This post is the second last in my shout outs to definitive works that, with their distinctive styles of storytelling, touched our nerves in a year where anger, confrontations with authority and a general quest for individuality reached a fever pitch. So here they are, in no particular order.
GAME OF THRONES 8TH AND FINAL SEASON
The global juggernaut that is Game of Thrones conquered airwaves in its final six episode stretch in 2019 and despite the divisive reception to its choices, as is the wont with creative phenomena with such timeless traction, this writer felt the consistency of storytelling was gripping and the sequences fleshed out with detail, discipline and a collaborative magic we will hardly get to see again on this scale. As for the performative ensemble, it instinctively took stands to give its period feel an urgency like never before .
Be it Daenerys Targaryen’s fiery rampage through King’s Landing in a mad hunkering for power, echoing her familial curse, the finality of despot Cersei’s journey in imminent death under her own high ceilinged castle, stripping her of every vestige of pride, or the sombre crowning of Sansa as the ruler in Winterfell down to Jon Snow’s destined exile in the eternal tundra beyond the Wall , each strand seemed to show that the wars we fight for gaining our rightful territories don’t have to turn out exactly as prophesied and that everyday politics and power- sharing can often lead to hopelessly unremarkable conclusions. What begins as epical entry – points can end up humbling the most vehement players.
We live in a society where figures of power backtrack on their vainglorious practices and lead to violence, arson and then protestations from mobs. This year’s Thrones reflected all of that and more in subtexts that unfortunately got lost in the condensed capsules of its limited episodes for majority of its fevered fanbase.
I’ve always believed that the series is a shorthand for geo-political /historical nature of how empires were built, supported by often amoral ends. It has been a treat to watch its directors and crew balance those ethical deals with fantastical highlights such as the era – defining LONG NIGHT of infighting among formidable armies of opponents as a foggy blizzard of grave tempers dominated.
The continuum of its success combined with this final stretch has given its canonical company the ubiquity of eternally successful series as FRIENDS and HARRY POTTER . Its scope of storytelling can hardly be replicated ever again. To top it all, it celebrated female power in its fully formed magnitude as the knighting of Brienne of Tarth and Arya’s fierce individual pursuits beyond the ‘GAME OF THRONES’ proved .
EL CAMINO : A BREAKING BAD MOVIE (NETFLIX)
Jesse Pinkman(au natural Aaron Paul) returned to morally ambiguous form, to claim the last shred of humanity he had in this post Breaking Bad wasteland, where buried rhymes of violence bear no poetic justice and can be found in a seemingly abandoned warehouse, a shop owned by a dignified elderly man or an unoccupied apartment.
This is the fallout that transpires after his fall from grace, with multiple deaths in an Albuquerque he knows like the back of his hand and original BB mastermind Vince Gilligan directs this unpredictable episodic postscript of his life first like a simmering pot struggling to find grace notes for Jesse, attempting to look at the dual faces of those close to him and then as a thriller charting dangers galore for a runaway of his stature. The more I remember its images and characteristic slow burn, the more I appreciate its fidelity to the secretive nature of its criminal underbelly and moral impasse. With cameos by Bryan Cranston, Krysten Ritter, Tess Harper, Jonathan Banks and Jesse’s true friends BADGER and SKINNY PETE besides an excellently beguiling turn by Jesse Plemons, EL CAMINO doesn’t opt for an easy – breezy closure for Jesse because his story was never one blocked by black and white. But everyone deserves a shot at redemption and this work realized that with elan.
Some of its imagery possesses a rarefied beauty and contemplative serenity that only cinema can conjure for a bleak landscape of human endeavours as this.
THE CROWN SEASON 3 (NETFLIX)
A new cast replaced the classic old guards of its previous two seasons; so diminishing of youth and a sombre reawakening to betokened pressures of middle age coinciding with the passage of time was front and center on THE CROWN. A resounding theme was the quest for purpose beyond customary salutations and condescending expressions.
The mid – life crisis of royals was particularly glaring in its focus on the simultaneity of entitlement and social scrutiny bearing them down in a listless, pre-ordained mid 20th century world. They still hold sweeping powers but most of it is ceremonial, moving with the age – old precepts of a monied class that remains limited to its own legacy.
This season cued in the political climate of Britain, opposition to the royals’ placidity but it was timely because a general mood of darkness and cynicism was beautifully present in the dim lighting, cavernous settings and languid pacing, almost as if we could feel the coldness in our bones, authentic in its recreations of the tipping point of history at which these essentially imprisoned individuals stood. Peter Morgan’s incisive writing and directorial duties from multiple helmers maintained the grimness of the progression akin to our own present era, assigning a compassionate, fully complex arc around a natural disaster and some of Queen Elizabeth’s long – standing issues of recessive emotional standards (ABERFAN), on Prince Philip (MOON DUST) as he muses about a life devoid of real accomplishments in the wake of the historic moon landing of 1969, the downward spirals occasioned by Princess Margaret’s high flying flights of hedonism and equal bouts of loneliness (MARGARETOLOGY and the season finale ) and the repressed silences around a young Prince Charles (Tywysog Cymru) especial being his courtship with Camila Parker Bowles. Charles was almost like the middle spoke of compromised, curtailed youth, with older prefects on the other side, including Philip’s mother (BUBBIKINS), LORD MOUNTBATTEN (COUP) and EDWARD and WALLIS( DANGLING MAN) ,the latter two being forever the outcasts, with the middle aged protagonists at the forefront.
This season succeeded as it kept an adequate tab on their insularities side by side with unique stakes for humanity and compassion. A richly layered, elegiac take on authority and the dilemma of to be or not to be, THE CROWN was a graceful ode to living personages, with all their 360 roundabout of flaws and rash decisions in the mix. It zooms in on the fantasy of riches and the shadow of reality amid social faultlines.
FLEABAG and THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL (AMAZON PRIME VIDEO)
FLEABAG and THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL were two richly imbued narratives from the evolving library of streaming giant Amazon Prime Video, tackling the inner lives of females divided by eras but electrified by their individual quirks, standpoints and their place in their current world vis a vis coterie of immediate family.
PHOEBE WALLER BRIDGE brought a raw transparency to her concerns as a modern day woman afflicted by internalized grief and neglect and yet full of humorous metrics while RACHEL BROSNAHAN was simply ‘marvelous’ as an aspiring stand up star left by her husband and battling sexism with her sky high confidence while also presenting a person visibly aware of her privileged background and never apologizing for it because at the end of the day, she stands up and fends for herself financially.
Put together, they exemplify an individual’s journey from darkness to light and were backed by a comic tonality that was eons away from the ‘ha ha has in the background trope’ of sitcoms as they integrated those laughs with painful moments of self evaluation, where proving one’s mere existence was the greatest burden. Lastly, the ensembles were beautifully structured, with their idiosyncrasies all too visible.
They also showcased the manner of comedy birthed from personal low points and the catharsis it brings to the soul – sapped. Altogether, a well rounded snapshot of life in all hues .