Kristen Stewart’s character has an interesting relationship with the camera in Personal Shopper. She’s at one point subdued, reserved, the camera lingering on the mundanity of her movements and watching as she slides into the shadows while still in plain sight. She’s at one point anxious, terrified to her core, not only because of the supernatural happenings around her but also because of what sees in herself. She’s at one point naked, physically and emotionally, grappling with the past and feeling immense guilt about her future. It’s an excellent performance and a fascinating illustration of grief, and Stewart is thoroughly able to handle everything she is asked to do.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Search Party, Westworld, Atlanta, You’re the Worst, The Night Of, Narcos, Game of Thrones, Mr. Robot, Stranger Things, Better Call Saul
OTHERS CONSIDERED: Shameless, The Crown, New Girl, Masters of Sex, Transparent, UnREAL, Angie Tribeca, Silicon Valley, Penny Dreadful, OITNB, Orphan Black, Archer, Lady Dynamite, Banshee, The Night Manager, Girls, Childrens Hospital, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Togetherness, iZombie, Billions, Hap and Leonard, 11.22.63, Daredevil, IASIP, Love, The X-Files, The Affair, And Then There Were None, The Path, The Last Man on Earth
15. Fleabag – At only six episodes long, season one of this dark comedy still packed a big punch. Phoebe Waller-Bridge was terrific, turning what could’ve been an annoyance (fourth wall breaking) into an asset for the show.
The opening sequence of Fences is a propulsive blend of various themes, characters, and exposition. It’s a high-wire act that shifts tones and topics with ease, and it sets up the situation skillfully while Denzel talks as if his mouth just took a shot of adrenaline. It’s energetic and entertaining, and it has you wondering if this energy can sustain itself throughout the entire 138-minute runtime.
Once again, I’ll be counting down the best of the year, and I might even add songs and albums to the list of lists. Stay tuned.
Honorable Mentions: John Lithgow and Claire Foy from “The Crown”, Kristen Bell and Ted Danson from “The Good Place”, Rami Malek from “Mr. Robot”, Wagner Moura from “Narcos”, Will Arnett from “Bojack Horseman”, Eva Green from “Penny Dreadful”, the ensemble of American Crime, Millie Brown from “Stranger Things”, Gillian Jacobs from “Love”, Hugh Laurie from “The Night Manager”, Hugh Dancy and Aaron Paul from “The Path”, Brian Tyree Henry from “Atlanta”, Lena Headey from “Game of Thrones”, Maria Bamford from “Lady Dynamite”, Ellie Kemper and Tituss Burgess from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, Alia Shawkat from “Search Party”, Rashida Jones from “Angie Tribeca”
Top 5 Ensembles (in no particular order – doing “best ensembles” because it’s hard to single people out from these shows and because they truly deserve ensemble recognition)
Rectify: At the beginning of the series, it was Abigail Spencer and Aden Young who stood out, but at the end, it was a fully realized group of characters driven by incredible performances all around. One conversation between any two of these characters could reduce you to a puddle of tears.
“You gotta figure out some way to love yourself.”
Rectify is minimalist but profound. It’s about figuring out how the hell to live life, how to find hope amidst all the curveballs life throws at you. It’s not about whether Daniel killed Hanna; it’s about how that murder and subsequent events change the way Daniel interacts with himself and the world. As he says early on in “A House Divided”, it’s all just “a work in progress”. In fact, that’s all it ever was and ever will be, and Rectify understands that idea. Ray McKinnon and co. find compelling drama and quiet beauty in simple life stories, and that’s what helps this series strike a chord that very few shows can.