My favorite tv and streaming series of 2019

The new year is upon us, and with it, the decade is coming to a close. The decade has seen the increase in streaming services rising to dominate the home entertainment industry, while gradually pushing regular television broadcasts and DVD/Bluray sales to the side.

I’ve been watching a lot of series this year, maybe more than usual, and even though I’m still an avid collector of bluray discs (4K these days), I love the freedom that the streaming services gives me.

So, let’s take a look at 2019.

The Great

These are the series I enjoyed the most in 2019. A couple of these have actually become my all time favorites within their genres.

His Dark Materials

I’ll begin with the best. His Dark Materials is a fantasy book series by British author Philip Pullman. The series is, at first glance, a young adult oriented story about a young girl’s quest to find her father, but it quickly becomes so much more. His Dark Materials is part fantasy, part metaphysical exploration, part social commentary and part written assault on organized religion and the Catholic Church.

In the fantasy genre, the books are some of my favorites of all time, and I when I first heard about a series in the works based on it, I was at a bit skeptical. You might remember the film version starring, among others, Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman. If you don’t, I don’t blame you. The film version completely missed the point of the story, while pulling its punches out of fear of boycott and slander from religious fanatics and other lunatics (which it got anyway).

The BBC/HBO produced series based on His Dark Materials represents a whole different level of quality. This might be one of the best screen adaptation of a book I have ever seen, and is without my favorite fantasy fantasy series.

The first season of His Dark Materials represents the first book in the trilogy, with some elements of the second book included in the narrative. The result is an original fantasy epic with an amazing cast, excellent special effects and a story that is both exciting and at times emotionally overwhelming.

Some of those scenes will haunt me for a long time, and I can’t wait for the next season. Some heady topics will be explored, and it will be very exciting to see how the production company, Bad Wolf, handles these.

Lyra (Dafne Keen) and Pan (voiced by Kit Connor)

Star Trek Discovery Season 2

I was never a Trekkie, but I have always enjoyed Star Trek. I watched the movies, parts of the series (mostly The Next Generation), and tried to keep up with the lore of the Star Trek Universe. I even played the online multiplayer RPG Star Trek Online for years, learning much of the Star Trek universe that way.

When Star Trek Discovery first premiered in 2017, I loved it. What really got to me was the amazing cast of characters and acting that far exceeded what we’ve seen in the franchise so far. The series also challenged some of the established ideas and concept we were familiar with from the various other Star Trek shows and movies, while at the same time presenting new ones. But for many hard core fans, it was a bit too much or too little. For me, it was spot on.

Star Trek Discovery Season 2, which premiered at the start of 2019, worked in some fan service for the Trekkies disgruntled by the first season. At first I was afraid that the show had bowed to pressure from the fans of the older series, but to my joy and excitement, I found a season that perfectly balanced the new and old. And for this reason, Star Trek Discovery remains my favorite science fiction series. I’m eagerly looking forward to the third season in 2020.

Captain Pike (Anson Mount) doing the hero pose

The Mandalorian

How do you even begin to make a live action series based set in the Star Wars universe? Well, you get Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni to do it, of course.

The Mandalorian has become a big deal for Star Wars fans, me included. Not only is it a story about a masked bounty hunter fighting scum and villainy in a post-war galaxy, but it is also an exploration of new and different sides of the Star Wars universe. Sure, we’ve seen that before in animated form, but to see it in live action is something special.

It feels like the show goes for style over story, but in this case, it works. The action is amazing, the stories are, for the most part, exciting, with great the direction and an excellent cast.

To me, seeing some of the elements from the animated series (I’m a big fan of Star Wars Rebels) come to life in a live action series has been amazing, and it proves that Star Wars really works for the live action series format.

It is a great time to be a Star Wars fan!

The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) and “Baby Yoda”

The Expanse Season 4

The hard science fiction series The Expanse, based on the books by James S.A. Corey, is an epic and politically charged story about humanity’s expansion into space. Set a couple of hundred years into the future, the solar system is divided into three major political blocks, keept in an uneasy truth.

The setting the story plays out in is believeable and very well detailed, with a great cast of characters from all sides of the growing conflict. There are conspiracies, violence and cosmic mysteries, and it flows together perfectly.

However, the fourth season changed the pace a bit, focusing much more on one colony and the conflicts and mysteries found there. I really enjoyed it, but I missed having the crew more involved in the political conspiracies and action happening closer to home.

All in all I really enjoyed the fourth season, even though I liked the seasons before it even better.

Space camping?

The Good

Here are some of the series I really enjoyed, even though they’re not on the top of the list.

The Boys

“Never got the point of these. To me, they look like granddad’s bollocks, flopping in the wind.”

-Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), The Boys (contemplating a Newton’s cradle)

Imagine a world where superheroes are real. And they have PR companies, marketing and merch. Most of them also happen to be psychopaths with god complexes. The Boys is about this world and the superheroes in it, but this is the story about the people who are hunting them.

Based on the comic book series of the same name, The Boys is a hilarious series about a gang of misfits on a mission to kill superheroes and expose them for what they really are. It is violent, gory, perverse and hilariously funny, with the amazing Karl Urban leading the charge as the foul mouthed Billy Butcher.

The result is a twisted satire of the super hero genre. It is not for kids. Seriously, keep your kids away from this one.

Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and Hugh “Hughie” Campbell (Jack Quaid) in The Boys

Kingdom

Kingdom is the story about an exiled prince in 1700th century Korea, on the run from his own court after being charged with treason. Escaping south, he stumbles into an epidemic that turns people into zombies.

After giving up on The Walking Dead, another series about zombies was the last thing I wanted to see. Still, the historical Korean elements of the show intrigued me, so I gave it a try, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Kingdom feels like a fusion of historical drama and the zombie genre. It feels original and exotic, with the story alternating between the prince and his bodyguard, and the conspiracies at court.

It is intelligent, brutal and exciting. If you would like to see an original take on the zombe genre, give this one a shot.

Those hats though…

Knightfall Season 2

Knightfall is an acquired taste. It took me some time getting through the first season of the show, as the sometimes overly dramatic acting and directing was a bit hard to watch. There are grandiose plots of murder and revenge, and plenty of mustache twirling villains.

This hasn’t changed in season two. Even with the seemingly increased budget, improved costumes and set design, the drama is still… a bit too over the top. The villains are still very evil and the heros are still very heroic. What has changed is the addition of Mark Hamill to the cast, and as a life long Star Wars fan, this is reason enough to watch the show for another season.

And I’m glad I did. Mark Hamill carries the show and steals every scene he’s in, even though he is not the main character.

History Channel, if you by any chance read this, please make a spin off series about Mark Hamill’s character!

Mark Hamill as the Brother Talus

The Disappointing

These are some of the series I expected more from. I am going to keep up with further seasons, even though some of them were a struggle to get through for various reasons.

The Witcher

The Witcher is the new Netflix fantasy series everyone seems to be talking about. It is based on the books that also inspired the PC games, the latter having had a huge surge of new players due to this series.

Set in a somewhat generic fantasy world loosely inspired by Tolkien (or at least Dungeons & Dragons), the series follows the Witcher, a mutant monster hunter. Henry Cavill does a good job working with what he’s given, and it looks like he really understands his character. However, I had trouble connecting with the other two leads: a seductive sorcerer and a princess on the run… who might also be some kind of sorcerer. And that bard. Please get rid of him. Please…

The series is hard to follow. At least to me, who haven’t played the games or read the books. It jumps around in the timeline, with no warning and with little regard to logic or continuity. Watching this, I felt like I wasn’t in on a secret only Witcher fans would know, and I struggled getting through the eight episode first season because of it. And even though I tried, questionable acting from much of the cast and dodgy special effects (especially when it came to CGI) kept me from from immersing myself in this universe.

I expected more from this. But hey, it is rumoured that Mark Hamill might be in the next season, giving me reason enough to watch that too. Fantastic…

Henry Cavill as the Witcher

Stranger Things Season 3

Oh, the 80s. As a child growing up in the 80s, one would think I would love Stranger Things. It is a love letter to the decade and the kinds of movies, television series and brands I remember as a child. There are easter eggs all over this show, making us remember the good old days when thing weren’t so complicated and we all spent a alot more time outside.

The first season was great. The nostalgia and the references got to me. I love stories like these, with a great cast of kids solving mysteries surrounding a government conspiracy and a paralell dimension. A science fiction cross between Scooby Doo and the Twilight Zone.

Things already began to fall flat in the second season. The charm was getting stale, and the plots were all the same. It felt like a poor sequel to a great 80s movie. And the third season? Same old, same old… new monster, same kids, same story.

It seems that this show wants us to love it for the 80s references and nostalgia alone. But please, please, give us a believeable story next time. And for Musk’s sake, please skip the cringeworthy musical duets.

Yes, I get it. It’s the 80s…

Game of Thrones Season 8

Game of Thrones… Enough has been said and written about how a once great show stumbled and fell as soon as the showrunners no longer had George R.R. Martin’s books to lean on. They even came forward after the last season admitting that they never really understood what the books were about.

For me, this series’ downfall actually started sometime during season 6, and by season 7 I just didn’t care much anymore. I hoped things would pick up in season 8, but it was just a struggle to get through to the end, and not even the excellent Peter Dinklage, playing Tyrion Lannister, could save that disaster of a final season.

Jon Snow’s one expression…

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