Dark shows

6 posts

Watchmen

Based on the original comics of the same name in the 1980s, Watchmen is a real gift of a television show. The first episode aired in October 2019 and is a powerful and essential watch.

It covers important social justice issues, particularly racism, which means this is more than just entertainment; it’s a prose on an alternative world (or nearby version of it) and what things will look like if we don’t get our shit together.

watchmen tv show

It follows vigilantes fighting for the justice that we all want to see in society but have been outlawed. Naturally, there is violence with plenty of fight scenes. But they are exacting and succinct because the show relies on other strong factors to make it great, rather than a twelve minute, over choreographed fight scene. 

The main protagonist (a newly created character) is a powerful, commanding woman called Angela Abar (played by Regina King) who lives a double life and has an extensive backstory and layers to keep her incredibly intriguing. King purports of her character ‘This woman is complex, she’s flawed. Heroes struggle, too.’ Which is probably in part due to the fact that seven of the twelve writers are women.

The show’s creator, Damon Lindelof, commented on being a white man creating a show that focuses on black history:

‘I’ve made a career of basically putting white people on billboards, and I keep making television shows about really attractive men in their mid-40s who are having existential and spiritual crises. I’m in a position to do something different and this is something that I care about, too.’ 

The spec fic masterpiece has perspicuous storytelling, a brilliant cast and ever more brilliant soundtrack. Even if you aren’t a superhero comic fan and can’t seem to get into other DC and Marvel shows, Watchmen is the one that you will.

Should I watch Watchmen?

Without a shadow of a doubt.

You will like Watchmen if you like:

  • Any superhero and villain shows or movies. 
  • Castle Rock
  • The 2009 film version of Watchmen

American Horror Story 1984

American Horror Story is consistently well written (by the same people that do Glee) even when it’s consciously been written badly. The ninth season, 1984, is a classicover the top slasher picture with sporadic—but sparingly— blood heavy scenes. And just enough shocking moments to keep it original (there’s an oven scene to dieeeee for). 

american horror story

Set mostly in a typical American summer camp, a bunch of young adults are terrorised by a serial killer at large. But each character comes with a dicey past and their own demons, which provides discernible motivation for escaping LA and taking up residence at the camp. 

It’s not really until the third episode that it gets into the core plot. There seems to be a lot of padding in points and flashbacks so the chronology is a bit confusing, perhaps intentionally so (the season is only halfway through).

Eighties nostalgia translates really well on the small screen, particularly when done well like in ManiacStranger Thingsand Black Mirror. And AHS are renown for taking solid horror tropes and aesthetics and making them interesting still/again. And the eighties aerobics scene/s are everything though. Everything!

However, this season is the ultimate let down. I don’t say this lightly as I will totally stan AHS, even Roanoke. But don’t totally disregard it as it dallies around some pretty intriguing sub plots about the psychology around why serial killers kill, in an almost homage to the popular series Mindhunter. High fructose corn syrup was one theory why more people were being murdered…

With a noticeable absence of the usual cast of Sarah Paulson, Jessica Lange, Evan Peters or Kathy Bates, it is reasonably lacklustre. However, Angelica Ross is outstanding and almost makes up for the lack of usual talent. 

Angela Ross is amazing in American Horror Story 1984

Time to check out some more horror shows?

Barry

Barry (Bill Hader) is a hitman who launches his alter ego as an actor in a community theatre group. Barry wants to leave his life of crime and marine past behind him and embrace his new life as a performer. Of course, balancing double lives cannot come without consequences and one life must come out victorious. As an audience member, you almost feel sorry for him and his lack of emotional ability, lack of acting success and love interest gone awry. 

barry tv show

With 30 Emmy nominations, Barry is pegged as a tragicomedy. It’s straight faced darkness is as appealing as the deadpan comedy it effortlessly delivers. The levity is peppered in with the gloom so much so that you could be forgiven for being genre confused. But that’s a credit to Hader’s acting. 

barry tv series

It sets a new standard for the way comedy is delivered and executes the antihero device that modern television watchers are so drawn to these days. Barry evokes our sympathy, despite the fact that he is still a cold blooded, calculating killer. A fact which is easy to forget because it’s almost a by product of his narrative, rather than a central focus. 

Anthony Carrigan is a standout supporting actor in Barry and adds a comedic contrast to Barry’s darkness.

Should I watch Barry?

If you love dark comedies, this will blow your mind.

Cheat

Cheat is a British psychological thriller that tells a story in a tight four episodes. How often do you watch a dark TV series these days that has a four ep season? 

Cheat TV series

In Cheat, a university professor is stalked by her student, who quickly becomes more aggressive and conniving in her exploits. All the while, those around the professor are discrediting her as being paranoid, including her own husband who continuously dismisses her fears and even begins to side with the stalking student. As with any high stakes thriller and precarious dynamic between characters, it escalates and ultimately ends up fatal. 

The writers create great audience empathy with the protagonist. Her frustration and confusion is portrayed well and believable without being melodramatic. 

What’s odd about the telling of this story, is the choice to flash forward in the first episode to the conclusion. Essentially, giving away a chunk of the ending. Which isn’t a terrible spoiler as there aren’t any dramatic surprise twists (maybe one quite easily guessable one).

cheat tv series to watch

Other reviews have penned this as chilling but I think that’s hyperbole. It’s intriguing and watchable but it won’t give you nightmares.

Molly Windsor plays the student and her portrayal is excellent. I expect her to appear in many more delicious dramas and thrillers. Including the upcoming Traces (which features an all female production crew).

Should you watch Cheat?

Yes because the storytelling is riveting but it can be lagging at times.

You will like Cheat if you liked:

  • Gypsy
  • Deep Water
  • Black Swan

On Becoming a God in Central Florida

This dark comedy, set in the heart of the early nineties, explores the predatory and cult like nature that are multi level marketing schemes.

Forced to take on her husband’s downline (upline? I don’t know, I’m confused how it works) Krystal (Kirsten Dunst) has to keep up the constant hustle just to make ends meet. After realising that resisting isn’t getting her anywhere, she dives straight into the con herself like only a broke Florida housewife can. And hopes—and works hard— for the riches and fame that the company undyingly promises. 

on becoming a god in central florida

Dunst is exceptional in this. You are on her side from the very start and will spend every bit of your TV watching energy rooting for her to win (but also find a way out of the cult that is the featured MLM that sells cleaning products). 

This show is as much about Krystal’s fierceness and continuous resourcefulness as it is explicitly exposing every MLM that has ever existed. Not surprisingly, it taught me a lot about cult psychology and how MLM companies will take advantage of anyone, no matter how much they are struggling. Whilst the premise could certainly be true, it doesn’t appear to be based on any real life situation. However, the New York Post speculates on the likeness between the show’s company and Amway.

Another highlight of On Becoming a God in Central Florida is the epic eighties and nineties soundtrack.

Should I watch On Becoming a God in Central Florida?

Most definitely. It’s very satisfying.

You’ll like this if you like:

  • Why Women Kill
  • Lodge 49
  • Glow

American Gods

Watch on Prime.

Based on the awardwinning novel (published in 2001) of one of the world’s most loved authors, Neil Gaiman. American Gods is a dark and suspenseful spec fic TV series. The book and author has a cult following and it’s not hard to see why.

American Gods review on prime

With a promising opening credit sequence, it sets the scene for dark fantasy and neon horror. And yes, it’s intriguing as it sounds. 

The rich and complex scenes are concurrently fast paced and slow burning. Which develops the fullness of all the characters (based on deities), mainly the protagonist, Shadow. Who is every bit as his name suggests, in the best possible way. The story is told in a series of vignettes. Which are slowly revealed as connected by the main character (bad guy turned good). 

Each scene in American Gods is highly visual and palpable stories in and of themselves. From the elderly babcia who tells fortunes with tea leaves to the futuristic leader called Technology Boy. To the sexual representation of goddess Ishtar who literally devours her subjects with her genitals. The details are complete and thick. And provide a great mattress for the obvious tension in every scene between at least two of the characters. 

american gods review

American Gods is heavy with mythology and historical legend and how the universal learnings apply to all humanity in today’s world. And it’s all complemented with an evocative gothic soundtrack. 

Gaiman is one of the executive producers which gives comfort that there is some authenticity in regard to the novel. 

american gods gillian anderson
Gillian Anderson as Lucille Ball

Should I watch it American Gods?

Yes. Especially if you love your mythology. Also yes just to see the incredible Gillian Anderson play Lucille Ball-Riccardo,  Marilyn Monroe and David Bowie.

If you like TV shows based on books, read the Alias Grace review.