great: it’s awesome to see these two girls shopping and having fun and constantly supporting one another. Friendships between women, young or old, are often overlooked in movies and television, especially in genre work, so I was really grateful to see this. Plus, it led to my FAVORITE BADASS MOMENT, which I will link to HERE so I don’t have to move this whole award to the Spoiler Section. But if you’ve seen the season, you probably know the scene I mean because damn. It’s hilarious.
Honorable Mention: Daisy & Jemma (Agents of SHIELD)
FAVORITE SHIP (CANONICAL, MOSTLY)
Aziraphale/Crowley – Good Omens
I’ve been trying to decide whether to put our Ineffable Husbands in Favorite Canonical Ship or Favorite Non-Canon Ship; they are, after all, never technically confirmed to be in a romantic relationship, and yet–I don’t know. The ambiguity feels deliberate to me, and not necessarily in a shitty, queer-baiting sort of way, although I can easily understand why others might feel differently. Honestly, it’s all the other romantic relationships on this show that really bother me, each of which are heterosexual and manage to fail on multiple levels. It’s only when comparing Ineffable Husbands to these ships that I get frustrated cause, like, you had the most brilliant slow burn of all time right here and instead of making them an explicit couple, you went with these bullshit pairings instead? Still, the truth is that I love my Ineffable Husbands as either, well, husbands or as a queer platonic pairing, and the open-ended nature of their relationship does, in some sense, feel right to me. Thus after much hand-wringing, I’ve made this a Mostly Canonical Award because these two, my God. I heart them SO MUCH.
The truth is, I was kinda so-so on Good Omens as a whole. In fact, I’d probably go so far as to say as that I was disappointed, as I had multiple problems with the story’s execution. That being said, I absolutely fucking loved every scene with Crowley and Aziraphale in it. I mean, the 30-or-so-minute cold open to Episode 3 alone, just . . . gah! There are so many great moments between them, some of them adorably domestic (the bit with the coat), some of them super angsty (you go too fast for me, Crowley), etc. My cold, dead heart swelled three sizes upon watching the last scene at the Ritz, and despite my meh feelings on the actual miniseries, I almost immediately watched the whole thing again–only this time, I literally just watched every goddamn Crowley and Aziraphale scene.
I have a Top 10 Favorite TV Ships list somewhere around here, and while I know some ships come and go, Ineffable Husbands have definitely earned themselves a permanent spot.
Honorable Mentions: Brion/Halo (Young Justice); M’Gan/Connor (Young Justice); Yuri/Viktor (Yuri on Ice); Tony/Caleb (13 Reasons Why)
FAVORITE NON-CANONICAL SHIP
Alex/Zach – 13 Reasons Why
Rest assured, you will hear me rant at length about this show and its multitude of fuck-ups later on, but for now, let me just say that although these two have a considerable decrease in screen time together than in Season 2, I still absolutely ship the hell out of them. Because the few moments they do have together (or where they’re defending/sticking up for one another) are still so good, damn it. 13 Reasons Why would be be about a 1000% improved if, instead of giving unnecessary redemption stories to rapists or crafting hideously irresponsible messages about school shooters, it focused on a) even more moments with these two protecting each other at all costs, and b) another dance scene like this one from Season 2. Come on, people. It’s right there.
LEAST FAVORITE SHIP
Joyce/Hopper – Stranger Things
So, I’ve shipped Joyce and Hopper since the beginning. It’s always been a mild ship, mind you–there was very little squee–but regardless, I liked these two and I hoped they’d get together. And then they did, sorta, and it was the absolute worst.
Why? Because somewhere between Seasons 2 and 3, Hopper turned into a massive jackass. (Guess who wins WORST CHARACTER ASSASSINATION this year?)
Look, I get it: Hopper’s always been rough around the edges. But I never would’ve called him an emotionally abusive dick; moreover, he’s had consistent character growth over the last two seasons, leaving me entirely unprepared for just how much of an asshole he’d be this year. And while I don’t love how he interacts with Eleven or Mike, my biggest problem is how he treats Joyce. He refuses to respect her boundaries, verbally accepting their relationship as “just friends” before immediately throwing a shit-fit when that’s exactly how she treats him. All their supposed cute bickering is mostly just him being an asshole. And Joyce deserves better than this, damn it. It sucks when the canon romance actually kills the whole ship for you.
Honorable Mention For Least Favorite Ship: Clay/Ani (13 Reasons Why)
Honorable Mention for Worst Character Assassination: Deke (Agents of SHIELD)
BEST MULTI-EPISODE GUEST SPOT
Cary Elwes – Stranger Things
I mean, yeah, I do kinda wish that Mayor Kline was more plot-relevant in the long run, but still, Cary Elwes as a smarmy politician? Oh, it’s so much fun. I adored every minute Elwes was on screen, and I hope he enjoyed himself, too; he certainly seemed like he was having a ball. Stranger Things may love its stunt-casting, but by God, they do a good job with it.
MOST FABULOUS FASHION
Eleven’s romper – Stranger Things
Steve and Robyn’s Scoops Ahoy uniforms – Stranger Things
Man-Wol’s purple dress, black hat, and rifle – Hotel Del Luna
I mean, the Scoops Ahoy uniforms were pretty instantly iconic, and–from what I’ve seen from my friends’ pictures–they were fucking everywhere at DragonCon this year. But Eleven’s romper, super colorful and totes adorable, was pretty iconic, too. If only more 80’s fashion had looked like this and not like, well, this.
Meanwhile, I’ve really only just begun watching Hotel Del Luna, but it’s already become clear that everything Man-Wol wears is the most fashionable thing ever; she appears to have at least four different glamorous outfits per episode, and I want ALL of them. Picking her entire wardrobe feels like cheating, however, so today we’ll go with her shiny purple dress from the first episode because it definitely stood out in the best of ways.
Honorable Mentions: Tilda’s “Iron Rabbit” look (Into the Badlands); Tati’s J-Lo dress (Los Espookys); Andrés’s black wedding suit with train (Los Espookys); Yuri’s “Eros” Outfit (Yuri on Ice)
FAVORITE FIGHT SCENE
The Widow vs. Tilda – Into the Badlands
(Disclaimer: mild spoilers during the clip)
Look, picking only one fight scene from this show is ridiculously hard; I mean, Jesus, every damn nominee in this category is from Into the Badlands. Still, I did really enjoy this particular battle between Tilda and The Widow; I love watching good fight scenes featuring badass ladies, and there’s real feeling between these two, adding more emotional stakes to the scene. Plus, you know. It’s just stylish and cool as hell.
Honorable Mentions: The Widow vs. Moon (Into the Badlands); The Widow vs. Baron Chau (Into the Badlands); Handcuffed Sunny and Bajie vs. The Champion (Into the Badlands); Sunny, MK, and Ava vs. Abbotts in Christmasland Motel (Into the Badlands); Sunny, MK, Tilda, and The Widow vs Baron Chau’s People (Into the Badlands); Pilgrim vs. The Unfaithful (Into the Badlands)
BEST BATTLE SCENE
Night in Dongnae – Kingdom
Battle may not be the best way to describe this, actually, as there’s very little true battle involved. Massacre might be a more fitting description, as a zombie horde rises up and decimates an entire village. There are those who fight back, though, while others run, and still others who refuse to lower the gates, leaving probably hundreds to their grisly doom. It’s about 30-minutes straight of action and horror, and IMO, it’s creative, brutal, and extremely well-executed.
Ani’s Interrogation – 13 Reasons Why
First, I want to be very clear: while this is a truly terrible voiceover, actress Grace Saif is absolutely not to blame. Yes, Ani’s a very frustrating character who was ill-conceived on almost every level, but none of that is Saif’s fault; she did a spectacular job with what she had to work with, and I’d genuinely like to see her in a role more worthy of her talent. Unfortunately, Saif–like so many other actresses–has left social media after vicious and widespread online bullying, and while I’m not surprised by this, it’s still very disheartening.
At any rate, the terrible narration here is not a problem of performance, but of writing; the dialogue here is so, so bad, just vague and annoying and intensely repetitive. Admittedly, the VO in this show has never been great: Hannah’s tapes in Season 1 definitely also had their problems. But I don’t think it’s ever been quite this awful, like, here’s a sample of some of the narration from an episode where Zach is the primary murder suspect:
Everyone’s a liar.
Zach Dempsey lied about what happened at Homecoming.
Zach lied, and Zach had a clear reason to hurt Bryce, especially after the Homecoming Game.
But Zach’s anger at Bryce was about more than football. You see, Zach had a secret.
We all knew Bryce and Zach were at odds. But Zach had another secret he was keeping.
All of that? It’s within about ten minutes of each other. The first ten minutes, actually, which means there’s an additional, what, forty or so minutes of that shit? It’s fucking maddening. Let me write for you, Netflix, please; I can do better than this.
“May the Angels” – Alev Lenz (Dark)
Your average episode of Dark comes with a few standard elements: time-travel fuckery, cryptically ominous people, massively depressing twists, and, of course, musical montages; every single episode has that whole “Mad World” scene from Donnie Darko, where everyone sits around gloomily while moody music plays.
I kid because I care; I’m actually very invested in this show, and besides, I enjoy a lot of these montages, especially the one in 2×05, set to this song. It’s a pretty great one that I downloaded almost immediately; I also love that the show makes use of the entire thing. If you feel the need for some empowering “I’m not taking your shit anymore” music, this could be the song for you.
“Ellos Quieren Sangre” – Varsovia (Los Espookys)
I wish I could write intelligently about how and why this song is so awesome, but honestly, it’s just a fantastic theme song choice for a wonderfully quirky show. “Ellos Quieren Sangre” is absolutely my current jam; I’ve listened to it a LOT in the past few days.
Honorable Mentions: “Survive” – Chelsea Wolfe (13 Reasons Why); “Dancing and Blood” – Low (13 Reasons Why); “Human” – Rag’n’Bone Man (Agents of SHIELD); “Suspicious Minds” – Elvis Presley (Dark); “Material Girl” – Madonna (Stranger Things); “Bicycle Race” – Queen (Good Omens); “Word Up” – Tulip (Infinity Train)
FAVORITE SUPERHERO SHOW
(Disclaimer: mild, non-plot related spoilers here)
I’m still so happy this show has returned. Before this year, I never thought it would actually happen. God bless you, DC Universe; I may be skeptical about what you’ve done with Titans, but I will always be grateful to you for bringing back Young Justice.
There’s a lot to like in the back half of Season 3. I’ll admit I was a little less into some of the Outsider missions, probably because I just don’t care quite as much about Beast Boy’s team, but that’s a pretty minor complaint when compared to what did work for me. The twists and turns. The humor. The emotional continuity: I love that Nightwing and Artemis are still allowed to grieve after the events of Season 2. There’s some great moments of queer rep, too: Kaldur has a boyfriend, and Halo comes out as non-binary. And sure, you can say these are small moments because they are, but IMO, they’re important ones and they’re pretty well-handled. It’s very exciting to see how much this superhero cartoon has really evolved over the years.
Honorable Mentions: Agents of SHIELD
FAVORITE NEW SHOW
Well, these are two very different shows, but I loved them both so much. I don’t even know how to properly describe Los Espookys; it’s this brilliant blend of magical realism and absurdist comedy with a healthy appreciation for the horror genre. I adore all the characters, like, okay, Tati is probably my least favorite–which I’m pretty sure is an unpopular opinion–but Andrés is hilarious and dramatic AF, Ursula is a super competent badass, and Renaldo is so sweet, like, he’s just the softest goth ever. I can’t wait for this oddball show to come back for a second season. More spooky weirdness please!
Meanwhile, Infinity Train is a cartoon that began life as this short on Cartoon Network, and it’s hilarious, nerdy, and adorably sweet; I’m so glad my sister introduced me to it. Tulip is a great protagonist, and I love the whole concept of this mystery train with its impossible cars and endless puzzles. It’s mildly reminiscent of the Portal video games, only with a little less math and a lot more corgis. Plus, look at this voice cast: Ashley Johnson, Ernie Hudson, Kate Mulgrew, and Lena Headey! If you haven’t already, this show is well worth checking out.
MOST WELCOME RETURN
JESUS CHRIST, FINALLY, I HAVE BEEN WAITING.
Honorable Mentions: Young Justice
I’m afraid that’s it for the non-spoiler section. If you’d like to continue onwards, please do so with caution.
Last chance, everyone! Deaths will be discussed! Specific plot twists will be revealed! Ranting will commence almost immediately!
CHARACTER WHO MOST DESERVES A BETTER SHOW
Tony Padilla – 13 Reasons Why
Zach Dempsey – 13 Reasons Why
Jessica Davis – 13 Reasons Why
Honestly, almost every character in 13 Reasons Why deserves a better show. The cast certainly does; it makes me so angry, seeing how good some of these kids are and imagining how much better they could be if the writers didn’t fail them, like, at least half the time. Again, you will hear more about my love-hate relationship with this controversial nightmare of a show later on (it’s more hate-hate, these days), but for now, let’s focus on Tony, Zach, and Jessica.
Tony’s primary storyline this season centers on his family, who get deported to Mexico because of Bryce’s terribly family. The storyline itself is very Ripped From the Headlines, and it’s a bit too rushed for my liking, but damn if Christian Navarro doesn’t act the hell out of it. I’ve always liked Tony, man of a thousand secrets, but I especially like him this time around, where Navarro gives the most heart-wrenching performance of the season. If only the show itself was more worthy of him.
Zach, meanwhile, just remains so goddamn earnest and likable; Ross Butler really brings this kid to life, and I just yearn to see this character in a show that doesn’t act like he’s the asshole for being against the whole “let’s keep this almost-school-shooting a secret” plan. (This fucking show, I swear to God.) Butler, too, really needs a lead role in something; I think he’d be perfect for a rom-com, myself. Netflix, get on that.
And Jessica (Alisha Boe) definitely deserves better than 13 Reasons Why, too. Admittedly, Season 2 actually did a pretty great job with her storyline as a rape survivor last season, really putting in the work; this year, however, like . . . you can see what they’re going for, but the nuance just isn’t there. The empathy is in all the wrong places, and Jessica deserves better. So does Alisha Boe, who–like everyone else in this cast–gives a really strong performance despite the disappointing script.
BIGGEST “JIMMY, NOOOOOOO” MOMENT
Little Girl – Kingdom
This adorable little girl survives a lot. She doesn’t get eaten by her Zombie Mom, although her equally adorable sister does. In fact, she makes it through the entire massacre of Dongnae, unlike hundreds of other villagers–only to die the very next episode, I think, shot by a fucking arrow. You monsters. YOU HEARTLESS MONSTERS.
CHARACTER WHO REALLY NEEDS TO JUST DIE ALREADY
Hannah – Dark
Ugh. She is the worst. SHE IS THE WORST. Why won’t anyone shoot her with an arrow?
This isn’t anything new, of course. In Season 1, Young Hannah, obsessed with Young Ulrich, lies to the police and accuses him of raping Young Katharina. As an adult, Hannah won’t leave Ulrich alone, insisting they continue their affair, even after his youngest child goes missing. When Ulrich refuses, Hannah tells his grieving wife that a) Ulrich was planning to leave her for Hannah, and b) that she left Ulrich, not the other way around. Hannah also blackmails her rich boss into destroying Ulrich, in case the extent of her obsession is not clear enough.
In Season 2, the whole “destroy Ulrich” plan isn’t going so hot because he accidentally time-traveled back into the 1950’s and got arrested for murder. (If you’re curious, he didn’t actually kill anybody, although he did try to murder the kid he thought was responsible for all this time travel abduction madness.) Hannah figures this out, steals a time travel machine, and visits Ulrich in the mental institute he’s imprisoned in, only to taunt him and leave him there. 30 years later, Ulrich is still trapped in the institution. I mean, I don’t even like Ulrich, and JFC.
I can’t wait for Hannah to die. I seem to remember the kids talking about this lake where some woman supposedly drowned; I heartily hope it was Hannah in the 1950’s. If she somehow survives through the end of this show, like . . . no. This show is bleak, but good Lord, that’s just too fucking bleak.
Honorable Mentions: Cho (Kingdom)
MOST COMICALLY TRAGIC CHARACTER
Jonas – Dark
Speaking of bleak.
This wasn’t an easy call, as basically everybody on Dark leads a miserable life due to poor decision making and time travel. Still, Jonas’s story hits new levels of ridiculously tragic. Last season, he found out that his father, who killed himself, is actually his girlfriend’s little brother who got trapped back in the 1980’s, which makes Jonas’s GF his aunt; he also got trapped in an apocalyptic future where almost everyone he knows is dead. I mean, that’s a lot, right?
Well, here’s how Season 2 says “hold my beer” to that:
Jonas is hanged in the apocalyptic future and nearly dies.
Jonas goes back in time to stop his father from taking his own life, only to realize that by doing so, he actually causes Mikkel/Michael to kill himself.
Jonas discovers that he (or, at least, a future version of himself) is responsible for leading Mikkel to the 1980’s time portal in the first place.
Jonas discovers that he is destined to become Adam, the secret Big Bad who’s been orchestrating nearly every terrible thing that’s happened in Winden, including the murder of several children.
Jonas watches Adam kill Martha, his aunt/forbidden love.
I mean, good God. Let this poor boy rest.
Honorable Mentions: Ulrich (Dark); Mikkel (Dark)
The Doctor & Zombie Jemma – Agents of SHIELD
The truth is, Fitz and Simmons have never worked all that well for me as a ship, like, I don’t hate it or anything, but their chemistry has always come across as pretty strictly platonic, and anyway, I love the idea of their Epic Friendship Saga, like, we need more of those, damn it. So I was pretty surprised by “Inescapable” because for maybe the first time in six seasons, Fitz and Simmons finally worked for me as a romantic couple. I can’t exactly tell you why, either; it just clicked for once. (“Inescapable” is also winning for FAVORITE INDIVIDUAL EPISODE because while I had so-so feelings about the season a whole, I just had so much fun watching this shared mindscape episode. It was pretty delightful.)
That all being said, this award for Best Kiss does not actually go to Fitz and Simmons; instead, it goes to their evil counterparts, who stopped hunting down our heroes in order to hilariously make out instead. People, I just about died. Jemma and Fitz’s reaction to this madness still has me cracking up.
It’s Brion, not Terra, who ultimately betrays the team – Young Justice
When Tara Markov came into the picture, I was like, Oh, cool, they’re doing a quasi Judas Contract storyline. As we went into the finale, though, I found myself hoping the team would already know, and that Terra, herself, would choose not to betray her friends–not just because it’s happier, but because it’s a nice switch-up on the mythology. And hey, that’s exactly what happened, so I was feeling pretty good about myself–until Brion fucking murders Baron Bedlam and takes his own brother’s throne for himself, effectively completing the coup that he sought to end.
Dude. Just. I did not see it coming. But I still buy it, which is what matters: there’s a certain amount of psychic influence to consider, plus Brion’s obsession with the throne and the fact that Baron Bedlam is responsible for his parents’ murder. It was shocking and violent but not unearned, which makes for a great twist; moreover, it actually feels like a betrayal because I like Brion, damn it; he’s a little bit sweet and incredibly impatient and I was all in on the Brion/Halo ship. Now, I’m shook.
How long do I have to wait till Season 4, exactly?
Honorable Mentions: The Queen isn’t pregnant (Kingdom); Bajie used to have the Gift (Into the Badlands); Henry has the Gift (Into the Badlands); Robyn is a lesbian (Stranger Things); Alex kills Bryce, and neither he nor Jessica tried to save him (13 Reasons Why)
Monty is gay – 13 Reasons Why
(Disclaimer: TW for both rape and shitty handling of queer issues. Consider this disclaimer applicable to each time I bring up 13 Reasons Why from here on out.)
If Monty was just another jerk football player with a totally shitty dad, this would simply be a cliche. Like, I’d say we should stop making a character’s sexuality into a twist at all, but to be fair, Stranger Things sorta does this, too, and it’s actually a pretty lovely reveal, so, IDK. But anyway, I could potentially roll my eyes through this cliche of the closeted jerk football player, except that Monty is also the guy who used a broom to rape Tyler last season, and for fuck’s sake, maybe we don’t pick the rapist as our closeted gay character, like, what the actual fuck? The only thing, the only thing, I can say in this storyline’s defense is that Monty, at least, is not this show’s only gay character; Tony, openly gay since Season 1, is in a loving relationship with his BF, Caleb, and they have some very sweet scenes this season. Still, this is some gross bullshit, and I am not here for it.
Monty’s sexuality is also weirdly used as a quasi-redemption device, like, yes, he’s a rapist, but see, he’s also human, which like, can we not? But 13 Reasons Why’s major theme this season is “rapists are humans, too,” and we know that because Monty isn’t even the only character this applies to. Before we get to that, though, let’s discuss Monty a little more, shall we? Because there is definitely more to discuss here.
Honorable Mentions: Monty is dead, murdered in jail, offscreen, possibly for being gay (13 Reasons Why); Sunny may have killed MK’s mother (Into the Badlands); Jonas is Adam (Dark)
Monty – 13 Reasons Why
So, they try to humanize Monty by revealing that he’s gay, giving him a secret, not-quite boyfriend, and having his abusive father spit in his face, saying that gay guys like Monty get killed in jail . . . and then Monty immediately gets killed in jail, off screen, as this Big Twist that leads to the Group framing him for Bryce’s murder?
Thanks, I hate it.
Frustratingly, I actually could’ve been a huge fan of the whole “framing someone terrible for murder” twist, like that’s actually some pretty dark shit from your teenage protagonists, and I would’ve been all about the inevitable emotional fallout from this decision in Season 4. But the way it was executed here, with an off-screen death, a quasi-redemption nobody wanted, and a Bury Your Gays trope, all mixed into one? Yeah, no. None of this works for me.
(I should probably mention, too, that because his death is off screen, there’s a fan theory going around that Monty isn’t actually dead. Honestly, I don’t even know how I feel about that. Tired, I guess. 13 Reasons Why mostly just made me tired this season, and I’m not even done bitching about it yet.)
Ryder – Into the Badlands
Quinn – Into the Badlands
Because, seriously, good fucking riddance.
In hindsight, I think the show might have benefitted from Ryder dying a little later than he actually did, but I was so surprised/overjoyed when it happened that I still can’t bring myself to regret it too much. Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting for Quinn to die since Season 1, and I’m extremely relieved the showrunners didn’t try and stretch him out into a Season 3 Big Bad. Because one, that would’ve been ridiculous, and two, this allows the Widow to become the Big Bad herself. (At least, that’s how it feels now, anyway, although to be fair, I’m only a few episodes into Season 3 at this point. Still, I like that she has even more time to shine. Minerva is a lot of fun.)
MOST DISGUSTING MOMENT
Exploding Rats – Stranger Things
Good lord. That was a LOT of rat juice. Perfectly, wonderfully gross.
FAVORITE POIGNANT HALLUCINATION
Nightwing’s Fever Dream Takes Over – Young Justice
See, this is why superheroes aren’t supposed to go out while they’re still feverish.
In the midst of battle, Nightwing’s lucidity takes something of a nosedive when he starts hallucinating that Kid Flash is still alive. (In fairness, this doesn’t stop Nightwing from hacking the ship and stopping the bad guys.) He also imagines that everyone on the team is a kid again, which leads to some absolute wackiness, like seeing our heroes square off against the bad guys, video game style. It also gives us some great callbacks (old costumes! Souvenirs! Wordplay! Hello, Megan!), and it’s a welcome bit of nostalgia for those of us who miss seeing more of the original team. More importantly, it’s a zany scene that actually leads to a really nice moment between Artemis and Nightwing, and I just adore that kind of shit. Emotional continuity FTW!
FAVORITE WTF MOMENT
The water demon living inside Andrés will only reveal the mystery of his parentage if he watches The King’s Speech so that she, too, can see it – Los Espookys
I mean . . . what could’ve won against that?
Truthfully, at least half of what happens on Los Espookys could get nominated for this award, but something about this bit made me laugh particularly hard. Especially since the water demon decided that The King’s Speech was ultimately forgettable and not worth all the fuss. Poor The King’s Speech.
Honorable Mentions: Alternate Martha is introduced (Dark); Andrés threatens to put the dentist out of business by creating sugar-free chocolate (Los Espookys); Juan Carlos gets married to Tati (Los Espookys); Dustin and Suzie sing The NeverEnding Story theme song (Stranger Things)
BEST MUSICAL NUMBER
Dustin and Suzie sing The NeverEnding Story theme song – Stranger Things
I know a lot of fans didn’t like this scene because it completely broke all the climactic tension and stopped the action in its tracks, and I can respect that. But also, to hell with it, because this scene was hilarious, and I giggled for days afterwards, thinking of every other character’s WTF reaction faces. This one worked for me, and I have definitely watched it more than once.
LEAST IMPROVED SHOW
13 Reasons Why
In my April and May TV Superlatives, I ranted about Game of Thrones, like, a lot. 13 Reasons Why, clearly, has become my new GoT.
Look, plot-wise, Season 2 is definitely inferior to Season 1. Like, a lot of the courtroom drama just doesn’t make sense, and the whole mystery about who’s threatening the Group comes to a disappointing end. Still, there’s a lot in Season 2 I did really enjoy: how the show deals with Alex’s brain injury, for instance, and the sweet relationship he forms with Zach. Jessica’s storyline is brilliant, too, really delving into her emotional trauma and how she begins to slowly, imperfectly move forward. It seemed, for a time, that 13 Reasons Why had actually listened to some of the criticisms about Season 1’s rape storylines, and I was extremely happy about that . . . until the last episode, when Monty rapes Tyler, and Tyler responds to that trauma by going to the Spring Fling with the intention to shoot up the place. Then Clay, spotting Tyler before he goes inside, manages to talk him down and sneak him away before the cops come.
People. I was fucking livid. There are so many, SO MANY, things wrong with all that bullshit, but the sheer irresponsibility of Clay talking down a school shooter and treating this like it’s the morally right thing to do, like it’s some heroic measure to which teenagers should aspire . . . just . . . in a time in America where there have been more mass shootings than fucking days in the year . . . look, I don’t often say this about my media, but this is the kind of shit that could get kids killed.
Still, I made the choice to watch Season 3, anyway. I’d become invested, damn it. Plus, I knew Bex Taylor Klaus was in this season, and I really hoped they might do something to mitigate all the terrible decisions they made in their season finale. After all, Clay’s choice doesn’t actually feel OOC, so I could’ve been eventually okay with it if literally every other character was like, “What the actual fuck, Clay?”
Instead, 13 Reasons Why doubled-down, making almost everyone in the Group responsible for Tyler’s mental health and treating this like it’s the best, most compassionate thing to do. (Yes, they suggest Tyler goes to the high school guidance counselor, and he does. That is absolutely not fucking enough.) Zach, the only character who, reasonably, is like “fuck this, I’m out, and we should go to the cops” ends up apologizing to Tyler by the end for essentially not having his back. This is after he finds out that Tyler was raped, and look, it’s great that 13 Reasons Why wants to talk about the invisibility problem of male rape survivors, but tying this to a school shooter storyline was about the worst decision they could’ve possibly made. The lesson here becomes that kids can prevent school shootings with a little bit of compassion, and that is a massively fucked up thing to be teaching.
Another thing that’s fucked up: the redemption of Bryce Walker. If you’re completely unfamiliar with the show, then know that in Seasons 1 and 2, Bryce is a remorseless serial rapist. He starts feeling regret in Season 3, however, because a) no one likes him at his new school, and b) he meets a pretty girl. This, of course, is Ani, who mostly never works as a character because she rarely feels like an actual person, despite Saif’s best efforts; instead, Ani is a mixture of a framing device, a love interest for Clay, and an outsider POV to let us see Bryce in a new light, or some shit.
13 Reasons Why clearly wants to be seen as a show about empathy, anti-bullying, real issues, and forgiveness. It wants to be the kind of show that tackles how good people make bad decisions, and how people who’ve done terrible things are still capable of good. And yeah, some of that’s commendable. But Jesus, you can’t just write whatever bullshit you want, scream GOOD INTENTIONS, and call it a day. If you want to write a redemption arc, you really need to think about what that arc is saying. You need to fucking think about what stories are actually worth telling.
In Season 2, Bryce Walker is likened to Brock Turner; his defense attorney suggests that Bryce’s loss of scholarship offers and championship football season is punishment enough; not only that, Bryce only gets sentenced to a three-month probation for raping Jessica Davis. (The judge actually says, “I expect you to walk the straight and narrow, young man.” It’s so rage-inducing.) The parallels are not subtle, nor are they meant to be, and while some fans were upset about this verdict, I actually liked it a lot at the time. I thought the trial’s downer ending worked for the story being told.
But now . . . now it’s all different because while the creators may have intended Season 3 to be a story about kindness and growth and redemption, the story they actually told was Brock Turner Learns to Be a Better Man. And really, for fuck’s sake. Who, exactly, does that story benefit?
Okay, I think that’s enough ranting for today, my friends. Let’s meet back in a couple of months to see who’s seriously pissed me off next!
6 thoughts on “TV SUPERLATIVES: June, July, and August – 2019”
I didn’t ship Joyce and Hopper, but in Seasons 1 – 2 I could see them either remaining platonic or becoming romantic down the road, and was totally fine with either one. Alas, apparently the Stranger Things showrunners went to the Arrow School of Making Ships Canon, where as soon as you commit to the love interest route you have to totally change their dynamic and make at least one of them an asshole.
I didn’t find their bickering cute or funny, I hated Hopper’s jealousy and Nice Guy-ing and general dickishness. Plus, when Eleven was reading Hopper’s letter at the end, I was just like “…Yeah, there is no way I believe S3 Hopper had the emotional maturity to write that.”
Apparently Robyn and Steve WERE originally meant to get together, but the actors convinced the writers to do this instead. I would’ve been okay with them getting together beyond some minor annoyance that single men and women on TV aren’t allowed to just be friends, but this was way better.
Despite never having seen The Neverending Story, I have watched that musical number at least ten times, it’s great. I love Suzie’s posing and dancing, that the kids in the car are more concerned with this than with the monster chasing them, and Joyce faceplanting against the wall. Also, Max and Lucas mocking Dustin over it was equally excellent.
I actually liked Jonathan and Nancy a lot this season. I even liked their argument, as I thought both their greiviances were pretty reasonable and I could understand their frustration.
I hadn’t heard of Los Espookies before, but what you’ve mentioned here sounds great and I am intrigued.
I like Neil Gaiman and a lot of Good Omens sounds fun and I should probably watch it, but I find the Ineffable Husbands’ costumes so terrible – they both look like someone in RL went as some cartoon character for Halloween. Also, the mostly canon nature of their relationship is offputting to me, in 2019, though I might feel differently if I watched the show. Is Ineffable Husbands actually their ship name though? ‘Cause that’s an amazing ship name.
I can’t agree strongly enough about how FitzSimmons should’ve remained platonic (I know Season 1 had its issues, but I actually thought it was the best version of their dynamic) but okay, that was very funny.
I really would’ve been fine if Joyce and Hopper had remained platonic, but I did think they’d be cute together and am still bitter about how wrong I turned out to be about that. It’s interesting, though: I feel like Arrow didn’t know what to do with a happy romantic relationship, like, they couldn’t figure out how to accomplish stakes and tension without ridiculous angst, so they just decided to ruin the characters in order to get said angst. Whereas the writers here torpedoed Hopper’s character for, I think, comedy: his immaturity and jealousy and constant bickering are, I think, meant to be funny. (Also relatable, I guess?) But, of course, that failed because he’s really just being a dick. It’s incredibly frustrating b/c, other than this, I thought that Season 3 was a big improvement on Season 2.
About the letter: I totally agree with you, although I don’t know that I specifically thought this at time–mostly, because I was too busy being smug and patting myself on the back. Once Hopper predictably failed the first letter, I was about 99.9% sure we’d get another one at the end of the season, full of poignancy and meaning and read as a VO, likely when Hopper was either hurt or dead.
Robyn and Steve: I’m so happy to hear the actors pushed for this! I, too, actually was coming around to what I assumed was their inevitable ship–but this was so much better! And I’m pretty sure I actually held my breath, waiting for Steve’s reaction, all, “I love you, Steve, so please don’t pull a Hopper on me here and turn out to be a shit heel, because Robyn is precious and I will fucking RIOT.” Luckily, Steve remained awesome. Love these two.
Jonathan and Nancy didn’t work for me as much as I wanted them too, but I’m trying to remember why. I think it was one of those things were I totally got where they were both coming from on paper, but I found the actual execution a little lacking? Still, it was a huge improvement for me on seasons previous, and I’m very into investigative reporter Nancy.
As far as Good Omens goes, I think I didn’t really notice their costumes while watching the show. (It was Aziraphale in pics that I was kinda like . . . really? But in the show itself, it didn’t bother me at all.) I totally get you on it’s 2019, do better, though. Personally, I’d still recommend the show because these two delight me SO FUCKING MUCH, but I get that reasoning. Also, Ineffable Husbands absolutely is their official ship name, and it is, indeed, the best.
FitzSimmons have so many moments I like. They’re easily some of my favorite characters on the show. I just often ignore the romance part and headcanon them as BFFs.
Oh yeah, I definitely got the impression that Hopper and Joyce’s new Slap Slap Kiss dynamic is meant to be of the funny, rom-com-esque variety. But Hopper’s dickishness aside, I didn’t find it funny, I missed their old more amiable partnership, and I don’t particularly like those kinds of rom-coms.
Nancy was awesome in general this season. I kind of love that in Season 2 and 3 she’s the take-charge one with a plan, and Jonathan is her tagalong helpful love interest.
Oh, yeah, FitzSimmons were, individually, probably my favourites of the main cast, and I actually loved their dynamic when they were the Science Twins and not a couple, which is much more boring. Also, them being a couple is, I think, forever tainted for me because them becoming Proper Love Interests ruined a storyline I was actually excited about, and the fact that Fitz was portrayed as So Noble And Self-Sacrificing for, you know, trying to prevent Simmons’ space boyfriend from dying a horrible death, and being sensitive to her being grieving and traumatized over him.
My utter hatred for that was magnified by me being deeply into Life Is Strange at that time, which had a similar love triangle (minus the interstellar travel) with the Fitz-equivalent making the same choices. The difference being, the game matter-of-factly portrayed it as just part of being a decent BFF and person, despite the the obvious emotional awkwardness of the situation. It was the rare love triangle I actually liked. (Plus, you know, lesbians.)
Also, I don’t know if you watch Pop Culture Detective or not, but he does a series of videos about toxic masculinity in pop culture, and he just did one on Stranger Things, Season 3, if you’re interested. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3cBJBhrpok
I love Pop Culture Detective and it’s ilk. I remember when I was in high school, most online film criticism by streamers was just CinemaSins-esque nitpicking or going on funny long rants for a laugh – the only one I knew of even trying to provide any level of deeper analysis was Lindsey Ellis. Nowadays, she’s still doing video essays and they’re better than ever, but there’s also a whole heap of other similar critics on Youtube. It’s a very welcome change, and Pop Culture Detective is one of my favourites.
Anyway, that was pretty great. Oh, and what he said about Bob reminded me of what I thought every time Hopper would get all jealous over Mr Clark – “Actually, I *would* ship it if Joyce hooked up with Mr Clark. He’s wonderful – smart, patient, kind, helpful, and utterly confident in who he is. Hopper and his insecurity-driven anger should take notes.”
Oh, I forgot to mention, I think this season had my favourite of the Upside Down monsters; the zombies’ being used like play-doh for the Mindflayer was delightful. That whole plot was basically identical to that of Slither, which I got a kick out of – although it was a little odd. I know Stranger Things is heavy on the homages and narrative influences, but it’s usually not to movies that came out in the 00s. Maybe it was a coincidence, IDK.
My sister introduced me to film criticism on Youtube. I don’t watch much of it religiously, but I do enjoy Lindsey Ellis, Pop Culture Detective, and Movies With Mikey. Also, I’ve always been really into film history, so Mek and I have watched every single video on Be Kind Rewind, where they talk about Best Actress winners and everything along with it: the other nominees that featured year, the Hollywood campaign, what other relevant things were happening in the country, etc.
At this point, I would absolutely ship Joyce/Mr. Clark. Like you said, he seems like a cool, generous dude. Joyce deserves someone who will treat her well. Also, if they were dating, presumably somebody would tell him about the Upside Down, and he could be like, “Oh, so THAT’s why everyone’s always coming over or calling at weird hours.”
As far as Slither and Stranger Things, I assume it’s a coincidence . . . or possibly they’re both pulling inspiration from an older thing? I’ll admit, I can’t think of anything offhand. Maybe there’s something by Cronenberg. I honestly haven’t watched much in the way of 80’s body horror.