Robots, Kings, Prisoners and Presidents: Best shows of 2016

Courtesy of Bad Robot Productions

Courtesy of Bad Robot Productions

Westworld – Sean Armstrong

“Westworld” is something different. While it is your classic science fiction robot uprise TV show, there’s a bit of nuance to it.

For once, it is not about robots taking over the planet because they are the superior race. They still are in many facets the superior lifeform, but the reason for their uprising is more realistic. Just like in every war or uprising, the initial spark is oppression.

The robots are part of a western theme park that aims to serve humans. The humans murder, rape and enslave the robots. The only thing that keeps the robots from revolting sooner, is that their memories are erased every time they are killed, so they forget the atrocities commited to them almost daily. However, their memories start to come back in the first few episodes.

This leads to the inevitable rebellion in the theme park that was obvious from episode one. That is not to say that’s the entire plot line, that is just the tip of the iceberg in this show.

Many viewers would agree “Westworld” is a thought provoking series with questions about our own humanity. Do humans have free will?

Good Girls Revolt – Raymond Arke

Amazon Prime has been trying to develop original content that can compete with the extremely popular Netflix originals. With “Good Girls Revolt,” Amazon has found a winning formula in their partly realistic, 1969-set drama.

Set at the end of the hippie era and the beginning of the women’s liberation movement, “Good Girls Revolt” follows the lives of three women who work for the fictional News of the Week magazine. At that time, women were only allowed to work as researchers, meaning that while they did much of the hard work of researching stories, the all-male staff of writers got to put their name on the women’s work.

After one of the women quits, the main three characters, with the encouragement of an ACLU attorney, begin to wrestle with the idea of suing News of the Week for gender discrimination.

The captivating and inspiring series alternates between the brewing struggle at work and the clashes the newly empowered women begin to feel at home. The show acts as a reverse-”Mad Men,” where women aren’t just pretty faces used for sex but are represented as real humans who demand to be treated fairly and equally.

Courtesy of MTV Production Development

Courtesy of MTV Production Development

Scream: Season 2 – Sean Ray

“Scream” had a mediocre first season. It had an absolutely spectacular, captivating and suspense filled season 2. I don’t know what changed, but MTV has a show stealer here.

Dropping the overly boring teenage drama for a much better murder mystery, increasingly creative kills and genuine scares, “Scream” has metamorphosed into one of my favorite shows.

Want proof? I didn’t watch season 2 online like I did season 1. I dutifully sat down in front of a TV every week, on time, so I could avoid spoilers. I haven’t done that since 2013!

MTV puts out a lot of crap. Hell, regular TV in general puts out a lot of crap. But “Scream” is the rare exception.

It may not have a big budget. It may not have major name actors. It may never be as beloved as “House of Cards” or “Game of Thrones.” But the show’s loveable characters, surprisingly good directing and great script completely stole my attention this year.

BoJack Horseman – Zachary Landau

I was hugely skeptical when I went into “BoJack Horseman.” With everybody praising it to be the best TV show ever, I assumed it was more likely a good, but only good, show that maybe dealt with some issue pretty well. And I was dead wrong. “BoJack Horseman” is the best show out there, worth a Netflix subscription, and should be mandatory viewing material if you want to live in the U.S. Watching this show has been one of the most enlightening experiences in my life, and if you haven’t watched it yet, then you are living a stunted existence, my friend.

Orange is the New Black: Season 4 – Madison Pastrick

Going on its fourth year, “Orange is the New Black” has somehow produced yet another successful season, leaving fans heartbroken and vengeful. Not only is this show entertaining, but because of its raw approaches on a variety of modern and controversial matters, it’s spreading social-awareness as well. Season 4 in particular brought forth more of these themes than ever, covering issues such as Black Lives Matter, poverty, mental health, LGBT+ struggles and feminism.

The show picked up with the introduction of several new cast members, due to an unexpected load of prisoners and officers entering the Litchfield Prison, adding new backstories and relationships throughout the season. Additional highlights include the ongoing task of hiding a dead body, the scandalous celebrity prisoner and an accidental and traumatic murder.

This was by far the heaviest season yet with many tear-jerking storylines that accurately reflected issues occurring in and out of prison. Thanks to the extensive diversity of prisoners, the show gives its viewers a unique sense of empathy, allowing them to connect with the characters and their stories.

You’ll never get through a season as quickly as this one, because once you start watching, you won’t want to stop. If you haven’t indulged yourself already, I highly suggest OITNB for your next holiday binge.

Game of Thrones Season 6 – Loren Smith

Season 6 of “Game of Thrones” premiered on Apr. 24, full of surprising twists, deaths and resurrections. The never-ending drama and action of this season made it arguably the most fascinating one yet.

Jon Snow is brought back to life and reunited with Sansa Stark after she escapes from Winterfell. He meets Ramsey Bolton on the battlefield in order to take back Winterfell, and succeeds after Sansa returns with the Knights of the Vale. Arya Stark takes revenge on Walder Frey and his sons for murdering her family, while Brandon Stark discovers Jon’s true identity after narrowly escaping a group of White Walkers. Cersei Lannister destroys the Sept of Baelor with wildfire in a thrilling scene, driving her son Tommen to commit suicide. Daenerys Targaryen, now teamed up with Tyrion Lannister, Varys and Yara and Theon Greyjoy, finally sets sail for Westeros with her army and dragons.

The season won a total of 12 out of its 23 Emmy nominations, including the award for Outstanding Drama Series. The combination of sensational action sequences and intriguing character developments sets this season apart and easily makes it the best TV show of 2016.

House of Cards Season 4 – Kailey Love

Blackmail from Russia, assassination attempts and a terrorist hostage crisis — just another day in the life of Frank Underwood. Netflix original series “House of Cards” launched its stirring fourth season in March of this year, which opens in the aftermath of the dramatic split between main character President Francis Underwood and First Lady Claire that occurred at the tail end of season three. While it is difficult to see this former dynamic duo at odds with each other, watching these two powerhouses spar with one another throughout the season is nothing short of amusing. Their fierce tension coupled with one shocking plot twist after another made season four nothing short of a (fictional) political masterpiece.

Also, one of the best parts about this season was the parallel between current events and the show’s plotline. Netflix released the new season in the same week as Super Tuesday, and the show picks up in the midst of Underwood’s primary campaign. Not only did this make HOC extremely relevant at the time, but the drama surrounding Frank’s campaign mirrored the drama going on in the actual 2016 primary with controversial candidates such as (now President-lect) Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Not to mention the continuation of the Underwood’s ongoing political conflicts with President Petrov of Russia, who bears an uncanny and slightly hilarious resemblance to the actual President of Russia, Vladimir Putin.

The Flash Season 3 – Grant Stoner

Season 3 of “The Flash” continues to impress, especially with the inclusion of “Flashpoint,” an incredibly entertaining and complex story arc from DC Comics. With each season, lead actor Grant Gustin brings to life the quirks, charms and mannerisms of DC Comics’ favorite speedster. As Barry is forced to confront a god, this season of “The Flash” will be a thrilling and entertaining experience.

Fear the Walking Dead Season 2 – Nicole Prieto

“Fear the Walking Dead” is hardly free from the same fallacies of its sister series, but its superb acting and original character development have so far outshined “The Walking Dead.” Season 2’s story, predominantly set in Mexico, is a refreshing deviation from the semi-militaristic, intercommunity warfare currently embroiling TWD, perhaps making it a bit worthier of the label “zombie drama.”

Siblings Alicia and Nick Clark are expertly portrayed by Alycia Debnam-Carey and Frank Dillane. Recovering drug addict Nick convincingly becomes a respected figure in La Colonia, using his once questionable skillset for the benefit of others. Alicia shoulders the burden of her mother’s emotional absence — borne from Nick and Travis’ unknown whereabouts — while continuing to grow into her own character. She maintains an understated, levelheaded amount of hope in the face of overwhelming despair and uncertainty. Perhaps the most compelling character transformation is that of Victor Strand, played by Colman Domingo. Since the end of Season 1, Victor has grown from cold con artist to one of Madison’s most trusted confidantes. His deal-making skills help get them through shaky negotiations with the residents of the Rosarito Beach Hotel, and his assistance with Madison, Travis and Alicia’s later escape is entirely believable.

Season 2 is an impressive amalgamation of original settings and characters that does not feel burdened by source material the same way that TWD does. As long as neither Madison nor Travis becomes the new Rick Grimes in Season 3, FTWD looks to have a bright future ahead of it.

Stranger Things – Leonardo Sanchez

The Duffer Brothers took for themselves a hard task when they decided to give life to “Stranger Things.” They not only had to create a thrilling story, but had to echo the uniqueness of many sci-fi, fantasy and adventure movies released during the ’80s. The series succeeded and ended up becoming one of the biggest television hits of the year.

“Stranger Things” awakens an enjoyable feeling of nostalgia in its viewers. It’s able to be original at the same time as it’s recycling ideas previously seen on the big screen. The TV show also relies on a powerful cast full of young talents, such as Millie Bobby Brown as the supernatural, mysterious female lead.

For many reasons, “Stranger Things” is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best TV release of 2016. With every episode better than the previous one, the show has a creative and exciting story featuring charismatic and lovable characters.

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