S:1 Raised by Wolves (2020– )

This might be one of the more original and challenging science fiction television series I’ve seen recently. Thematically it takes massive swings at the big conflicts of religion and science, faith and atheism, churning them all in the milky sea of what it is to be a parent. Earth has been ravaged by an apocalyptic war between atheists and religious zealots. Two androids, only ever referred to as Mother and Father, are sent to a mysterious planet, where they birth and try to raise humanity’s last hope. When a lander arrives, heralding the coming of the zealot’s ark, the conflicts that caused Earth’s destruction are reignited. There are no easy answers to the questions this story wades neck deep into. Deliberately leaving you with so many more questions than conclusions. It’s not hard to see the guiding hand of Ridley Scott steering a visceral and stylish ship created by Aaron Guzikowski, the writer responsible for Prisoners (2013). I look forward to the questions created by a second series.

Criminal: UK S:2 (2019– )

It’s a shame there are only four episodes in this season, but they are sublime. Each episode is an interview with a suspect, a witness, or criminal, of someone involved in an investigation. Each story twists and turns your expectations and emotions, taking you into the conflict for a truth. For me they’re object lessons in the power of writers, and the skill of actors, to make you think and feel.

S:1 Ratched (2020– )

Compelling stuff that looks positively cinematic.

S:1 Snowpiercer (2020– )

This does a good job of turning an intriguing film into an interesting television series. The necessities of making this more than just a fight to the front of the train, manages to create something with more depth. It taps into current concerns about the consequences of ecological collapse, and the political situation that collapse is creating. The rich first class passengers live the life of luxury. The poor tailies live a life of disease and poverty. The oppressed minority rise up and battle to take control of the train. It doesn’t quite articulate the zeal of revolutionary overthrow, instead playing out more like the dramas of a really dysfunctional family, ironically making it less nihilistic than the idea is.

Finished watching the final season of The Rain (2018–2020)

There’s a twisted version of a superhero story at the core of this post apocalyptic teen drama. A virus in the rain kills most of the population. A few survivors battle the virus and a malignant corporation to put the world to rights. It does well to keep going for three seasons, funnelling everything down all the love and loss, and sibling rivalry, to create a suitably optimistic conclusion.

Finished watching Gangs of London (2020– )

Warring gangs, high finance, and political intrigue underpin possibly the most brutal television series I’ve ever seen. It’s well crafted, excelling from the writing on down. Its big draw is bringing cinema style action to the small screen. It has the kind of fight sequences that you don’t see on television, and gun battles Sam Peckinpah would be proud of. I have to admit this took me a while to get through. All in it runs to about nine and a half hours. I probably realised too late that it’s one to take your time with. Bingeing though it will leave you dulled, mute to just how ferocious it is.

Watched Reality Z (2020– )

An interesting reworking of Charlie Brooker’s 2008 television series Dead Set. Transposed to Rio de Janeiro the original Big Brother backdrop is turned into something more Brazilian, a gameshow called Olympus. The first five episode run close to the original storyline. Then it runs off in a new and interesting direction. These additional episodes blends perfectly with the original, opening out the story, and bringing all kinds of new drama. As you’d expect from the genre the blood and gore is viscous and sticky. But while Brooker’s original is a swipe at unreality of reality television, and a critique of that kind of celebrity. This deals with a more authoritarian world, plagued by corruption and criminality. There’s a bleakness to the way this all plays out perfectly in keeping with the genre, and more importantly with the series. Definitely worth watching.

Finished watching Carnival Row (2019– )

This steam punk noir manages to weave a murder mystery into a love story, in fact several love stories. It balances out the passion with a heavy dose of political intrigue, that hinges on a nineteenth century xenophobia against the races of mythical creatures who live on Carnival Row. It’s well constructed if a little slow on occasion. Put me in mind of China Miéville’s Bas-Lag series.

Finished watching Hunters (2020– )

It’s hard to know where to start. The premise is compelling enough. An eclectic group of misfits hunt and kill Nazis in nineteen seventies America. Interesting idea, but not what provides the spice. It’s the tone of the show that’s gonna burn your tongue and make your sweat. It delves comedically into the post war policy of providing top Nazis safe haven in the states. It deals seriously with the trauma of life for those who survived the camps. All the time walking a razors edge of distaste, courting offence on one side of the blade and accusations of trivialisation on the other. They pull it off by blending at high speed exploitation flick and genuine holocaust remembrance, mixing in a comic book paste, and splashing in a chillies sauce of dark satire, the kind you might find in Kurt Vonnegut novel. It’s not a cocktail for everyone, but if you like your entertainment with flavours, this will take you on an journey.

Finished watching Into the Night (2020– )

I thought this was interesting, with a strong narrative drive that comes from a compelling premise. The sun kills people. A small group of people, with assorted personal demons, find themselves on a plane trying to outrun the sunrise. As tensions build between the passengers, they must hop from airport to airport, scavenging food and fuel as they go. It’s not perfect. There are several moments where you question the choices made by the writers. ‪They seem expedient rather that actual. In the end, it’s that constant pressure to move, the pressure to stay ahead of the sun, that ramps up the energy of the story, and makes it so compelling. It’s an interesting devise used to great effect.‬