Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet
It’s not that I didn’t think the creators of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia could adapt their purposively caustic humor for a completely different kind of show, but I was also very wary, especially as they dip their toes into the world of gamer culture and all of the toxicity that springs from it. But perhaps because of the depths they could mine for cultural awareness and conversation, we’re lucky that a show like Mythic Quest: Ravens Banquet has a team of writers who are as considerate to their jokes as the Sunny gang. And while Rob McElhenney is a major presence in the show, it’s heartening to see the focus really be on Charlotte Nicdao and how she navigates being a head developer and woman of color in an industry known for its rampant misogyny and racism. Mythic Quest is reason enough alone to finally use that one week free trial for Apple TV. (Jacob Trussell)
Never Have I Ever
Never have I ever cried at an episode of a teen show — prior to watching Never Have I Ever, that is. While the high school experience has long been popular television fodder, the past few years have marked something of a golden age for teen series, particularly on streaming platforms, where shows like Sex Education, I Am Not Okay With This, and On My Block have excelled in using adolescence as a backdrop for compelling entertainment all ages can enjoy. Even in this competitive playing field, Never Have I Ever, co-created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, manages to be a standout thanks to strong performances, excellent character writing, and impactful emotional beats.
Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) is a wonderfully — if somewhat exasperatingly — real fifteen-year-old. Struggling with grief over her father’s death in addition to all the usual teenage drama, Devi’s a dynamic, marvelously flawed protagonist. The show does a wonderful job of identifying with her without apologizing for or excusing her quite often questionable decision making, whether it’s inciting a nuclear war at a Model UN conference just to upset a school rival or ditching best friends Fabiola and Eleanor (Lee Rodriguez and Ramona Young) in moments of need. One of the standout debut series of 2020 thus far, Never Have I Ever’s ten episodes are a veritable rollercoaster; you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be aghast when you go to click “next” and realize you’ve already run out of episodes somehow. Fingers crossed we’ll get a season two. (Ciara Wardlow)
When Patrick Stewart took the stage in Vegas to announce the return of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, he warned us that the Picard we meet in 2020 might not be the Picard we remember from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He was right. The Jean-Luc of Picard is a sad, failure of a man. Even worse, the Starfleet of Trek‘s present is a pale shadow of the one we’ve championed for fifty-plus years. Those first few episodes were hard to watch, but as Picard crawled his way out of self-loathing, we discovered that the dream doesn’t belong to an organization or a flag. The dream belongs to the people. It’s on the individual to meet the needs of the many. Gloriously, Picard delivers on the proposed values of Gene Roddenberry while reconciling with the wretched world of 2020. (Brad Gullickson)
Ramy Youssef’s comedy-drama series about spiritual wandering was a surprise — but very deserving — Emmy winner last year, and the second season returns with as much on its mind as the first. The on-screen version of Ramy is a charming slacker-type whose heartfelt wish to be a good Muslim is often thwarted by his bodily desires. In season two, Ramy takes on a new mentor in the form of a popular sheikh (Mahershala Ali, in an understated but powerful role), but Islamophobic hate, commercialized religion, and the lures of porn, sex, and Ramy’s beautiful cousin make his path to Allah anything but clear. The season’s creative high points take us away from Ramy himself to show the private struggles of those around him, from his sister’s (May Calamawy) fear that someone put an evil eye curse on her in the horror-like episode “3riana grande,” to his mother’s rocky path to citizenship in an episode (“They”) that showcases a beautiful performance from Hiam Abbass. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
Rick and Morty
When the creators of Rick and Morty signed a seventy-episode deal in May 2018, the utter delight of what was to come was as overwhelming as the concern that accompanied it. For a show that takes its sweet ass time and never fails to remind you of it, the question was: Can Harmon and Roiland make seventy more episodes before they die? And if not, is the quality of the show going to tank as a result? People don’t praise the madcap animated dramedy simply because it shows back up every two to three years. It’s become one of the most beloved television shows in recent memory because, no matter how long it takes, it never fails to deliver. Just think: this is a show that consistently yet lovingly tortures its audience with vague release info, post-credit taunts, and little to no updates along the way. The only way anyone gets away with something like that in the age of content overload is by reaffirming its brilliance time and time again. Enter season four, part two.
As if part one wasn’t enough to quell all concerns about draining quality, part two swept in with as many breathtaking, mind-bending, tear-inducing, and gut-busting moments as any other half-season (if not more). From planet fucking to the ultimate meta experience on the Story Train to getting the Roy-esque existential wind knocked out of you in “The Vat of Acid Episode” (say that five times fast — you can’t) to the new and improved Phoenixperson, Harmon and Roiland deliver as faithfully as ever, proving that the seemingly eternal time we spend waiting between seasons (and now half seasons) is being used to ensure we never get a Rick and Morty episode that’s anything less than phenomenal. That said, there will always be a degree of mystery in how the duo manages to consistently build narratives that blend pitch-black potty humor and perspective-expanding philosophical truths in a way that feels absurd, singular, complex, and deeply human all at once. (Luke Hicks)