As you well know, 2017 was dark and full of terrors, but we’re here to shine a little light on the best and brightest of the year. Stay golden …
Best Chris Debate
“Who’s the best Chris?” is a question that still sparks debate around all corners of fandom. Do you prefer one of the Marvel Chrises (Evans, Hemsworth or Pratt) or do you like your Chris with more of a Star Trek/DC Comics flavor (Pine). Although the political ugliness of 2106 was still alive and well as 2017 drew to a close, it was so enjoyable to see a debate unite us rather than divide us. (Also: Evans is the correct answer). — Craig Wack
***Spoiler Warning*** Descriptions below the listed series may contain Spoilers***
The Keepers – Rise of the Silence Breakers
It feels weird to call a docuseries with such dark subject matter a bright spot of the year, but if you’ve seen the Netflix series, you understand what I mean just fine.
Directed by Ryan White, The Keepers tells the true story of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a bright and loving young nun who was mysteriously murdered in November of 1969. Twenty years after her murder, former students from the Baltimore high school where Cathy had been a beloved and popular teacher began to come forward with stories of sexual abuse at the hands of two priests in the school. Most shocking of all, it emerges that Sister Cathy may have learned of the abuse and, immediately before her murder, was planning to report the offending priests. What unfolds over seven episodes is an examination of the appalling cover-up orchestrated by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and what makes it a bright spot is the study in strength, and the unity between the survivors. The women, all now mothers and grandmothers, are astonishing to behold, not only as they share their own stories of survival, but also as they doggedly study the case in the name of justice.
The Keepers is no easy watch, but an absolute must-see. — Nadine Morgan
Thanks to three excellent seasons of Fargo, we believed we had a handle on Noah Hawley’s brilliance, but it turns out that, somewhere in between that series and a few excellent books (if you haven’t read Before the Fall, do it), Hawley found time to completely and utterly blow our minds with his take on Marvel’s misunderstood mutant David Haller. With a surprisingly well-cast Dan Stevens and a dream team that includes Aubrey Plaza, Bill Irwin, Rachel Keller, Jemaine Clement and Jean Smart, Legion‘s dance through Haller’s uncontrolled brainspace is an immersive, trippy, aestheti-xperience that leaves us breathless for more. — Cindy Davis
Saul isn’t as flashy as Breaking Bad was, but Vince Gilligan is quietly crafting a series that feels determined to go down as an all-time great in its own right. We’re three seasons in and “Saul Goodman” himself has only made a brief appearance. Jonathan Banks may get all the plaudits for this series, but Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn and Michael McKean helped create some of the most gripping television of the year. — CW
Game of Thrones‘ Tormund and Brienne
Not since the days of Hannibal and Will has a series given its audience such joyous Tumblr fodder as the unrequited adoration of Wildling Tormund Giantsbane for the reluctant Brienne. With a twinkle in his eye and a sly smile on his face, our favorite gingerbeard has longed for and lusted after his Lady of Tarth … so far, to no avail. Thanks to Kristofer Hivju and Gwendoline Christie, what started as only a slight script suggestion has blossomed into full-blown love; in Season 7, Tormund finally confesses his dreams for “great, big monster” babies to an incredulous Hound. As we wait for the final GoT episodes, speculating on who might live or die, we know we can handle almost any characters’ fates … if only the showrunners make our Torienne dreams come true. — CD
The Flash‘s Musical Episode
The CW’s superhero shows have gathered quite an impressive lineup of vocal talent across its shows and with a character like the Music Meister at their disposal, it seemed like only a matter of time before a musical episode was hatched. With a little help from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s Rachel Bloom, “Duet” was a bright spot in an otherwise dark season of The Flash. For those not Glee-initiated, Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist’s voices were a nice surprise. Even if you aren’t a fan of these shows, it’s worth checking out “Duet” for the singing and choreography. — CW
Shout-out to my sister for suggesting this one. Released on Netflix just in time for Halloween, The Babysitter is the best kind of black comedy, and a must if you’re in need of an outright laugh riot. Judah Lewis is Cole, a sweet, slightly immature boy of twelve who is dealing with a bully, slightly clueless parents and a little more than the average pre-teen anxiety. Luckily, Cole has Bee, (Samara Weaving – trust me, the next big thing in comedy), his friend and babysitter, to help him through the harder times. Bee is gorgeous and cool and her every interaction with Cole seems designed to build his confidence. But Bee has a dark secret, as Cole learns one night when he sneaks out of his room to see what she does after he goes to bed. It’s no surprise the supercool Bee has a few friends over, or that the group plays Spin the Bottle. The **Spoiler** sacrifice that follows is, however, somewhat unexpected. What follows is Cole’s brilliantly funny battle to survive the cult’s murderous intent, and The Babysitter is easily one of my favourite films of the year. –– NM
Jude Law as The Young Pope
One of 2017’s most underrated series gave Jude Law the over-the-top role of a lifetime and, with a wink and a smile, the actor took on Paolo Sorrentino’s Lenny Belardo, aka Pius XIII: a conservative and unpredictable American pope who wholly defies expectations … and any attempts to be puppeted by his “advisors.” Law’s smoking- (literally) hot and confident, Cherry Coke-swigging pope treads the finest line between outrageous and admirable, dancing around his would-be manipulators, Cardinal Voiello (Silvio Orlando) and Cardinal Spencer (James Cromwell), as well as his mentor — and the woman who raised him — Sister Mary (Diane Keaton). A gorgeously recreated Vatican backdrop and the fabulous gardens of Italian villas — even the magic of Venice — could scarcely compare with Law’s emotional, triumphant, can’t-take-your-eyes-off-him, Golden Globe-nominated performance. — CD
Stranger Things Season 2
The return to Hawkins, Indiana, was just as satisfying as the first trip. Series whose concepts are surprising often have trouble recapturing the magic of the first season. The Duffer Brothers played to the show’s strengths (the characters, their relationships, David Harbour) to create a new season that had everything that made the first so great, while managing to add new wrinkles that sucked viewers in even more. Its greatest accomplishment may be that the season was only nine episodes –- a perfect length for weekend binging, eliminating the need for seemingly endless filler episodes to stretch the count longer. — CW
My heart sings when Jason Bateman decides to do drama. A man who has built his career on playing smarmy assholes you still entirely sympathise with, Bateman shone this year as the patriarch of Clan Byrde, the kind of pathologically unhappy white suburban family TV loves to dissect down to their bones. Mom Wendy (Laura Linney) is depressed and cheating, and the kids grow further from their parents every day. The family does get a chance to work on those frayed bonds, however, when Marty is revealed to be a money launderer for a deadly Mexican cartel. When his friend is caught skimming, Marty buys back his family’s lives by proposing that they go to the Ozarks and use the tourist and cash-heavy businesses to set up a new operation. Marty quickly finds he is entirely out of his depth, as the Ozarks are not, as he assumed, populated by simple hill-folk, but are rife with their own criminal masterminds, none of whom has any patience for someone sniffing around their turf.
Ozark drew spectacular performances out of everyone on the cast, but if you watch for anyone, let it be Julia Garner’s Ruth. The tiny, teenaged matriarch of a local crime family, Ruth is one of the most compelling women on TV in 2017. —NM