Last week, I talked about some fun Hulu shows that are great for binge-watching during this Quarantine Era of 2020. Shows that can make you laugh, cry, or just check the heck out with WTF shenanigans. This week, I thought it would be neat to share Netflix shows that I love watching and re-watching. Since there are so many things on Netflix, this gig is going to be a two-parter. The first half shall focus on Originals. The second one will highlight Asian cinema.
Before I dive into the list, I wanted to confess that composing this list took me the better half of two to three weeks due to the sheer amount of shit on Netflix that tends to kick ass. So, if I missed a favourite or two of yours, it’s probably because a) I haven’t seen it yet, or b) it’s so popular already that I decided to save it for another special post.
Anyhoo, check out the massive list of potato-inducing awesomeness down below. I also feel compelled to mention that I am not being compensated for this. I just happen to have a lot of time in between my work and schooling things that allow me to sit on my arse and watch shows, or I watch them in the background while I do my scholarly and professional gigs. Plus, it’s also a huge form of self-care for me during these trying times, and regulars know that I like to make weekends all about the self-love magic. (That sounded much dirtier out loud than in my head… but if those sorts of things work for your self-care, then go mad, loves.)
If there’s a Netflix Original that you love with all you’ve got but isn’t shared here, please drop them in the comments for me and others to check out. Thanks so much, lovelies.
Messiah (2020): A handsome dude rises from the winds of the harsh desert of West Asia to garner some worldwide attentions after he starts to portray traits of being the Messiah. There is only one season of this show and I’m pissed off they cancelled it because it was so compelling. It had an excellent balance of intrigue with slow-burn tension while making the watcher feel wholly conflicted if this guy is for real or just another fake seeking fame. One of things I loved about it is how it makes one question the very concept of faith, both within and outside of the confines of creed. Even though there’s only one season of this drama, it’s definitely worth the watch.
Dracula (2020): A kick-ass nun unlike any other helps a lawyer put together the enigmatically broken remnants of his terrifying experience at Count Dracula’s castle. This horror drama mini-series is one of the most brilliant adaptations of Dracula that I have ever seen. It threads the bits from the original novel together with traits from the vintage Dracula films (1920s) to create an homage to both that is deranged and deliciously savage. It’s methodical and intelligent in its execution, drawing on the horror elements in a subtle and spine-chilling manner. The cinematography is also a big player in its narrative progression, which I think is fabulous. Not for folx who don’t like graphic gore and violence, however.
Wu Assassins (2019): A San Francisco chef gets caught up in some magical shenanigans as the Chinese Triad search for an ancient, epic power known as the Wu Xing. Another series with one season (no confirmation has been given on a second yet), this is an urban fantasy martial-arts series that hit me out of nowhere. I was expecting a rather straightforward story, but instead I got one that uses the fantasy elements to tell a tale of dysfunctional families, systemised racial vulnerabilities, long-term impact of childhood trauma, and more. Combine that with the cool premise (reminded me somewhat of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Thundercats) and badass fight sequences that were splendidly choreographed, you’ve got yourself one hell of a binge-session.
Love Death & Robots (2019): A collection of science-fiction shorts that are strung together to tell tales of love, identity, oppression, and more. Each short is made by a different set of artists, most of whom are People of Colour and Queer folx. This is such an idiosyncratic collection and the originality from one short to the next blew my fucking mind. In the span of seven to ten minutes, depending on the segment, creators examine, usually in a critical manner, what it means to be Queer, finding individualism amid the fabricated expectations of society, how far one would go for love (as well as how love can make us lost to moral sense of self), the woes and woots of scientific advancement, the overwhelming presence of grief on our actions, and the brutality of oppression that paves the foundations of grand cities. It left me with so many thoughts about the world we live in and how to be more aware of what I don’t see around me. Plus, the artistry and level of imagination that went into crafting these shorts is fucking spectacular; it’s art porn, plain and simple. A second season has not been announced yet.
Dear White People (2017): Taking place at an Ivy League university with a predominantly White population, the show follows a group of Black students as they navigate the intricate roots of systemised racial inequality, particularly within academia. This comedy drama is one of my favourite things on Netflix, especially the first two seasons. It is unfiltered and unapologetic in its approach to dissecting the sometimes-toxic discourse of what it means to be Black in a White man’s world, and the double-standards of privilege and the farce of allyship that tends to follow many White friends of POC. It’s hilarious and evocative and beautifully genuine. There are three seasons so far, with the fourth confirmed for production.
Giri /Haji (2019): A Japanese cop goes to London for work and ends up embarking on an intense search for his brother, who is wanted for murder in both countries. This Japanese-British, hard-boiled crime drama is amazing. When I first came across it, I was astounded that I had never heard of it before. A methodically paced serial, it explores corruption and conspiracy on an international level, as well as the mosaic of broken families compounded by years of superiority/inferiority complexes typical of Asian family values. Toss in phenomenal cinematography that is breath-takingly remnant of classic Japanese cinema and vintage noir films, you have yourself a series that is unlike anything else the Originals catalogue has to offer up.
The Witcher (2019): Geralt of Rivia is a very special brand of magic. He travels the lands, killing monsters for a bit of coin while trying to understand the essence of humanity in a world where the fine line between monster and human can be as blatant as the blood left on a blade, or as jaded as the fog of a spoopy forest. This fantasy drama is an adaptation of the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, which also spawned a marvellous RPG franchise, and it’s probably the best live-action adaptation that I have ever seen. It’s brilliantly non-linear, intelligent, violent, and witty. The characters are all fallible and fucked-up, the tale of battling nations and the stench of oppression that comes with it raises a lot of questions about what it means to be evil, and then there’s the curious enigma of the yummy-if-not-for-his-chin-butt, Geralt of Rivia. A second season has been confirmed.
Aggretsuko (2018): Retsuko is a red panda lady in her mid-20s that works in the thankless accounting department of a Japanese trading firm. After dealing with the frustration of a dumbass boss and self-absorbed co-workers, she unwinds after work with a bit of death metal karaoke. Admittedly, I never thought this anime would be for me. The cutesy animation was somewhat off-putting. Then one day I put it in on a whim (thank you ADHD and your ugly indecisiveness), and not only did I fall in love love with it, I became fucking obsessed. I probably love Aggretsuko as much as I love Scooby-Doo. It’s just so fucking good and so relatable. Not only is there the comedy aspect, there’s the look at how exhausting and demeaning a dead-end office job can be. Plus, it also examines the problematic culture of social media popularity and the double standards of working life for females and males in Japanese society, particularly where the pressures of marriage and procreation are concerned. There are two seasons and a Christmas special (also superb), with a third season confirmed for production.
Kim’s Convenience (2016): The show follows the entertaining theatrics of a Korean-Canadian family that run a local convenience store. This comedy sitcom thingy is just… *chef’s kiss*. It’s an interesting look at a family who are supporting themselves as small business owners. The differences in the ways the two parents interact with their kids, the struggles of being diaspora (especially when encountering people that are far more “in tune” with their culture) while navigating institutionalised racism, the hit and miss of interracial dating, the familial battles of being “Asian enough” while also trying to survive in a Western country—oh man, the list goes on and on and on. It’s also heart-warming and offers some great bits of wisdom on how to deal with all of these things to various degrees. Plus, I live for Appa’s and Umma’s sass. It’s a fantastic series that shouldn’t be missed. There are four seasons with a fifth and sixth confirmed for production.
Another Life (2019): After an alien spacecraft lands on Earth, a crew of scientists are sent on an intergalactic mission for reconnaissance, a journey that should take six months. But secret agendas and mistrust threaten to jeopardise the mission in incredibly dangerous ways. Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica – 2004) was my only reason for watching this. Okay, I’m also a sucker for science-fiction. Holy shit, this was some good fucking sci-fi storytelling. The science is supreme. The imaginative use of a certain type of art (spoilery if mentioned) is very imaginative. The writing of each episode is so well thought out. The tension knocks up into high-gear and holds on until the very last episode, which leaves you in a state of “Holy Fucking Seven Hells.” I would definitely recommend this to people who like hard sci-fi thrillers. A second season has been confirmed for production.
Patriot Act (2018): Hasan Minhaj hosts this comedic political show that tackles subjects of worldwide contemporary cultural, economic, and political strife. Think John Oliver but with a brown Muslim dude who has three bottles of gel in his hair. As a brown-skinned Muslim person, I fucking live for this show. The jokes Hasan makes are so real and sometimes savage (I LOVE IT), which combined with his awesomely researched critical examinations of the fucked-up things the world is going through makes for some kick-ass commentary. It’s intelligent but also accessible so people who may not be too savvy on politics can still watch and understand what’s happening. I’ve seen this series numerous times and I can’t seem to get enough. Honestly, I’d love to see a collab between him and John Oliver. It’d be so fucking dope. There are five volumes so far. Production is currently on hold due to COVID-19, but it shall continue once the pandemic recedes and it’s safe to do so. In the meantime, catch Hasan’s theatrics on staying home and fatherhood via his Instagram. It’s so fucking funny.
The Dragon Prince (2018): In a world where humans are at war with Elves after acting like superior beings while doing some unspeakably fucked up things (like killing a giant dragon because they felt threatened and were greedy for magic), two young princes and an Elven assassin make a discovery that alters the history of the two warring races as they know it. It’s up to them to right the wrong before everyone essentially kills each other into oblivion. Dragons are basically giant, scaly kitty cats and if there’s anything I can’t resist (aside from gooey choc. chip cookies) it’s cats (and thus dragons). The story of this kiddy fantasy cartoon is a bit cliché and predictable, following all the fantasy tropes so far, but it’s also entertaining. I like the comedy as it reminds me so much of Sokka’s jokes (Avatar: The Last Airbender) and isn’t afraid to subtly reference some pop culture icons (Game of Thrones). The pacing is pretty fast, the animation quality and artwork is rather beautiful, the action is decent with tons of swordplay, and the characters play their roles quite well. If you’re looking for fantasy entertainment that doesn’t require a hefty mind-investment, then this is a wonderful pick.
Knights of Sidonia (2015): The story takes place on a giant ass spaceship known as Sidonia, which houses a colony of genetically modified human beings who have been residing in the sea of space for the better part of a thousand years. It follows them as they flee from a hostile yet super sentient race of aliens known as the Gauna. This mecha, sci-fi, seinen anime is fucking badass. A lot of people didn’t care for it because of the 3D animation, however, after reading the manga, I think it does the space battles an immense amount of justice and is one of the reasons I adore this series. The science of how the humans are altered (e.g.: they photosynthesise and choose a gender upon reaching maturity) is very unique and something I haven’t seen often in sci-fi, especially manga/anime. The classic trope of humans on the run from alien creatures is portrayed magnificently with a few creative twists to them. The designs of the mecha are so fucking cool, and I love that they don’t just look like straight up Gundam rip-offs. There are so many themes beyond merely running from the enemy that gives the storyline tons of depth. The space battles are exciting and thrilling to watch. I could technically keep on going, but then this would turn into a Knights of Sidonia appreciation post (which I shall do at a later date!). Bottom line: if you like sci-fi and space battles and cool twists to classic tropes, check it out. There are two seasons and a third has been confirmed for production.
The Umbrella Academy (2019): This adaptation of the comic book series, is about a group of kids who were all born on the same day to mothers that weren’t pregnant until that very day. They were then rounded up by an eccentric billionaire that adopted them and turned them into crime-fighting superheroes. However, after years of various forms of mysterious trauma, they have split apart. When their adopted daddy dies, they congregate for the funeral and learn that they’ll have to put aside their differences to save the world from an impending apocalypse. This is one of the first times where I’ll say that the series handles the storyline much better than the comics. Don’t get me wrong, comics are great, but the way the series is written incites interest and investment in the characters. It helps tie the audience to what’s happening while being enveloped in a blanket of suspense and titillation that the comic just couldn’t inspire (at least for me). It’s a show you have to pay attention to to catch the nuances that are shared, hinting at some of the mysteries within it. I loved it because it’s smart and shows the superhero(es) as flawed and fucked-up individuals who aren’t always right or the right saviour. There’s one season with a second one confirmed.
Stranger Things (2016): Taking place in the early 1980s, a young boy named Will Byers goes missing one night while on his way home from a D&D game with his chums. Friends, family members, and the local PD all start a widespread search for the kid, which causes them to discover a government conspiracy and shady supernatural shit, all tied to a little girl named Eleven. Okay, I know that I said I would try to stay from a lot of the popular serials, but the last two on this list are my fucking favourites out of the whole damn thing and I just had to share. Between the outstanding storytelling, the stunningly nostalgic 80s aesthetics, the classic spine-tingling horror vibes, the dumbass yet intensely loveable characters, and the music, it’s one of the best damn Originals ever made. Although, I feel I should warn y’all that season three is fucking gross, so don’t watch it while eating. Three seasons are up for watches with four, five, and six confirmed for production.
Peaky Blinders (2013): An epic series set in Birmingham, England in 1919, it follows a family of gangsters who rise to immense power thanks to the cunning and ambitious nature of their boss, Thomas Shelby (loosely based on the actual Shelby family). I fucking love this show more than any other fucking show on Netflix. It’s one of my FAVOURITE shows of all-time. I don’t know how to describe this other than badass. It’s a slow-paced series with each season spanning six one-hour episodes and tells a story of multiple things. It’s a tale about the extremes of what a working man could achieve during this era, the corruption and wealth that ruled behind the crown, the impact of war on the average person, the value of family even when you hate one another, the stress and the immense pressure to continue succeeding that comes with near limitless power, gang rivalry that helped built an economy as much as it destroyed it, and so much more. The acting is absolutely fucking brilliant. The show really expresses how much of a fantastic actor Cillian Murphy is (and why he’s one of my favourites). The all-star cast they manage to acquire season after season continues to blow my mind (e.g.: Adrian Brody, Tom Hardy, Aiden Gillen), particularly when the chemistry of the whole bloody cast is damn near flawless. And again, it’s so badass. My favourite season and the one I tend to re-watch more than the others is Season 4 (Adrian Brody is another one of my favourite humans ever and seeing him go up against Cillian Murphy is practically orgasmic… TMI, I know). There are five total seasons with six and seven confirmed for production.