Netflix: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: Series From Off The Beaten Trail
Grow Talk by Sofy Robertson
Netflix has a plethora of series to offer, but how do you go about finding the ones worth binge watching? Here at Grow we have pooled our collective watch lists in an effort to bring you some of the greatest series that Netflix has to offer that you may not have heard about.
Dark (2017-) is Netflix’s first German language series and has been dubbed into English. As someone who is on the fence about dubbing over subtitles, I have to admit that reading the subtitles whilst trying to watch this series would take away a huge amount from the atmosphere. It has been described as a darker version of Stranger Things and it’s true there are some similarities; a young boy goes missing whilst out with his friends and there appears to be a supernatural element involved. The similarities end there. Dark is a gritty series that provides a sense of frustration as you try to decipher what has happened and who is responsible. We know that time is a key idea within the series, as revealed by the trailer with its words: “The question is not where; the question is not who; the question is not how; but when.” You cannot switch off whilst watching this series; it challenges your intellect as you try to puzzle together the fragmented pieces of the story that occur in different time periods. It challenges your trust as you begin to see different sides to characters and question who you should believe. It follows the horrifying thread of children disappearing; children getting hurt, even murdered. It is, like its namesake, dark in tone but equally gripping and compelling. The series takes you on a mind trip where “The beginning is the end and the end is the beginning”. After being completely hooked into it, I was pleased to find out that there would be a second series (just as well because the series finished with more questions in my mind than answers!). Unfortunately, no official release date has been confirmed, so all we can do is cross our fingers for 2019.
Rotten tomatoes: 87% Grow Talk: 👄 👄 👄 👄 👄
Next on our watchlist is 13 Reasons Why (2017-). The series centres around Hannah Baker, a seemingly vivacious teen who dies by suicide and leaves behind thirteen tapes involving thirteen people and their involvement in her death. Not a cheerful Sunday afternoon watch, I grant you. After viewing the first episode, I wasn’t sure if I felt like carrying on. It seemed like an immature teen drama; the story-line itself seemed to have promise, but I wasn’t sure that the series was delivering. If you feel the same way after watching episode one, I would say stick it out. Watching the first season of 13 Reasons gave me the same feeling as reading Khaled Hosseini’s Kite Runner. It was compelling and I wanted to carry on, but equally I knew it would only get worse. What I mean by that is the series draws you in and you feel you have to know what happens, even though it fills you with a sense of dread as it promises to be nothing good for the characters involved. Like Dark, this series makes you question who to trust. Which of these characters will be on Hannah’s tapes next? What role did they play in her death? Hannah herself is so involved in every episode, so alive in the flashbacks and the voice-over from the tapes that it easy to forget that she is, in fact, dead. As a viewer, you build a strong relationship with Hannah as every tape and every person involved is revealed. This is why the final episode of series one is so hard hitting. There is no spoiler alert here; we know from watching the trailer and from the first minute or so of the pilot episode that Hannah Baker takes her own life. But somehow, we almost forget that detail as she lives in every episode. In the final episode, we graphically witness the end to her life. This series is not for the faint-hearted. It is the hardest piece of fiction that I have ever watched, so much so that I don’t know if I could even put myself through the first season again. That said, it is such a powerful piece of storytelling and a needed insight into the reasons that can drive a person to die by suicide. Series two is now out on Netflix. I haven’t yet watched it, and I am not sure if I intend to. I feel that 13 Reasons said everything it needed to say in its first series. The tomato-meter backs me up here; with Series One scoring 81% and Series Two scoring a pitiful 27%. By this point, you may be slightly confused as to whether I am recommending this series or not. I am, wholeheartedly, but I am doing so with a warning that the story of Hannah Baker will stay with you because it so easily translates to friends and family that have left us.
Rotten tomatoes: 81% for Series 1, 54% overall Grow Talk: 👄 👄 👄 👄 👄
Atypical (2017-) popped up on my Netflix home page one evening and I didn’t think much more about it until scouring Netflix for the purpose of this article. Purely for research, of course, I decided to give it a watch. The series follows Sam, a teenager with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as he negotiates high school and tries to find his place in the world. I wasn’t quite sure how to feel after watching the first episode; there were fantastic comedic moments, well-thought out acting from Keir Gilchrist (Sam) and some important issues were highlighted in relation to ASD. Equally, there were points when the situations bordered on cliché and it felt that I was laughing at the boy with ASD rather than at the situations or the other characters involved. I persevered with the series and watched four consecutive episodes, warming increasingly to the characters and the exposition of their stories. There are some great comedic moments in this series and some really heartfelt ones too. However, there are times when it feels a little like a ‘How to’ guide to ASD, where Sam seems to have every well-known symptom with lots of mostly unnecessary expository dialogue for why he is doing what he is doing. One of the greatest triumphs of Atypical has to be Casey, Sam’s younger sister who is played by Brigette Lundy-Paine. She plays the role of Casey perfectly; she is so protective of her brother that at first we think she is the older sibling and Sam admits in the first episode “My sister doesn’t let anyone beat me up, except herself.” Their relationship and the shadow that Sam’s autism casts over Casey is enough to drive the series and make up for some of the faults mentioned above. It may not be the best Netflix offering, but I will be moving on to watch Series two (especially as it rated higher on the tomato-meter than Series one).
Rotten tomatoes: 81% Grow Talk: 👄 👄 👄
Ozark (2017-) is our editor, Joff-Alexander Frye’s, pick and centres around a financial advisor and his family who move from Chicago to the Missouri Ozarks. So far, so normal. Of course not. Head of the family Marty, played by Jason Bateman, must launder $500 million in five years to appease a drug boss. With its grey filters and lead actors Bateman and Laura Linney wearing worn and haggard expressions in the trailers and accompanying promotions, we know the tone for this series is dark and gritty. Bateman took to the other side of the camera to direct four episodes which were received well by critics. Having only just started watching the series, I am not in the best position to recommend it, so here are our editor’s reasons for clicking the play button:
“It’s paced really well. It does what every long-burn thriller should; lots of build up of tension and the occasional release. The timing of the writing is perfect. It is great to see Jason Bateman in a serious role. It could possibly be a little too bleak, but most of the time that doesn’t bother me. The plot isn’t easy to predict so you never quite know what’s going to happen next. The character of Ruth Langmore [acted by Julia Garner] is the perfectly written tragic heroine; you feel real compassion for her but she is also completely despicable. She is what Lady Macbeth would have been as a TV character. The role of the children in general is interesting. It feels like the kind of series that has longevity. The character arcs haven’t been exhausted so it feels that there is plenty more to come.”
Rotten tomatoes: 68% Grow Talk: 👄 👄 👄 👄
Stay tuned for our next instalment where we move on from ‘the good’ that Netflix has to offer to ‘the bad’; films and series to avoid clicking at all costs.
Photo by Erik Kossakowski on Unsplash