June 2019 Recommendations

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Show Title: Good Omens

Episodes: 6

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

Look, if you follow me on either Twitter or Tumblr, you’re well aware that this is my latest obsession. I read the book about 6 years ago and loved it so I was already the target audience for this show. But thanks to some brilliant casting choices and shifting the story just enough to primarily be a love story between Aziraphale and Crowley on their mission to avert the apocalypse, it beyond delivered. From the outset, it was conceived to be a tribute to Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s friendship with him and that care came through in everything they did. It’s a celebration humanity’s ability to choose paths other than the ones seemingly ordained to us and to make the world something we can be proud of. The Them standing up to the Four Horseman because they know they deserve better than a ruined world and Adam standing up to the devil to point out that biology doesn’t determine parentage are gorgeous moments in what was actually one of the weaker points of the show. Where it truly excels (and what has caused the bulk of the media attention) is in the developing relationship between Aziraphale and Crowley as they forge their own side out of a shared love of humanity and each other. The cold open of the 3rd episode is 28 minutes long and entirely devoted to their history with each other over 6000 years and it was brilliantly done and acted. They put in the time to develop their relationship so that you really feel the impact of their fight at the end of the same episode and it’s that dedication to character work in a 6 hour long show that I appreciate so much. While this isn’t fully a story about them, they’re the hook and in order for everything else to land (and to overlook things that may not have been as strong), we had to believe in their connection and they delivered. After a frustrating spring of uneven character work on other shows, this was exactly what I wanted.

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Book Title: The Luminous Dead

Author: Caitlin Starling

Genre: Sci-fi/Horror

It can’t be easy to write a book in a very confined setting with only two characters but this debut manages to do just that in a compelling way. Em and Gyre are full of secrets and past pain that both drives them and holds them back from truly living and to see them be confronted with those pasts and also begin to find healing in their initially reluctant friendship and growing feelings was incredible to read. Yes, it’s a story of exploration and the drive to push on despite obstacles and the gradually unfolding story surrounding these particular set of space caves is interesting, but it’s the revelations each girl has in the process that will pull you in the most. They had to put their life (in Gyre’s case) and their hopes (in Em’s) in each other’s hands and that’s no easy task. It required vulnerability and trust that neither of them knew how to give when they started this journey and at the end, there was no one else who could fully understand what they’ve been through. To have to anchor someone and fight for them when their senses could no longer be trusted. To accept the help when it seems so much more seductive to let go and lose yourself in the pain. The character work is the focus and while that may not be what someone is looking for in a horror book, it was absolutely the right choice for this particular story and I really enjoyed it. 

 

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May 2019 Recommendations

Show Title: The Expanse

Episodes: 36

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

I might be slightly hesitant to recommend an ongoing show with a stellar season three after I was so disappointed by The Magicians last month but no matter where Amazon takes the show in season 4 (and hopefully beyond), I can’t regret falling in love with the Roci and pretty much everyone who has ever set foot on it. Even when you aren’t invested in the plot, you can’t help but invest yourself in these characters. You want to love them and root for them because that’s what they do for each other. Whether it’s Amos’s loyalty to Naomi (and then the rest of the crew) or Alex doing everything he can to make the Roci feel like home and for its crew to be a family, the show offers more than lip service to the idea that these people care about each other. Their relationships drive their actions going forward and in doing so, affect the plot. That’s what I need from my TV shows and why I am so ready for this show to be back.

Show Title: Fleabag

Episodes: 12

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

Yes, I know everyone TV-adjacent is talking about this to the point that it risks becoming oversaturated and pushing people away. And yes, I also know with certainty that it’s going to end up all over my Best of 2019 posts and I will therefore have other opportunities to write about it. But I also haven’t been able to to stop thinking about season 2 and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s ability to craft a show and therefore it deserves a rec for this month. I liked season 1 a lot – the structure was intriguing, I loved Fleabag for all of her flaws and pain, and Olivia Coleman is clearly having an incredible time playing the deliciously wicked stepmother. Season 2 turned my appreciation into a full-blown love affair by giving me a story about healing and being able to move forward despite the tragedy of one’s past as well as the power in letting yourself be seen. It is impeccably constructed, features a relationship with so much chemistry and potential that you’ll root for it even knowing it’s probably doomed, and while it’s probably not a show that will appeal to everyone (much like Waller-Bridge’s other creation, Killing Eve), if it works for you, it will probably really work for you. It was one of my most anticipated returns of the year and it surpassed all my expectations.

Continue reading May 2019 Recommendations

April 2019 Recommendations

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Show Title: All-American

Episodes: 13

Where to Watch: Netflix

If you miss old-school WB teen soaps, All-American is the show for you. Despite the football-heavy promos, it’s not Friday Night Lights. The football team is a part of it but more for what it represents to Spencer. It’s a character-focused soap and it’s best when it isn’t trying to be anything else. It does a decent job of weaving in more socially conscious stories and highlighting the differences in the characters from Crenshaw and Beverly Hills based on their economic privilege but it mostly wants to make you fall in love with these characters and root for their success and you can’t help but do so. Even when they are being messy and making bad choices out of pain or sometimes just because they’re human, you want the best for them. You want them to make good choices and grow into better people and find their place in the world. It’s may not be groundbreaking or revolutionary like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or Jane the Virgin, but it’s a solid non-genre addition to CW’s lineup and I couldn’t be happier that it’ll be back for a second season.

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Book Title: Heroine Worship

Author: Sarah Kuhn

Genre: Urban Fantasy

I’ve already talked about my love for Heroine Complex, the first entry in this series, but I finally got around to this book and it only amplified my love for this series. Unlike other UF series, the protagonist of each book shifts, much like it would in a romance trilogy. It allows for a new exploration of the world but more interestingly, it allows for a strong character arc in each book. After the events of Heroine Complex, Aveda Jupiter is struggling. She’s no longer the star superhero in San Francisco and if she isn’t a superhero, who is she? She is forced to examine and reconcile competing portions of her identity, to recognize that she can be a protector and vulnerable at the same time. So much of this book is about Aveda and Evie learning how to be best friends again as adults and their relationship dynamic is unlike anything else I’ve seen. They have to learn to choose each other again, not in the archetypal roles that had defined their relationship as children but as grown women full of complexities. They got stuck and had to find a way to get unstuck because at the end of the day, there isn’t anyone they would rather have by their side. It’s about learning to embrace yourself and all the multitudes you contain and trust that there will be people to love and accept you once they’re allowed to truly see you. This series holds such a special place in my heart after only two books and I can’t wait for this journey to continue.

Do Better. Sincerely, An Exhausted Fan.

Here we are again. Three years later and a hell of a lot less patience on my part. I’m tired. I’m tired of being disappointed by the choices made by shows that I really loved and connected with. I’m tired of fandom needing to rally around each other to call out harmful storylines and ensure that their fellow fans are OK, regardless of whether they’ve spoken before (though I am extremely grateful to be part of a community that will do this). I’m tired of the idea that “subversive” writing is automatically good, that the shocking choice is also the strongest one. I’m tired of the idea that hope and healing are somehow less valid of an artistic choice and the prioritization and fetishization of pain being the only thing that’s real. I’m tired of creators specifically being praised for their inclusion and portrayals of queer characters and storylines (and actively courting a queer fanbase along the way) only to later diminish those stories or take away some of that still lacking representation.

The beauty of fiction is the way we bring ourselves to the story. We bring our worldview, our past experiences, our strengths, and our insecurities. We become attached to the characters not just for what they do but for who they are and what they represent. They teach us things about ourselves. They teach us how to love parts of ourselves we previously found unlovable. They give us hope. They give us connection and show us we aren’t alone. But that beauty comes at a cost. It’s what makes it hurt the way it does when something lets us down on a fundamental level.

And wow did The Magicians let me down. How is this the same show that gave me All That Hard, Glossy Armor? That had an entire meta episode about the way that stories matter, that how they’re filed matter? These last two episodes tainted that legacy for me. Kady has been reduced to Penny’s girlfriend (really? that was the only thing she wanted?) who might occasionally remember that she believes in the power of a group of metaphorically marginalized people. Margo is still Eliot’s best friend and I’m grateful that they are reunited but you expect me to believe she was gonna stay behind while someone else was supposed to be getting him back? It didn’t work out and she saved him in the end but it was sloppily done. Julia is just never going to have any say over her life or her body but it’s fine because the man in love with a version of her from an alternate timeline couldn’t stand to lose her and turned her human. And she has her powers still anyway so who needs actual autonomy. Alice’s story has admittedly been a problem for nearly as long as Julia’s, to the point that I don’t even know what they are trying to do with her.

Then there’s the Q of it all. Even taken strictly in context of the episode itself with no thought to creator intention or larger implications, things didn’t really work for me. There were some emotional character beats that I could take with him and as affecting as Jason Ralph’s performance was, it couldn’t bridge that gap for me. And as much as I have loved this show leaning back on a musical moment to best get a feeling or theme across, the fire scene with what would have ordinarily would have been a lovely cover of A-Ha’s “Take On Me” managed to both make me cry and feel incredibly out of place.

Continue reading Do Better. Sincerely, An Exhausted Fan.

March 2019 Recommendations

 

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Show Title: The Magicians

Episodes: 52 (by the end of s4)

Where to Watch: The first three seasons are on Netflix, s4 is available on demand or to purchase)

I originally started this show sometime last fall, got busy and lost interest halfway through season one. After some excited screaming from the fandom in the midst of season four, I got inspired to start the series over and quickly watched the available episodes over the course of a couple weeks. There are some things I don’t love about the first couple seasons but season three is genuinely one of the best seasons of TV I’ve ever seen. It completely rejects the “we’re actually making a ten hour movie” mentality and instead embraces the strengths of its medium by giving us a character-focused, season-spanning quest. There was an overarching storyline that swiftly moved along, but it also took time to make each episode count and play with the form and structure of the show. There are not nearly enough shows that pull off that episode/season balance as well as The Magicians has and while it hasn’t quite hit the same peak in season four, it has still taken risks and embraced the chaos that comes with a fantasy show that isn’t interested in being complete misery at all times. The characters are damaged and messy and make big mistakes but they also love and fight hard for one another, even when they don’t like each other. They grow and evolve in ways that make sense for their journeys and what they have been through and it is beautiful to watch. You can’t help but love them even (and sometimes especially) when they are assholes. And, as you’ve heard if you are at all engaged in fandom spaces on the internet, they are telling what is so far a beautiful and painful love story in an incredibly satisfying way that I am unused to as a fan. They are excelling at so many things that make me love TV and it is everything I needed in this moment. It’s already been renewed for a fifth season and even if you can’t watch it right now, it’s well worth taking a look at before next January.

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Book Title: That Ain’t Witchcraft

Author: Seanan McGuire

Genre: Urban Fantasy

I don’t think there’s a current author who knows how to write an ongoing series better than Seanan McGuire. The individual pieces are good and compelling stories with characters that I love but when you put them all together and look at them as a whole, they become something greater. The climax of this book would not have had the impact it did without 8 books and numerous short stories (especially The Recitation of the Holy and Harrowing Pilgrimage of Mindy and Also Mork) to back it up. We needed to know the legacy of the Price women and to understand the purity of the faith the Aeslin mice have in their priestesses. We needed Annie to truly feel the strength of those bonds and her love for her family, blood and chosen. It was emotionally earned and incredibly effective, given how hard it made me cry. This book was, in many ways, the end of one chapter of this story and the beginning of something new and exciting and I am already anxious to see the next part of the extended Price-Healy family’s story.

 

 

February 2019 Recommendations

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Show Title: One Day At A Time

Episodes: 39

Where to Watch: Netflix

This isn’t a new show by any means. I’ve talked about this show in nearly every end of the year post I’ve written since the show debuted in 2017 and I will almost certainly continue that trend this year. But once again, it faces an uncertain future with Netflix’s opaque standards and an outside production company, so once again, I will ask that you give this show a chance if anything about it even sounds a little appealing to you.

This show is the new standard for how to do a smart, funny multicam sitcom well. The cast is terrific, the writing is sharp, and you can feel how much everyone involved loves what they are doing. You can feel Norman Lear’s continuing influence on this show and variety of timely comedy that blends laughter with discussion of serious topics like addiction, mental health, and consent. It’s a show that will make you cry because it’s genuinely touching but also because you love these characters and want their success and happiness.

Todd Grinnell is particularly exceptional in the third season throughout Schneider’s relapse and once again, I will be needing Justina Machado to be showered in every award possible. Every member of the main cast is doing truly incredible work and the amount of care that has gone into crafting these characters is evident. Elena gets to be taken seriously as a feminist teenager with a lot of opinions and her relationship with her Syd-nificant other is unlike anything else I’ve seen on TV. Alex gets to be a teenager who makes mistakes but is also a tremendous source of compassion and emotional support for his family. He’s not a warning (although the show is quick to point out the discrepancies in the way drug offences are treated by race in this country), he’s just him. And Lydia is as fabulous as any character played by Rita Moreno should be. She sparkles and is full of life and love for those around her and is a delight every moment she is on screen.

I could gush about the wonders of this show all day because it is incredibly special to me and it means so much to the communities that it represents. It deserves many more seasons and now is the time to start watching it on Netflix and fall in love with it as so many have.

Continue reading February 2019 Recommendations

January 2019 Recommendations

Over the course of a year, I watch and read a lot of things that I love. Some make it on to my year-end lists but others (like the two shows I mention today) aired last year or earlier and I didn’t get to them in time for them to make my list. There is so much content out there and depending on who you follow on social media, you may or may not see any buzz for an individual show or book so I wanted to draw some attention to things I enjoyed in the hopes that someone will find something to add to their TBR or to-watch lists. What good things did you read or watch this month?

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Show Title: Élite

Episodes: 8

Where to Find It: Netflix

If you like high school dramas and don’t mind subtitles, this is the show for you. Part Gossip Girl, part Riverdale, this teen soap is full of characters trying to figure out who they are, budding and faltering romances, and lots of bad decision making skills. If that weren’t enough to deal with as a teenager, there’s also a murder mystery that’s told in flash-forward glimpses of the investigation and interrogations. Secrets are unraveled and alliances are formed as the final episode reveals the culprit and sets up what is sure to be an equally entertaining (and most importantly, already ordered) season two.

This sort of show is an easy sell for me. I love a well-made teen soap and the added suspense of the murder mystery makes it all the easier to binge. What I wasn’t expecting was to love these characters as much as I did. No one is entirely what they seem and as walls come down and circumstances shift, we get to see new sides to everyone that don’t make them better people necessarily but do make them more complicated and less archetypical. They are messes but they’re now my messes and I can’t wait to see more of them next season.

Continue reading January 2019 Recommendations

Best of 2018: TV Shows

Finally, it is time to wrap of this year’s “Best of” collection with a look at my favorite shows. I may have watched fewer things than is typical for me this year (though still more than most people I know), but on the whole, I loved the things I watched more. As both my top 10 and honorable mentions indicate, I’m appreciating comedies more than dramas at the moment and would argue that they are doing better work as a whole. I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the things I’ve appreciated in 2018 and as always, leave your own favorites in the comments below!

1. The Good Place I occasionally have a hard time believing that a sitcom about moral philosophy aired on NBC at all, let alone has been running for three seasons and has been renewed for a fourth. However, I also can’t think of a more fitting show for this moment in time. What do we owe one another? How do we fix broken systems? What does “doing good” look like? This show addresses them all head on while also telling a beautiful story about four people, one demon, and a Janet who have undoubtedly improved themselves because of the impact they’ve had on each other. They’ve started to overcome old struggles and hurts, become clear about the people they would like to be, and seem to be in the midst of fixing the afterlife for everyone. This is a show that never entirely goes the way you think it may but it does everything so confidently that you can’t help but trust in the end results. There is a solid vision for what this show wants to be and intelligent plotting that rivals many dramas, all in half the time and while making us laugh. It is a remarkable accomplishment and I’m waiting for the award recognition is strongly deserves.

2. One Day at a Time This show is responsible for one of my favorite memories of the year and while that shouldn’t technically count because it involves season three which has yet to air, I’m still counting it because all it did was amplify my love for this special show and all the people involved. This show is everything you want a family sitcom (or honestly, just a good show) to be. The cast is incredible and I will sing their praises constantly, the writing and directing are terrific and take advantage of the cast’s abilities, and it is the perfect blend of funny and warm. In true Norman Lear style, the way they integrate social issues into episodes is beautifully done and I think they topped themselves this year with the episode centering around Penelope’s depression. Rather than being “very special episodes” that are never addressed before and after, they involve issues that have simmered in the background and that flow through into future episodes. I cannot say enough about this show and if you’re not already watching, go to Netflix and hit play on the first episode and catch up before it comes back in early February.

3. Pose I want this show to be Ryan Murphy’s legacy. He has been involved with so many different television shows, many of them critically acclaimed, but he has done something really special with Pose. And he’s done it largely by letting others tell their own stories and using his influence to get it a platform. This is a story by and about queer and trans people of color and it’s full of joy. There is struggle, fear, and loss as it takes place in the 80s during the AIDS crisis but it doesn’t take center stage. Instead, it highlights community and chosen families and love. It feels unlike anything else on television and not just because it’s telling a story about people who are still underrepresented. It’s the heart and core of sense8 with the tight plotting and character work of The Americans and the result is a compassionate, smartly crafted show about identity and life. It has the pageantry of ball culture alongside quietly intimate moments and it all came together to form a beautiful piece of media.

4. The Americans So much of this season will make your heart ache for these characters but it did so in the most beautiful and fitting way. This has always been a show that is very comfortable with what it is. It lingers in the slowness and tedium of spy work and uses small changes in facial expressions and body language to say most of what these characters are feeling. It’s never been a loud, flashy show and it’s better for that quiet examination of these characters. Elizabeth Jennings has given everything for her country. She has been the true believer who is willing to do the ugly, dirty work that is necessary because she thought she was fighting for something bigger. Then she wasn’t. That cause she was working toward turned out to be as corrupt as the one she had been fighting against. It stopped being something she could believe in and she turned to the one thing she could still rely on – her relationship with Philip. It had been broken nearly irreparably as they stopped being able to truly see each other but it was the thing that kept her tethered to herself and in the end, it was all she was left with. This was always Elizabeth’s journey and Keri Russell’s understated performance was the anchor of this series. I didn’t actually intend for this entry to just talk about the brilliance of Elizabeth as a character and Keri as an actress but it feels right and encapsulates what I loved most about the series. It absolutely deserves the recognition it gets as one of the best shows of this time.

Continue reading Best of 2018: TV Shows

Best of 2018: Sci-fi/Fantasy Books

This is my genre of choice. This was the first year I purchased a supporting membership for the Hugo Awards, giving me voting privileges for this year and nominating privileges for next year, and as you will see, that’s where I found a lot of these books. It encouraged me to read books I may not have picked up otherwise, expanded my horizons within the genre, and introduced me to new authors that I’ll now enthusiastically follow. I am so excited by the variety of work that’s coming out and being celebrated within this large and varied genre and can’t wait to read more next year.

1. Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn This book is sort of urban fantasy/superhero meets Devil Wears Prada and is as much fun as that description makes it sound. There are demon cupcakes and difficult people to work with and a fantastic portrayal of the difficulties in taking full responsibility for a younger sibling but that’s not why it attached itself to my heart like it did. In my 30 years of life, I’ve never seen myself in a piece of fiction as much as I have in this book. Representation matters. Letting people see their cultures and people who look like them in fiction as the protagonist of a story is so important and something that fortunately is becoming more common for more groups of people. It’s explicitly addressed in the book as an influence for Evie and Aveda becoming who they are and something I had no idea I could have in this specific way. I am Evie. We share numerous personality traits, areas of academic interest, ethnic backgrounds, and even a favorite comfort food that she was made fun of for bringing to school which I refused to do for fear of the same result. So to read a story in which she worked to overcome her emotional repression (which I was actively doing to an unhealthy degree when reading this book) and let herself feel and own her feelings, both good and bad, was incredibly important to me and I can’t thank Sarah Kuhn enough for that gift.

2. Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire My love for Seanan McGuire’s work is well-established by this point and this series is something special. I was thrilled to be back at Eleanor’s and with some of the characters I fell in love with in Every Heart a Doorway and the introduction of new characters like Cora and Rini. I love that it’s a book about loving and accepting people for who they are, even when you don’t understand their reality. It’s a book about friendship, hope, and kindness and therefore everything I needed. I spent the majority of my first read-through in near tears for reasons I still don’t fully understand, it was just one of those pieces of fiction that resonates perfectly with where you are at that particular moment in time. For a series about finding the place where you fit, this is the story that has called to me the most. Confection wouldn’t be my world but this book is a partial glimpse of what mine would look like.

3. Wayfarers Trilogy by Becky Chambers This character-focused sci-fi series is going to be one of my go-to comfort reads from now on. There isn’t a lot of plot, it’s largely exploring the universe Becky Chambers has imagined and the day-to-day lives of her characters, but there is a lot of heart. There is a gentleness that runs through the trilogy and a sense of compassion for each of these characters that make these books feel warm and cozy. The world she has created is full of different species with different appearances and social structures that often aren’t like our own but without the othering that sometimes comes into the sci-fi and fantasy genre when creating new species or races. Everyone is simply allowed to be. It’s filled with found families and the acceptance that comes with finding your people and your place in the world and that made it everything I could have wanted to read this year.  

4. Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin It’s fair to say that N. K. Jemisin is among the best fantasy writers of our generation, if not the best. While slightly more traditional fantasy than her Broken Earth trilogy, it feels anything but stale as Jemisin gives us a world of imprisoned gods and their captors. It’s a story of balance and the way forces push and pull against each other to find equilibrium. It’s a story about love and jealousy and rediscovery. It’s a look at power structures and the way they are perpetuated as well as a reminder that we need each other to survive. Each novel in the trilogy revolves around a different set of characters (though still connecting to the larger whole) to create a full picture of this universe from its creation to the present. The worldbuilding is stunning as are the characters, from the mortals to the gods and everyone in between.

Continue reading Best of 2018: Sci-fi/Fantasy Books

Best of 2018: TV Episodes

There were some truly spectacular episodes of TV this year. As always, the episodes I love the most tend to be the ones that highlight the relationships between characters. Whether it was people coming together to support each other or fracturing over hurts that were too big to be easily contained, each of these episodes work as well as they do because of the strength of the character work and the talent of the actors.

If you want more Best of 2018 lists to enjoy, head over to Marvelous Geek Circles and check out the work they are doing!

1. Not Yet (One Day at a Time) This episode is a masterpiece. It’s basically a bottle episode that takes place at Lydia’s bedside and it is full of emotion, laughter, and so much love. Each of these characters has their own relationship with Lydia. Some are uncomplicated, like Alex’s love and understanding of who his grandmother is, while others are trickier, as Penelope’s was considering their fight that ended the previous episode. But she is a woman who these characters all admire and care for so much. We see that in their actions to make sure she looks like the vibrant, dramatic woman that she is and in their words, all of which make me cry. But where I completely lose it is from Penelope telling her that it’s OK to go if she needs to and Berto’s appearance. As a television moment, it’s brilliant and beautiful and made me extremely concerned for Lydia’s survival. It’s very good and that only barely matters to me. What it also does, and what I value more, is how much it reminded me of my own grandma’s death. She said it was time, that my grandpa had told her to hurry up. She was ready and we told her that it was alright to go be with him again. I defended my master’s thesis the day after getting home from her funeral. She didn’t get to see me graduate or my cousin get married the following spring. This episode brought me right back to that time and made me remember the incredible woman that she was. It reminded me of all the love that surrounded her. It captured that so beautifully and so perfectly for me that everything else, as technically impressive as it is because every single actor is at the top of their game here, fades in comparison. That’s the beauty of fiction for me – those moments that connect with the person you are and the life you lived so powerfully. This episode absolutely nails that and I’ll carry that with me forever.

2. START (The Americans) This is how you end a show – with perfect clarity about what your show is about and who your characters are. This finale was nothing like anyone expected. It was much quieter and opted for bittersweet over outright devastation. It was always a story about the Jennings and their marriage. It was a story of two people who loved their country and used that as an excuse to do horrible things. It was a story of having nowhere to belong except by the side of the person you unintentionally fell in love with. It’s not a spy show, just a show about two spies. No one dies in a hail of gunfire and no one really wins. The dramatic moment everyone expected of Stan discovering the truth turned into a twelve minute dialog-heavy scene in a garage and the show is absolutely better for it. The garage scene is going to be a highlight of Matthew Rhys’s career and as Phillip weaves just enough lies into a pained confession to his best friend in order to save his family. It’s heartbreaking and raw and you feel just how broken Phillip has been by everything, especially the realization that he has to leave his son behind. It’s a stunning scene in every single way and for all the words that are exchanged in it, the rest of the episode is comparatively silent. It lets the body language and facial expressions of this tremendous cast take center stage as they say goodbye to everything they know and start again in their home country that no longer feels like home. It is nothing like I expected and everything I needed from the conclusion of this extraordinary show.

3. Love is the Message (Pose) Billy Porter is phenomenal in this episode from start to finish. This episode in general is incredible and beautifully kind. Blanca and Prey Tell are the emotional core of this series and their hearts, fears, and vulnerability are on full display throughout this episode. The threat of AIDS was ever present in the 80s and this episode is a love letter to all who were lost and a refusal to let what they went through be forgotten. The cabaret Prey Tell organizes sought to bring life into a place that had experienced too much death and is one of those gorgeous acts of humanity that Pose does so well. His duet with Blanca is a standout moment of the year. Not only do they sound amazing, the song choice of “Home” from The Wiz perfectly encapsulates what this show is all about (which is echoed earlier by Angel as she talks to Patty and attempts to explain the concept of community as home). It is a place where there is love overflowing. And despite the very real fear that his community could have been wiped out and no one would care, in the end, Prey Tell promises to live. He promises to embrace life and everything that is to come because it won’t last. And he challenges Blanca to do the same. There is a reason this episode is showing up on every best episode list of the year. It’s touching and powerful in ways large and small. It makes the most of its characters while also being about something bigger and it pulls that balance off spectacularly.

Continue reading Best of 2018: TV Episodes