We’re almost there folks! In less than two weeks the government-mandated Movement Control Order (MCO) will be lifted and we may finally greet the outside world. Till then, we’re all stuck staring at the wall or a screen. That doesn’t mean we still can’t have a ball though! One of the best ways to kill time is to strap your face into your Netflix subscribed television and binge-watch a series from sunrise to midnight. The things is that there are just so many different programmes and web series floating around in your catalogue. It can be pretty overwhelming trying to stick to one, and there’s nothing worse than starting on a series you thought was great but then turned out to be mediocre, or awful. I’m looking at you House of Cards! Fear not though, for I have taken the time to curate some of the very best offerings from Netflix.
Critically acclaimed series that range from psychological terror to fantasy action to crime thrillers. Be warned though, once you begin on any one of them you will be strongly compelled to finish them!
Our first pick is not for the faint of heart but it is a definite must-see for any crime thriller aficionados out there. Especially those fond of director David Fincher’s work. For those who haven’t read our coverage on the series, Mindhunter follows a group of specialists and law enforcement personnel spearheaded by Detective Holden Ford: the FBI’s Behavioural Science Unit. Beginning in the late 70s, the Netflix series follows the fascinating origins behind the psychological science of serial killers. Everything from their motivations to methods to pathologies to childhood backgrounds will be placed under the microscope as these three brave souls journey into the heart of darkness. They’ll meet notorious figures the likes of Ed Kemper, Jerry Brudos, the BTK Killer and even the famed cult leader, Charles Manson.
Mindhunter is a breathtaking balancing act between psychological horror and criminal anthology. The series masterfully frames these encounters between the team and the serial killers as casual, conversational exchanges. Every now and then though, you’ll catch a disturbing line or a strange glance from them or even hear the score creep up on you. All of it is built to create this pervading feeling of dread within the viewer. The casual small talk and seemingly pleasant nature of these monsters tell your mind it’s fine but your heart knows better. Your palms began to sweat, your heart races as you’re left there stewing in the tension and ambiguity of it all. Trust me, by the time you’re done with Mindhunter, you’ll think twice about going outside after the hours of 6 pm, even after the RMO is over.
What can I say about Netflix’s Castlevania that hasn’t already been previously said? It is a series that just seems to keep getting better and better with each passing season. The third season came out not too long ago and it thoroughly blew me away! Castlevania is a supernatural horror action animated series that follows the adventures of a rogue vampire hunter, a nomadic sorceress and an enigmatic dhampir as they go on a quest to rid medieval Europe of demonic and vampiric threat. A powerful vampire and commander of Hell’s armies, Dracula leads a dark crusade to wipe out humanity after the death of his human wife. The trio of unlikely heroes must face Dracula and other terrors of the night that seek to plunge the world into death and darkness. It’s time to fight the night!
Netflix has finally lifted the curse placed on video-game based television and film adaptations. Castlevania is a superb gothic gorefest that boasts gorgeous visuals with fluid, balletesque fight scenes and terrifying creature design. Some of the monsters and horrific scenes on display feel like they belong in a post-1819 Francisco Goya painting. Basically, the stuff of nightmares. It’s all animated by witty and sharp writing by Warren Ellis whose expertise is in the realm of social critique and crafting morally complex characters. The voice work is also excellent all-around with the standout performance being Graham McTavish’s Dracula and Richard Armitage’s Trevor Belmont. I came into this show knowing virtually nothing about its video game roots or source material and left an ardent fan nonetheless. Hell, I think I’ll go watch it again!
Perhaps you prefer your fantasy horror shows a little more live-action than animated, well I’ve got some good news for you then. If you’re looking for Game of Thrones with an Asian twist and lots of undead fun, then Kingdom is right up your alley. I’ve recently reviewed the first and second season of the Netflix Korean fantasy zombie thriller and I loved it from start to finish. The show revolves around a civil war between rival political factions as they vie for the throne during the Joseon period of Korea. All the while, a deadly plague sweeps over the land and the dead begin to hunger for the living. Now the Crown Prince and his loyal followers must put an end to both his usurpers and the undead horde, lest a nation fall.
I know some of you out there might be a little put off by the fact that it’s a foreign language series but please I beg you, give it a chance. Once you can look past that barrier, you are in for a bloody good time! Kingdom is an infectiously fun series that balances frightening scenes of brutality with organic moments of comedic camaraderie. Its plot can accommodate both epic action set-pieces and captivating political drama. The first two seasons of the series function as a single narrative arc. It’s fairly accessible for those looking to jump in and unlike Game of Thrones, there aren’t a million plot threads going on at the same time.
At this point in time, Narcos isn’t just a series. It’s expanding into its own freaking Netflix universe! The series chronicles the rise and fall of some of the greatest drug lords of the Latin American world. If you think this is just some dull extended druglord docudrama then amigo you are sorely mistaken. Enter into a world of warring drug cartels, political corruption and extra-judicial justice. It is a violent, scary place with little mercy for those looking to merely skate by. You either go big and get dead real quick. The first two seasons follow the rise of the legendary drug lord Pablo Escobar before we see the nefarious, effective Cali Cartel take centre stage. All of them, however, involve one DEA Agent Javier Pena and his relentless pursuit of justice. One that will take a lifetime to see done.
As our resident film critic, Dashran Yohan mentioned in the past, Wagner Moura’s performance as Pablo Escobar is nothing short of phenomenal. For the first two seasons, he is the anchor that holds the show together. The Escobar of Narcos isn’t some mustachio twirling villain looking to burn the world. He’s a family man, a community leader and someone who knows the pains of poverty. At the same time, he’s also a violent gangster, terrorist and criminal. The true magic of this show is its ability to convince you that terrible people are capable of compassion and good people can commit horrible atrocities in the name of justice. Narcos is every bit as good as anything on HBO and every bit as addictive as the drug it portrays.
5. Better Call Saul
Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad (which is also available on Netflix right now) is singlehandedly the greatest TV show of a generation! Yes, I said. An amazing character study of the nature of human evil and how one well-meaning chemistry teacher became one of television’s most iconic gangsters. So when people hear that Gilligan created a spin-off series based on a recurring character, Saul Goodman, some had mixed feelings. I’ll admit that I was a tad hesitant, unsure of what Gilligan had in mind for the sleazy lawyer in his own prequel series. I am happy to report though, after watching every single episode, that Better Call Saul is an outstanding series worthy of your time and devotion. If you thought Gilligan was simply phoning in it then you have never been more wrong in your entire life.
What genre you may ask? It’s a crime thriller, courtroom drama and dark comedy all rolled up in one neat little package. Bob Odenkirk’s performance as Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman is incomparable. Odenkirk plays a damaged man trying to make his way in the world by being a good, honest lawyer but he can’t seem to resist taking legal shortcuts and resorting to trickery. Behind his larger-than-life personality is an anxious, insecure little man looking for validation and redemption. And though his journey may seem similar to Walter’s on a rather shallow level, he is profoundly different from Heisenberg in a lot of nuanced ways. Better Call Saul just might be the best TV show on Netflix now and depending on how Gilligan ends it, it just might be better than Breaking Bad.