As temperatures both meteorological and political continue to spike around the country, staying indoors and away from Facebook debates has never been a better idea. Here are some of the best (and worst) new shows to catch up on through Netflix, iFlix, and Hooq.
Mr Robot (iFlix)
Elliot Alderson is a hacker with anti-social tendencies, a drug problem, and a niggling desire to maybe save the world at some stage. One day, all his daydreams coalesce when he gets involved in an act of cybertheft against E Corp, a multinational corporation that purports to be a combination of Apple, Microsoft, and Google.
The group that performs the hack is called FSociety, and their leader is the homeless-looking Mr. Robot (Christian Slater). Think Fight Club, A Beautiful Mind, and Blackhat rolled into an episodic narrative, and you’ve got the basics of this show figured out.
Mr. Robot works really hard to be authentic in its portrayal of technology and hacking, but there are little things that will annoy folks who are intimately familiar with the subject matter. The hackers seem to inexplicably refer to their computers as their “CPUs," and Elliot’s desktop has an LPT1 port that connects to not-a-printer. In a bizarre choice, the episode titles are all written out like filenames. (Episode 1 is entitled “hellofriend.mov”, which is initially cute, but gets a little silly when you start seeing FLVs and QTs amongst the other titles.)
Still, the show is well-produced and the lead actor is very memorable, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you’ve got enough time to catch up before it returns in June. With all the Comelec-related hacking going on this past month, Mr. Robot’s particular brand of Internet paranoia has never felt more potent.
Rating: 4 out of 5 hacked Facebook accounts
Daredevil Season 2 (Netflix)
Daredevil was a revelation when Netflix released its first season in 2015. Among its many highlights, it featured the most compelling supervillain origin story ever committed to the screen, introducing the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most memorable antagonist since Loki. To say that the second season had high expectations levied against it would be understating the situation quite a bit, particularly with the Kingpin seemingly out of the picture. (READ: Interview: Who is 'Daredevil' star Charlie Cox?)
There’s a lot to like about this new season: former Walking Dead star Jon Bernthal is an imposing presence as the Punisher (although I personally still prefer Ray Stevenson’s version of the character), and Elodie Yung’s Elektra was simply inspired casting.
Even better: the supporting characters that we all know and love have a lot more freedom to breathe in this season, and we are treated to some great Foggy Nelson scenes that were a long time coming.
The back-breaking fight choreography that Daredevil became known for is just as kinetic as in the first season, if not more so. Amongst many highlights: check out the jaw-dropping sequel to the infamous one-take hallway fight of season 1 that turns into a lengthy stairwell brawl (an obvious homage to Ip Man 3).
Rating: 4 out of 5 broken femurs
The Player (Hooq)
When ex-FBI agent Alex Kane’s wife is murdered, he is forced to play an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse to find her murderer and, ultimately, his own redemption. (Yes, I wrote that all by myself.)
The Player is exactly the kind of show I watch while doing other things: it’s easy to follow, fairly predictable, and is punctuated with enough action set pieces to win back your attention every 10 minutes or so.
There’s a central premise to the show that’s only relevant if you need a reason for all the gunfire, but it’s not particularly believable, nor is it really all that necessary. But here it is, anyway: Bored, wealthy people participate in an underground gambling pool by placing bets on the outcomes of real-world crimes, which Alex Kane must attempt to prevent. In exchange, Kane can use the organization’s resources to unravel the mystery of his wife’s death. Hence, The Player.
It’s a cheap set of adrenaline shots, but the actors are entertaining and the action is always well executed. Just like 24, which it’s obviously very influenced by, Kane gets to perform one outrageous kill per episode. (No vampire bites yet though.)
Oh, and did I mention that Wesley Snipes is in this? Yeah, maybe I should’ve led with that.
Rating: 3 out of 5 karate chops to the throat
Mad Dogs (Hooq)
I first watched the pilot of the US remake of Mad Dogs back in January 2015, when Amazon was releasing a host of first-episodes to collect viewer feedback and decide which ones to finance for full seasons. Of that batch, Man in the High Castle was probably the most prominent entry, but it was Mad Dogs that I was most excited for.
It was produced, after all, by Shawn Ryan (famous for the intense police drama The Shield), and the way that he and the original UK show’s creator Cris Cole have streamlined the Mad Dogs pilot episode is really interesting.
The premise is nothing crazy: 4 middle-aged underachievers go to their newly-rich friend’s vacation villa in Belize and quickly realize that things are not what they seem, but the way the show cranks up the tension – going from 1 to 11 in the space of a few seconds – made it my favorite pilot of last year. The first episode is a bit of a slow burn, but if you make it to its final 15 minutes, you’ll be hooked in completely.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 midlife crises
If all you ever saw of McG’s filmography was this new show based on Cassandra Clare’s popular The Mortal Instruments book series, you’d probably find it hard to believe that the director was, at one point in his career, hiring JJ Abrams to write his screenplays. (It was for the 5th Superman movie that would eventually end up with Bryan Singer.) And that would be perfectly understandable, because Shadowhunters is a pretty horrific piece of work.
Littered with wooden acting, smoldering looks, slow-motion walking, and characters who would kill themselves if they thought it’d make them look cool, this high-profile show from Disney’s Freeform is an early contender for one of the worst of 2016.
Rating: 1 out of 5 acoustic indie ballads
Fargo Season 2 (iFlix)
Fargo was quite likely the best new show of 2014, and unlike the mildly disappointing True Detective followup, I’m happy to report that its second season is just as oddball and probably even more well-crafted than the original. Set in 1979, Patrick Wilson stars as the younger version of the retired lawman of Season 1 (Keith Carradine), and apart from that one loose connection to the last season, this arc is an all-new, all-different animal. The pilot episode is littered with subtle character dynamics and wonderfully specific dialogue – an ice-water-to-the-face contrast with the startingly visceral violence that kicks off the season’s main story arc.
Rating: 5 out of 5 homemade cherry pies
Bojack Horseman Season 2 (Netflix)
As a rumination on loneliness and self-loathing, BoJack Horseman is probably one of the finest written shows on television. It disguises itself as an oddball cartoon with talking animals, which makes it both a hard sell to some adult viewers but makes it all the more surprising for the emotional wallop it can deliver.
Will Arnett (Arrested Development) stars as the eponymous lead, BoJack, an alcoholic, has-been star of a popular 80’s sitcom who has spent the last 20 years trading on his early success. As implied by the title, he’s a horse.
BoJack shares his Hollywood mansion with his freeloading housemate Todd (Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad, playing one of the few humans on the show), is represented by his sometimes-girlfriend/agent Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris, a cat), and constantly finds himself at odds with a rival sitcom star, Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins, a dog). And his long-overdue autobiography is being published by Penguin Books … which is naturally run by penguins.
If that sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is, mostly. But the bizarro-world approach enables both a piercing satire of Hollywood, and a poignant dissection of personal failure. Its sophomore effort is a masterpiece of writing, and its acerbic, gut-punch season-ender made me want to simultaneously curl up into an emo-ball, and jump up and high-five everyone involved in the show.
Rating: 5 out of 5 visits to rehab
What do you like to watch online? Let us know in the comments below.