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Best of 2021: Television

It was a weird TV year. There were long stretches of time in which I just didn’t consume any scripted content. Or that I only got to because I was watching them with a friend. But then there were things that grabbed hold of my heart and made things feel right and normal again for a while. So this is less a list of my favorites of the year and more a list of shows that made me want to talk about them for some reason. Sometimes it was a character, sometimes it was a premise, and sometimes it was because it was everything I wanted it to be and more.

If you’re looking for more year-end content broken up into categories, you’ll want to head over to Marvelous Geeks for some amazing recs and thoughts. And if you’re looking for a gorgeous essay on change and TV and what we needed (or specifically what Katie needed) this year, head over to Nerdy Girl Notes.

Leverage Redemption I needed this reboot/revival/return to be good. I love the original SO MUCH and desperately did not want to be let down. I trusted the creators but years of television have taught me that’s a dangerous thing. Thankfully, my faith wasn’t misplaced and I largely adored this season. My show came back, just as I would have wanted it. Not the exact same, it’s somehow less subtle now in its condemnation of the bad guys (and the real people they are based on) and it’s angrier because it’s 2021 and we’re all a little angrier about the ways in which we have been failed by so many systems. But the heart is the same. This family is the same. That drive to make the world just a little bit better is the same. It felt different without Hardison, in many ways, he is the glue that keeps everything together. But I love the explanation given for his absence and like the original did with Gina’s pregnancy, this version let Hardison grow as a character while giving Aldis Hodge the ability to keep his very busy schedule as his career skyrockets. But wow did I love the new additions to the cast. Our dear Mr. Wilson as the vehicle through which we explored the Jewish concept of redemption was a fantastic way to give shape to the season and he ended up being an incredibly endearing character on top of it. And then there is Breanna Casey. That fresh perspective she brings as a young woman who hasn’t known a different world breathes new energy into the show. Everyone else’s worse is her normal and her speech about that is the reason I will follow John Rogers as a creator wherever he goes. I am thrilled we are getting a second season to spend with these characters because I am not ready to say goodbye again. The only thing that could make it better is if they follow through on what they’ve written and make my beloved OT3 fully canon. It’s right there and while they are amazing now as they are, there is that potential for something even better and I want it.

Ted Lasso More than anything else on this list, I would have liked to rewatch this season before writing this like I normally would have. I think it would have benefited from a second watch in a binge format but I didn’t get to do it so instead I’m just going to talk about the things I loved the most instead of tying anything together nicely. I continue to be fully on board with Ted and Rebecca as a ship and want to yell about it all the time. If Leverage Redemption didn’t exist, they would be my #1 ship of the year. I love Rebecca being the one to consistently see through the walls Ted puts up (however positive they may look, they are still walls) and continuing her actions in Make Rebecca Great Again to show up and support him however she can. I love Ted being the person who knew exactly what to say to Rebecca at her father’s funeral and that he was the first to join in with her song. They understand each other and care for each other in ways that are simultaneously very quiet and very loud and I hope we get to watch them gravitate back toward each other next season as they get out of the dark forest. I love the redemption of Jamie Tartt alongside the fall of Nate Shelley. One blossomed under Ted’s style of leadership as soon as he let himself actually embrace what he stood for and one repeatedly pushed it aside because he couldn’t see past his own issues to believe in what he was demonstrating. And most of all, I love AFC Richmond as a club and as a family. Every scene of the players together in the locker room and the Christmas dinner at the Higgins’ house and the fact that every single person showed up for Rebecca at her father’s funeral (she’s not alone any more and I have entirely too many feelings about it) is what my found family loving heart needed from this season. It was dark and many characters were going through things and isolating themselves or shutting down communication when they needed it most. But it was never without hope or without love. 

The Expanse I will admit that I have not started the final season yet. But the back half of season 5 was more than strong enough for the show to make this list and it is primarily for one reason. Dominique Tipper gives one of the most extraordinary performances I have seen of determination and survival and intelligence and love in the season finale “Nemesis Games”. Naomi is an incredible character and Tipper does not get nearly enough credit for the absolutely incredible work she is doing and I will be mad about it forever. In addition, the reunion scene on the Roci is one of my favorites. They are a family and they may have lost someone but they are still strong and have each other. They are each other’s people and no amount of distance has shaken that and that’s the story I will always want from my science fiction (and television in general). I don’t want this story to end but I can’t wait to dive into the final episodes soon because I have faith that they will nail this ending. 

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