Will the world ever look back at 2020 with anything close to fondness? It’s been said by many others, but how can all this drama happen in one year alone?
First and foremost, there is the continuing crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic and the tepid response by the current administration to contain it—like, please, just wear a goddamn mask people; it’s actually not rocket science—but there has been an overabundance of attention-grabbing headlines unfolding before our eyes throughout the year.
No joke, all of this shit happened in 2020:
Bushfires in Australia burned 47 million acres, displaced thousands of people, and killed at least 34 (not to mention the animals); the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant; the Harvey Weinstein verdict; the impeachment of President Trump; the stock market crash; the Black Lives Matter movement; the arrest of Jeffrey Epstein’s right-hand woman, Ghislaine Maxwell; the explosion in Beirut; the death of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman; the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg; and the West Coast fires.
And the year isn’t even close to being over! ARGH!!! I’m so fucking TRRRIGGGGERRREDDD.
If I wasn’t living through it myself, I’d say that it was all made up. Seriously, 2020 sounds like the plot of a bad Stephen King novel. But, alas, we aren’t so lucky. It’s true. It’s really happening. And we just have to deal.
So, when I’m not staring at the news in abject terror, I’m stuck at home binge-watching some incredible television.
At least we have that, am I right? Could you image being stuck inside during a pandemic in 1918 without modern forms of entertainment? You’d likely climb the walls for fun, sniff some mustard gas, and then murder your family. Believe me, we should count ourselves lucky that we get to ride the pandemic out during a television renaissance.
That’s why I want to take a moment to highlight what I consider to be the best horror and science fiction television of the year (so far), so that we—in a small way—could help you survive the remainder of 2020.
There’s some upcoming premieres on the horizon, so you’ll need to check back in to see if they make the list.
Hulu’s science fiction thriller, Devs, may have flown under your radar in early 2020, but we don’t blame you for missing out on this groundbreaking show. It’s understandable since it debuted when the pandemic was gathering steam in early March, and a meditative show about the connection between freewill, determinism, and technology, probably wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea at the time.
Created, written, and directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation), Devs follows software engineer Lily Chan (Sonoya Mizuno) in her quest to solve the mysterious death of her boyfriend, Sergei, at the secretive quantum computing company, Amaya.
Series lead Mizuno gives a breakout performance, but Nick Offerman, Alison Pill, and the rest of the supporting cast are firing on all cylinders too.
Raised by Wolves (HBO Max)
Executive Producer Ridley Scott is best known for his early science fiction work in films like Alien and Bladerunner, but some of his latest outings—cough, cough, Prometheus, cough, couch—have been met with a tepid response from fans and critics alike. While the design and special effects work that Scott is known for are better than ever, the stories themselves have lacked the same amount of craft and dramatic oomph.
But with HBO’s Raised by Wolves, however, created by Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners), Scott is proving that old dogs can learn new tricks.
Raised by Wolves is the story of two androids—Mother and Father—who are tasked with raising children that will reignite the human race after humanity has come to the brink of extinction on Earth at the hands of a religious cult called the Mithraic. But when the remaining Mithraic show up on the planet the androids inhabit, there is a battle to decide humanities fate.
Raised by Wolves is a science fiction horror/thriller with grand ambitions that’s bound to leave you wanting more. Personally, I can’t wait for the next season.
What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
If you haven’t been watching the television adaptation of What We Do in the Shadows on FX, you’ve been missing out on a lot of laughs. While it may not be as good as the Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi-helmed movie from 2014, the TV version of What We Do in the Shadows still holds its own.
What We Do in the Shadows follows four inept vampires living together in Staten Island and their misadventures dealing with the modern world.
In its greatest departure from the movie, the TV series introduces an energy vampire, Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), who drains his victims of their energy by being boring or overly frustrating. Essentially, he’s every terrible co-worker you’ve ever worked with. And he’s 100% hilarious.
Season 1 and Season 2 of What We Do in the Shadows is currently available to watch on FX.
The Boys (Amazon Prime)
If you haven’t caught on to the unique charm and depraved humor of Amazon Prime’s The Boys, then get out from whatever rock you’ve been living under and start binging. Without mincing words, this is one the best shows currently running.
The Boys is a superhero story in name, but the concept and stereotypes have been subverted and flipped on their head. This isn’t the clear-cut morality tales from the Golden Age of Comics. This is a politically charged, no-fucks-given look at fame, greed, revenge, and love.
Developed by Eric Kripke (Supernatural) and based on the comics of the same name by Garth Ennis (Preacher), The Boys phenomenal cast stars Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Erin Moriarty, and Antony Starr.
Season 1 and Season 2 of The Boys is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime.
The Haunting of Bly Manor (Netflix)
The work of Mike Flanagan has always been a mixed bag. For every successful horror movie like Hush or Oculus, you get an overly wrought Gerald’s Game or Doctor Sleep, which pale in comparison to the books upon which they’re based.
His first series on Netflix, The Haunting of Hill House, came as somewhat of a surprise. Here was an adaption of Shirley Jackson’s classic novel that worked. You cared about the characters, the scares were solid, and Flanagan did interesting and challenging things with his direction (i.e. episode six, “Twin Storms,” that feels like a single, uninterrupted take).
But when The Haunting of Bly Manor was announced, I gave it a shrug. There have been many successful adaptations of Henry James’ novel The Turn of the Screw from 1898: The Innocents (1961), The Nightcomers (1971), The Others (2001), and a 1954 opera of the same name by Benjamin Britten, to name a few.
“With so many adaptations in existence,” I thought, “what could Flanagan do at this point that hasn’t already been done?”
Well, I’m here to tell you that The Haunting of Bly Manor is a home run—except for the final 10 minutes of the last episode, but I can forgive that minor misstep. It gets a little too sappy for my taste in closing.
But for the majority of its nine episodes, Bly Manor is a poignant, beautifully acted, chilling, and, most surprisingly, genuinely touching portrayal of love. It is gothic horror in the truest sense of the word.
I could wax poetic about Bly Manor for hours. Definitely give it a watch, if you haven’t already.
The Haunting of Bly Manor is currently available to stream on Netflix.