It’s that time again! We must discuss only the most prestigious of TV Awards: Favorite Sidekick, Best Revenge, Most Horrifying Fashion, Favorite Ship, and more!
A quick reminder for how these work: I will bestow whatever TV shows I’ve recently been watching with such awards, whether they’re currently airing or not. 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 7)
Village Survival: The Eight (Season 2)
Star Trek (Season 2: Ep. 7-10)
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (June 7th – August 30th)
13 Reasons Why (Season 4)
Floor is Lava
Mystic Pop-Up Bar
Dear White People (Season 1)
Unsolved Mysteries (2020)
Dark (Season 3)
The Baby-Sitters Club
I Remember You (Hello Monster)
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
Love in the Moonlight (Moonlight Drawn by Clouds)
Lovecraft Country (Ep. 1 – 3)
Running Man (er, just a bunch of random episodes from multiple seasons)
(You may notice that some shows have two titles listed. K-dramas usually have at least two, and sometimes my brain flip-flops helplessly between both. I’m going to attempt some consistency throughout these superlatives, but I make absolutely no promises.)
Also, clearly, it’s just . . . it’s a lot of K-Dramas, folks. MY LIFE HAS BEEN TAKEN OVER BY K-DRAMAS AND VARIETY SHOWS, AND I’M OKAY WITH IT.
Enoch – Agents of SHIELD
Oh, what can I say about Enoch? He’s a time-traveling robot. A badass. A ridiculously loyal friend. He’s occasionally deeply under appreciated by those friends, which is frustrating, but still. He’s adorbs, and thus I adore him.
Honorable Mentions: Young Min (I Remember You); Jung Sun Ho (I Remember You); Sang-Tae (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay); Manager Gwi (Mystic Pop Up Bar); Charlie St. George (13 Reasons Why)
(An aside: yes, there is ACTUALLY a character on 13 Reasons Why named Charlie St. George, which is entirely too weird for me. This C. St. George is considerably nicer than I am, and also, he makes cookies.)
Byung Yeon – Love in the Moonlight
Who doesn’t love the silent badass type? Byung Yeon is the Crown Prince’s childhood friend and personal guard, and while I wish he had a little more screen time (there are some conversations that need to happen, damn it), I still fell in love with him pretty much immediately. Like, those very few smiles (and one hilariously stifled laugh) we get? They are gold. And though Byung Yeon’s friendship with Lee Young is complicated by external forces, it’s also incredibly sweet. These two easily take FAVORITE BROMANCE.
The only thing I’ve seen Kwak Dong Yeon in prior to this is his cameo in It’s Okay to Not Be Okay, and boy, is it a wildly different role. I really enjoy his performances in both shows, and I hope he pops up in more things I’m interested in.
Honorable Mentions for Favorite Sidekick: Dok Go Seon (Chip-In)
Honorable Mentions for Favorite Bromance: Lee Young & Yoon Sung (Love in the Moonlight); Yoon Sung & Byung Yeon (Love in the Moonlight); Kang Tae & Jae Soo (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay)
Karen Brewer – The Baby-Sitters Club
I very nearly gave this one to Richard Spier because I adore Marc Evan Jackson in all things, but Karen immediately won my heart when she had a wake for her doll. I mean, this exchange alone:
“Should we close her eyes?”
“No. It’s dark enough in the grave.”
I mean, come on. Obviously, she wins.
Honorable Mentions: Richard Spier (The Baby-Sitters Club); Elizabeth Thomas-Brewer (The Baby-Sitters Club); Charlie’s Dad (13 Reasons Why); Ani’s Mom (13 Reasons Why); Rashid (Dear White People); Silvio (Dear White People); Kwon Gi Do (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay)
SUPPORTING CHARACTER WHO MOST DESERVES A SHOUT-OUT
Daniel Sousa – Agents of SHIELD
Today’s “Awesome Supporting Character Who Doesn’t Fit Any Particular Award” goes to Daniel Sousa, who first appeared on Agent Carter (still miss you!!!) before becoming a regular player four years later in Agents of SHIELD. And damn, if he doesn’t fit in instantly with the team, sharing especially good chemistry with Henry Simmons and Chloe Bennet. Sousa is an earnest guy from the 1950’s, and earnest can be hard to sell well, but Enver Gjokaj does a great job with it, sincere and straight-forward and funny. His Man Out of Time story is different than Captain America’s, but I love every second of it. Now that AoS is over, someone cast this man in something I’m interested in, please!
Honorable Mentions: Yeo Rin (Mystic Pop-Up Bar); Claudia (Dark); Kang Soon Deok (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay); Team Leader Kang Eun-Hyeok (I Remember You)
Samantha & Joelle – Dear White People
Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, Stacey, Dawn – The Baby-Sitters Club
I’m really enjoying Samantha and Joelle’s friendship so far. I like both characters (especially Jo) and could watch them banter back and forth all day. There’s some conflict brewing here, and it has the potential to get ugly, but I’m hoping it doesn’t because I really like how these two support each other, even when there’s friction between them. I get it: messy female friendships are important to see, too, but I’m always gonna be here for some supportive lady BFFs.
Which, of course, is why I’m also all about The Baby-Sitters Club, and yes, nostalgia is certainly at play here, as I read a billion of these books as a kid. (My favorites, not shockingly, were the mysteries.) But this show is about 10,000 times better than I remember the 1995 movie being, and I really like all the young actresses here. Also, some of the less-expected pairings: Kristy opening up to Dawn, for example, or Dawn and Claudia’s revolution at camp. These girls are cute, and I really hope this gets renewed for a Season 2, where we’ll presumably get a chance to see a lot more of Mallory and Jessi, too.
Honorable Mentions: Bit Na & Go Seon (Chip-In); Moon Young & Joo Ri (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay); Yeo Rin & Da Bin (Mystic Pop Up Bar); Daisy & Jemma (Agents of SHIELD)
CHARACTER WHO MOST DESERVES A BETTER SHOW
Almost Everyone – 13 Reasons Why
I know. I can hear you. You still watch 13 Reasons Why, you ask? Reader, I did. I checked out Season 2 because, despite being very dissatisfied with the ending (among other things), I wanted to see if my favorite character survived his cliffhanger. S2 had a much shakier plot, but I became invested in several character arcs–before the show seriously pissed me off in the finale. I checked out Season 3, hoping they’d fix that ending; instead, they doubled down and made everything much worse. Here, I’d planned to give it up for good, but Season 4 was its last season, and I was like, “Fuck it, fine, I will FINISH YOU.”
It was, well. Better than Season 3, anyway. What still gets me about this show is that the cast is very talented, and I care about several characters. I’d love to see a different show with Alex and Jessica and Zach (and, shit, maybe even Clay and Ani) with actual consistent writing, less ridiculous plot lines, 95% less voiceover, and, yeah, just generally much less harmful mental health rep. As it is, I’m just glad the show is over. Hopefully, the actors can move onto better things.
FAVORITE CANON SHIP
Poison Ivy/Harley Quinn – Harley Quinn
Moon Young/Kang Tae – It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
(Warnings for MILD SPOILERS. More than mild, if you click on the links)
When it comes to Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, I mean, what isn’t to love? Bisexual semi-villains in a friends-to-lovers romance? I mean, sign me up, please. Season 2 is when this ship goes from fanon to canon, and I’m 100% here for it: the mild angst, their whole last scene in the finale, the liberal amounts of cartoon violence. Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are chaotic relationship goals. Also: they absolutely win BEST KISS because holy shit, EPIC. Also: “Eyes on the road! I love you, but Jesus.” ROFL. They are the best.
But It’s Okay to Not Be Okay really surprised me because I became very invested in Moon Young and Kang Tae’s relationship, despite my initial reservations. Cause I have, well. Thoughts and baggage and shit about unequal power dynamics in romantic relationships, not to mention I’m just not usually a big fan of the “Character A is an unfeeling jerk and Character B has to heal them with love” setup. Admittedly, Character A being a woman this time was sort of a refreshing change. Still, it’s hard to ship people if one’s just an asshole all the time. Thankfully, I loved these two together. They have fantastic chemistry, which helps, but I also really like how they both have plenty of opportunities to comfort one another, annoy one another, confront and heal and help the other grow. And while Kang Tae can be a pushover in many aspects of his life, he really isn’t with Moon Young. They both have power here, and that’s important to me. (Also, Kang Tae wins BEST LOVE CONFESSION, as it’s a reversal of an earlier scene and is kinda hilarious.)
Honorable Mentions for Favorite Ship: Caleb/Tony (13 Reasons Why); Sousa/Daisy (Agents of SHIELD); Yo-Yo/Mack (Agents of SHIELD); Wol Joo/Manager Gwi (Mystic Pop-Up Bar); Kang Bae/Yeo Rin (Mystic Pop-Up Bar); Ra On/Lee Young (Love in the Moonlight)
Honorable Mentions for Favorite Kiss: Alex kisses Zach (13 Reasons Why); Yeo Rin kisses Kang Bae–and immediately runs away (Mystic Pop Up Bar); Mary Anne kisses Logan (The Baby-Sitters Club); Kang Tae & Moon Young’s first kiss (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay); Ra On and Lee Young’s first kiss (Love in the Moonlight); Silvio kisses Lionel (Dear White People)
Honorable Mentions for Best Love Confession: Lee Young’s “wicked love” confession to Ra-On (Love in the Moonlight)
LEAST FAVORITE SHIP
Hyun/Ji An – I Remember You
To be fair, these two eventually get better. They’re tolerable, at least, though I maintain they have a much better sibling/work partner relationship than any kind of romantic chemistry. But you know how I just mentioned my problem with Unfeeling Jerk romances? Yeah. Hyun is absolutely a Sherlock type, and I Remember You wastes way too much time with Ji An fawning and fumbling over him, IMO. Their banter is meant to be antagonistic and cute, but it mostly comes across as annoying and painful to me. This show gets so, so much better in the second half, when the romance takes a backseat to all the family dynamics and ethics of serial killers shenanigans.
Honorable Mentions: Tyler/Estela (13 Reasons Why); Joo Ri/Sang In (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay)
Pretty Much Everyone – Dark
Alicia Silverstone – The Baby-Sitters Club
I know the former sounds like a cheat, but one of the things Dark has always done spectacularly well is their casting, not just because their actors are talented, but because nearly every younger or older version of a character actually looks similar. This was true throughout the show (with Middle-Aged & Old Claudia, Middle-Aged & Old Ulrich, etc.) and remains true in Season 3, where we get to see Young Peter for the first time, as well as the Young, Middle-Aged, and Old versions of a new character. (Fun fact: Middle-Aged and Old New Character are actually played by father and son.) It’s honestly impressive, just how good the show is at this. Drinks for the casting director!
Meanwhile, Alicia Silverstone as Elizabeth Thomas-Brewer (AKA Kristy’s Mom), is just delightful, partially because it’s just sorta fun to watch your teen idols grow up to be awesome TV parents, and partially because she’s really awesome in the role, relaxed and funny and heartwarming. This whole cast is pretty great, TBH, kids and parents alike.
Honorable Mentions: James Paxton (Agents of SHIELD)
“Inside” – Chris Avantgarde feat. Red Rosamond – Dark
“Blackbird” – Nina Simone – Lovecraft Country
Both of these shows have incredibly good soundtracks. I’ve snagged more than a few songs from Dark over the past three seasons–not surprising, considering they have a Donnie Darko style montage literally every episode. “Inside” was my absolute favorite of the montage songs this year, and I want to use it in all kinds of dark fanvids immediately.
But Lovecraft Country also has a stellar soundtrack, which is all the more impressive because I’ve only seen three episode of it so far. There are so many songs I love here, but it’s pretty hard to top Nina Simone for obvious reasons. The use of it here with Montrose when he (spoiler redacted) is just . . . awesome.
Honorable Mentions: “Juice” – Lizzo (The Baby-Sitters Club); “Molotov” – Kira Piru (The Baby-Sitters Club); “Mary Anne” – Boytoy (The Baby-Sitters Club); “Precious Possession” – Anna Wise (Dear White People); “My Body” – Young the Giant (13 Reasons Why); “In the Woods Somewhere”- Hozier (Dark); “I’m Your Psycho” – Janet Suhh (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay); “Wake Up” – Elaine (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay); “Invitation to the Past” – I Remember You OST; “Black Waltz” – I Remember You OST; “Murderer” I Remember You OST; “Killing Strangers” – Marilyn Manson (Lovecraft Country); “Whitey on the Moon” – Gil Scott Heron (Lovecraft Country); “River” – Leon Bridges (Lovecraft Country); “Movin’ On Up” – Ja’net Dubois and Jeff Barry (Lovecraft Country); “Take it Back” – Dorinda Clarke-Cole (Lovecraft Country); “Satan, We’re Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down” – Shirley Caesar (Lovecraft Country)
BEST MUSICAL NUMBER
Ruby and Letitia sing “Whole Lotta Shakin'” – Lovecraft Country
Deke sings “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – Agents of SHIELD
Because in the case of Lovecraft Country, DAMN.
Because in the case of Agents of SHIELD, HA!
Honorable Mentions: Ruby sings “I Want a Tall Skinny Papa” (Lovecraft Country); Ruby sings “Boogie at Midnight” (Lovecraft Country); Cinnabar, Samsin, and Wol Joo sing “Tears” at karaoke – Mystic Pop-Up Bar
BEST DANCE SCENE
Bones, Scotty, Chekov and Uhura perform The Logic Bomb Dance – Star Trek
I’ve never included Star Trek in these superlatives before, but obviously, I need to start. (And obviously, I need to watch more soon. Only four episodes all summer! It’s just, reviewing them takes time, and, you know, the K-Drama Dilemma.) Anyway, while I still don’t particularly like the logic bomb trope, if you’ve gotta use it, best make it as joyous and ridiculously weird as it is in “I, Mudd” where our heroes nonsensically dance (among other things) to defeat their robot captors. It is glorious canonical crack.
(I must tell you, though, if I include promos? This dance from the Love in the Moonlight teaser would win this awards, hands down.
Honorable Mentions: Kang Bae & Yeo Rin at dance competition (Mystic Pop-Up Bar); Group therapy dance (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay); Banquet solo (Love in the Moonlight)
WORST DANCE SCENE
Clay and his mother dance at Prom – 13 Reasons Why
Okay, fine, we didn’t actually watch them dance. But come on. This kid is at his senior prom, and his mom (a chaperone) is the only person he dances with? No. Don’t do this. You’re going for sweet, but you’re hitting sad and creepy.
MOST UNINTENTIONAL HILARIOUS MOMENT
Dead Jackson Radio – Star Trek
“Catspaw” was a pretty terrible episode, all in all, but it did start out fun, with dead Lieutenant Jackson being used as a mouthpiece for an alien entity. “There is a curse on your ship,” a man solemnly intones as the camera pushes in on Jackson’s dead face. “Leave this place, or you will all dieeee.”
Theoretically, it could’ve been creepy. In execution, however, it was just funny as hell.
MOST HORRIFYING FASHION
Chekov’s terrible wig – Star Trek
I mean, honestly. What could even compare?
Honorable Mentions: Mack’s depression beard (Agents of SHIELD); Amanda Grayson’s blanket robe, Disney villain collar, and elbow-length gloves (Star Trek), Manager Gwi’s super ruffled, half red/half blue shirt with a black bow tie (Mystic Pop-Up Bar); Eun Bok’s grey and black polka dot sweater with random red patch over a white shirt (I Remember You); Honestly, just a LOT of what everyone wears (Running Man)
Ko Moon Young’s entire wardrobe – It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
Kim Yoon Sung’s gorgeous hanbok – Love in the Moonlight
Every undercover time travel look – Agents of SHIELD
Look. Look. I had to cheat, okay? I had to.
For starters, there’s no way to pick just one outfit from Moon Young’s closet; her whole wardrobe is dark, dramatic, ultra femme, and extra AF. Everything she wears is perfect for both her characterization and the overall tone of the show. Some favorites include her heavily structured, off-white dress with a brown obi belt, her cropped pink blazer with a matching pink skirt, her short black dress with thigh-high boots, her long metallic purple dress with red shoes, her strapless black and white dress with gigantic black hat, and her black blazer with white cuffs and collar, matched with a long black skirt. (Many of these looks can be seen here and here.)
Meanwhile, it’s rare for me to drool over a guy’s entire wardrobe, especially in a period piece, but Yoon Sung has some of the prettiest goddamn clothing I’ve ever seen. You can see a whole bunch of pictures here. (Though be warned: the author discusses plot events in some of the descriptions, so skip the text if you don’t want to be SPOILED.) I don’t know if I can only pick one look here, either, but some personal favorites: the dark red floral in Episode 12, the black with yellow, blue, and red designs in Episode 8, and the lavender floral with purple beads in Episode 5. SO PRETTY.
Finally, I tried to at least pick one specific decade of awesome undercover outfits in AoS, but I just couldn’t. There were simply too many. From the gorgeous 30’s looks (Daisy’s purple dress and black beret; Yo-Yo’s jacket, hat, and ascot combo) to the amazing 50’s wear (Yo-Yo’s curled hair, Mack’s yellow shirt, Daisy’s curled hair and yellow shirt) to the hilarious 80’s costumes (Deke’s “Simple Minds” outfit and Mack’s “Killing Robots” outfit), this was just an amazing season for fashion. (Be warned: these links also have SPOILERS if you actually read the articles.)
Honorable Mentions: Leti’s white crop top and red pants (Lovecraft Country); Ruby’s red dress (Lovecraft Country); Christina Braithwaite’s silver shirt (Lovecraft Country); Mary Anne’s blue skirt, striped shirt, and hair down (The Baby-Sitters Club); Claudia’s pink floral dress, pink eyeshadow, and black bow at the wedding (The Baby-Sitters Club); Claudia’s Tippi Hedren costume (The Baby-Sitters Club); Ji Hye’s green pants, white and green top, and awesome wavy hair (Chip-In); Alt-Martha’s yellow jacket (Dark); Wol Ju’s white apron over green evening dress (Mystic Pop-Up Bar); Manager Gwi’s sweaters (Mystic Pop-Up Bar); Manager Gwi’s badass afterlife police jacket (Mystic Pop-Up Bar); Kite Man’s mask and wedding suit combo (Harley Quinn); Poison Ivy’s wedding dress (Harley Quinn); Bane’s hat at the wedding (Harley Quinn)
LEAST FAVORITE SUBPLOT
Princess Myungeun’s Fat to Thin Storyline – Love in the Moonlight
(Warnings for MILD SPOILERS, esp. in the Honorable Mentions)
As charming as Love in the Moonlight often is, it took real willpower to get past the Princess’s awful, awful fat suit. For one, all fat suits are terrible and we should stop using them immediately. For another, all fat suits are terrible, and this is not what a fat person’s face looks like. OFC, it’s true that not everyone wears weight the same way; even at my absolute skinniest, weight still clung to my belly like a goddamn koala. But this fat suit looks closer to a particularly egregious case of mumps, and it’s frustrating as hell, especially cause you just know you’re in for an inevitable Fat-to-Thin storyline.
The only good things I can say are these: A) nobody actually gives the Princess shit about losing weight (in fact, her brother encourages her to eat at one point when she’s unhappy), and B) her love interest is actually dismayed by her weight loss, as he fell in love with her when she was fat. That being said, the Princess is still thin by the end of this story and comes to no discernible actualizations about self-image or self-acceptance, emphasizing the message that a happy ending just isn’t happy if you’re fat. Which, BLARGH.
Honorable Mentions: Joo Ri and Sang In’s boring filler romance (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay); Everything about Cora (Agents of SHIELD); Winston’s whole evil team-up goes nowhere (13 Reasons Why); Tyler’s super-seekrit undercover work for the cops (13 Reasons Why); The cops are the good guys now because no other show on the PLANET has worse timing than 13 Reasons Why (13 Reason Why)
FAVORITE TITLE CARD/OPENING CREDITS
Agents of SHIELD
I do so love playful title cards and/or opening credits, especially when they actually reflect the tone/plot of the episode. Agents of SHIELD did this all season, really having some fun with their time travel shenanigans. This 70’s one above is particularly spectacular.
FAVORITE NEW SHOW
Mystic Pop-Up Bar
Floor is Lava
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
I Remember You
Yup. I gave up again. Most of the shows I watched this summer were new-to-me, and I enjoyed many of them for different reasons. For the Kdramas: Mystic Pop-Up Bar’s finale was kind of a letdown, but the show was such adorable fluff that I forgave it; I was particularly fond of Jung Da Eun (who’s hilarious and a great love interest for adorkable Kang Bae), and Choi Won Young (who–playing wildly against type–is absolutely adorable here, especially in his old man sweaters). I Remember You also features Choi Won Young, and he’s delightful here, too, for very, very different reasons. This show gets off to a bit of a shaky start, but it is my very favorite show about morality, family dynamics, and serial killers; also, it introduced me to Park Bo Gum, who is fucking amazing in this. And It’s Okay to Not to Be Okay is a funny, romantic, and deeply angsty story about trauma, love, found families, and fairy tales; as previously stated, I adore both the romantic and familial relationships here; also, seriously, that fashion. It is also the very rare K-drama that I think both starts and ends very strong.
As far as the variety/game shows go: Floor is Lava is the only non-Korean show in my Top Five, and it’s spectacularly silly, just a series of bad puns and annoying people falling in “lava” . . . but it also made me laugh a lot, which is precious in 2020. Meanwhile, Running Man is a variety show that’s been going in South Korea for literally a decade. I’ve only been able to check it out now, though, since we recently upgraded our Viki account. And people, I find it delightful. I am particularly fond of Lee Kwang-Soo (who I was already familiar with from Busted) because, at the end of day, I adore blatant cheaters.
Honorable Mentions: Dear White People; The Baby-Sitters Club
MOST WELCOME RETURN
I used to scare the hell out of myself by watching Unsolved Mysteries as a kid; it remains the reason why I can’t sleep with my goddamn window open, no matter how hot it is. Still, I waffled a little on watching this updated version of the show, mostly because I tend to waffle on true crime in general, sometimes finding it fascinating, sometimes finding it kinda exploitative. I must admit, though, I got hooked pretty much immediately. (Except for the alien episode, which I found incredibly boring and inconsistent with the new show’s tone.)
FAVORITE INDIVIDUAL EPISODE (PER SHOW)
“As I Have Always Been” – Agents of SHIELD
“Episode 4” – Village Survival: The Eight
“I, Mudd” – Star Trek
“Episode 193” – Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
“Senior Camping Trip” – 13 Reasons Why
“Something Green” – Harley Quinn
“Episode 5” – Mystic Pop-Up Bar
“The Basement: Level One” – Floor Is Lava
“Chapter V” – Dear White People
“Mystery on the Rooftop” – Unsolved Mysteries
“Between the Time” – Dark
“Mary Anne Saves the Day” – The Babysitters Club
“Lee Joon Young’s Room” – I Remember You
“Romeo and Juliet” – It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
“Episode 409” – Running Man
“After the Play Ends” – Love in the Moonlight
“Episode Four” – Chip-In
“Whitey’s on the Moon” – Lovecraft Country
If you’re interested, the hardest shows to pick only one episode for were I Remember You and It’s Okay to Not Be Okay. People. I agonized.
Honorable Mentions: “Adapt or Die” (Agents of SHIELD); “Episode 195” (Last Week Tonight With John Oliver); “199” (Last Week Tonight With John Oliver); “A Fight Worth Fighting For” (Harley Quinn); “Episode 6” (Mystic Pop-Up Bar), “Episode 10” (Mystic Pop-Up Bar); “Episode 11” (Mystic Pop-Up Bar); “Chapter I” (Dear White People); “Chapter IV” (Dear White People); “Chapter X” (Dear White People); “13 Minutes” (Unsolved Mysteries); “No Ride Home” (Unsolved Mysteries); “Life and Death” (Dark); “Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls” (The Baby-Sitters Club); “Claudia and Mean Janine” (The Baby-Sitters Club); “The Blood of a Murderer” (I Remember You); “Is A Happy Ending Possible” (I Remember You); “Find Me” (I Remember You); “If I Had to Kill Somebody . . .” (I Remember You); “What Choice Would You Make” (I Remember You); “Sleeping Witch” (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay); “Bluebeard’s Secret” (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay); “The Cheerful Dog” (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay); “Beauty and the Beast” (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay); The Girl Who Cried Wolf (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay), The Ugly Duckling (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay); “Episode 510” (Running Man); “Episode 511” (Running Man); “Episode 517” (Running Man); “When I Want to Say the Secret I Cannot Reveal” (Love in the Moonlight); “Faith Becomes Fate” (Love in the Moonlight); “Sundown” (Lovecraft Country); “Holy Ghost” (Lovecraft Country)
All right. We’re moving into the Big Spoiler Section now. Prepare yourselves for discussions of death, villainy, Big Twists, and terrible parenting.
We’re getting into it now. Last chance to look away!
Lee Joong Min – I Remember You
Really, this should be going to Do Hui Jae, who’s an actual murderer and, you know, the villain of the whole story . . . and yet. Lee Joong Min sucks so hard that I can’t help but pick him, even though I’m probably not supposed to hate him nearly as much as I do. But come on. Dude tells Hyun, his oldest son (maybe 10?) to act more like a kid, but that proves impossible because apparently this small child is responsible not just for a bunch of household chores, making his dad coffee, and taking care of his brother, but also paying all the utility bills on time, like, what the actual fuck, Dad? (I’m assuming the kid’s just sending the money, not actually providing the cash, but still. Why is this kid the one responsible for putting things in the mail or reminding you it’s time to leave for work? Joong Min also a horrifying habit of forgetting important things, like leaving behind his pen with a notorious serial killer or his work bag with a loaded gun inside at home with his children.
And then Joong Min decides Hyun is a budding sociopath, which sucks on multiple levels because A) he’s wrong, it’s his youngest son, Min, and B) his solution to this, rather than IDK, therapy, is to tell everyone that Hyun is studying overseas before imprisoning him in their Secret Basement Room for Humanity 101 Lessons.
I’m just saying. I’m not sure Lee Joon Young made the wrong decision when he murdered your ass, Joong Min.
Honorable Mentions: Do Hui Jae/Nurse Park Haeng Ja (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay); Dokko Chul (Chip In); Katarina’s Mom (Dark)
Rob Endres – Unsolved Mysteries
Planning Officer Hyun Ji Soo – I Remember You
When it comes to Chief Asshats, it’s hard to compete with real life. The worst fictional character still isn’t as bad as the guy who, within 24 hours of his wife’s mysterious disappearance, kicked out her fifteen-year-old son and changed the locks on the doors, like, didn’t even give him time to pack belongings before leaving him homeless and grieving. And don’t get me wrong: this stepfather is creepy AF, what with the whole “I used to carry around her skull and sleep curled up next to her ashes,” like, whoa. But still, even if this guy didn’t kill his wife? What an inhuman piece of shit. This show just reminds me how much I don’t like people; how am I already ready for Season 2?
So, yeah, Rob Endres is the worst. But I wanted to pick a fictional candidate, too, so today, that honor goes to Hyun Ji Soo, who’s the cop that takes in young Hyun after his (worthless) father is murdered and his little brother, Min, goes missing. It’s obvious that she’s shifty, so the revelation that she participated in a cover-up after accidentally helping a notorious serial killer escape is surprising, but not wholly shocking. But that she lied and never even bothered to look for Min, just to keep her crimes quiet? Nope, that’s it. You are the absolute worst and, frankly, I’m perfectly fine with your untimely demise, too.
Honorable Mentions: Porter Stansberry (Unsolved Mysteries); All the white friends who left their Black friend behind at the party (Unsolved Mysteries); Katarina’s Mom (Dark); Lee Joong Min (I Remember You); Cochrane (Star Trek); Kurt (Dear White People)
Lee Joon Young/Lee Joon Ho – I Remember You
The whole reason I decided to check out this show in the first place is because I came across this fanvid while looking up Choi Won Young clips. And while, yes, the fanvid is full of spoilers, I’m still glad I watched it because A) I’d have figured out Lee Joon Ho’s secret identity anyway (because, holy shit, the show basically tells you with every nonverbal cue imaginable, like, it wants you to know, right, it just has to), and B) I desperately adored I Remember You, but that adoration took a little time. I’m not sure I would’ve kept going after the first couple of episodes, if I hadn’t seen it.
Anyway, Joon Young is great. I’m honestly not sure if I’ve ever seen a serial killer that I liked so much. (Well. Except Min, of course.) For one, Joon Young is hilarious; some of Choi Won Young’s facial expressions absolutely slay me. (Seriously, this actor is just the best, although I’m also quite fond of D.O., too, who plays the 20-something version of the character.) I also definitely wasn’t expecting him to be a sympathetic bad guy. What I kinda especially love are the moments when Joon Young is trying to be kind or merciful and just not getting it, like when he leads the heroine to the location of her long-lost dead father and just does not understand why she’s upset with that gift. The psychology in this show is fascinating, as are the family dynamics. The deeply weird and complex relationship between Joon Young, Lee Hyun, and Min is just superb.
Honorable Mentions: Jang Young Nam (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay); Samuel Braithwhite (Lovecraft Country); Basically all the white people (Lovecraft Country)
Cora – Agents of SHIELD
I like the idea of Cora. I like the idea of multiple SHIELD villains this season, actually, people who died in the original timeline and are determined to change their futures for good. But bringing in a previously unheard of sibling in the last season is just never a good idea, like, there are a half dozen relationships on this show that I care about more than Daisy and her Random Ass Sister. Worse, though: I just don’t buy Cora, not how quickly she turns against her mom and definitely not how fast she’s down with murder. It doesn’t help that most of Cora’s line deliveries come off as petulant rather than furious. The actress is 29-years-old (very shortly to be 30), but Cora’s dialogue might play a lot better if the character had be written as, IDK, maybe 13 instead.
Honorable Mentions: Nathaniel Malick (Agents of SHIELD)
FAVORITE SIBLING DYNAMIC
Hyun & Min – I Remember You
Kang Tae & Sang Tae – It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
Oh, I love Hyun and Min so much. Their sibling dynamic is . . . shall we go with unique? I mean, Hyun is a police consultant and Min’s a serial killer, so. It’s not your typical brotherly relationship. (In fairness, Min only kills terrible people and was also abducted/ raised by a serial killer, so. He kinda didn’t have a chance.) I absolutely love all of their scenes: their confrontation (after Hyun finally discovers Min’s true identity), whenever Hyun takes care of Min (especially at the hospital because these scenes are so cute. (And also because of the not-at-all subtle tree metaphor battle, I love it.) I am 1000% invested in this relationship.
Still, I really appreciated just how thoughtful and complex Kang Tae and Sang Tae’s relationship is, too; this could easily veer into ablest bullshit or inspiration porn, but as far as I can determine–and admittedly, I have an outsider POV on this–it veers away from that. Both characters are explored with actual nuance; both characters have full arcs with their own goals, traumas, and relationships to navigate. Kang Tae and Sang Tae are deeply protective of each other, but they’re also both secretly resentful, too, and they have to find a way to break the unhealthy cycle they’ve become trapped in, to find their own happiness and independence. There are so many wonderful moments here (ALL THE HUGS), and they absolutely made me cry more than once. (My God, this show. It’s just not an episode if Kang Tae isn’t in tears at least once by the end of it.)
Also have to give a special shoutout to Sang Tae and Moon Young, who are very similar in many ways and have a hilarious sibling vibe, even if they aren’t actually related.
Honorable Mentions: Claudia & Janine (The Babysitters Club)
FAVORITE PARENT-CHILD DYNAMIC
Wol Ju/Manager Gwi and Kang-Bae – Mystic Pop-Up Bar
This was difficult because I dearly love more than one parent-kid relationship in The Baby-Sitters Club, and I’m also complete trash for motherless characters and their awesome stand-in moms, like Kang Tae and Soon Duk in It’s Okay to Not Be Okay. Still, I had to go with Mystic Pop-Up Bar here because this little family unit really makes the whole show for me. Even before everyone finds out they’re related, sorta (reincarnation shenanigans are involved), these three are all kinds of adorable. I’m seriously invested in their cuteness, like, when Wol Ju takes care of Kang Bae when he’s sick, or Kang Bae’s whole dream that these two are his birth parents, play-fighting over which of them he takes after. Mystic Pop-Up Bar’s finale might be underwhelming, but if someone ever decided to make a Season 2 (they won’t), I’d watch it in a heartbeat for these three.
Honorable Mentions: Elizabeth and Kristy (The Baby-Sitters Club); Richard and Mary-Anne (The Baby-Sitters Club); Charlie & His Dad (13 Reasons Why); Soon Duk & Kang Tae (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay); Uncle George & Atticus (Lovecraft Country)
FAVORITE NON-CANON SHIP
Alex and Zach – 13 Reasons Why
(First, a quick shoutout to Jess/Ani, who were not a pairing I even considered until we got five seconds of an unrequited romance that made me realize, holy, shit, we could have had this ship all along, instead of the bullshit that is Jess/Justin, Jess/Diego, and especially Ani/Clay. Ugh. I keep finding new ways to be disappointed with you, show.)
Fourth season addresses Alex/Zach early on, which shocked me, even if they only did so to be like “Nope, Zach is straight, and this isn’t going to be a thing.” Zach wasn’t a jerk about it, though, and Alex’s actual love interest, the aforementioned Charlie St. George, seemed cute enough, so I figured I’d be able to let this go. Thing is, as the season progresses (especially in the last few episodes), it really feels like Alex’s BF is way more into him than the other way around. Meanwhile, Alex continues to positively light up in Zach’s presence, and Zach (when not too busy with his downward spiral that, in true 13 Reasons Why fashion, is excellent until it inevitably goes too far) keeps giving Alex these Looks, like he’s been secretly regretting rejecting Alex all along. I don’t know if these two actors were playing Covert Romance, or if they just have such fantastic chemistry that it overshadows the actual story, but it honestly kinda makes me feel bad for all three characters involved.
Honorable Mentions: Lee Kkeut Sun/Lee Jeom Rye (Mystic Pop-Up Bar)
BEST FIGHT SCENE
Crown Prince & Yoon Sung vs. Assassins – Love in the Moonlight
The only bad thing about this scene is that it’s one of the 8,000 times Ra On manages to be in danger. Everything else is awesome: the fight itself, the character moments, the sense of oh, nooooo when Lee Young gets stabbed. (It’s okay. He lives–and recovers far too quickly for my H/C obsessed heart, TBH.) It’s fantastic seeing both Byung Yeon and Yoon Sung come to the rescue, albeit separately. The latter also wins BEST BADASS MOMENT when he grabs an assassin’s sword by the blade before the dude can kill Lee Young. That was awesome. Also earlier in the episode, when Yoon Sung straight up slits a dude’s throat before he can tell anyone the truth about Ra On. Yeah, Yoon Sung might actually tie himself for this award. He’s just that cool, and deserves a lot better than he gets in this show. But we’ll come back to that.
Honorable Mentions for Best Fight Scene: May vs. Yo-Yo: Therapy/Meditation Fight (Agents of SHIELD); Ji An vs. Assassin (I Remember You); Lee Hyun & Min vs. Serial Killer of the Week (I Remember You); Manager Gwi vs. Evil Fleeing Spirit (Mystic Pop-Up Bar); Manager Gwi vs. Kim Won Hyung (Mystic Pop-Up Bar); Yeo Rin vs. Lots of Henchmen (Mystic Pop-Up Bar)
Honorable Mentions for Best Badass Moment: Manager Gwi cuts down evil spirit (Mystic Pop-Up Bar); Ji An takes down a suspect (I Remember You); Team Leader Kang Eun Hyeok, shockingly, takes down a suspect (I Remember You); Team Leader Kang Eun Hyeok maneuvers Hyun into accepting a consulting position (I Remember You); Lionel exposes the truth at the town hall (Dear White People); Atticus orders everyone to get the fuck out (Lovecraft Country)
Let’s not tell Sang Tae that Nurse Haeng Ja, his friend, is also the woman who murdered his mom and is on the loose – It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
Let’s have Ra On sneak back into the palace one more time, even though almost everyone there wants to execute her! – Love in the Moonlight
Both of these just inexcusable. In It’s Okay to Not Be Okay’s case, like, I could maybe get not telling Sang Tae the whole truth here, but for fuck’s sake. You have to at least tell him that Haeng Ja is a dangerous woman who can’t be trusted because otherwise, when she approaches him–and of course she’s going to approach him–Sang Tae won’t have any reason not to follow her. I spent a whole episode rolling my eyes, just waiting for this guy to get kidnapped, because seriously. This is the most predictable kidnapping of all time.
Meanwhile, Ra On sneaks back into the palace, what, two times after her identity has been discovered? Three? I get why she wants to (the love of her life is deadly ill, the father she’s never known has been captured, etc.) but that doesn’t mean she should; in fact, her presence always makes everything that much worse because, frankly, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a heroine who’s in peril this often. If Ra On were standing alone in an empty field, she’d find some way to trip into life-threatening danger. She also takes off her mask at inopportune moments, like, WTF, lady, do not stand around outside without a mask on when everyone is trying to hunt you down. For the love of God.
Honorable Mentions: Hyun leaves the crime scene, inevitably gets implicated (I Remember You); Harley turns Normal Joker back into Old Joker (Harley Quinn); Splitting up when an evil spirit is hunting you down (Mystic Pop-Up Bar)
Old Alt-Helge murders the shit out of Ulrich – Dark
Cause turnabout is fair play. Ulrich, you poor, miserable sonofabitch.
Claudia kills Alt-Claudia – Dark
Season 3 of Dark was ultimately my least favorite of the show, but one of the things I did genuinely enjoy was how, in this eternal battle between Jonas (Adam) and Martha (Eve), Claudia comes up with the plan that actually enables the loop to be broken once and for all. One of my initial disappointments with Season 3 was how Claudia had been seemingly downgraded from Major Player to Eve’s Lackey, so the twist here that she’d killed Alt-Claudia to replace her and begin enacting her own secret agenda? LOVE IT.
Honorable Mention: Mack’s parents are Chronicoms (Agents of SHIELD)
Clay, blacking out, has been the one to destroy the school cameras, paint the graffiti, and scare people in the woods ALL ALONG – 13 Reasons Why
WHY DID THE SHOW TAKE SO LONG TO REVEAL THIS, IT WAS SO FUCKING OBVIOUS THE WHOLE TIME, HOLY SHIT, WHYYYYYYYYYY?
BIGGEST JIMMY NOOOOOOO!
Uncle George – Lovecraft Country
Katarina – Dark
Uncle George, NOOOOOO! I kinda figured he was marked for doom, but I have to admit, I was hoping he’d last longer than this. Courtney B. Vance is fantastic here, and Uncle George is just an awesome character. Of course, I’m also not sure he’s gonna stay dead at this point; at the very least, Ghost Uncle George seems like a very real possibility. Either way, that shot of him in Michael K. Williams’s arms, ugh. My damn heart.
Meanwhile, it’s not even that I loved Katarina so much (I cared way, way more about Uncle George), but also goddamn. Katarina goes back in time, tries to rescue her husband who’s been trapped in a mental hospital for the past thirty years, and is ultimately drowned by her own abusive mother, who of course doesn’t recognize this 40-something version of her daughter. It’s just a kick to the metaphorical balls, which is frankly Dark’s MO; if you’re gonna get murdered in this town, there’s a 95% chance that you get taken out by a time-displaced loved one. Death in Dark can generally be predicted by calculating the dramatic irony factor and picking which fate seems the absolute cruelest.
Besides. I just really wanted Dead Lake Lady to be Hannah, the Worst Person of All Time. Speaking of.
Honorable Mentions: Kim Yoon Sung (Love in the Moonlight)
Hannah – Dark
Yoon Sung – Love in the Moonlight
Justin – 13 Reasons Why
I refuse to break this three-way tie here because these deaths are highly frustrating in their own separate ways. Hannah, for instance, like . . . I’m not saying I only watched Season 3 to watch her receive bloody comeuppance, but I am saying I’ve been waiting for this woman to horribly die since Season 1, and this lackluster death is just not cutting it. Again, Dark usually revels in making its deaths as mean and heart-wrenching as possible, but the emotion just isn’t here in Hannah’s death. Yes, she’s killed by her son, but it’s been a long time since they shared a scene together, and their dynamic has never been particularly engaging or emotional; plus, Jonas/Adam has been Full-On Evil for quite some time now, so there is absolutely no shock factor here, no matter how hard the music tries to sell this one. And Hannah’s sudden appearance in this time period just feels hugely random, too, so the whole thing kinda feels like, “Oh, shit, we forgot to kill Hannah!” It’s a huge letdown and may well be the Most Disappointing Wholly Justified Murder since Stannis died off screen in GoT.
Yoon Sung’s death, meanwhile, is a disappointing letdown because his character deserves so much better. He’s a stealth badass, as previously evidenced; I spent half the season fearing his inevitable demise, especially after he told the Queen he knew about her secret baby-swap. But when he did actually die–wow, was that a weak ass death scene. Yoon Sung goes out in a fight that he should’ve been able to win or just avoid altogether, and arguably only dies at all because our heroine gets in the way. I should have been in tears during this; instead, I was completely disengaged. Byung Yeon’s fake-out death the episode before was WAY more emotional than this bullshit. (In fact, if he’d remained dead, he definitely would’ve won for “Jimmy, NOOOO.” I was bawling.)
Finally, Justin’s death is just . . . unnecessary. His illness is an incredibly rushed storyline, and out of all the diseases the show could have picked, AIDS feels like a very poor choice. Very little about his hospital stay and terminal extubation come across as accurate to me, and ultimately, the whole thing feels sloppily thrown together for the cheap drama. Which, come on. 13 Reasons Why was not exactly short on cheap drama before this.
Enoch – Agents of SHIELD
Samuel Braithwhite – Lovecraft Country
It is too cruel to kill anyone who wins Most Adorable. There should be laws against that. Nevertheless, Enoch does die in a heroic yet also perfectly matter-of-fact sacrifice in what is easily the best episode of Agents of SHIELD this season. I don’t always love how our team treats Enoch (it’s that whole TRoS, C-3PO thing where the writers are going for funny, but land at dickish), but I did really like that Coulson and Daisy stay with him at the end. And Joel Stoeffer’s acting is, as always, great here. Enoch, you were the best.
Meanwhile, Tony Goldwyn’s death is great because it was so sudden and shocking and AWESOME. Getting turned into a statue and then crushed by your own collapsing mansion? Sucks to be you, dude. I never read Lovecraft Country, so I really expected this whole section of the story to be half a season, at least. And BTW, the whole ending of “Whitey’s On the Moon” absolutely also wins for MOST HOLY SHIT MOMENT.
Honorable Mentions for Best Death: Coulson (Agents of SHIELD); Young Jonas (Dark); Alt Claudia (Dark); Young Jonas and Martha (Dark); Manager Gwi (Mystic Pop-Up Bar); Uncle George (Lovecraft Country)
Honorable Mentions for Most Holy Shit Moment: Alex kisses Zach (13 Reasons Why); Clay and Zach get into a car accident (13 Reasons Why); Young Jonas dies in Alt-World (Dark); The butterfly appears on the mural (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay); Lee Young’s “wicked love” confession (Love in the Moonlight); Team Leader Kang Eun Hyeok gets stabbed (I Remember You); Joon ho comes to dinner (I Remember You)
MOST DISTURBING MOMENT
Christina freezes Atticus in place, his gun still pointed in the air, and then slowly opens all the blinds so that anybody could see him, a Black man, threatening a white woman – Lovecraft Country
Holy shit, this was such a tense moment. I was very, very still, watching this. When she finally lowers his arm and says, “Tic, you really have to be smarter than this. You know you can’t just go around killing white woman.” Evil. I think somebody just got added to my Bloody Comeuppance list.
And . . . hey, looks like that’s a wrap, folks! Until January!