And more of my End Of Year. Part 3 if you will. Western TV shows only in this section, as anime has its own section as far as TV shows are concerned. Spoilers for the TV shows below may well be there. And probably are there the closer you get to the bottom.
Pretty much same rules as films, not going to all be from this year, watched rather few due to part 5, which will be anime, but what I have watched have been pretty good. I’m going to mark what seasons I’ve watched as about half of these have seasons I’ve yet to watch. The thing is with TV shows, I tend to binge what’s out there when I first start but at some point, for all but the best/most hyped, I don’t keep watching when it comes to be that time again. I still haven’t watched the last season of Parks and Rec despite loving it a few years ago and I’ve still not made it past Lost season 4. But let’s not focus on that. Or the failures to finish/catch up to some of these, but let’s get to what I’ve actually watched. Well, half of it. Also I don’t think I’m going to rank these. That may defeat the purpose of an End Of Year but I really just want to talk about them and they were all good series. The four which had less on an effect on my year will be in this first post, count them as numbers 6 to 9 if you want.
Planet Earth II
I still have seen about 2 episodes worth out of watching the start of three of these. So I haven’t seen it all. I wanted to talk about it first (and explain why I put it in when I don’t put in reality shows like The Apprentice, I don’t know, that sort of thing just doesn’t feel right). As to why, I just felt like I should put more documentary shows in and not just stories, and of course Planet Earth II was the big one this year. It was the only 2016 British production I really got into this year, and the hype really shows why. It’s amazing, the amount of people talking about a documentary series where you learn and accumulate knowledge in real life. I’ve gone through Islands, which has had the beautiful racer snake and iguana scene which really captivated my attention. Getting into Europa Universalis which includes all these small islands in the game really helps because I know where exactly all of these places are and can picture them in my head. I’ve caught most of the Grasslands episode with family with similarly stunning vistas and I’ve started watching Mountains. I can only do small bits at a time though, bits of knowledge that I must then absorb. It’s such a pleasure listening to Sir David describe the animals and they’re all so cute/impressive/interesting animals, I’m going to continue making my way through this and especially need to catch Cities, that’s apparently the highlight.
Being Human (series 1)
Yes. Old stuff. I had picked up a different recommendation from one friend a month or two before picking up this (to be in the next post) so it’s only fair to do the same for another friend. Actually they just said I should check it out and I decided I was actually going to follow up on that rather than just generally agreeing. I had no idea what I was really getting into with Being Human, I just knew it was something rather supernatural and also I was a little apprehensive because it was British comedy. Now despite me loving Misfits and The Inbetweeners in the past I had convinced myself after a few years from really being away from British TV shows as a whole that British comedy would be reliant on cringe comedy and a bit too homey for my entertainment. Also I’ve spent the last few years wanting to completely disown about half of my home culture. But that’s by the by. Point is, I really enjoyed Being Human and it’s helped me get over a bit of the anti-British TV sentiment I was semi-harbouring, while there were cringey moments they weren’t enough to put me off and the darker plot wrapping up around the trio, who play off each other really well for the positive, character interaction side of things. It was actually, to be blunt, most everything I was dreading, yet it turned out that didn’t matter at all and I found myself really enjoying the first series. Still haven’t moved onto the second. As I said above, I really struggle with moving between seasons of series sometimes. I will do it at some point in the future. Maybe.
Also, not a copout, I’m still going to write a full length EOY commentary for all things I’ve done major blog posts on but like with Rogue One, I’m going to link reviews that I did elsewhere on my blog for general interest if people would like to read any more of my thoughts other than what I’ve put here. So here’s my extended one for Being Human.
Mr Robot (season 1)
Thank you, Amazon Prime. Ahem. I had heard the name of Mr Robot bandied about as the next great TV series and I did want to check it out as modern whizzy technology shows can easily sweep me up in a huge flash of pretty lights and incredible feats. I do have weaknesses. And that first episode, the depictions of Elliot hacking criminals was masterful in its execution and it was just a bit of a shame that there wasn’t more of that overall. Because more of that can keep me captivated pretty easily. Thinking about it now, it had a lot of that action-adventure and run-ins with the law that made Breaking Bad so exciting and I did rather enjoy most of the middle of the season with Elliot’s adventures with the misfit hacker crew up against BIG BUSINESS taking on the world. The paradigm is obviously supposed to be a take that against the ‘man’, I suspect there’s going to be some annoying flipping around with opinions to make you question where the show is going. There’s two reasons I haven’t watched season two, firstly, I didn’t like the way the twist that Mr Robot doesn’t exist and is Elliot imagining that his dead father is helping him, okay, it’s clever but as of now it just seems like it was done to be clever was executed. And I found the last episode a bit boring and lacking in a reason to make me want to find out what happens next. I do imagine that if I were to pick up Season 2 or rewatch those episodes now I might understand more but right now, I don’t feel like doing that. The first 8 episodes were an amazing ride though (that I watched over a weekend that I probably should have been doing more work on).
The 100 (seasons 1 – 2, plus the start of 3)
Yup, still haven’t got to the death of Lexa although I know about it because of people talking about it. I loved season 1 of the 100, even though it’s apparently ‘CW fodder’ of attractive people in the apocalypse, there was a lot of mystery hanging around what was out there, the adult actors up on the Ark gave off some excellent drama while bast*rds like Murphy ensured that life was not peaceful on the ground and there were a lot of deaths. At least it felt like a lot of people could die. Season 2 was pretty good too, the consistent narrative of the Mountain Men, the rather great performances of President Dante and again, Marcus Kane kept me interested. And when she showed, Lexa. See, it’s a very characters based show, there are some characters who you just kind of like and want to live, like Jasper and Monty, there are some who are rather boring and you just really really really want them to die, like Clarke (well, she’s okay but not the most interesting of leads), Finn, particularly about halfway through season 2 (I remember, unusually for me, harbouring such an intense hatred towards him during that arc that I pretty much outright cheered when he got executed. There are some things you just never have your characters do), then there are characters like those I’ve already mentioned, the older and more venerable actors who have honed their craft brilliantly to take on something like this, and then there are the characters that change. Bellamy, Murphy, Finn but the other way, Thelonious, and they are some of the most interesting because you don’t know where their mood is going. Season 3 I felt just opened up the world too much and while I started it okay, I just kind of gave up at one point and never went back. I may go back to finish it at some point but all the City Of Light and this new Ice Nation thing, I’m not that interested, yet.
Which is a shame because I really like these worlds but as ever with the apocalypse, it has to happen in the centre of America. Which brings me to the plot. It’s okay. It’s serviceable. There are bits I really like in it, the languages, the different factions, the original conceit of sending 100 people to the ground was really great and I’d have loved it if there was more of a survival focus but now all of the living 100 have been returned to their families, pretty much, the focus of the show has drifted a bit. And there are bits I don’t like, the apocalypse mentalities,the Clarke is the centre idea, the City of Light (only Murphy’s snarking kept me enjoying those scenes).
Overall, a show I haven’t finished, but a show that I really enjoyed the first two seasons of where I really felt that people could die at any time and while it has problems was able to overcome them – but I stopped and haven’t continued it.
This’d be the other recommendation. First I’d heard of it, and it was already finished at that point, by the time I’d gone through with it, it seemed to be everywhere. Definitely one of 2016’s breakout shows of the year, built on a mystery laden with nostalgia and references and homages to the tons of 80s movies that were already great at that sort of thing. So what is better about Stranger Things. It could be the cute kids, it’s very unusual for me to call kids cute in the world of TV because they are most often annoying little shits that I wish I didn’t have to feel bad about wishing death upon. The kids in Stranger Things were different, intelligent and thoughtful and played by incredible child actors. Which is good as they had to carry half of the show. The rest of the cast also gelled together really well, ascribing equal footing to the typical American hero of the Sheriff Hopper and the lead female role of Joyce Byers, who is very realistically hysterical when her son disappears presumed dead, even though she’s sure he’s alive. The mystery gets resolved very nicely. Definitely want to show solidarity to poor old Barb though. A very nice short topical show. I enjoyed the watch.
The Walking Dead (all seasons)
All seasons? What is this? Me actually finishing a show? Well, up to where it’s gotten to, yes. I raced through this in the first part of the year and enjoyed it immensely. Like with all of the best shows in here, there was a lot of present danger to the characters and they kept this up well for a lot of the seasons but about partway through season 5 I felt that was lost a bit. Other shows like Vikings and Game Of Thrones in this area kept the danger, The Walking Dead fell into the trap of the viewers not believing that they’d really kill them off so had to go for shock deaths that meant nothing apart from the death. In that they needed to be brutal with Negan to force it back. The first season had so much danger, so much unknown, everything felt clean and polished and necessary, then it slows down a bit for the second season, which still felt pretty optimistic even with the gutpunch at the end. The third and fourth in the prison were desperate struggles for survival at times, I consider several of the scenes with the Governor some of the all time highlights of this show. The grand escape in season 5 gave a rather roady different feel to it and that was nice. Season 6 felt a little like retreading old ground as depression began to sink in and Season 7 has so far mostly been rehashing that. I will say that some of the episodes around Alexandria have been very exciting. I don’t like the way they kill of characters most of the time though, there’s only been a handful whose deaths were seriously powerful Herschel, Shane, Lizzie, Deanna, most of the others could have lived longer and it would have been better. I’ve gone over a lot of what’s been going on in the latest season on the blog, episode by episode, which does remind me, I’ve yet to do one on the midseason finale. Which was probably the best episode of season 7 so far, unfortunately I have no confidence that will be repeated. I would cover individual episodes in here but it’d take way too long and I’m trying to condense into one paragraph seven seasons of a show that varies wildly in quality and speed of plot. It’s not going to happen.
A show that can be incredible when it gets direction and a clear plot, otherwise it is very open to criticism. But that criticism is kind of fun to do so I don’t mind it right now.
Star Trek (1987-1993 i.e. The Next Generation and the start of DS9)
Last year I said I watched The Original Series in my EOY. That was for the first time. I’m not going to spend as long on it this time as what this is now is a rewatch for whenever I feel like watching Star Trek, and I’ve been going very slow lately, I’ve almost finished running through every TNG episode ever but am not quite there yet. In the meantime (as chronologically they ran concurrently) I’m rewatching my favourite form of Star Trek, Deep Space Nine and that’s bringing back some of the best nostalgia I’ve ever had. In small doses. Even the first seasons of DS9, which are the weakest, are having me rewinding bits to catch the way they were said again because I love those characters so much. With the exception of Picard, I don’t quite have the same love for The Next Generation, but my reason for including that on my rewatch was to fill in all the gaps of episodes I hadn’t seen back when I was younger. The episode ‘Data’s Day’, literally an episode about an average day in Data’s life really stood out to me as one of the best new things I experienced from this rewatch. And then there were old favourites like Cause And Effect and The Next Phase that I knew and really enjoyed watching again. Not a huge section, and I’ve been slowing down this rewatch lately with only a few episodes a month, but something I do have on my (re)watch list because I know I can’t stay away from Star Trek forever and this is there to control that. Also I like being organised.
Vikings (seasons 1-3)
Vikings was my first real experience with a proper historical fictional show. I know these exist and based on my enjoyment of Vikings so far I’d probably end up enjoying lots of the other ones as one of the key factors that makes Vikings so fantastic for me is that I’m constantly noticing and getting excited about little historical references that I recognise. Lindisfarne, Charlemagne, the ancient Romans, Bjorn Ironside, naming other Vikings Leif and Erik. There’s even one or two with Finnish names. And when I started looking up more about the show, like the names of Ragnar’s sons, the show went and rewarded me more for doing that. The world of Vikings feels so alive and set in a world that feels real even though it also feels fictional (there are several timeline discrepancies that like with Star Trek Beyond I have to get annoyed with), as of course we have no records that can really attest the true historicity of main character Ragnar Lothbrok, just lots of legends about him. In a move that probably took a legacy from Game Of Thrones, there’s also lots of characters who are wonderful magnificent bast*rds. King Egbert of Essex being the best but there’s also Earl Haraldson, head of Ragnar’s village, Princess Kwenthrith of Mercia, Floki, but most of all my praise must go to the main character Ragnar. Ragnar’s face, played wonderfully by Travis Fimmel gives away nothing of his intentions, either to the audience or to his enemies so he will often pull out plans you will never expect of him. There’s so much Early Middle Age court intrigue in here I could watch it for hours and in fact should watch Season 4, something I haven’t continued with for a reason that I’m not sure of. Definitely a good watch if you like history and/or like Game Of Thrones. Speaking of…
Game Of Thrones (season 6)
Done last because if I had to choose, Game Of Thrones would be my top pick. As it always is and always will be. Probably. So I’m going to go into major detail on each plotline as I love analysing this show. HENCE THERE DEFINITELY ARE SPOILERS HERE BACK OUT NOW WHILE YOU STILL HAVE THE CHANCE. Season 6 was definitely an improvement on Season 5 which had flaws. A couple of flaws, most of them the waste of the Martell plotline. Which initially, in the beginning of this season looked like it was getting even worse as the Sand Snakes seized control and took out all of the Martells. Having just read the epic scene in Feast For Crows when Doran reveals to Arianne his master plan to ally with Daenerys, it was quite disappointing to see the Martells gone. But come the end of the season when Varys filled in for Doran, ‘FIRE AND BLOOD’, it looks like that’s connecting in not totally disastrously and I can stop looking for flaws in my favourite western TV show. Because there aren’t any any longer.
Arya’s plotline maybe had a few at the start. But like with the Martells, it slowly built into something more interesting, her diversion into the actor’s guild of Braavos was a bit more interesting than Ja’qen slapping her about in a cold grey room. And she’s now on her way to kick some major ass. I hope, I really really hope.
Samwell did well, even with only a few episodes. His asshole father was everything I imagined Randyll Tarly to be and the Oldtown library looks beautiful, I hope to spend a bit of time there next season, as much as the show can afford.
Up in the north, lots of political maneuvering. Ramsay’s fight with Jon was very epic even with the Arryns acting as the Riders of Rohan, and I’m glad Ramsey’s dead, he had outlived his usefulness. Not enough White Walkers yet although we’re getting very close from repeating Hardhome but even more dreadful as they get past the Wall. Inevitably. Poor Eddison Tollett. Bran’s certainly run into them a lot this season, with one of the key moments of this season being of course HOLD THE DOOR. Poor Hodor, I will miss him but he went out on such a powerful note that any mention of that phrase (as many jokers tried to bring it up) will make me sad now. Seeing looks into the past for young Eddard and Howland was very pleasing for all the connections it promised.
Dany’s also finally left the East, on her dragons. That sums up this season, all the problems of stasis that people were screaming to get resolved throughout season 5 got resolved at the end of season 6 and it’s this potential for season 7 that’s making season 6 look very good right now.
Probably my highlight of this season though would be the scene that’s probably on many people’s minds, the one that’s tied to hearing this incredible music. King’s Landing was fairly light on intrigue this season but it saved the best until last. Seriously do not read this if you haven’t watched it. It is of course the culmination of Cersei’s checkmate against the Tyrells, the destruction of them and everyone else who threatened Cersei in one fell swoop as she brings all of her conniving to her highest level yet. I didn’t think even she was capable of this. The music made it feel like something was going to happen but you didn’t know what and only realised the scope of it at about the same time that Margaery did. It is, in all of the intrigue and games of thrones that this series has shown so far, the ultimate. The best. That is why I love this series, to see things that were hinted at and built up over seasons and seasons of frostiness and covert smiles to see Cersei take pride in her ultimate victory at life. I have so many words for why it’s so significant but I can’t get them all out right now. The days until season 7 will feel all the longer now. It will be epic.