“MUSCULAR DUDES AND FEMININE BADASSERY: The Second Seasons You’re Missing on NETFLIX”
(2017-, NR—definitely for MATURE audiences, 10 episodes per season, NETFLIX ORIGINALS)
It’s kind of hard to resist a show set in the 80’s. Netflix singlehandedly revived that long-ago era of big hair and big cell phones with “Stranger Things”, and kept the trend going with the first season of “GLOW”, set in 80’s Los Angeles when “professional” wrestling was becoming insanely popular. Based on an actual show with the same name, Netflix offered a unique look at a factual circumstance and turned it into a hysterical yet effectively moving first season about a group of women trying to make it big. With the second season, things are turned up a notch; somehow, the writers take real-time issues and blend them seamlessly into their historically set era. There are undertones of racial inequality (which, sadly, can’t really be attributed to only one specific time period), the battle of the sexes, the #metoo movement… and it is all handled quite eloquently. None of the messages seem heavy handed—everyone involved with this production has something to say, but they want you to have a few laughs, too. The second season sees the return of Glowbot, the tension between Ruth and Debbie coming to a head (the perfectly cast Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin, respectively), a looming cancellation, and more moral dilemmas for director Sam (the brilliant Marc Maron). We even get a full episode of what the TV show would look like, music videos and all (the lyrics of the “Kidnappers” song alone are worth watching the entire season for)! It is too early for Netflix to announce a third season just yet, but they would be idiots for passing on a show whose momentum is in full swing.
Season II Grade: A
Series Grade: A
(2016-, NR—definitely for MATURE audiences, 13 episodes per season, MARVEL STUDIOS/NETFLIX)
If you haven’t seen season one of the show, stop reading this now, as there are spoilers ahead. With a full slate of Marvel shows on Netflix, the mythology has gotten too deep for me to even try not to point a few specific issues out. The first being that I wasn’t a huge fan of the first season of “Luke Cage” for two reasons: one, that much of it seemed stereotypical in its portrayal of every ethnicity on display, and two, they killed off the best villain yet halfway through. By episode seven I was reeling, and I still had eight more to go. It should also be pointed out that Netflix used mostly black directors for the first season, up until the final three grueling episodes. That last dude really gummed up the works, too. This time around, there is a wide mix of people behind the lens, and the diversity there makes for a stronger show. Heck, the first episode is directed by Lucy Liu of KILL BILL fame, and she sets a masterful pace. Season two is far, far better than the first; this time around, Cage’s nemesis is truly menacing. Bushmaster (yeah, it takes a while to get to the point where you don’t giggle when you hear the name), played with deep regard and an underlying sense of justification by Mustafa Shakir, is hell-bent on exacting revenge on Mariah Stokes, who is going to great lengths to distance herself from that name. Cage (Mike Colter, the strongest man on television) mentions often during the season that he should just allow the two crime bosses to kill each other off, but as the battles flow into the streets of Harlem, leaving the bodies of innocents in their wake, our hero has no choice but to get more involved. The secret of this season isn’t just the wonderfully choreographed physical battles, but the mental ones that are also on display. Seeing Alfre Woodard’s Mariah becoming unhinged is Emmy gold; her mental stability is always in question, although her motives (survival and greed) never are. And Cage’s struggle with his ideas of what he should be, and how he should get results, never overpowers the other storylines. Even Shades (the awesome Theo Rossi) gets his turn to shine; what makes this season work on so many levels is the fact that the minor characters are treated with the same respect as the leads, furthering several storylines and making for a more grounded show.
Season II Grade: A
Series Grade: B