The Family: The Brotherhood
By Donte M McNeal

Based in Michigan, Donte's Playground is a blog by Donte M McNeal. His posts range from nonsensical ramblings about anime, in-depth reviews of books and television/film, to random spurts of philosophical babble.

Year's End Roundup Pt. 1: TV Shows

Year's End Roundup Pt. 1: TV Shows

Well, it's been a heck of a year! I read 29 books (a paltry number I know), watched a ton of great anime, movies and TV shows (that I should probably start talking about more on here, huh?) and I published my first book! Yep, I'd say that's a pretty decent year. So, with year's end approaching, I thought I'd do a series of posts about my favorites this year; you know, favorite books, shows, movies, anime, etc. Today, I'll be tackling the most memorable and enjoyable tv shows I've seen this year, in no particular order, because I don’t want to put that pressure on myself.

 

The 100 (Season 3)

So, The 100. For the uninitiated, it’s a CW show (you know I have to have my weekly dose of pretty peoples haha) about a group of 100 teens sent to live on Earth 97 years after a nuclear war ravaged the world. I’m sure sending teens, who all broke the laws of the space station(s) they were living on might I add, to see if the planet is habitable is the best option, and will go off without a hitch, right? Well, of course not. Partying, hookups, and tests of survival follow. Oh, and death. Lots of death. I mean, with 100 being sent down, there’s no way all of them would survive.

I’ll skip ahead in order to justify why I have it on my list for this year. The show’s third season happened this year, and it was one of the darkest, most violent seasons yet—and that’s saying something. You see the political side of the show, something I enjoyed. Don’t get me wrong. I love seeing the action since it’s so well done, especially for a CW show, but I have a soft spot for politics (when you’re not beat over the head with it). The various Grounder clans (the different groups/villages that have assembled since the nuclear war mentioned earlier) and the way the run each of their “nations” was a treat to see. And we have fan-favorite characters returning, and leaving unfortunately. I say unfortunately because some of the deaths this season were characters I really liked; really, it’s hard not to like most of the characters on this show for one reason or another, even if you hate the choices they make.

And that’s why this season is on my list: You get to see characters step up and make decisions that affect more than just their clan or group in a major way; you get to see characters return and/or leave in meaningful ways; and you see the show as a whole up the ante from seasons past.

Luke Cage

Okay, this one should have been a no-brainer. I mean, a black man who’s smart, trustworthy, reliable and sticks up for the little man? What more could you ask for? Okay, okay, I’ll stop gushing.

For those who don’t know, Luke Cage is a Marvel show on Netflix about a man who was wrongly imprisoned, and during his stint in prison, was a subject of an experiment gone wrong that resulted in him having heightened physical abilities as well as unbreakable skin. He escapees from prison and lives an inconspicuous life, trying not to draw attention to himself or his abilities. Of course, with all the crime happening in his neighborhood, that lifestyle doesn’t last very long.

Over the course of the show’s run, you see Luke as a reluctant hero almost, growing into the “hero” mantle over the course of the season. He chooses not to arm himself and doles out justice in a respectable way; Luke Cage is a character (and show) that any young black man could look to emulate (without trying to take bullets to the face of course). He may have come from a comic book, but Luke is role model for any kid out there, and the show displays just why that is. Not to mention the stellar performance of Mahershala Ali in the role of the antagonist Cottonmouth, easily one of my favorite Marvel villains.

Daredevil (Season 2)

Staying in the vein of Marvel shows on Netflix, we have the second season of Daredevil. Daredevil follows the blind lawyer Matt Murdock—who’s other senses are supernaturally heightened—as he fights the crime in Hell’s Kitchen as a lawyer by day, and a brutal vigilante by night. While I enjoyed the first season overall, the lack of a truly menacing villain kept me from enjoying the show to the fullest. Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin, the main antagonist of the first season fell flat for me nearly every time he was on the screen and I found myself wishing the scenes he was part of would end sooner rather than later. I didn’t really care for him in this year’s season either, but his scenes were passable—the complete opposite of Luke Cage’s Cottonmouth, who stole the scene almost every time he showed up.

But then we get the lowly uttered phrase: “One batch, two batch. Penny and dime.” And then all hell breaks loose. Enter Jon Bernthal’s portrayal of Frank Castle, Aka the Punisher. Punisher was easily the best part of the season, hands down. His ruthless approach to cleaning up the streets in comparison to Daredevil’s “half-measures,” was mesmerizing to watch, along with the powerful performance of Bernthal whenever he interacted with another character. The Punisher made this season for me. His intensity, his anger, his precision; it all came together to form a formidable opponent for both Daredevil and the criminals of Hell’s Kitchen.

If you enjoy great character drama, intense action, and a story of those seeking redemption, you should definitely check out Daredevil season 2. You won’t be disappointed. Oh, and Elektra's there too, with ninjas.

Mr Robot (Season 2)

One of the sleeper hits of last year, Mr. Robot is a show that centers around Elliot, an unreliable narrator who works cybersecurity by day and is a vigilante hacker by night. How many vigilantes is that so far, 3? Lot of lawbreakers here, eh? Anyway, back to the show.

The first season of Mr. Robot saw the massive undertaking that was performing a hack that would bring down Evil Corp, an “evil” conglomerate that has fingers in virtually every aspect of daily life. Once the new season begins we see the fallout of the hack that Elliot and his team performed, and boy is it rough. The season takes the unreliability we experienced with Elliot’s sometimes fourth-wall-breaking narration and makes that look like child’s play. I won’t say too much on that front, but the twists that happen this season threw for a loop in a way the first season failed to.

We see higher stakes as new characters are introduced, old characters are killed, and federal investigations occur. When you’re looking for high-stakes mystery, suspense conspiracies, and not-so-subtle social commentary in a show, you’ll find them in Mr. Robot, being juggled and intertwined in a way that is rarely seen nowadays. It is a treat to experience, especially when the anxiety, paranoia and fear the characters feel seem to leak from the screen and into your body. Man, I enjoy the hack—ahem, heck out of this show.

Lucifer (Season 2)

Lucifer is another show in its second season that I’ve really enjoyed this year. For those in the dark, Lucifer is about, you guessed it: The Devil. Lucifer abandons ruling Hell to live in and run a bar in LA. Silly premise, but it works! Lucifer is a master manipulator and is unmatched in bringing out the hidden desires of others, which constantly make for entertaining exchanges, but his powers don’t work on Chloe Decker, a detective he later begins to work with on cases, to catch evildoers and “punish” them. You know, being the devil and all.

Lucifer is flush with great side characters, all who get screen time to flesh out their lives instead of just focusing on Lucifer all the time. Maze, the demon who serves Luci, Dan, or Detective Douche as Lucifer so eloquently calls him, the angel Amenadiel, Chloe’s adorable daughter Trixie. The cast is a robust and entertaining one, and this leads to multiple side stories that are just as interesting as the main plot lines involving Chloe and Lucifer. I never would have thought a show about the devil would be so good, but it is.

Game of Thrones (Season 6)

Come on, did you really think this wouldn’t be on my list? I won’t offend you by assuming you don’t know what Game of Thrones is. It’s been a mainstay in my life since my brother put me onto the series. After reading the books, I dove into the show and haven’t been disappointed yet. I’d have to say that this season was my favorite so far. I mean, we got to see Arya become even more badass, we see Ramsay . . . be Joffery 2.0 basically, earing the hate of countless millions worldwide, and we also saw two of the best episodes to air on television this year (looking at you “Battle of the Bastards” & “Winds of Winter”). Dragons, direwolves, warging and war and death; Game of Thrones at its finest.

Honorable Mentions

There were a few more shows that I started but never finished this year (but plan to).

Atlanta.

Donald Glover’s dramedy about two cousins trying to traverse the rap game in Atlanta is a treat. I watched a handful of episodes and enjoyed them all. Looking forward to binging the rest of the season before season 2 next year.

Arrow, Flash, & Supergirl.

The slate of DC shows on CW have been good to great this season. I’ve been a fan of all three of these shows since their freshman seasons, and they keep getting better (especially after last year’s rough season of Arrow). I’m sure they’ll continue to step up their game for years to come.

 

 

Year's End Roundup Pt. 2: Movies

Year's End Roundup Pt. 2: Movies

Jane Killick's "Percievers Series"

Jane Killick's "Percievers Series"