It isn't TV's fault that I haven't finished reading another book in time to review. That honor goes to the work I'm trying to do in promoting my own books and writing pieces like this. However, 2018 has so far been another cornucopia of narrative riches, and before the summer season kicks off, I thought it might help to revisit some of those. They will all be on On Demand or Netflix soon, I'm sure, so here goes.
April and May have brought, for my time and money, the best of the best. One of them is a one-off - a single series that reaches an inevitable end. Another presents the end of a series that we never wanted to see happen. Not because we thought it should go on and on, but because of what we knew would be inevitable. Because of what we dreaded.
The Terror (AMC) is based on the book by the same name by Dan Simmons, and charts a fictional path for the men of Terror and Erebus, real ships in search of the Northwest Passage through the Arctic above Canada. It is a tragedy from the beginning, since we know that none of them were ever seen again. The story (one stand-alone season) as it is told in fiction explores the ways in which men face disaster when it challenges their very souls.
The Americans (FX) is in its 6th and last season of intrigue between Russians and Americans during the Reagan years. Its main characters are a husband and wife team of Russian spies, sent here to set themselves up as ordinary folks, and to carry out orders from home. They do this very successfully, living in a suburb of D.C. across the street from their best friend, the F.B.I. agent, and having two very American children, who don't know until it is almost too late, who their parents really are. We get to know these people. We get to watch them perform heinous acts in the interests of the Soviet Union, and still we hold our breath, hoping they won't get caught. Not yet, anyway. Because in spite of ourselves and in spite of who they are, we like them. By the time this last season has rolled around, when we are pretty certain that the gig is going to be up at last, we dread having to watch it. I don't know yet who if any will die, who if any will be incarcerated, who if any will escape the net that is now beginning to close. Whoever they are, I will be sorry to see them go. It's that kind of show.
The Americans allows us to root for the wrong side in spite of ourselves. The Terror insists that we keep watching, in case things go differently this time. It's no use, though. In the end, we too have to come to terms with the truth. Both ours and theirs.
The latest season of The Handmaid's Tale has yet to run its course, but don't let that put you off. It's on Hulu, and you can get completely up to date in a couple of weekends - and if you haven't, you should. It is a more immediate cautionary tale than either of the other two, and is must see TV if there ever was such a thing.
Three shows to catch in mid-air or binge streaming are The Good Fight (CBS All Access), The Expanse (SyFy), and Marvel's Agents of Shield, (ABC) for good characters, good writing, and better choices than get a gun and trust no one.
So, settle down with a glass of wine and turn on your TV. Today's shows are almost as satisfying as a good book.