Tag Archives: fleabag

Best of 2019: TV Series

I feel like I complained a lot about TV this year but despite some disappointments and hurt, it was probably overall one of my most enjoyable in quite a while. Whether it was because I was better at stopping shows that ceased to make me happy or because I discovered so many great new things, I can look back at this year and find so much to appreciate. Once again, half hour shows are where it’s at right now for creative and unique storytelling whether its in the format of the show or the types of stories being told. As evidenced by this list, it was a terrific year for female creators telling very specific stories and doing so incredibly well and a terrific year for compassionate storytelling. It wasn’t always nice and happy but so much came from a place of love and care for its characters and their world and that’s what I want most.

Thanks for hanging around for another year and don’t forget to check out the many wonderful lists over on MGCircles and a fantastic year-end essay at Nerdy Girl Notes!

1. Fleabag Season one of this show is good and creative and rightfully brought attention to Phoebe Waller-Bridge for what she created. Season two is extraordinary. It is emotionally resonant, creatively efficient storytelling and it deserves every one of the accolades it’s received. It’s simultaneously soothing and unsettling, which makes perfect sense for a show that is about connection. It’s a season of healing and acceptance, particularly self-acceptance, and the fucking terrifying nature of vulnerability and letting yourself be seen. It’s raw and visceral but not in a way that screams at you. It’s a seductive whisper instead of a roar. It asks you to open your heart and experience the exhilaration of falling in love with someone who is everything you need but that you ultimately can’t have. It’s not anger that ends the season and it’s not even really heartbreak, although that is a component, it’s learning to be present and to sit with your emotions instead of shoving them aside. There’s not a quippy joke meant to deflect and for the first time, Fleabag is going somewhere we can’t follow. She’s ready to be alone now, knowing that she is capable of connection and that she can love and survive even after the loss of that love because she’ll carry it with her. She doesn’t need to run from her own mind and pain to keep going. It’s powerful and deeply affecting in a way that is really only possible when something is as well-constructed as this season was. Everything about it is thoughtfully chosen and led to a whole that was somehow even stronger than the sum of its parts. 

2. Good Omens This show came at precisely the right time. After a spring season of television that was once again rough on my emotions in an unplesant way (seriously shows, stop doing this), Good Omens came along with a terrific adaptation of a book I already loved, with a terrific cast, a ship to fall head over heels for, and a celebration of humanity and our ability to choose a path other than the one seemingly laid out for us. The love Neil Gaiman put into this show to make it something his best friend and co-author Terry Pratchett would have been proud of is evident in every choice and especially in interviews. The humanism that is a hallmark of Pratchett’s work is all over the show. It sees who we are, for better or worse, and says that we can choose better. The Them standing up for the world they want to be grow up in against the Four Horsemen and Adam telling Satan that he’s not his real dad despite that being his whole purpose of creation are a demonstration that we don’t have to accept what we’re told is the way things should work. We can rebuild something of our own, something that makes space for all the things we’re told are impossible. We can make a world where an angel and a demon can dine at the Ritz because the side they’ve chosen is the one they can be on together, where a witch burns the prophecies that are her legacy in order to discover a life where she makes her own choices. It is a show full of hope and love that I will cherish forever. 

3.  One Day At A Time Look, this show has been at or near the top of my lists for the past two years and this year is not going to be an exception. I love this family, the ethos behind the show, and the cast and writers too much for it not to appear. It continues to be smart and full of laughter and warmth and love in its third season as we see Schneider relapse, Penelope become a Nurse Practitioner, Elena and Syd becoming more serious, and Alex trying drugs and promptly getting grounded. It handled things like street harassment, addiction, mental health, and sex with it’s typical consideration and compassion for these characters and lets them have their own perspectives and challenges. They feel like real people that you might know and want to spend time around and you can’t help but love them and root for their successes. It’s not easy to make characters that feel so well-formed and each choice they make feel like it comes from who they are and not whatever topic they want to address, plot point they need to squeeze in, or punchline they need to hit but they have consistently done a terrific job from both a writing and acting perspective. This show is incredibly special to me and PopTV swooping in and saving it was a highlight of my year.

4. Vida This is a show with a vision and a fierce pride and joy in the communities it represents. It also has a deep compassion for who these characters are and what they have been through. As a result, it feels unlike everything else on television right now. Everyone is allowed to be full of contradictions, no one can easily be defined as good or bad. It allows space for complicated issues and is content to sit with the lack of easy answers. Above all, it’s a show about family and learning how to connect and come together after time and distance apart. Emma and Lyn’s relationship with each other and their complicated memories of their mother and her legacy are the backbone of the show. The grace it gives them to navigate that space even when its ugly and come to terms with the loss of a woman who raised them and influenced the person they became, for better or worse, while recognizing that they didn’t truly know her is extraordinary. I can’t speak to the specific ways it portrays Latinx and specifically Mexican culture but every choice they make feels like it’s one made from love and care. It doesn’t feel made to explain things to others, I know I only pick up about 75% of what’s being said when the characters are speaking Spanish, and it’s stronger for it. I love everything Tanya Saracho has created in this show and cannot wait for whatever s3 brings. As long as it maintain its compassion, and I have no reason to believe it won’t, I’m in until the end. 

Continue reading Best of 2019: TV Series

Best of 2019: Episodes

As much as I enjoy cliffhanger-driven television for encouraging me to keep watching a series, I will always prefer shows with slightly more discrete and distinct episodes. The ability to craft a good story that satisfies in 22-60 minutes that also ties into the season or series as a whole is a difficult one that not every show can manage, but when they do, it stays with with you. Some of these episodes, I liked simply because they did a good job doing exactly what they set out to do, others had something more profound to say that spoke to me on a deeper level, and I think both types are important to me as a viewer.

If you’re not already, be sure to check out the year-end reviews over at MGCircles and continue to celebrate the things that you enjoyed the most this year!

Episode One (Fleabag) Everything about this episode is brilliant and absolutely riveting. The jumps between scenes, the choral backing, the most satisfying punch in the history of television, the introduction of Hot Priest, and the complication and devotion that can only exist between sisters. It’s a fantastic reintroduction to the series after three years away and the whole episode is infused with a frantic energy that sucks you in and won’t let go. The family dinner after over a year apart where they are so desperately trying to appear normal in front of this outsider and utterly failing because they are absolutely not functional as a unit. The writing and acting are both terrific and Andrew Scott slid so seamlessly into this world and immediately feels like a natural fit for the off-kilter, fast-paced banter that helps define its style. It’s a masterclass in efficient, dynamic television and I cannot possibly say enough good things about it. 

The Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (Game of Thrones) In a season that was mostly filled with disappointment and horrible writing choices, this episode feels like a gift from Bryan Cogman. In this precursor to the battle against the White Walkers, the characters and the viewers were given a chance to breathe and to take stock of what was important. And this import was found in each other – the history they’d shared, the bonds that had formed, the trusts that had yet to be shaken. This show is plot-heavy, it always has been. But just this once, we got a look at a version of the show that wasn’t. Yes, there was some necessary battle prep like the shots of Gendry making weapons and the war council, but really, it was a change for discussions and decisions and declarations. It was only right that Cogman wrote this episode after gifting us with “Kissed by Fire” and “Oathbreaker” in previous seasons. This was the culmination of Jaime and Brienne’s arc that started so many seasons ago and I could not have wanted anything more. Regardless of their ending that I will be mad about forever, this is who they were to each other. The person they chose to fight and potentially die alongside. The one who had their unquestioned trust and loyalty. The one they loved. There are three separate points in this episode where that subtext nearly ticks over into actual text and for as much as I love these two, it was the better choice to leave it unspoken but still heard. Then we cap off the episode with Jon and his terrible timing but as a result, we headed into battle with all the cards on the table for the most important relationships on the show. 

Anxiety (One Day at a Time) This episode is so well-made and the care that went into its creation is so apparent in every choice. As always, Justina Machado is incredibly talented and I will never understand how every awards body isn’t showering her with accolades and she grounds her performance in something compassionate and real. I love that the bulk of the non-flashback portion of the episode takes place at group therapy. We absolutely need to normalize getting help like this and the benefits of having a supportive community around you and there was something special in seeing this group of women come together around an issue that affects them all in very different ways. There’s not one way for anxiety to present and not a single coping mechanism that will work for everyone and it feels like the writers of this episode wanted to be extra sure that the viewers knew that. It was an outstretched hand saying that we aren’t alone and there is possible relief. This episode also really demonstrates what’s so special about Penelope and Schneider’s relationship. We all need that person in our life that we can be honest with and trust that they will be there in response with whatever it is that we need. Just being able to tell someone “I’m having an anxiety attack” and putting a name to the feeling is an important step and allowing yourself to lean on someone else when shame would have us isolate and hide away is a powerful and healing part of the process and this episode demonstrated that perfectly. I’m so grateful for everything that went into making this episode what it is and hope that it started conversations and fostered a little more understanding in the world. 

Who’s Got the Pain (Fosse/Verdon) Coming together and falling apart. This episode is Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon’s relationship in a nutshell. From their first meeting, you see why they connected both personally and professionally. It changed nearly everything for them, they found someone who instinctively understood them creatively and worked to make them shine even brighter. It invigorated them in every way. But it didn’t change who they were. Fosse wasn’t capable of a monogamous relationship with anything, he was always looking for something more or new or different. We see it as his marriage with Joan falls apart and we see in the fight in Majorca. He undoubtedly loved Verdon as much as he was able and it was never going to be enough. She needed more of him than he had to give and sometimes that made her walk away but sometimes she stayed anyway because some of him made more sense than none. This episode is brilliantly directed and edited, the camera angles in their pre-rehearsal fight are tense and suffocating, William’s line delivery of her stage directions for their fight on the beach are brutal and cutting, and the dance scenes are all filled with chemistry and a natural intimacy. Every element of it was perfectly executed and it’s the episode I’m most likely to keep coming back to as an example of who these two were and how the show captured them. 

Continue reading Best of 2019: Episodes

Best of 2019: Relationships

So much of my interest in television (or really any fictional media) is due to the relationships between characters. I want the friendships that steady people and make them better, the sweet love stories, the complicated love stories, and the families (biological or chosen) that form. I want characters and the dynamics between them to matter to the story, to help drive their choices. No one does anything alone and the relationships we form with others matter. That’s the TV I’ll come back to again and again and for all its disappointments on that front, something I managed to find a lot of in the shows I watched and loved.

1. Aziraphale and Crowley (Good Omens) After a spring where two ships I completely adored went in directions that were the exact opposite of what I would have liked (and in ways that didn’t really work with the writing that came before it), Aziraphale and Crowley were a breath of fresh air. The angel and demon who fell in love with humanity and with each other in the process. They managed to combine the best elements of a slow burn romance with a comfort and ease that normally only comes with married couples thanks to the 6000 years they spent knowing each other. I love that Crowley is incapable of giving Aziraphale anything he asks for, whether that is a miracle to make Hamlet a success, a clean jacket, or stopping time so the Antichrist they misplaced can save the day. For someone who shouldn’t be capable of it, he loves Aziraphale so purely and it’s beautiful. On the flip side, you have Aziraphale who is a being of love and he’s terrified of what loving Crowley means. He does, how could he not after everything, but he’s the one who isn’t ready even after all this time. So to watch him be able to take that final step at the end is everything I needed. They got a happy ending and to finally be on their own team and brought me an incredible amount of joy. And if you haven’t seen this fanvid, the scene choices and timing are flawless and make me emotional every time I watch. 

2. Fleabag and Hot Priest (Fleabag) To be seen for everything you are is a powerful thing. To find that person who sees through all your defenses and taps into that vulnerable part of you that’s real and that you’ve kept hidden because you don’t truly believe anyone could love that piece of you is terrifying. Especially for someone like Fleabag who perpetually feels alone and like there is something fundamentally wrong with her and the way she exists in the world. And along comes Hot Priest with his slight awkwardness and fear of foxes and desire to truly know her. Their chemistry is intense and all-consuming and too much to experience alone. We know it can’t last. But wow do we want it to. In less than 3 hours, we get to see and experience every stage of this relationship from meeting to its dissolution and it is one hell of a journey. It’s painful and hopeful and beautiful and tragic all rolled into one. It gave them both something they had been searching for and they’ll both go off changed because of what they shared. It affirmed something in them and they’re better because they loved each other in a way that won’t ever really pass. Not entirely. And that’s what hope looks like. The possibility of a new future, even when it’s not a shared one. 

3. David and Patrick (Schitt’s Creek) These two are a warm hug (or an oversized black sweater). They are solidly together and in love for the whole of this season and it is beautiful. You feel the ease and comfort and casual intimacy that comes from feeling free with another person and I can’t thank Dan enough for intentionally choosing to write them this way. Being in a committed relationship didn’t take away from either character or suddenly make David boring or a different person, it enriched both their lives and hasn’t changed who they are. Patrick is still going to love baseball and hiking more than David and think tax seminars are an important thing to attend and David will have none of it but they will love those things about the other. Patrick’s proposal is absolutely perfect and for him to be in a place where he can be sure and unafraid and David able to accept and trust in that love is beautiful. They’ve both come a long way to get to that point and it has been so incredibly satisfying to watch. 

4. Nadia and Guzman (Elite) These two hit all my narrative kinks. I am a sucker for guys that are kind of terrible but fall in love with strong-minded, incredible ladies who they think are the best thing in the entire world and who want to be better for them. Both of these two were in difficult emotional places this season as Guzman grieved for Mariana (then found out one of his best friend’s killed her) and Nadia felt the increased pressure to be the perfect daughter her dad thinks she is after her brother left home and a sex tape of her made its way around the internet. Neither reacted overly well and attempted to shut out any of their own feelings and everyone else along with them but they also managed a few moments of genuine connection where Nadia was able to admit to both of them how much she wanted this and Guzman continued to be his utterly besotted self and also finally break up with Lu. And those moments were magic. Their chemistry is off-the-charts ridiculous (and it’s really a wonder all of our screens didn’t combust during Nadia’s sex dream) but we also see how good they could be for and with each other if they could find a way to get through everything internal and external holding them back. There is real care and affection between them and I need them together for good by the end of s3. 

Continue reading Best of 2019: Relationships

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