2016 has been a pretty terrible year in general. It feels like there have been more notable deaths this year than any other in memory and the shift in politics in the US and UK has been nothing short of terrifying for left-wing liberals like me.
Having said all of that, there has been a hell of a lot great TV shows, video games, comics and films this year. So, being the media hungry consumer that I am, I thought I’d make a list of my favourite things that have come out this year. I’ll start with seasons of TV shows then onto video games, albums, films and comics in turn.
So, let’s kick things off with my Top 10 TV Seasons of 2016. Some spoilers will follow.
10. Luke Cage (Season 1)
While it’s the weakest of Marvel’s Netflix shows so far, there is still a lot to like about Luke Cage. This mainly is due to its fantastic cast on both sides of the law. Mike Colter is nothing short of powerful as the titular character and Rosario Dawson is dynamic and solid as ever as Claire Temple. Three villains stand out in the form of Alfre Woodard‘s Mariah Dillard, Theo Rossi‘s Shades and the scene stealing Mahershala Ali‘s Cornell ‘Cottonmouth’ Stokes. Luke Cage is not a character known for his deep rogues gallery of adversaries so it was refreshing to see so much screen time dedicated the criminal side of Harlem. Unfortunately, the “big bad guy” is the big let down for this series. The momentum of the first half is driven by Stokes and Dillard’s relationship and as soon as Cottonmouth is taken out of the picture and replaced by Diamondback (played by Erik LaRay Harvey) the season takes a big dive. It goes from a socio-political fight for Luke Cage’s home to a superpower personal vendetta culminating in a fist fight. Luke Cage wasn’t as good as it could have been but at least it gave us 8 great episodes and a truly fantastic soundtrack.
9. Legends of Tomorrow (Season 1)
Speaking of superhero shows on TV, the standout of the DCCW universe shows for me this year has been Legends of Tomorrow. I burned out long ago on Arrow and The Flash has been consistently good since it began but Legends of Tomorrow brought almost everything I could have wanted from an ensemble of D-list DC characters. Brandon Routh‘s Ray Palmer is this universe’s RDJ/Iron Man and Arthur Darvill‘s Rip Hunter is full of surprising amounts of nuance and complexity. Throw in Vandal Savage, one of my favourite DC villains, and you’ve got a fun and compelling first season.
8. Better Call Saul (Season 2)
I’m firmly in the “Breaking Bad is arguably the best TV show of all time” camp and needless to say, I was excited when my favourite character was going to get his own show. Season 1 of Better Call Saul lived up to the lofty expectations and Season 2 followed in its footsteps. The sibling rivalry between Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Chuck (Michael McKean) was escalated to the next level and the humour and drama we’ve come to expect from Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould and the team. Also, the Better Call Saul Insider Podcast makes the week-to-week viewing experience 10 times better. It’s a brilliant behind-the-scenes look at the show from the creators, writers and actors themselves and is perfect for podcast loving nerds like me.
7. Daredevil (Season 2)
Speaking of good sophomore seasons, Marvel’s Daredevil followed up its stellar first effort with a solid second group of episodes. Charlie Cox is still brilliant as Matt Murdock but the highlight is the debut of Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle. The Punisher is a difficult character to get right but this latest incarnation is about as good as we’ve ever seen in any media. It certainly helps that he is the star of one of the most brutal fight scenes I’ve ever seen in a show, let alone part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unfortunately, Elektra (played by Elodie Yung) and the second part of the season don’t fair as well but the surprise return of Vincent D’Onofrio‘s Wilson Fisk is a triumphant and brilliant moment.
6. Planet Earth II
David Attenborough has been making the best nature documentaries around for literally decades now. One of the highlights of his illustrious career was Planet Earth. It was brilliantly written (by Attenborough himself) and featured some of the most stunning footage ever captured. Somehow, its sequel outdid the first series in every way. Spanning across the globe, this is a documentary series that featured some of the most dramatic and funniest scenes of TV this year. The final note is a heartfelt and important message from Attenborough himself about how we as a species need to do everything we can to help our planet, and all the life on it, survive for as long as we can.
5. Westworld (Season 1)
This will probably appear at the top of many people’s best of 2016 lists. There hasn’t been a show that fits so perfectly into the ‘chat around the water cooler’ mentality since Lost and the mysteries seemed to capture the imagination of everyone from my parents to Reddit. It featured some of the very best performances of the year from the likes of Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood and Anthony Hopkins and the most fully realised world we’ve seen in a long time. Unfortunately, it was the chat and theories that ultimately spoiled this show from being truly amazing for me. By the time the big twists and reveals happened in the penultimate episode and finale, either I or one of my friends had pretty much predicted everything. Granted, this is mostly my fault for engaging in those sort of discussions but it did end up diminishing the impact of the ending of the season nonetheless.
4. The Expanse (Season 1)
Based on one of my favourite book series of recent years, the first season of The Expanse lived up to expectations set by the books written by James SA Corey (pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). The duo have created the most believable and engaging science fiction world in years; full of murder mysteries, inter-planetary politics and military intrigue and it is brilliantly translated to the small screen. With an ensemble cast and three lead characters to follow, it could easily get complicated and messy but the direction, acting and writing balance each arm of the intertwining story perfectly. The Expanse thankfully came to Netflix in the UK and is a easily the hidden gem of the year.
3. Black Mirror (Season 3)
Seemingly unknown to a large number of people (especially in the US), Charlie Brooker has been creating some of the most original science fiction of the modern era since Black Mirror debuted in 2011. The transition from Channel 4 to Netflix helped open up this excellent series to a wider audience. With that switch came a noticeably larger budget and the anthology series thrived like never before. Each episode is completely uniqueand in particular, the two central episodes, ‘Shut Up and Dance’ and ‘San Junipero’, are standouts from the entire year. They couldn’t be more different but the twists, turns and emotional resonance are nearly unrivalled by anything else.
2. Stranger Things (Season 1)
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the year, Stranger Things felt like it came out of nowhere and captured the zeitgeist of the Summer. It’s the 80s sci-fi series we never knew we wanted but were so glad when it came along. The most enigmatic and mysterious show, there was no way of predicting what was going to happen next. The central performances, both adults and kids, are nearly flawless and it’s maybe the most visual striking and stylish shows of the decade so far.
1. Game of Thrones (Season 6)
After a fairly slow Season 5, HBO’s Game of Thrones stepped up spectacularly to give us the best season of the show so far. Boy, did they deliver. The show has now officially gone past the books and that freedom seems to have been exactly what the writers and show-runners DB Weiss and David Benioff needed. There was more action, intrigue and characters deaths (and returns) than ever before. Needless to say, Kit Harington‘s Jon Snow had the most incredible moments of the year. There were two separate times where I cheered out loud with arms out-stretched. I’m about as British as it gets when it comes to this sort of thing so this is a very big deal. The final two episodes, ‘Battle of the Bastards’ and ‘The Winds of Winter’, are nothing short of jaw dropping and there is a reason that ‘Battle of the Bastards’ alone won seven Emmy’s.
Fingers crossed, this momentum carries over to the final two seasons and Game of Thrones can end on a high.
Next, my top 10 video games of 2016.