November 11, 2022
Damn! There’s so much good TV right now. It’s almost too much to keep up with it all, and what’s worse, deciding which shows to watch and which I don’t have time for. At this point, some just run on inertia, like The Walking Dead, and others don’t make it past a couple of episodes, like Little Demon. Still, there’s more good than bad these days.
The latest season of The Handmaid’s Tale just wrapped up, setting the stage for a potentially excellent final season. Some characters went through reversals this season, most noticeably Serena Joy and Commander Lawrence. Watching Serena become a handmaid was satisfying, though the show had already made us sympathize with her, so we felt for her as she falls from the stature she had as a wife in Gilead. Perhaps this is her penance for being such a monster in earlier seasons. Lawrence seems to be re-embracing the values of Gilead, convinced he’s rehabilitating it, and he may end up being a prime antagonist in the final season as he makes small concessions in order to keep fitting in. It seems that June and Serena are now linked in opposition to the many forces that would oppress them, heading west on a train in the season’s final scene: two woman on their own who must truly fend for themselves. I just wish more white women in particular watched this show and understood the dire implications for supporting an oppressive patriarchal system. Just sayin’. Oh, and Anne Dowd is just fucking marvelous as Aunt Lydia. I think her character will end up switching sides, too, in the final season, much like she did in Atwood’s sequel The Testaments.
Another great show is Andor—maybe the best Star Wars series to date. This show is for adults: it has none of the simple and obvious moral binaries that keep Star Wars really just for kids. No Jedi; no lightsabers; no dark side—no simple moral code and obvious good and evil characters. This is mature Star Wars. Andor’s world is complex and morally ambiguous—one inhabited by flawed characters trying to make their way within a system of severe economic oppression. Characters in the show are troubled and broken: casualties of an empire that cares little for any of them. Andor is a slow-moving show about political intrigue with complex characters resisting the forces that seek to keep them down, and this is often depicted in economic ways. It’s clear then the empire has taken everything from them, like petroleum companies are trying to do to us, and leaves the people in a devastated landscape to scrounge for sustenance.
While the Imperial characters are obviously fascists, they feel more like a bureaucracy in a Kafka novel than they do like an invading Nazi army. The empire is a huge machine that makes functionaries out of everyone: creating a system where there's little difference between the prison guards and the prisoners. This is a show about building a resistance to an already entrenched fascism and how resistance also must cross moral lines. I didn’t think I’d like this show, but it quickly became one of my favorites. And there are two more episodes in this season. Great stuff. This makes sense, as Rogue One is one of the best Star Wars movies. Period.
Autumn and I finished the first season of The White Lotus—another great show with flawed characters and excellent performances. While the characters are nuanced and problematic, they are all wealthy. That’s the frame of the show: how the privileged class makes the lives of those with less privilege worse—even of they do not intend to. This is definitely a show about class warfare and the devastating effects of this economic hierarchy on everyone. It’s both funny and dark, you know kind of like living in the US today.
OK, so there's the similarity on these three shows: the underlying and sometimes quite obvious totalitarianism at the heart of America today. No wonder these shows resonate with me.
- Yes, The Mandalorian is also excellent, but it is still beholden to the characters of the original series and it is still action-oriented. It’s a Star Wars show produced by someone my age who is paying homage to a child’s expended view of the SW universe. In other words, it’s a show made by people who used to play with action figures as a kid; this is still that play using different toys. The Book of Boba Fett tried to be more character-driven, but I think it really fell flat in that capacity. I enjoyed both of these shows, but they were still a bit juvenile in that their appeal is to the grown-up kid inside us Gen-Xers.