I didn’t watch a lot of TV this year. Yes, I’ve heard about that show. Did you see how much YouTube I watched? I do have a couple of highlights but if you watched more than five TV shows, you’ve watched more than me this year.
Doctor Who (Demons of the Punjab): The new series of Doctor Who is pretty good. I’ve not got through all of it yet but I wanted to highlight one episode in particular. Demons of the Punjab is set during the Partition of India. The episode follows a part of companion Yaz’s family history. There are three great things I love about this episode. The first being that the Partition of India is about borders and how arbitrary they can feel at times. Also, as part of this theme, how destructive borders can be despite their ephemeral nature. The second thing I enjoy is the Doctor being invited into the women’s rituals for the wedding and how this would be something that she would never be able to do as a man. Fairly obvious but a nice moment. Third is the reveal that the antagonists of the episode don’t end up being the antagonists. There was a video from earlier in the year by H. Bomberguy about the 2017 Christmas Special in which there was no evil plan and how that just killed the tension for the whole episode. Anyway, it is revealed in this episode that the villains that the Doctor thinks are responsible for the plot because of their reputation as galactic assassins are not responsible. Instead, they are reformed and merely observers of death now. This turn works because there is still a villain at work and that is Manish who has bought into the nationalistic fervour around the Partition. So, the villain of the episode wasn’t some alien threat, it was our cultural biases. That’s how you do that twist, Stephen.
The Man in the High Castle: What better way to represent 2018 than a show about Nazis? The show, now in its third season, continues its interesting delve into the characters and stories that we’ve witnessed over the past two seasons. This is also the season where we delve into universe-hopping stuff. There was also an exploration of some LGBT characters this season (more so the G and the B). There were two fascinating parts of this season this year. The disintegration of the Smith family as they reel over the death of their son who died because he surrendered himself to the authorities due to a genetic defect. The death of their only son, Thomas, is used in this season as propaganda by the Nazis while they deal with the human cost of the regime. The other plot thread is related: Propaganda. Part of this season deals with the transition of power following the death of Hitler last season. Himmler, now Fuhrer, spends quite a bit of time in America. As part of this, the propaganda ministry has some plans to break the remaining American spirit. They reforge the Liberty Bell into an iron swastika. They destroy the Statue of Liberty to make way for the marble New Colossus. In a news cycle dominated by American fascists, the reforging of American symbols into fascist symbols felt like an apt allegory for our current era.
A Series of Unfortunate Events: Netflix’s continues its adaptation of the Lemony Snicket books. The series strategic choices in adapting these books make for an entertaining show and a worthwhile watch. The show’s literary attitudes remain in place and the show’s aesthetic touches capture the strange amorphous 20th-century vibe that the books go for. I eagerly await the third and final season of the show which arrives next month.
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