Are you still watching? Yes TF I am, Netflix.
The BNP staff spends a lot of time watching TV, in general, and Netflix, specifically, so we decided to do a roundup of our year in Netflix. In no particular order…
Best Animated Series
“You say you want to get better and you don’t know how.”
If there is any series that encapsulated the strange ennui that was 2018, it would have to the one that gave us emotional devastation by way of depressed horse. BoJack Horseman released its fifth season this year and it continues to be one of the most encaptivating animated series in the modern era. The entire cast of characters continue to grow and grapple/regress and reflect on their lives in Hollywoo in one of the most scathing social satires you can see. With episodes like BoJack the Femininst, Free Churro, and my personal favorite, INT. SUB added to the pantheon of mindbending, genre challenging, game changing story episodes BoJack has given us, it’s easy recommendation as bingeworthy material even if it will leave you exhausted afterwards.
Guillermo del Toro’s Trollhunters concluded this year, ending the first arc of the Tales of Arcadia series. While 3Below may be showing up on your Netflix’s feeds, you should take a moment to revisit the legend of Jim Lake, Claire Nuñez, and Toby Domzalski. Don’t let the basic premise of a human being thrust into a fantastical destiny fool you.
Trollhunters does away with the standard black and white morality and revels in exploring the complexities of morality and aspiring to take the higher ground. With beautifully stunning animation by Dreamworks Studios, Trollhunters lays the foundation for a world with an immense mythology that callbacks to fairy tales and the imagination of childhood. You’d do your inner child a favor by watching these series.
Last Hope (Jūshinki Pandōra)
Look, Netflix has optioned a lot of different anime series in 2018 and I’ve only managed to work through a handful of them. However, the one at the top of my list is definitely gonna be an odd pick: Last Hope. The exceeding vague title belies the patently ridiculous mecha series buried underneath. After a quantum generator malfunctions and causes all non-human biological life to merge with various technologies leading to a new life form, humanity has been contained in bastion cities. Last Hope follows the endeavors of Leon Lau, the scientist responsible for the world-ending situation in the first, as he attempts to destroy the world again to create a better world for his adopted younger sister, Chloe, with the help of the citizens of Neo Xianglong. Featuring stellar mecha designs with truly epic fight scenes and a loose understanding of what quantum mechanics entails, the two cours is a surprisingly touching story about found family in the backdrop of a desolate wasteland of technological horrors. Or you, my entire brand of anime.
Big Mouth Season 2
So, Big Mouth is raunchy. No questions about that. Season 2 continues that level of raunchiness with Nick, Andrew, Jessi, Missy, and Jay, who are all young people going through puberty. Some of the highlights of the season include their illiterate coach losing his virginity to Jay’s married mom, an episode explaining STDs, contraception, and Planned Parenthood, and episodes all about body positivity and slut-shaming. As a whole, the 2nd season isn’t as good to me as the first, but what the 2nd season does well is explore the trials of being a young person going through the tumultuous time in life that is puberty. And yes, this include things like masturbation, growing body parts, and sex, but they also deal with the anger of having divorcing parents, the confusion of being in a young relationship, and the overall ins and outs that come with that time in all our lives. At the end of the day, it’s probably not for everyone but give it a try if you haven’t seen it. I rewatched the first season (which came out in 2017) numerous times, and I’ve been watching through season 2 few times as well.
Lauren W.‘s pick
Spirit Riding Free
It’s been a tough year in a number of ways–one of them being that for about three weeks, my household was taken down by respiratory illness related to the toxic smoke of the Camp Fire in Northern California blowing over the Bay Area. Trying to keep an energetic four-year-old entertained indoors when he normally spends his days running around in the redwoods with his Black eco-feminist forest school was challenging. Luckily, his favorite cartoon of the moment is Spirit Riding Free, and I was willing to relax the rules about screen time enough to fall in love with it myself.
Spirit Riding Free follows Fortuna “Lucky” Preston, a new transplant to the frontier town of Miradero with her father Jim and Aunt Cora. Lucky bonds with a wild mustang named Spirit, descended from the title character of Dreamworks’ 2002 Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, which managed to be revolutionary in its treatment of the Indian Wars and critique of manifest destiny. The series, however, avoids most explicit political statements as it chronicles the adventures of Lucky and her friends Pru and Abigail and their horses in the old west.
There are seven seasons, and the writing is great. Not that I want my kid to be sick, but when he does ask about watching something, I’m glad when it’s Spirit he suggests.
She-Ra and The Princesses of Power
She-Ra and He-Man were a bit before my time so I didn’t get swept up in the nostalgia wave that hit the internet when the news of this show was released. I knew that She-ra was a spin-off from He-Man and people were always telling me that he was coming to save her on her own damn show. WELP. I got the heads up from fellow BNP writer Leslie that this was a go so my six year old niece and I devoured the series the day after Thanksgiving this year. We don’t usually watch this much television in one sitting but marathoning She-Ra was a gift to spend more quality time together as this six going on seven year old kid whom I’ve babysat for a few days at the end of every year around the holidays since she was about a year old—suddenly acquired a cell phone this year and was glued to it nearly every minute of the day and night.
Which was frustrating to say the least as every year my mom and I plan activities and our days with this kid. This year was much more lowkey and when we started the She-Ra marathon she unpeeled herself from the phone and we started on the journey of Adora and friends. This fresh spin with female characters of all shapes and sizes not hyerpsexualized at all grabbed my attention and each episode introduced more and more girl characters, as my niece pointed out in glee.
I really dug the writing and the many themes that made themselves present throughout the show: the power of friendship, toxic behavior, complex ideologies, choosing your family…my niece and I had many talking points during breaks for more snacks on what characters were the most silly and how certain intense moments in certain episodes made us feel–helping to make her forget about that damn phone and more on spending time bonding with us.
I absolutely adored that Noelle Stevenson was a showrunner and executive producer for this series. In regards to her comics work: I’ve read Lumberjanes off and on and devoured Nimona when I first picked it up. Super excited to see more of her work translate in a different medium and excited to see more folks who aren’t old white dudes in the animation business. Lastly this is such a queer show, fans of Steven Universe will love it. For the kids and the kids at hearts, She-Ra is a winner.
Shows I Didn’t Expect to Fall In Love With
On My Block
You’d be hard pressed to find a series as unrepentantly joyful as On My Block. Sporting one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard on any TV series a cast of black and Latinx teens, On My Block is the modern retelling of every coming-of-age in high school sitcom story sans the predominantly white cast and with a more nuanced understanding of race and socioeconomic status. As Monse, Cesar, Ruby, Jamal, and Olivia stumble their way through freshman year and one particularly persistent urban legend, you come to love the characters as they navigate a side of Los Angeles you don’t typically see depicted in media, at least not with this level of honesty. One of their arcs will undoubtedly resonate with you and you also have the added benefit of knowing a second season is on its way.
In a time of superhero oversaturation, The Innøcents came along and empathetically swerved all the way left when it hit us with a love story that featured superhuman powers in the most subtle of ways. I say that because this is a love story first and foremost, with intoxicating sci-fi elements. Harry and June are your typical teenage students fed up with overprotective parents so they run away to London together and madness ensues.
They’re love drunk idiots who didn’t know June’s 16 birthday also marked the day that her dad was going to sit her down and hit her with the straight facts about why her mom abandoned the family and why June has been so heavily medicated.
Welp, that medication soon becomes a thing of the past and her “powers” begin to manifest, creepy ass henchmen start hunting them down and a decades old mystery resurfaces as you begin to wonder if this is a low key Mystique origin story. The Innøcents will get you hooked and hit you with curve balls all throughout it’s 8 episode cinematic run.
Movies I Didn’t Expect to Wreck Me
Every now and then you watch a movie because you love the actors and/or actresses. Every now and then you watch a movie because the synopsis looks too good to miss out on. On the rare occasion you find an interesting Netflix movie that features your faves, you dive head first into the fray and sometimes you come out of the entire ordeal completely destabilized. 6 Balloons hit me where it hurt, and when you break down exactly what the straight forward premise is, you’ll understand why. Dave Franco plays an addict who constantly relies on his sister to rescue him and his daughter from certain damnation. Franco plays in an out of rehab Seth, an impressively high functioning heroin abuser who has absurd demand after the next for his sister who questions her complacency and enabling approach to his deficiencies.
Abbi Jacobson plays his sister Katie who takes it upon herself to drive her overly dependent sibling around Los Angeles in search of a detox center that will admit the fiend. The main reason I randomly put this movie on was because I’ve loved Jacobson’s role as a young 20 something year old hilariously navigating life in NYC on Broad City. 6 Balloons is no Broad City. It’s dark. It’s vile. It’s heartbreaking. And I loved every minute of it. The chemistry Franco and Jacobson have together is astounding and I hope this movie serves as a deterrent for all addicts and particularly, addicts with little humans to care for.
After watching the entirety of Travelers’ third season, I still whole heartily recommend the series as a whole, but the latest season’s 10 episode run is definitely a little more inconsistent than its predecessors. However, the imaginative backdrop of covert agents from the future desperately trying to undo humanity’s mistakes creates one of the most compelling time travel narratives in recent memory while forcing the viewer to question their morality. What is the greater good worth? What defines our humanity? Are we capable of saving ourselves? It’s a fascinating story with a stellar cast and highlights what all science fiction should aspire to: using technology as a conceit to examine our own follies.
Most WTF Am I Watching Give Me More Episodes Right Now
The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell
The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell dropped just before Halloween for all of our spoopy viewing pleasures. Netflix, The Jim Henson Company, and Instagram celebrity Christine McConnell frankensteined together this sitcom, baking show, crafting show hybrid colored with McConnell’s odd Addams Family-esque flair. The six episodes follow Christine, Rose—the reanimated roadkill raccoon, Rankle—the resurrected mummy of an ancient Egyptian cat, and Edgar—an abandoned werewolf who should under no circumstances be fed blood…again.
If you love HGTV and Food Network, Christine’s ridiculously stunning confections will have you hooked. If you’re a fan of the off-kilter humor of The Henson Studio variety, I promise you will not want to miss this one. It’s like The Great British Baking Show but with mirror ghosts and attempted murder. A good time to be had by all!
Haunting of Hill House
Haunting of Hill House is one of the best horror series on Netflix. To be fair, I don’t watch a lot of horror series Netflix originals, I don’t know how many there really are – but this one was the talk of the town, and I had to see what was the buzz was about. Haunting of Hill House pulls you in with wild intrigue. The show is ominous and a little hokey at first, but what you do not realize is all of the tiny little details in this show. We go back and forth through time following a family who spent some time in a messed up house as children and how it affected them all throughout their lives. Mind you they were in this house because their parents are house flippers.
The black in me is like, what in the hell are you doing flipping a run down creepy ass mansion in the middle of the woods that has been abandoned for years? You’re not flippers stop lying, you are ghost hunters. This family is then subjected to the… Hauntings of Hill House. This is one of those shows you gotta watch more than once, there will be people and things in the background you didn’t see first time around. Ghosts and images you may never catch, have you yelling – who the hell is that behind them?
At the same time the family dynamics sweep you and land you flat out on the ground. The trauma this family has been through and at the same time ignores, in addition to the sibling relationships are just as much horror as the ghosts and haunted past that follows them. You better check this show out – best Netflix original horror of 2018. All I’m gonna say is “Bent Neck Lady” will make you turn on ALL the lights when you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, forreal.
Those are our picks. Let us know what you think we should binge.
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