Jason Bateman is incredibly good in “Ozark.” Jason Bateman is so good in his new Netflix drama, he could make you forget about Laura Linney if Laura Linney wasn’t Laura Freaking Linney. As a husband and wife sent on the run while their marriage is on the rocks, the two deliver scenes filled with tension and heartbreak, panic and intimacy, lacerating words and deep understanding. They build quickly, but never carelessly, much like the show itself. “Ozark” can be hard to watch, but with these two you don’t dare look away.
While the first season emphasized setting up the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, we still saw plenty of reasons to get excited about these women and their amazing stories. “GLOW” brought us a dynamic and exciting cast of characters that made this series addictive, and after the rousing yet restrained climax of the season finale, we can’t wait to see how the show evolves going forward.
8. “Downward Dog”
After a couple years of change and uncertainty, there was something comforting about seeing the world through the eyes of two very distinct characters: Nan, a strong independent woman organizing her own life’s priorities, and good old Martin, a dog with the sense of trustworthiness and loyalty that we ascribe to our favorite pets. Through both of their stories, the show found multiple fresh viewpoints of two characters coming to love and understand the world around them. Whichever half the episode lingered on, there was a distinct human touch behind it. That injection of eagerness and hope, whether in a fantastical world of canine smells or the promise of self-confidence is something that will be greatly missed. Eight episodes was far too few, but it was still a force for joy and wonder in a TV world that desperately needed it.
7. “Big Mouth”
Even as some of the most dramatic and traumatic changes of a person’s life are the subject of some of the biggest laughs of the year, all of that real, lived-in experience is drawn (literally and figuratively) with an unmistakable care. Sure, there are flying spectral presences of jazz legends and pillow children and the world’s most unnecessarily vicious law commercial, but there’s an odd sense of comfort amidst the craziness. Anchored by one of the strongest voice casts in history, alongside a deep roster of characters to go with it, the show already has a firm grip on the truth and style that makes it tick. Whether a next season follows these kids as they age or keeps them in middle school forever, we can’t wait to see what comes next.
6. “Big Little Lies”
“Big Little Lies” is at once an empowering examination of complex female camaraderie, as well as a damn juicy murder mystery. Inspired by Liane Moriarty’s book, the HBO limited series(-turned regular series) is directed with deft understanding by Jean-Marc Vallee and adapted with an eye for intrigue by David E. Kelly. But the power comes from its cast, mainly the three women at its core. Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Shailene Woodley aren’t just famous faces selling a simple story. They bring everything they’ve got as creative collaborates and help make the fun more substantial and the substantial more fun. “Big Little Lies” turns its contradictions into advantages, and wins big in doing so.
5. “The Young Pope”
While IndieWire has written extensively about our love for the show’s complexity and execution, we thought we’d take this moment to express our pure and unadulterated joy in Paolo Sorrentino’s gift to us, in verse:
He’s Lenny Belardo, the American Dope Pope
With the strength of conviction like sweet Leslie Knope.
But no waffles for him, it’s only Cherry Coke—
Zero fucks does he give; He need not be woke.
Man of the cloth and a man of the people,
Why stop there? He’s a man of the marsupial.
Does he make miracles? Sister Mary truly knows.
I don’t think Alaska (that’s where the bad cardinal goes).
Pity the fool who underestimates his prayer,
But he’s got more demons than Buffy the slayer.
He’s a man, a meme, a juggler — so complex!
And fit as a fiddle without P90X.
He’s an orphan at heart, a lost lamb as it were,
Even more misunderstood than that guy Aaron Burr.
Eventually he gets that doctrine can be messy
And learns to have mercy like cool Uncle Jesse.
And while that stellar ending leaves us in denial,
Lenny is the pontiff who left us with a “Smile.”
4. “The Deuce”
We could wax rhapsodic about the way that David Simon and George Pelecanos have brought their distinct attention to another portrait of a city. We could rave about James Franco‘s dual performance or Maggie Gyllenhaal’s perceptive evolution of a character gaining more and more control over her own life. We could sing from the rafters about the show’s batch of exciting new performers from Gary Carr to Dominique Fishback to Margarita Levieva. But at its core, the thing that makes “The Deuce” most appealing is that all of those elements are seamlessly woven together to evoke a specific time and place that links all of them together. It’s a rich portrait that’s far from finishing its story.
3. “American Vandal”
Who. Did. The. Dicks? Four words forming one simple question became a viral sensation worth believing in, as the latest Netflix original series successfully set satiric fire to one of America’s favorite storytelling genres — including award-winning Netflix original series “Making a Murderer.” Astute nods to the most popular true crime stories certainly made “American Vandal” satisfying, but it was the character construction, careful plotting, and high school setting that gave it a lasting impression. And the question. Of course, the question. So simple, so brilliant: Who did the dicks? Who knew drawing penises — without ball hair — would be just the insightful commentary on trendy documentary filmmaking we all needed?
2. “Dear White People”
Proof that adapting a film to television can genuinely pay off, Justin Simien and Yvette Lee Bowser’s translation of the indie favorite was a richly detailed examination of race relations within a college campus — a.k.a. a perfect microcosm for the rest of society. Buoyed by great performances and writing, not to mention a truly heartbreaking installment in Reggie’s chapter, “Dear White People” became an essential show for 2017. We eager to re-enroll for sophomore year.
1. “The Handmaid’s Tale”
What more can be said at this point about the Emmy-winning and critically acclaimed series that hasn’t been said before? Sure, Margaret Atwood’s original novel about the subjugation of women has a timeless quality to it that makes it frighteningly timely in light of today’s social climate, but what’s even more impressive is how the series expanded that universe. From Ofglen’s punishment and Serena Joy’s backstory to Moira’s escape and the sanctuary of Canada, the show’s building out of Atwood’s creation feels effortless and vital, which is the key to why this dystopia feels so incredibly, frighteningly real. We can’t wait to see what new horrifying yet empowering insights Season 2 will bring.