TV Superlatives: September, October, November – 2021

It’s December, which means–well, a bunch of things, really, but today it means that I’ve come to talk about all the television I’ve been watching for the past three months. Here are the shows:

What If . . . ? (Episodes 1-5)
Star Trek: Lower Decks (Season 2, Episodes 4-10)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 8, Episodes 7-10)
Running Man/Classic Running Man (Random Episodes)
Black Spot (Season 2)
Last Week Tonight
Nailed It! (Season 6)
Squid Game
Slasher: Flesh and Blood
Yumi’s Cells (Ep. 1- 7)
Evil (Season 2)
The Great British Bake-Off (Collection 9)
Nancy Drew (Season 3, Ep. 1 – 7)
Hawkeye (Ep. 1-3)

A quick reminder for how these work: superlatives may be bestowed upon any show I’m watching, no matter whether it’s currently airing or not. As always, I will do my best to clearly mark all awards with appropriate spoiler warnings. I may discuss events from past seasons, however, without such a warning. Which is to say, I won’t spoil any of Nancy Drew, Season 3, without a big heads up, but any Major Revelations from S1 or S2 are totally fair game.

Shall we begin?

FAVORITE NEW PLAYER

Sister Andrea – Evil

Okay, Sister Andrea must be protected at all costs. She’s a funny, no-nonsense nun who becomes David’s spiritual mentor at the church; she’s also handy with a knife and entirely willing to cheat if she thinks that’s the best way to serve God. Sister Andrea’s scenes with Leland are nothing short of divine. And bonus, she’s played by Andrea Martin, who also played Phyl in the original Black Christmas! Martin is an amazing addition to this already fantastic cast, and I can’t wait to see more from her in Season 3.

Honorable Mentions: Kate Bishop (Hawkeye); Maya Lopez (Hawkeye);  Agent Park (Nancy Drew)

FAVORITE VILLAIN

Michael Emerson Satan GIF by CBS - Find & Share on GIPHY

Leland – Evil

I’m sorry, there’s just no beating Michael Emerson. He is glorious in this show.

Honorable Mention: Front Man (Squid Game); The Tracksuit Mafia (Hawkeye)

CHIEF ASSHAT

TIE!

Seamus – Slasher: Flesh and Blood
Spencer – Slasher: Flesh and Blood
Florence – Slasher: Flesh and Blood

Yeah. Almost everybody in this show suuuuuucks.

Florence, admittedly, is actually pretty fun to watch, in a hilarious, WTF way. But she’s also awful, and not just because of her absurdly terrible art; she’s also very happy to tell her son how much she wishes he’d been kidnapped instead of his older brother. And then we’ve got Spencer (the family patriarch), who’s a pretty horrifying parent himself. This dude’s an elitist, homophobic asshole who emotionally fucked up all his children for life. (This includes both Florence and Seamus, BTW.) Spencer and Florence are both definitely tying for WORST PARENT here.

Seamus, meanwhile, is at least sorta-good with his adopted daughter, Aphra. (Well. That’s complicated, actually, but he’s trying to be good, and it is literally his only redeeming quality, so. He won’t win this one.) However, he’s pretty much The Worst in literally every other respect. And while I can’t go into details without getting into spoilers, let me assure you that I wanted to punch this guy in the face with just about every single line delivery. Seamus is a whiny, petty, vindictive, snobby, backstabbing little dick, and of all the terrible characters in this show, I think I may have chanted for his death the hardest.

Honorable Mentions for Chief Asshat: John Flynn (What If . . .?); Bertrand (Black Spot); Rudy (Black Spot); Gerard (Black Spot); Jang Deok-Soo (Squid Game); Mira (Evil)

Honorable Mentions for Worst Parent: Seong Gi-hun (Squid Game); Seamus (Slasher: Flesh and Blood)

SUPPORTING CHARACTER WHO MOST DESERVES A SHOUTOUT

Ben – Evil

Ben the Magnificent is, well. Magnificent. He’s the Team Atheist and Skeptic (well, one of the skeptics), as well as the Science and Tech Guy. He’s super smart, very funny, and lovably grumpy. He also gets much more to do this season, and I loved that. I liked seeing the interplay between his current atheism, his Islamic upbringing, and the work he does now for the Catholic Church. I like that we learn a bit more about his family. (Which, speaking of, wins for BEST MEANINGFUL HALLUCINATION.) I like that we get serious material for some good old-fashioned emotional hurt/comfort. I also just really like seeing him interact with Kristen’s daughters. Ben is the best sarcastic babysitter. I demand more of this. MORE OF BEN ALWAYS, PLEASE.

Honorable Mentions for Supporting Character: O’Keefe (Slasher: Flesh and Blood); Kang Sae-Byeok (Squid Game); Cho Sang-Woo (Squid Game); Hwang Jun-Ho (Squid Game); Ryan (Nancy Drew); Rosa (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

Honorable Mentions for Favorite Meaningful Hallucination: Kristen having a vision of David having a vision of (spoiler redacted) (Evil); Kristen’s hallucinations during (spoiler redacted’s) exorcism (Evil)

FAVORITE SCENE STEALER – MAIN CAST

Dr. T’Ana – Star Trek: Lower Decks

My favorite Trek CMOs are usually cranky as shit, and Dr. T’Ana is no exception to this, but also she’s a cat, and that makes her exceptionally glorious. (Yes, yes, a Caitian. She’s a fucking bipedal cat, my dudes.)

Honorable Mention: Anxiety Cell (Yumi’s Cells)

FAVORITE DYNAMIC DUO

Hailee Steinfeld Marvel GIF by Nerdist.com - Find & Share on GIPHY

Hawkeye + Kate Bishop – Hawkeye

I’ll admit to having reservations about how this show is gonna handle Hawkeye’s less-than-awesome homicidal vigilante past, but I’m still having a lot fun here, partly because I’m a sucker for a good Christmas action story, partly because I’m enjoying the serious Matt Fraction vibes, and partly because I think Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld are a lot of fun together on screen. You know, cranky mentor figure, plucky young archer girl, a whole bunch of bickering in between kicking bad guy ass. This is the good shit.

FAVORITE SIBLING RELATIONSHIP

George, Jessie, Ted, and Charlie – Nancy Drew

I always like it when main characters have siblings, especially when those siblings aren’t, like, bratty demon kids that are brought in just for poorly written drama. There’s occasionally conflict between George and her sisters, but honestly not that much, and I like that we get to see them try and support one another. Hard to go into details here without spoilers, but definitely Episodes 3×01 and 3×03 are ones to watch for some sweet sibling moments. Ted Fan, very especially, rules.

FAVORITE NON-CANON SHIP

Carson/Ryan – Nancy Drew

I know they aren’t going there, I know. But come on: Nancy’s two dads, who already live together and bicker about grocery shopping and chore wheels and various other cozy, domestic things? I want it. I can feel it in my bones.

(Carson, Ryan, and Nancy also win for FAVORITE PARENT/CHILD DYNAMIC, BTW. I adore them all. Fanfic is being written as we speak.)

Honorable Mentions for Favorite Parent/Child Dynamic: Kristen and her daughters (Evil)

LEAST FAVORITE SUBPLOT

The ongoing whatever triangle between Cora, Rudy, and Roman – Black Spot

Because honestly. Who the hell cares?

FAVORITE OPENING TITLES

The Terrifying Tales Pop-Up Book – Evil

I initially thought Black Spot had this one in the bag, but Evil’s pop-up book swooped in and stole my heart. Every episode, this storybook is opened to reveal the chapter title (always something like “N is for Night Terrors” or “C is for Cannibal”), and then pages are turned and tabs are pulled, and the resulting images are creepy, grotesque, hilarious, or some perfect combination of all three. I want this pop-up book for my very own. I would buy it in a heartbeat.

Honorable Mention: Black Spot

FAVORITE SONG

TIE!

Half the Squid Game OST – Jung Jae Il and Park Min Ju – Squid Game
Fake Palindromes – Andrew Bird – Evil

Yes, it’s cheating to pick, like, four songs from one show, but I’m conflicted and pressed for time, so here we go. After Squid Game was over, I almost immediately went to YouTube to look up this score. There are so many songs I like here. Some of my absolute favorites (at least at the moment, I flip-flop) are “Let’s Go Out Tonight,” “I Remember My Name,” “The Rope Is Tied,” and “Needles and Dalgona,” but you’ll find even more in the Honorable Mentions section because, seriously, this was such a good OST.

Still, I just have to give a shoutout to Evil for how they utilize Andrew Bird’s “Fake Palindromes.” First, I just like the song, but also, they use the whole thing here in this fantastically weird opening montage of Sheryl doing, well. I won’t explicitly spoil it for you, but if you look up the lyrics for this one . . . it’s a pretty literal song choice, right down to Christine Lahti occasionally mouthing the lyrics as part of her unheard dialogue. This scene is an awful lot of fun.

Honorable Mentions – “Murder Without Violence” – Park Min Ju (Squid Game); “Unfolded” – Jung Jae II (Squid Game); “Way Back Then” – Jung Jae Il (Squid Game); “Pink Soldiers” – 23 (Squid Game); “The Blue Danube” – Johann Strauss II (Squid Game); “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” – The Sonics (Black Spot); “The Gambler” – Susie Wilkins and Adele Roberts (Black Spot); “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” – Tchaikovsky (Evil); “Kumbaya, My Lord” – Guadalcanal Diary (Evil); “Mission District” – The Black Angels (Evil); “Cabinet Man” – Lemon Demon (Nancy Drew); Pretty much all the Christmas music (Hawkeye)

FAVORITE NEW SHOW

Greeting Season 1 GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

Squid Game

So, like most of the world, I thought Squid Game was pretty great. I feel like maybe it didn’t emotionally devastate me quite as much as other people, possibly because my heart is cold and dead. But I still think it’s an extremely well-made, moving, and entertaining show. All the acting is solid. I thought the set design and bright colors were fantastic, and of course, I’ve already discussed how much I enjoyed the OST. The death games premise is absolutely 100% my jam, and I really like how much time is spent showing us just how desperate these characters really are. It’s not that “fuck capitalism” is an original theme in these kinds of stories; it’s that these kinds of stories don’t usually have the time to truly deep dive into their characters and the broken system they live in. Squid Game really goes there, though, and I thought that was exceptionally neat.

I’m not entirely convinced this show needs a second season, but I’ll probably watch it anyway, especially as there is one Big Thing that I was hoping would be explored in more detail. I’ll guess we’ll see if that happens in, er. 1-3 years, maybe?

Honorable Mention: Hawkeye

MOST WELCOME RETURN

TIE!

Nailed It!
Nancy Drew

Because whether its regular people hilariously failing at ridiculously advanced cake decoration or a teenage detective investigating a bunch of supernatural bullshit with her friends, these shows just make me happy.

FAVORITE EPISODE

What If:  What If . . . The World Lost its Mightiest Heroes?

Star Trek: Lower Decks: wej Duj

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: The Last Day

Black Spot: Sanctuary

Running Man: Museum Comics Information Center

Last Week Tonight: Homelessness in the United States

Nailed It: Im-Paw-Sible Cakes

Squid Game: Gganbu

Slasher: Flesh and Blood: The Sins of the Father

Yumi’s Cells: Episode 4

Evil: C is for Cop

The Great British Bake-Off: Bread Week

Nancy Drew: The Journey of the Dangerous Mind

Hawkeye: Never Meet Your Heroes

Honorable Mentions: What If . . . T’Challa Became a Star-Lord? (What If?); The Spy Humongous; I, Excretus; An Embarrassment of Dooplers (Star Trek: Lower Decks); Renewal; The Game of Boyles (Brooklyn Nine-Nine); How We Live Now, Part One (Black Spot); Seoul Arts Center; The Hard Way for Italian Gentlemen and Ladies: Characteristic Western Food Road; Webfoot Octopus Game; Choice of Destiny: Golden Ratio Race (Running Man); Union Busting, Spread of Misinformation Among Immigrant Diaspora Communities, Political Status of Taiwan (Last Week Tonight); History in the Baking (Nailed It!); The Man With the Umbrella; Stick to the Team; VIPS (Squid Game); Family Ties; Goldfinger (Slasher: Flesh and Blood); Episode 3 (Yumi’s Cells); N is for Night Terrors; S is for Silence; F is for Fire, E is for Elevator, I is for IRS (Evil); The Testimony of the Executed Man (Nancy Drew); Hide and Seek, Echoes (Hawkeye)

Okay, everything else from here on in comes with spoilers for the current season. Prepare yourselves accordingly.

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

And so we begin:

GRAND PRIZE FOR SURVIVAL

Protagonist Team at Tug of War – Squid Game

I recognize that this award should probably go to Seong Gi-Hun, considering he’s the only player to survive the entire show, but instead I’m giving it to our whole team for surviving this Tug of War game because goddamn. Even knowing that they’d win (I mean, every main character is on this team), this scene was still tense as hell. Such good work.

Honorable Mention: Teddy Bear (Black Spot); Ben (Evil)

BEST SURPRISE

TIE!

Teddy Bear lives! – Black Spot
Kristen gets away with murder because of white privilege – Evil

Teddy Bear (AKA, Nounours) is the absolute best, but I had this really bad feeling he wasn’t gonna survive the season–and that was before the dude fell into a ravine and got impaled by a goddamned tree branch. Fortunately, however, I was wrong. Teddy Bear lives! Teddy Bear lives! I don’t know if we’re ever gonna get a Season 3 of this show, but if we do, Teddy Bear must continue to survive.

Meanwhile, “C is for Cop” is one hell of an episode, not just because Kristen’s cop buddy finds out that she murdered someone, but because the show is very clear on just why Kristen gets away with it. While both David and Ben are getting harassed and intimidated by the police for *checks notes* driving, Kristen (the one white woman on the team) hysterically confesses murder to a cop and is still immediately let go. Not only that, Mira coolly tells Kristen that they’ll explain her freak-out 9-11 call by saying she saw a Black man out in the yard who they scared off. I mean, the casual delivery of this line, Jesus.

This development isn’t a happy surprise (not like Teddy Bear surviving) but it is powerful as hell. Because you want Kristen to get away with this (we like Kristen, and LeRoux was a serial killer who threatened her kids, FFS), but none of that changes the fact that she’s our lead heroine . . . and she just colluded with a racist cop to save her own ass. It’s a pretty bold move that I don’t think most shows would’ve had the guts to make, not like this.

FAVORITE BADASS MOMENT

Ji-Hyo almost makes it across the entire “glass” bridge by herself – Running Man

After Squid Game was such a huge success, Running Man made their own (considerably less lethal) bridge, and while the opposing team failed miserably at it, Song Ji-Hyo made it across almost the entire thing before she fell. (Much further than this clip actually shows.) Because Ji-Hyo is the BEST.

BEST DEATH

Mi-Nyeo and Deok-Soo – Squid Game

YES. You take that asshole out, Mi-Nyeo. Revenge at all costs!

Honorable Mentions: Seamus (Slasher: Flesh and Blood); Gerard (Black Spot)

WORST DEATH

Christy – Slasher: Flesh and Blood

I mean. There’s just so much about this that doesn’t work for me, and it’s not even because Christy is one of the only likable people on this goddamn island. I mean, yeah, it’s a little about that, but also . . . okay, let me try and explain this whole fuckery. Christy’s adopted daughter, Aphra, has pica, which compels her to eat things that are not food, like dirt or wood chips. I never particularly loved how the show used this actual condition as evidence for Aphra’s creepiness, but Slasher only doubles down here, because it turns out that Aphra is only pretending to be a child. She’s actually a cannibalistic con artist who was looking to escape her home country, and though Christy has been seriously disturbed by her behavior for a long time, her husband, Seamus, doesn’t believe Aphra’s dangerous. (Aphra also appears to be in love with Seamus, just to make this all even fucking weirder.)

So. After Seamus is murdered, and after Christy discovers that Seamus was (not that) secretly gay and had only married her to appease his dad and keep his inheritance, she then tries her very best to keep Aphra safe from the murderer . . . only for Aphra to attack her and literally eat half her face off. Though, technically, that doesn’t kill Christy because we haven’t punished this poor woman enough yet. In the end, she begs someone to mercy shoot her in the head. Meanwhile, Aphra dies very shortly afterwards when she gets high on magic mushrooms and takes off with the serial killer, only for said killer to pretty much immediately murder her. Literally everything about Aphra wins for WORST WTF MOMENT.

I just . . .  I don’t know if I can possibly express how much I hated, like, ALL of this. But wow, I did. It’s so utterly miserable, yes, but it’s also so poorly written and considered, too.

Honorable Mentions for Worst WTF Moment: Liv and Theo have cousin sex right after Theo decapitates his brother (Slasher: Flesh and Blood)

JIMMY, NOOOOOO!

Season 1 Red Light Green Light GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

Sae-Byeok – Squid Game

Man. Sae-Byeok was awesome, and she basically died because of bad luck and a random piece of fucking glass. I mean, yes, Sang-Woo absolutely killed her, too; that is clearly undeniable. But she wouldn’t have been so vulnerable (and, frankly, already dying) if that glass bridge could have exploded just a little less dramatically, like, way to be an asshole, glass bridge.

Honorable Mentions: Okoye (What if . . .?); Ali (Squid Game); Ji-Yeong (Squid Game); Jun-Ho (Squid Game); O’Keefe (Slasher: Flesh and Blood); Christy (Slasher: Flesh and Blood)

MOST DISGUSTING MOMENT

Vincent and Liv cut open Spencer’s guts and literally squeeze shit out of his colon – Slasher: Flesh and Blood

I don’t think of myself as being particularly squeamish (most of the Honorable Mentions, for instance, were gross in a completely delightful way), but LMAO, there are just some things I don’t need to see! (Kudos to this show for bringing the gore, though. This is quite easily the goriest TV show I have ever seen.)

Honorable Mentions: Jayden’s limbs are torn off (Slasher: Flesh and Blood); Spencer gets acid injected straight into his heart (Slasher: Flesh and Blood); Reycraft’s head gets squished (Slasher: Flesh and Blood); Seamus’s body, torn in half, is put up on display (Slasher: Flesh and Blood); Theo decapitates Vincent with a wire through the mouth (Slasher: Flesh and Blood); Kristen hallucinates her stomach bursting open during Leland’s exorcism (Evil)

BEST WTF MOMENT

Leland cuts off his goat-demon therapist’s head, smears blood all over his face, and later cooks and serves said therapist as goat curry – Evil

I mean, there are hairy goat legs and hooves literally sticking out of the kitchen pot. Christ, I love this fucked up show.

Honorable Mentions: Leland suddenly pops up and dances to “Funkytown” during David’s vision (Evil); Kristen suddenly busts out the tiger masks, wolf masks, and ball gags (Evil); Lexus’s tail (Evil); Florence decides to kill Dr. Trinh out of fucking nowhere (Slasher: Flesh and Blood); Birgit and Grace vs. Florence, a fight which culminates in Grace biting Florence’s finger off (Slasher: Flesh and Blood); Florence’s “Save Me” art installation (Slasher: Flesh and Blood)

BEST ROMANTIC PROPOSAL

Nick accepts George’s proposal while also proposing himself – Nancy Drew

I’ll admit, when George proposed to Nick last season, I was kinda like, “No! No, you’ve been together like a month! Please don’t do this; I actually like you two!” But Nick’s acceptance/proposal is very sweet, with all the decorations and hair pins and, er, “Cabinet Man” by Lemon Demon, which is not a song one might typically expect in a romantic scene, with lyrics like

“I’m happy for years and years
and only eating the occasional maintenance man
only driving a few kids to madness
maybe they were predisposed to madness, who knows?”

But also, yes, I adore it. Nick/George, you win FAVORITE CANON SHIP.

Honorable Mentions for Favorite Canon Ship: Yumi/Gu-Woong (Yumi’s Cells); Peggy/Steve (What If … ?); Amy/Jake( Brooklyn 99), Ji-Hyo/Jong-Kook (Running Man)

Honorable Mentions for Best Romantic Proposal: Holt and Kevin’s wedding renewal (Brooklyn 99)

YOU’RE KILLING ME, SMALLS

Yell Doctor Strange GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

“What If … Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands” – What If … ?

Okay, first off, God, that episode title. Who suggested that with a straight face? Because I suggested it while joking and then laughed my ass off when I realized I was right. Also, it’s been a while since I watched this one, but let me see if I can remember everything I disliked about this episode, because, whew.

*takes deep breath*

I simply don’t buy Christine’s death as an Absolute in this universe, not when I know perfectly well that Doctor Strange became a superhero in another universe without her dying. Taking the Refrigerated Woman trope and making a fixed point out of it? Like, pass. The show gives me no satisfactory explanation for why Doctor Strange can’t just save Christine, fuck up his hands, and became a superhero that way, you know, in one of his many, many Fix-It attempts. I also think it’s utterly ludicrous that this Doctor Strange would’ve gone to Tibet after Christine’s death, anyway, like I get Desperate Man of Western Science finds evidence of a seemingly miraculous cure for paraplegia and goes to Tibet to investigate, but you’re telling me this skeptical motherfucker goes to Tibet seeking the mystical arts because his girlfriend died? What? No! Why? Did his psychiatrist also egregiously ignore HIPAA and show him the confidential medical files of a patient who miraculously resurrected or something?

It probably doesn’t help that Doctor Strange and Christine never had one shred of romantic chemistry in the movie, and it’s very hard to imagine her character being the sole reason our hero literally destroys his whole universe. And the entire episode ends up feeling pretty convoluted, anyway, although credit where credit’s due: I’m kinda obsessed with Evil Doctor Strange’s Disney-Villain-esque costume. It’s pretty great.

WORST PLAN

Worst. Search Party. EVER – Black Spot

Listen. I’m not saying Laurène isn’t in a tough spot. But when tracking down a serial killer/deer spine enthusiast/possible Celtic god, it’s probably best not to search the creepy woods (AKA, the killer/god’s home turf) with a bunch of untrustworthy villainous henchmen who all brought guns, despite the fact that you specifically told them not to. Especially when you split the guys up into pairs, easy to be picked off or to accidentally shoot one another when panicked. Especially when you don’t have a particularly good idea where to search in the first place. Especially when the suspect you’re trying to track down is such a creepy stealth motherfucker that he can break into multiple homes all across town in one night and leave each of them bloody deer spine gifts without anyone seeing or hearing him, like some kind of seriously fucked up Santa. Like, shocking not everyone made it back from the search party alive.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: much as I like Laurène, I’m not convinced she’s actually very good at her job.

Honorable Mentions: Kristen brings three of her daughters to play the elevator game (Evil)

CHARACTER WHO REALLY NEEDS TO JUST DIE ALREADY

Bertrand – Black Spot

Yup. This motherfucker wins AGAIN. I am severely disappointed he is still alive.

Honorable Mention: Andy (Evil)

FAVORITE SCENE STEALER – GUEST SPOT

TIE!

Korath – What If . . . ?
Fenna – Evil

I’m regularly disappointed in movies and television for how they waste Djimon Hounsou’s talent, but I was so goddamn delighted by his guest appearance on What If . . . . ? Korath, once just a basic Chief Henchman type, is so funny and adorable here. He is Star Lord’s No. 1 fan–at least when Star-Lord is T’Challa, that is–and I just wanted to hug him this whole episode. (Accordingly, Korath also wins for MOST IMPROVED CHARACTER and FAVORITE SIDEKICK). See how much better everything gets when you take Peter Quill out of the equation? Thanos becomes a good guy! Peace thrives in the universe! Djimon Hounsou actually gets fun things to do! Everyone wins!

Meanwhile, Fenna (Alexandra Socha) is a young nun at a primarily male monastery where everyone has taken a vow of silence, and Christ, I want her character to come back in Season 3 so badly. Unlikely? Probably, unless Fenna says fuck off to that sexist ass place. Still, her immediate friendship (or potential romantic chemistry, shippers, you do you) with Kristen was such an unexpected delight. Fenna is mischievous, clever, and funny, and I could watch these two silently getting drunk on church wine together all damn day. Fenna and Kristen were my FAVORITE LADYMANCE, hands down.

Honorable Mentions for Favorite Scene Stealer – Guest Spot: Cheddar (Brooklyn Nine); T’Challa (What If . . .?) Colonel Flynn (What If . . . ?); Nick Fury (What If . . .?); Black Widow (What If . . .?); The Salesman (Squid Game); Ji-Yeong (Squid Game); AGIMUS (Star Trek: Lower Decks); Armus (Star Trek: Lower Decks); T’Lyn (Star Trek: Lower Decks); Liyana Shakir (Evil); Miss Marie (Evil); Bishop Thomas Marx (Evil); Tomas (Hawkeye); Pizza Dog (Hawkeye)

Honorable Mentions for Favorite Sidekick: Howard Stark (What If . . . ?)

Honorable Mentions for Favorite Ladymance: Sae-Byeok & Ji-Yeong (Squid Game)

MOST HORRIFICALLY TRAGIC CHARACTER

Hwang Jun-Ho – Squid Game

This poor bastard. While basically everyone in this show wins for MOST NEEDS A HUG, Jun-Ho’s life particularly sucks. He sneaks into this crazy dangerous shit all by himself, just trying to figure out what the hell happened to his big brother, only to get his ass shot off a cliff* BY his big brother, who’s actually one of the upper-ups in this evil game. (I mean, sure, we called that shit pretty fast, but still. That sucks. Poor Jun-Ho.)

(Although it’s more than possible Jun-Ho didn’t actually die, considering we’re getting a Season 2, and we never actually see his dead body–and we see everybody’s dead body, which yes, is how I called the Il-Nam twist, too. First rule of television: if there’s no body, there’s always hope.)

Honorable Mentions: Gi-hun (Squid Game); Sae-Byeok (Squid Game); Christy (Slasher: Flesh and Blood)

Well, shit, I think that’s it! Please let me know about your latest TV shows in the comments, and may we all meet again to discuss even more television in another three months.

11 thoughts on “TV Superlatives: September, October, November – 2021

  1. I’m in the middle of Evil Season 2, and I remember enough of the lyrics to Fake Palindromes to be mighty curious about that Sheryl scene.

    I really enjoyed the possession case-of-the-week with the very Old Testament-y angel – I loved the concept, the creature design, and the heavenly lighting and colour scheme in his scenes – and I liked his last scene… Except I really that shouldn’t have been the last scene.

    • Ah, apologies for the partial spoilers. I forgot to think of the Andrew Bird fans! Do let me know what you think when you get to that scene. 🙂

      That episode, is that A is for Angel? I admit, I don’t totally remember the wrap-up of that story, it didn’t stick with me for whatever reason. But I agree, I did really love the design and artwork in that one.

      • Yeah, it was A Is For Angel. I meant to elaborate, but my computer ate my comment while I was writing it. I didn’t even realise I’d posted it.

        The ending of that one was that they go over to the dude’s house, and he’s staring at a big pile of salt, which he reckons God turned his wife into – like Lot’s wife when they were leaving Sodom. And then that’s it.

        It was presumably meant to be an ambiguous ending – his wife had been considering leaving him and Kristen had given her the number of a women’s shelter, so she could’ve just walked out and then he went and bought 200kg of salt, dumped it in the corner, and convinced himself that this was his wife. Or it could be the same thing, but he murdered his wife when she threatened to walk out on him. Or maybe God really turned her to salt.

        It felt incomplete, because presumably the team didn’t just go “Oh, his wife is a pile of salt now, what a shame,” and go home. I would assume they would’ve at least made a cursory attempt to find her – call the women’s shelter, check the basement for corpses, that kind of thing. If they wanted the ambiguous ending, they could’ve had them say they’ve done that and haven’t found her, but it could just be she left without going to the shelter, or he disposed of the body – so they contact the police about it, and hope she’ll turn up.

        We still wouldn’t know what happened to her, but since she was the person who called them in and the dude didn’t want to be exorcised of the angel, once they turned her disappearance over to the cops their work on his case would presumably be done, so the story would feel more finished.

        Also, do you have any thoughts about who Temperance’s prophecies from Nancy Drew apply to?

        My Least Favourite Subplot is also a love triangle, from the second season of The Alienist. It’s the worst kind of love triangle, where two of our main characters are love interests, and then one of them gets a fiance with very little personality, interior life, or involvement in the story except to be jealous and be a reason for our love interests to angst over each other. And the storyline has been taking up an ever-increasing amount of time as the season goes on, too – I hated it so much I ended up taking an indefinite break from the show halfway through an episode.

        With apologies to Evil, I’m gonna have to give Best WTF Moment to Riverdale. They’ve been doing a short run of episodes set in an alternate dimension, which (initially) seems almost identical to the main dimension, except the town is called Rivervale. At the end of the first alternate dimension episode, Cheryl ritually sacrificed Archie to “She Who Walks Amongst The Trees,” to make sure the town was fertile and prosperous, while all the other main characters on the show helped. It had been foreshadowed to hell and back, but I still never saw it coming, because I was judging these versions of the characters by their largely similar prime-dimension selves, and I’d assumed all the characters had either too high moral standards or too much affection for Archie to do anything really bad to him.

        At that point, I realised that the alternate dimension episodes were most likely going to feature the main cast getting killed off to various horror tropes and homages. (Also, Jughead narrates each episode in the style of The Twilight Zone.) And as a bonus WTF, it cracks me up that the next episode went back to framing them as you’d expect for their regular selves, and treating them as protagonists, even as it kept reminding us that this was set in the same continuity and these lunatics fucking human sacrificed their friend last week.

        • Ah, that’s right, the pillar of salt. Yeah, I see what you mean there. Though I have to say, it would be an incredible blooper if we DID literally see someone on the team say, “Oh, his wife is a pile of salt now, what a shame,” and just go home. I would die laughing.

          You know, I’m not sure about the prophecies. I’ve definitely been thinking about them, or over-thinking, as is my wont. I like to make things too complicated. For instance, if there’s a trick to it: six characters, six destinies, so you’re thinking one destiny each, right, but the way it’s worded, technically, they could all apply to one person. Also, I assume we’re supposed to think “fulfill your destiny” will be Nancy cause, like, Nancy Drew, but I was wondering if that might be Bess instead. (I have very mixed feelings on Bess’s Woman in White stuff. I actually like that she wants to do magic–I was really worried S3 would just be about her love life and nothing else–but it all feels so rushed, up to and including her working with Temperance. I’m trying to let it go, but it frustrates me.) I am hoping no one is going to lose their heart literally, because if any of those six characters do, it’ll probably be Ryan, and I like Ryan. What about you? What do you think about the prophecies?

          Sometimes, I’m sorry I gave up on Riverdale because it always sounds fucking wild. But not quite sorry enough to start back up again. Which is too bad because Rivervale sounds bonkers-amazing.

          • DUDE. That is eerie. I just came up with the exact same theory – by myself, I didn’t see any part of it online where you might’ve read it too – a few days ago about how maybe all the prophecies were about one person, and that person is Bess. I was gonna lay it out in my previous comment, but then I thought I’d get your thoughts first.

            I realised how many of the prophecies could either apply to her crushing Odette’s soul stone (“Betray your true love”/”Forsake what is dearest to you,”) or Temperance planning to use Bess somehow to wreak havoc, cause the others’ demise, and make the others fall. I mean, I’d figure she’s been teaching Bess magic for a reason. (Judging by the promo for the next episode, it seems like Bess might accidentally put a truth spell on everyone in town, which could also wreak some havoc.) And Bess could have the last soul shard, being fated to lose her heart.

            With that being said, shortly after I came up with that theory and was very proud of myself, I saw it pointed out that Temperance told Nancy that the destiny card applied to her, right before they went into that serial killer’s brain. I mean, Temperance could be a lying liar who was lying in that scene, but IDK, it seems like kind of a cheat to pull both that and trying to make us think there’s one prophecy per person.

            I did wonder if maybe the prophecies were all about Nancy, but it admittedly doesn’t fit as well. As I guessed for Bess, Temperance needs Nancy for something ominous, so some prophecies could still easily be about what Temperance is planning. But the others feel like less of a natural fit.

            If it is actually one-prophecy-per-person, though, I agree that Ryan – not being a member of the main five – is the most likely candidate to (literally) lose his heart, if said prophecy isn’t gonna be averted or reversed somehow. Betraying your true love could be Nick and George if they break up, or it could be Ace going behind Amanda’s back to catch her dad, or Bess and Odette, as mentioned. I know the last one really seems like a stretch for “true love,” but eh, I kinda expect the CW to be hyperbolic with that kind of thing.

            Seriously though – are you a mind reader? Have you been my split personality all this time? Did you read that theory online, in what may have been a comment I made on a Nancy Drew message board? Has this theory been making the rounds on the internet, and I just haven’t seen it about? Did a ghost tell you?

            • What can I say? Ghosts tell me their secrets. This is where all my stories come from.

              In truth, I think I actually had the ‘maybe all the prophecies apply to one person’ idea after watching the first episode. I didn’t see it anywhere online. Actually, I don’t usually read message boards for any of the shows I watch. Instead, I pretty much immediately rewatched this scene just so I could write all the prophecies down and then obsess about them because I’m a GIGANTIC sucker for this kind of suspense. But the problem, as you said, is that the prophecies are so vague that most of them could potentially apply to anyone here.

              I did forget about Temperance telling Nancy that she’s the Destined One. I admit, part of me kind of wishes she’s lying because, much as I generally like Nancy, I feel like it would be very fitting with her character to sorta assume she’s the Chosen One and therefore more likely to believe it when Temperance lies. (This is kinda going back to her, ‘OFC I’ll get into Columbia, even though my grades tanked and I took a gap year and Columbia is a BIG DEAL SCHOOL where tens of thousands of super smart kids still don’t get in’ attitude.) It also could potentially be interesting if Temperance is just WRONG about her own prophecy and who it applies to. Either way, I think I’ll just have to see how they handle it.

              Another thing I was considering about the whole ‘losing your heart’ deal is that it could be a misdirect. Say Bess does have one of the soul shards, and she’s just barely saved, so we’re relieved that the crisis is averted–only for somebody else outside the core six to literally lose their heart instead, say, Carson or Agent Park. I don’t know if I really think they’re going that way and frankly hope not because I like both those characters, but prophecies are by nature tricksy, so I’m keeping it in mind. (Also, since it doesn’t seem that Agent Park is a secret bad guy, like I’d initially assumed, and thus I worry about his lifespan. And not just because I liked the actor in The Librarians. I feel like he brings a different energy to the show. Then again, I guess they could just drop him between seasons like poor Tamura. Have you read any gossip/theories about that? I was really surprised when he never came back. I’d kinda finally warmed up to him and everything.)

              • I knew it! Anyway, I’ve been going back and forth on it, and ended up still favouring the Bess theory, even if it means Temperance was lying. Apart from that, it just feels right.

                I’m hoping Park doesn’t turn out to be evil, or get murdered, because I also quite like him. But regrettably, if the show’s gonna kill someone off for shock value, him, Ryan, or Carson all seem like they’d be high up on the list. IDK how the show would keep him on long-term though, given he’s there as an FBI agent working the Frozen Hearts case. Maybe the FBI could do what they did with Betty on Riverdale, and say that this one small town has so much crime and murder that they’re just giving Park a permanent field office there?

                I haven’t heard anything about Tamura. Though my guess would be that either the actor had other commitments, or they wanted to do the love interest storyline with Nancy, figured Tamura was too old for it not to be creepy, and then figured that having both him and Park around would be redundant.

                I’m up to the penultimate episode of Evil, and the Fake Palindromes scene was indeed great. Even though you said it was a very literal song choice, I wasn’t prepared for just HOW literal. It was clear they’d written the scene entirely around the lyrics of the song – almost every line had a matching shot embodying it. It was basically a music video.

                I did ship Kristen and Fenna (the face touching! the t-shirt!) and share your disappointment that Fenna seemed to be a one-off character. I guess she could leave the monestary and come be a nun with Sister Andrea?

                I am really liking that even though demons and whatnot explicitly exist in this universe, and the Church’s mythology seems to be more-or-less correct, they’re still portrayed fairly critically, and have the same sorts of institutional problems that they have in real life. It’s more nuanced than “Demons bad, church fights demons, therefore church good,” which what I’ve mostly seen before from religious horror. It’s definitely more appealing to me politically, given I’m not overly fond of the Catholic Church.

                I was kind of surprised that the cop episode ended up so strongly blasting not just the RL police, but the many, many cop shows featuring “heroic,” rule-breaking mavericks who get results via intimidation and brutality. I would’ve thought the network would’ve pushed back on that, because they also make some of the shows that Evil was criticizing as morally bankrupt. And one of CBS’s top-rated shows is Blue Bloods, which is significantly worse than average about that kind of shit.

                I also think that episode works better because Mira was a recurring character who’d been long established as a good friend of Kristen’s, who’d previously seemed like a professional who was trying to do the right thing, even when her goals differed from the protagonists’. So you’d think that in an episode tackling these sorts of issues, she’d be held up as the example of a “good cop,” to contrast everyone else. But instead she reveals herself to be exactly the kind of nepotistic, racist, trigger-happy asshole the episode was criticizing, and Kristen just hadn’t seen and/or registered that side of her before.

                We didn’t know Mira well enough to call this OOC, but we’d seen her enough that it was unexpected for the audience (or me, at least) the same way it was for Kristen. You *could’ve* done the storyline by introducing her as Kristen’s friend in this episode, but it wouldn’t have hit the same.

                Love the pop-up book opening titles, but if they were gonna sell a real-life version, how would you store the fresh brain that comes with it?

                • Yeah, Park is definitely the easiest to kill off, followed by Carson or Ryan. I definitely feel that enough weird shit happens here that the FBI could be like, “Dude, you have to stay.” It’s what I’m rooting for, personally, but I don’t think it’ll happen, especially b/c I think John Harlan Kim is still in that 9-1-1 show.

                  Wait. Did Betty on Riverdale become an FBI agent? *dies laughing*

                  You’re right, “Fake Palindromes” on Evil basically was a music video. I don’t know exactly why it works so well for me, but it really does. (I’m now trying to think of all the other TV shows I watch and decide what song they would use, if they decided to randomly just open one of their episodes with a music video. Hmm.)

                  Holy shit, Fenna and Sister Andrea would be a fucking force to be reckoned with.

                  I think Evil was allowed to get away with way more shit in S2 because it jumped from being on CBS/Paramount Plus, to just being on Paramount Plus. Like, obviously CBS still owns the service, but Paramount Plus seems to have way more freedom to be weird/swear/heavily criticize institutions. That being said, it’s still kinda surprising considering the damn plethora of crime procedurals on CBS. Like, Cops and Sitcoms is basically CBS’s whole brand. (I still have not see a single episode of Blue Bloods and am thankful for it. I’m sure we’ve discussed this before, but it looks kind of excruciating.)

                  Agreed, the whole episode works specifically because Mira is a recurring character and, up till now, seemed basically fine. You’re not so invested that you’re devastated or crying OOC, but it hits much harder than some random Secret Bad Cop who we’ve never heard of before.

                  I wouldn’t keep the fresh brain. I would wait for a stormy night and use it for Resurrection Science.

  2. Yep, Betty became an FBI agent during the timeskip, as inspired by her FBI agent long-lost brother – who then turned out to be a serial killer. Then she got kicked out for disobeying orders, then got reinstated after she caught a whole clan of serial killers who were masquerading as aliens. She was then told that the FBI was opening a field office in Riverdale permanently – which makes sense, it is the Serial Killer Capital of the World – and can hence now be an FBI agent while remaining on the show.

    I have finished Evil now. What did you think of Sheryl’s arc this season? I’m onboard with her becoming more of a full-fledged, willing villain instead of just Leland’s dupe, and I’m really enjoying her begrudging semi-friendship with Leland. I am slightly confused about her being the heir to a demon house though – the guy she’s meant to be succeeding looks to be about the same age as her, which seems like it’d sort of defeat the point. But then, it’s also totally possible that one of the effects of mainlining other people’s bodily fluids is screwing with their lifespan – her predecessor could be much, much older than he looks.

    On a side note, I absolutely love that the way to become the new head of a demon house is to eat the old one, and that the demon houses throw a cannibalism dinner party to celebrate.

    Oh, my Favourite Badass Moment is going to the very last task of Taskmaster. Everyone had to make a certain type of noise without the host – who could hear but not see them – guessing which of the five contestants it was. The second category was beatboxing, and one woman had to ask what that is. Her neighbour Morgana was then first up to the mat, and gave the worst possible attempt that could still technically qualify as beatboxing. The host mused that such incompetence would point to the woman who hadn’t known what beatboxing was, but realises someone could be doing this deliberately to mislead him. However, being familiar with the contestents after an entire season of judging them, he then declares that that level of cunning points to Morgana.

    Using the other contestant’s beatboxing ignorance as a red herring was a really clever bit of quick thinking on Morgana’s part, but the host figuring out the ruse and using it to identify her was some Sherlock-level shit.

    How were your holidays? I hope they were nice, or at least not too stressful.

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