In Review of… 2020 (Part Five)
In Episode three of the TV that I enjoyed last year, this week I continue to re-visit one of the television shows that helped me through those long 2020 Lockdown nights. This week, I also include some of the other shows that captured my attention and deserve a notable mention.
The TV (Episode Three)
Fargo (Season One)
Back in October, I lavished a lot of praise on the first season of Noah Hawley’s thrilling exploration and expansion of the Coen Brothers’ 1996 Oscar-winning masterpiece of the same name. If you missed my review back then, you can check out what I thought of it in more detail here. Suffice to say, I was enthralled, entertained and mesmerised by this first offering, which I finshed by saying ‘if you haven’t seen this wonderful show yet, you really, really should‘.
Some months later, having binged my way through season 2 & 3, do I still feel the same way about Season 1, or has what followed heightened or lessened my opinion of the show?
It is widely known that this show (there is a fourth season now which I have yet to watch) has it flaws and quirks. Exploring different timelines and locations, which all, in some way or another lead back to Fargo, won’t be for everyone. After watching Season 2, which I have to say I really enjoyed, I was eager for the third installment because of the cast involved. Apart from the last few episodes, however, season 3 was an incredible disappointment – despite the stirling efforts of Ewan Mcgregor (in dual roles here) and a show-saving performance by Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
My tangible disappointment soon settled down, however, as I realised just how brilliant Season 1 was. In the following seasons, the acting is exemplary, and they are not without their moments and surprises, despite some flaws in the plotting and some bizarre quirks. All of this, however, should steer you to at least try the first season. If it is your cup of tea, then you will enjoy the following seasons, but not as much, and perhaps you will give up – but you really should try this show. You may be glad you did.
Fargo (Season 1) Episodes: 10 My rating: 9.5/10
Fargo (Season 1) Episodes: 10 My rating: 8/10
Fargo (Season 1) Episodes: 10 My rating: 7/10
All three seasons watched on Netflix
Of course, I did not spend 2020 just watching three seasons of Fargo – there were plenty of others shows that kept me entertained, and to round off my television segment, here are a few that I feel would also be worth watching.
The Gift (2019 – present)
Not be confused with the 2000 and 2015 films of the same name, this enjoyable Turkish adventure, centres around the life of of Atiye, in Istanbul. Sharing more similarity with Cate Blanchet’s 2000 film, then Jason Bateman’s 2015 film, the show delves into the archaelogical mysteries of ancient site Göbeklitepe, the world’s oldest temple. A thrilling blend of the supernatural, mixed with a touch of Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Gift is an entertaining watch, best enjoyed with subtitles, as I hear the dubbing is not very good. Carried along by Beren Sat in the lead role of Atiye and Mehmet Günsür as handsome archaeologist Erhan, it’s not without it’s flaws, but the thrills override any sense of disappointment, and the finale of Season 2 will leave you keen for Season 3.
The Gift (Season 1)
My rating: 8/10
Watched on Netflix
The Last Kingdom (2015 – present)
Originally produced and aired on the BBC, this excellent show has been taken over by Netflix (since Season 3). Based on the thrilling books by Bernard Cornwell, each season covers two of the series’ novels, charting the rise of Alfred the Great and his desire to drive the Danes from the Kingdoms of Britain, and create one land, under one King – an England.
Ousted from his ancestral lands by his ruthless uncle, and captured by Danes, this excellent show follows the life of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, born a Saxon, but raised by Danes. His confliction to his people, his blood and his Gods add a depth to the story, that is only heightened by the wonderful, ensemble cast around the lead actor, Alexander Dreymon.
Of all the seasons, the most recent (Seeason 4) has proven to be the most divisive. A change in writers and quickening of pace in the timeline, has dissatisfied many a die-hard fan, one of which I count myself.
Without any spoilers, despite two key moments of “What????” and “Nooo!”, I have to say I really enjoyed Season 4. The acting, as always, is terrific, the sets, direction and action is still superb. It would have been easy, with a bigger budget, for Netflix to have spoiled what made the first two seasons so wonderful – the heart and soul of the story. Fortunately for all, Netflix have only enhanced this brilliant show, and despite a few notches on the sword, The Last Kingdom continues to enthrall and thrill. I impatiently await Season 5.
The Last Kingdom (Season 4)
My rating: 8.5/10
Watched on Netflix
The Queen’s Gambit
And finally, like some well-disguised move, we come to Netflix’s smash hit of 2020. A little late to this party, I did not watch this until the end of December. How do I put into to words how good this is? How amazing the complex protagonist Beth Harmon is, and how fantastic Anya Taylor-Joy is in the lead role?
Simple. My wife hates chess and she loved this!
With so many layers, this wonderfully acted, shot and directed limted series is the real surprise of 2020 for me. Don’t let the subject matter put you off, as Chess is actually the secondary focus of this compelling story. Based upon the book of the same name by Walter Tevis, The Queen’s Gambit is so believable, it feels like it should be real story, based upon a no-holds-barred biography from a former chess genius. But it isn’t – it’s a work of fiction, which only adds to how impressive this all is.
There was more than enough chess in there to keep me happy, but I found myself swept away by the central performance. It’s hard not to fall under Beth Harmon’s spell, and if you have not tried this yet, your opening move should be to add it to your watch list at the very least.
The Queen’s Gambit
My rating: 9/10
Watched on Netflix
Join me next week for my final recount of 2020, where I cast my thoughts back over the board games that kept me entertained in the year that was.