Let’s pour one out for one of the best spring TV seasons in recent memory.
In addition to the cultural behemoth that was “Game of Thrones,” our screens were recently graced with the likes of “Barry,” “Veep,” “Killing Eve,” “Chernobyl” and the best season of “Supergirl” so far, among other great shows.
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” even had Captain Holt call his adorable corgi a “duplicitous bitch.” This spring’s television offerings were truly an embarrassment of riches no matter your taste in small-screen entertainment.
But spring is almost over, and on June 21 summer will officially begin, bringing with it a new batch of shows for audiences’ pleasure. You may still be trying to sort your feelings out about the “Game of Thrones” finale, but that hasn’t stopped the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu from dropping high-profile shows in the last few weeks.
Without further ado, here’s your guide to a few shows you might want to check out as spring ushers in summer:
Every pop culture enthusiast with an Amazon account couldn’t shut up about season two of “Fleabag” after it dropped May 17. It probably didn’t hurt that a.) Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Hollywood clout had risen considerably in the time between seasons due to the success of her other show, “Killing Eve,” and b.) “Fleabag” season two is extremely good.
Both seasons of “Fleabag” are easy commitments, as each are six episodes long with no episode being much more than 30 minutes in length. The series stars Waller-Bridge as the titular fleabag, a free spirit with a strange, sometimes toxic family dynamic and plenty of other issues dominating her personal life.
While the first season showed promise, the second season is the full realization of Waller-Bridge’s ambitions. Who knew all it would take to make “Fleabag” go from interesting experiment to legitimately great television was casting Andrew Scott (Moriarty on BBC’s “Sherlock”) as a hot priest?
He and Waller-Bridge shared a will they/won’t they romantic chemistry that would make Mike Schur proud. It was an ingenious touch to have him be the only character who could see her snarky remarks as she broke the fourth wall, a fun gimmick that grew tiresome in season one. But in season two, having a priest call her out was a higher powering attempting to shatter her tough façade.
“Fleabag” season two was also bolstered by Oscar-winner Olivia Colman being her delightfully zany self and Sian Clifford continuing to do wonderfully nuanced work as Fleabag’s repressed sister Claire.
As summer binges go, “Fleabag” season two is the perfect way to kill three hours during a particularly hot day. Just lay down, blast the AC and revel in Waller-Bridge’s signature weirdness and one of the most surprisingly moving romances you’ll find on TV this year.
Stream “Fleabag” season two on Amazon Prime now.
Amazon continued its hot streak heading into summer with “Good Omens,” Neil Gaiman’s miniseries adaptation of his own novel of the same name. Unlike the train wreck that was Starz’s “American Gods” adaptation, “Good Omens” is a silly romp through Earth, heaven and hell that is both amusing and affecting enough to carry six hour-long episodes of television.
The story is too complicated to distill down into a succinct summary, so just know going in that it follows the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and the demon Crowley (David Tennant) as they try to prevent Armageddon, which was prophesied to be triggered by an 11-year-old anti-Christ and include a full-blown war between the forces of heaven and hell for cosmic supremacy.
None of it really makes any sense from beginning to end, but the friendship between Aziraphale and Crowley is so fun and genuinely moving that it’s easy to just get lost in their misadventures. There are also witches and krakens and about a billion other strange subplots, but it’s Tennant and Sheen who provide most of the show’s wit and heart.
Of course, it’s also enjoyable to watch “Mad Men” virtuoso Jon Hamm as the angel Gabriel, trying his best to ensure the apocalypse happens on schedule, and former “Better Call Saul” star Michael McKean putting on an awful Scottish accent as the last vestige of a centuries-old order of witch hunters. Watching great actors do ridiculous things never gets old.
It may be a slightly larger commitment than “Fleabag,” but “Good Omens” is lightweight enough that you’ll barely feel six hours going by as Tennant and Sheen amuse you with their unlikely friendship. Just don’t think too hard about the logistics of the story and you’re sure to have a great time.
Stream “Good Omens” season one on Amazon Prime now.
“The Handmaid’s Tale“
Let’s get one thing straight: No one in their right mind should binge “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Watching consecutive episodes of this oppressively dark show is enough to drive anyone into a deep funk that only the summer sun can cure. That said, it’s objectively good TV, and its third season just dropped. It’s too important to the overall television landscape to just ignore.
It makes no sense that “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a summer show, as it does not pair well with the frivolity of a cool drink and the relaxing vibes summer is supposed to foster. The show hasn’t been helped by becoming the shorthand for the political issues women are dealing with in 2019. Whatever the opposite of escapism is, that’s where “The Handmaid’s Tale” lives.
And yet, the first three episodes of the show’s third season dropped on Hulu on June 5, not on December 5, when it probably should be airing. While it might not be the best summer show, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is still a gripping story with incredible female performances that still deserves the attention its first few seasons received.
The ending to season two was frustrating, as it felt like the show was bending over backwards to keep June in Gilead. That said, it also clearly set her up with the autonomy to finally fight back against the constraints of that world. And luckily, for the sake of entertainment and viewers’ sanity, that’s exactly what she’s been doing in the season’s first three episodes.
It’s baby steps, but June is slowly figuring out how she can best help herself and all the women in Gilead. Elisabeth Moss is as Emmy-worthy as ever so far, and she’s been helped by Bradley Whitford’s eccentric Commander Lawrence and yet another incredible turn from Yvonne Strahovski as the eternally conflicted Serena Joy.
But seriously: If you value your mental health, please don’t binge it. Watch it one episode at a time with long breaks in between. You’re welcome.
If you’re looking for cotton-candy TV, don’t go anywhere near “The Handmaid’s Tale.” But if you’re interested in righteous commentary on American society with incredible performances and cinematography, Hulu’s got your covered.
Stream the “The Handmaid’s Tale” season three on Hulu. The first three episodes are available now, and new episodes will be released on Wednesdays.
Sorry to end this on a downer note, but “Black Mirror” season five isn’t good. It’s three hour-plus episodes long, and only one of those episodes is anything resembling satisfying. It’s too early to say that “Black Mirror” has completely lost its creative spark, but nothing from this season would crack the top five on an episode ranking for this long-running anthology series.
Let’s start with the good. “Striking Vipers” is a fascinating look into the potential ways video games can help maintain and fundamentally alter real-world relationships. It’s the most star-studded of the three episodes, with newly minted Captain America himself Anthony Mackie in the lead and great supporting work from “Aquaman” baddie Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and “Guardians of the Galaxy” weirdo Pom Klementieff.
Saying too much about the plot would spoil the fun, but suffice it to say that “Striking Vipers” is the closest “Black Mirror” has come to recreating the emotional resonance of “San Junipero,” its season three romantic masterpiece. It’s not quite that good, but the fact those two episodes can be put in the same sentence is a testament to the creative success of “Striking Vipers.”
And then there’s the bad. “Smithereens” did its best to articulate the dangers of both phone and social media addiction, but its plot never came together into anything special. Not even the aforementioned “Fleabag” hot priest in the literal driver’s seat could salvage this one.
Finally, there was “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too,” which can only be described as a beautiful mess. It’s full of plot contrivances that don’t really ever gel, but if you’ve ever wanted to see Miley Cyrus curse up a storm both in human and tiny robot form, this is the content you’ve been craving.
“Black Mirror” is never not entertaining, but this season just doesn’t live up to that show’s high standards. It’s never fair to explicitly tell someone not to watch something, as everyone may react differently to the same piece of art. But in terms of summer binges, you can do better than “Black Mirror” season five.
Stream “Black Mirror” seasons one through five on Netflix now.
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Featured image credit: Steve Schofield
Joshua Axelrod has spent five years working in and around journalism for websites and publications like the Military Times, Washington Examiner FanSided. He graduated from the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism in 2014 and George Washington University’s media and strategic master’s program in 2018. He is about to begin a new phase of his career as a digital sports producer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.