In a year where theatres endured a sustained period of closure, people all around were impelled to find means of entertainment in refuge of their humble abodes. Seemingly unfazed from the chaos unfolding outside, numerous OTTs came to our rescue serving a menu of diverse visual treats at our disposal.
Looking over the drama field, The Crown made a glorious comeback with much awaited Princess Diana storyline this season, whereas Money Heist and The Boys also returned with more of exhilarating thrills and spills. Starring veteran actress Cate Blanchett, acclaimed historical drama Mrs. America led the pack of limited series; closely followed by Michaela Coel’s dark humour laden I May Destroy You and deeply evocative Normal People. Carrying the flag on the comedy side, debutants Ted Lasso and The Flight Attendant launched with sparkling reviews. While What We Do in the Shadows and Ramy kept us laughing in the aisles with their respective spectacular seasons. Attempting to replicate the success of its predecessor, Mike Flanagan’s Haunting of Bly Manor also managed to frighten with couple of scares up its sleeves.
Encompassing several genres, here are our picks for best TV series and web shows of 2020 listed in alphabetical order:
Better Call Saul (Season 5)
Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s ingenious magnum opus returned for its fifth season of drama and tragedy garnished with dark humour, as the tension in Albuquerque escalated to take new turns. As Bob Odenkirk’s character gets entangled in the webs of the cartel, Jimmy finds his innocence shredded to pieces and a frightened but willing Saul Goodman takes over. Kim Wexler finds herself standing at crossroads while the show makes the audience question her absence in Breaking Bad.
The absolute magnificence of the show also lies in the manner every character attracts audience in its own way. Mike Ehrmantraut with his loyalty and Lalo Salamanca posing as terrifyingly funny antagonists glued the viewers to their seats. The culminating scenes of the season take the adrenaline rush to a new level and the viewers can almost hear their heartbeat. The sheer brilliance of making a prequel nail-biting when the audience already knows the outcome is simply unparalleled. Defying all the presumptions, Better Call Saul is at par with Breaking Bad, if not better.
BoJack Horseman (Season 6)
“When you look at someone through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.”
Wasn’t it always going to end this way? Though we find BoJack to have evolved over the last six years, that one image of him sinking to the bottom of the swimming pool as his horrified friends look on has been a constant throughout. BoJack Horseman has been a thrilling ride of emotions and existential questions and ironically oxy-moronic at times, but well, it has ended and we don’t know what to do anymore.
Revolving around a horse, voiced by Will Arnett, who has been largely oblivious to the consequences of his actions, the series impeccably manages to shed light on the integral characters in his story as well. While we are left with something in the middle, something that feels real at the end of the series, the final moments are rewarding for those who’ve stuck around with the characters through thick and thin tying everything up with a pretty but imperfect bow with the tunes of Mr. Blue.
Dark (Season 3)
“But every now and then it’s good to question those who question things.”
Entrance, exit. Black, white. Good, evil. The first German language series dropped by Netflix in 2017, this time-travel mind-bender’s last chapter in 2020 was not just thrilling but left the world bewildered. Interestingly coinciding with the in-universe Apocalyptic date, the release of the final eight episodes of the mind-numbing science fiction thriller took the exotic series to its conclusion, going beyond the restrictive boundaries of space and time, in a perfect amalgamation of reason and emotion.
Flitting between the time cycles of 30 years, over a period of 120 years, Odar (the director of the show) takes us on a mission to truly discover our fate with new beginnings, through Jonas, the main character of the show. Where the first two seasons of the show simply showcased traversing through time, the third season introduced the space factor. The characters left back in the real world take on a quest to break the perdurable loop that ties them all together. The final episode of the series brings the audience full circle without sacrificing any of the show’s narrative complexities.
Ozark (Season 3)
Ozark always thrived on the vibe of uninterrupted mounting tension between the characters, but this season arched more towards internal conflicts rather than external ones. Seemingly like a grimmer ‘Breaking Bad’ pastiche, instead of being a one-man-protagonist series (as it has been in the past), this season witnessed a long wrangle for superiority between the two highly contrasting characters — shrewd-minded Marty (Jason Bateman) and the political operative Wendy (Laura Linney).
Although this installment of the Emmy-winning series goes frustratingly dumb sometimes, the primary characters go all guns blazing in establishing themselves in the eerie plot of the series. Marty Byrde, as always, caught in the tug of war of protecting his family and keeping the laundering business afloat moves forward with his cold, ruthless (pun intended) pragmatism. Wendy Byrde and Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) repeatedly found themselves at the crossroads of their professional proceedings and shielding Wendy’s bipolar brother, Ben. Frankly, the abrupt insertion of Ben’s character was too inorganic for the first half but what followed was an agglomeration of sheer brilliant writing and its perfect execution by the characters. The conclusion of all the plots and subplots towards the end was emotionally exhilarating and boy, it paid in dividends by the season finale.
Schitt’s Creek (Season 6)
The final installment of Schitt’s Creek went out with a bang pulling no punches this time around. The modest Canadian production that’s set in a fictional town far removed from homophobic rhetoric, initially relied on its corny title and lightweight punchlines for laughs. But the sleeper hit eventually found its footing, yielding myriad heartwarming moments in its six-year run.
Delivering its most inimitable season to date and scripting an unprecedented Emmy sweep, Schitt’s Creek showcased a formidable mix of charmingly perceptive writing — thanks in no small part to co-creator Dan Levy — and superb acting chops from its splendid cast. The comedy series allowed the Roses to grow out of their obnoxious shells and reconnect wholly as a family, ultimately pulling of a journey that feels authentic and immensely satisfying. Without dropping any humorous beat, the sitcom bid farewell on a high note providing a bittersweet, feel-good, and above all a comforting binge-worthy companion to a rather difficult year. From David’s enviable collection of sweaters to Stevie’s snarky remarks, from Moira’s predilection for bamboozling diction to Alexis’s highly quotable “Ew, David”, Schitt’s Creek will undoubtedly leave a legacy of being ‘simply the best’!
The Mandalorian (Season 2)
Picking up after the gripping battle with Imperial remnant in Nevarro, The Mandalorian continues to push the envelope in its sophomore season, expanding the Star Wars universe with meticulous detailing and a slick approach that feels both fresh as well as daring. Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), the titular protagonist and bounty hunter, rummages through the galaxy in his latest mission to handover the Child — a mysterious power wielding foundling — back to its kin.
Building upon the pre-existing lore, the show summons beloved characters from earlier films including Ahsoka Tano and Boba Fett, while also offering an intriguing palette of space-trotting escapades and plenty of wholesome Baby Yoda content, enticing a new legion of fans. In emotionally charged closing scenes of the season, the delightsome cameo of digitally de-aged Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker is sure to leave the die-hard cohorts of the original trilogy enraptured. Solid performances across the board, stunning visuals, and entrancing background score by Ludwig Goransson prove why this show is the franchise at its peak and also an undeniable ‘force’ to be reckoned with.
The Queen’s Gambit
“Anger’s a potent spice. A pinch wakes you up. Too much dulls your senses.”
Acquiescence. Humiliation. Retaliation. Sacrifice. Vengeance. This spectacularly gripping mini-series takes us on a roller coaster ride along a bumpy yet enthralling path, showcasing a rags-to-riches chronicle. Set in the 1960s, this drama series tells the tale of Beth Harmon, an orphaned chess prodigy, who’s set out to leave no stone unturned in her raison d’être of becoming the World Chess Champion. Struggling with drug and alcohol dependency, she slowly makes her way through the ranks equipped with nothing but her prodigious mind.
With heart thumping musical tracks blended with alluring and elegant cinematography, the series had taken the world by storm to become the most watched series on Netflix merely within four weeks of its release. Anna Taylor-Joy’s stylish and captivating performance keeps the audience on their toes waiting with bated breath, every passing second of the game. A tale of determination woven with emotions and inklings from the past, the story is not only a pragmatic portrayal of any chess master, but has also been critiqued as having a remarkable analogy to the story of Bobby Fischer, the famed chess Grandmaster.
Presenters: Arpit Kujur, Triparna Roy, Priyanshu Pandey, Apoorva Nanda and Utkarsh