The fact that Criminal Minds and Fresh Off the Boat had their series finales last week and Supergirl had its 100th episode and we aren’t even talking about it shows what a wild period of Peak TV we live in. Our Honorable Mention list this week is also particularly long, because it’s hard to contain the number of shows we’re all enjoying right now. It’s a good problem to have!
The rules for the Power Rankings are simple: Any series on TV qualifies, whether it’s a comedy, drama, news program, animated series, variety show or sports event. It can be on a network, basic cable, premium channel, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube or whatever you can stream on your smart TV, as long as a new episode was made available the previous week—or, in the case of shows released all at once, it has to have been released within the previous four weeks.
The voting panel is composed of Paste editors and TV writers with a pretty broad range of tastes. We’re merciless: a bad episode can knock you right off this list. So much good TV is available right now.
Brooklyn 99 (NBC) Briarpatch (USA), Everything’s Gonna Be Okay (Freeform), Seven Worlds, One Planet (BBC America), Outlander (Starz), High Fidelity (Hulu), Hunters (Amazon Prime)
Last Week’s Ranking: 8
At the end of the first season of Narcos: Mexico—which tracked the rise of the Guadalajara cartel—we met our narrator, Walt Breslin (Scoot McNairy), who had just arrived in Mexico to carry out Operation Leyenda. It was a new breed of international meddling by the U.S. that ignored traditional methods to achieve its goals; in the first episode of the new season, we see Walt and his fellow drug enforcement agents kidnapping a doctor in Mexico and smuggling him back to the United States to be tried and convicted for being part of another agent’s murder. It sets the stage for what is essentially a U.S.-sanctioned vigilante group, as Walt continues to narrate and educate us on the political machinations in both America and Mexico that allowed for, encouraged, and profited from these operations.
Narcos: Mexico is smart, dense, and has a flare for the dramatic that keeps each episode interesting (and will have you, once again, running to Wikipedia to compare characters and events to their real-life counterparts). Cartel boss Félix’s (Diego Luna) machinations are truly brilliant, surprising his friends and enemies alike, and the show’s chronicling of these moves is extremely elegant and engrossing. But he’s always chasing a peace that cannot exist.
Narcos: Mexico’s 80s setting is full of big gold jewelry and flowing blouses and oversized sunglasses, but it never feels cartoonish. It just augments the sense of a world that is both more colorful and more dangerous than most dare to tread. As such, the difference between spending time with the plaza bosses and being back in the U.S. is visually striking. When we’re with Walt, colors become dull, interiors are dark, and Scott McNairy has never looked wearier. And yet, that cartel lifestyle is not glorified; it haunts and hurts its players. We remain on Walt’s side; its his dogged pursuit of getting justice for Kiki, and what happened in that house when Félix made the fateful decision to torture and kill him, that makes him heroic. He knows that the game is rigged, but he tries his damnedest to make it all matter anyway. —Allison Keene
Last Week’s Ranking: 9
It’s time to say goodbye to Netflix’s BoJack Horseman, and wow, what wacky adventures we’ve had with this cartoon horse, huh? So many shenanigans! Like the time he stole the D from the Hollywood sign, and the time he and his pals snuck into the Nixon Presidential Library to shoot a scene for a movie, and the time he nearly slept with the 17-year-old daughter of a longtime friend, and took a young woman on a bender that led to her dying of a heroin overdose, and traumatized his co-star by choking her on set while high out of his mind…
Watching and loving this show about the misdeeds of a former sitcom star who happens to be a cartoon horse has never been an easy experience. The animal puns, the clever rhymes, the savage moments of Hollywood satire—they’ve always been this show’s brightly-colored surface, a seductive cover for one of TV’s most raw shows about isolation and loneliness, and how those things can feed the darkness within us all.
Like all stories which set out to examine the morality of mortality, the ending was always going to be essential to really judging the series as a whole (which is why the choice to split the final season into two parts; was so frustrating). BoJack dying would have been easy. BoJack finding real redemption would have been easy. But BoJack Horseman has never been a show about the easy path—and when a character tries to take the easy path, it’s always a cautionary tale. So it’s to creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s credit that the series chooses an ending that feels incomplete, that brings with it some catharsis but plenty of untied threads. It’s a bit of a mess, but a mess that feels awfully appropriate.
But there’s perfection in those imperfections, a bravery in leaving behind some mess. And that’s really the thing: when a show like this ends, the question often becomes what did it leave behind? In the case of BoJack, it won’t be hard to remember the punnery and wit, the beautiful art design, or Character Actress Margo Martindale. But hopefully, its lasting legacy is the way it changed how we approach the genre of animation, and how it challenged us to really, really look at ourselves—to see the ugliness within, as well as the beauty, and acknowledge them as two sides of the same coin. —Liz Shannon Miller
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable Mention
Each season, USA’s The Sinner opens with a crime whose perpetrator is immediately revealed. The question is never a whodunnit, but instead asks why. And that, really, is at the core of why many of us enjoy crime dramas so much. The unraveling of the mystery is the thing, but The Sinner makes it all about the psychology of the crime; the mystery to unravel is embedded in the past of the person who committed this heinous act.
In the new season—the first three episodes of which were made available to critics—Jamie Burns (Matt Bomer) is an improbably handsome school teacher living in the suburbs of Dorchester, New York, whose wife (Parisa Fitz-Henley) is about to have a baby. This serene domestic veneer is almost immediately punctured by the arrival of Jamie’s college friend Nick Haas (Chris Messina), a moody and troubled man who makes Jamie uncomfortable by alluding to a complicated shared past. That night, the two are involved in a car wreck on a lonely stretch of road leading to the house of a painter (Jessica Hecht) with whom there is no obvious connection. Jamie lives, Nick does not, and while the scene looks like a tragic accident, Ambrose’s instincts push him to investigate it as a murder that takes him down a path of corrupted ideals and a toxic male friendship.
For drama fans (and crime drama fans in particular), The Sinner remains a very underrated anthology that always delivers a solid case with a great cast around it. It’s a good binge watch, but a worthy weekly exploration as well. Also, there’s Matt Bomer’s face, which really makes a case for itself. There’s no prior knowledge that’s really necessary to dive into the new series, but if you haven’t caught up, I would also recommend the first two seasons (currently streaming on Netflix). —Allison Keene
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable Mention
It feels like a miracle that Miracle Workers got a second season on TBS, but the fact that it’s as funny and strange as creator Simon Rich’s first oddball take on the afterlife should have comedy fans praising the heavens. This time around, Miracle Workers: Dark Ages (as the anthology series’ second entry is called) sets its hilarious cast in another setting well-worn by comedies with a British pedigree: The Middle Ages. Breakout Geraldine Viswanathan is a Shitshoveler—literally, it’s her last name—whose dad (Steve Buscemi) and local layabout prince (Daniel Radcliffe) are always getting her into something … when she’s not breaking the mold by trying to, say, read. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a good touchstone here, with everything from old-timey doctors to executions getting a light satirical jab. The humor is quick, witty, and understated, made even more unique by the brilliantly offbeat deliveries of its stars. If ever there was a show that felt like an Eddie Izzard stand-up routine turned into a series, it would be Miracle Workers, which continues to be both one of the smartest and delightfully dumbest shows on TV. -Jacob Oller
Last Week’s Ranking: 10
Last season, The Magicians made a bold choice to kill off the oft-presumed main character of this fantasy journey. Grief may have changed some viewers’ relationship to the show, but it hasn’t changed The Magicians. The show is still snappy fun in between magical crisis after magical crisis. The Magicians has always been about trauma, grief, and pain, and Season 4 continues that journey in a cathartic and touching way as characters process that death. Whether an individual viewer will want to watch will likely depend on how they have come to feel about his death. As Julia says in Season 3, “When things happen they leave a mark. Figuring out how to deal with it takes time.”
Characters keep trying, trying, trying to make themselves feel better when they just won’t. Margo and Eliot interact with an actual brick wall in Fillory, but they and the other characters also hit a metaphorical one. They must decide to either crash into their grief or let it go and run the other way. When something does go right and a character comes back unharmed, it felt like such a relief I could have laughed. When another decides to remember the truth instead of lying or ignoring the pain, it was a revelation.
Because it’s The Magicians, I’m sure the relief will be short lived. These bits of grace are a good reminder that life goes on, and the show must, too.—Rae Nudson
Network: The CW
Last Week’s Ranking: 4
For those weary of the Arrowverse or of superhero shows in general, Legends of Tomorrow remains an intoxicating breath of fresh air. The series began by assembling a ragtag crew of characters from elsewhere in the CW’s superhero universe, and while it was always a bonkers good time, it has grown into a series that continues—even into its fifth season—to surprise and delight as one of TV’s smartest. Filled with meta humor and history-tinged hilarity as our crew of sundries travel through time to stop demons, hellspawn, magical creatures, and other power-hungry baddies from altering the past, the series will often gut-punch you with incredible emotional storylines and reveals that illustrate how wonderfully deep it all really is. The writers and actors are all clearly having a good time, and viewers can’t help but mirror that positivity and excitement. As a show that is never afraid to mix things up, cut things that aren’t working, change up entire narratives, or replace old characters as alt-timeline versions of themselves, Legends of Tomorrow continues to reinvent itself and only get better as it goes. One of TV’s best kept secrets, it’s also one you really cannot miss. (You can catch up on previous seasons on Netflix, and use this guide to figure out where to start). —Allison Keene
Network: CBS All Access
Last Week’s Ranking: 5
The most important thing to know about Star Trek: Picard is that while bringing back one of the franchise’s most iconic characters might seem like a deliberate retreat to the past, the CBS All Access series is much more about the new: New characters, new mysteries, and a whole new era of the Trek universe to explore.
Set in the year 2399, almost 30 years after the end of Next Generation, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) has lost faith in the organization to which he had devoted his life. The show begins with him in retirement/retreat at the Chateau Picard vineyard in France, spending his days puttering around the vines with his trusty pitbull Number One, and his nights dreaming of lost friends and better times.
However, the arrival of Dahj (Isa Briones), a terrified young woman who seems to know him without knowing why, pulls him out of his self-imposed exile. To go into further detail about what happens would be to spoil the show’s biggest twists. This is not an adventure-of-the-week story, but instead a mystery that only gets more complex episode by episode. And while that mystery is deeply grounded in the show’s history, it is fresh and new enough to make Trek newcomers feel somewhat welcome.
Picard isn’t above moments of nostalgia but it also features a firm commitment to moving the franchise forward not just in time, but in what kind of stories Trek is capable of telling. This is a show that is more complicated and mature than what came before, but in the best ways, ways which do not discredit the past, but show it’s always possible to change and grow—whether you’re a 79-year-old man, or a 54-year-old franchise.—Liz Shannon Miller
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Ranked
The latest episode of Dynamite, the weekly show from the new wrestling promotion AEW, was about as successful a homecoming as anybody could hope for. It was their first show in Atlanta, the home of not just their TV network, TNT, but their top star and executive vice-president, Cody Rhodes. Cody didn’t let the moment go to waste: he capped off the show with a dramatic moonsault off the top of a cage, in the process winning AEW’s first cage match and guaranteeing him a match against his hated rival MJF at this weekend’s Revolution pay-per-view. As unforgettable as that moment might have been—and as heartwarming as Cody’s post-match homecoming speech was—it was merely the exclamation point to what had already been one of the best episodes of an American wrestling show in a couple of decades. It started with a meticulously laid out tag team battle royal that furthered a handful of storylines while giving almost every team in the company a chance to shine, featured a fine women’s match that segued into the best promo of women’s champion Nyla Rose’s career, and had a perfectly booked segment that tied together all the various feuds and angles involving Chris Jericho’s heel stable the Inner Circle. Add in a great hard-nosed match between Jon Moxley and the debuting Jeff Cobb, and a tag team bout where Kenny Omega and Hangman Page took on the Lucha Bros. in what might be the best tag match to air on TV this century, and you’ve got about as perfect a wrestling show as you’re going to get these days. AEW is firing on all cylinders as it heads into this Saturday’s Revolution pay-per-view, and there’s no reason to think they’ll slow down any time soon. —Garrett Martin
Last Week’s Ranking: Not eligible
It was only recently announced that Better Call Saul would be ending with its sixth season, though it wasn’t necessarily shocking news, given that with each passing year it’s been harder for one of TV’s best shows to ignore the future it’s been creeping towards. Season 5 is smart about how it acknowledges that, specifically in regard to increasing the Breaking Bad prequel’s engagement with what came canonically before but narratively after.
The final 13-episode season will mean that Saul will have run for 63 episodes, one more than Breaking Bad. Like everything else about this show, that was a deliberate choice. That said, Season 5 of Saul doesn’t necessarily feel like the beginning of the end. Instead, it’s more like the end of the beginning, given that after the events of the Season 4 finale, Jimmy McGill has now officially embraced the Saul Goodman identity—legally and professionally, at least.
Saul is the first persona we ever saw Bob Odenkirk wear in this universe, but thanks to the four seasons that have come before, we recognize it for the mask that it is. However, Jimmy seems to be getting more comfortable with wearing it, especially when this season pushes him to make some choices that prove reminiscent of his original introduction: In the words of Jesse Pinkman, “You don’t want a criminal lawyer… you want a ‘criminal’ lawyer.”
But Better Call Saul is a show whose fundamental foundation is built on the idea that every action has consequences, seen or unseen. In comparison to The Good Place, a show all about ethical debate, Better Call Saul isn’t searching for answers: The characters might debate ideas of moral relativism, but the sure and steady hand of creators Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan knows what is right and what is wrong—and it is never afraid to reveal what can happen when that line gets crossed. —Liz Shannon Miller
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
Very well known: The McDonald’s Monopoly game.
Less well known: The fact that there were almost no legitimate major prize winners during the game’s run in the 1990s.
In their fascinating six-part HBO documentary series McMillions (styled McMillion$), writers and directors James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte present a $24 million dollar crime that tangentially affected every one of us who purchased a cup or fry box with a Monopoly playing piece on it from 1989-2001. What starts as an anonymous tip to the sleepy Jacksonville FBI office turns into a twisty tale of greed and fraud that ultimately includes an undercover operation in Vegas. The best part of that last bit, in fact, is a shot of a white board in the reenactment that reads: “Vegas!! RUSE.”
It’s that kind of humor that helps keep McMillions driving pluckily along in its first three episodes, bolstered by archival footage of the video filmed as part of of the RUSE by the FBI, as well as nostalgic commercials and period-appropriate flourishes. Though this was not a victimless crime, the stakes do allow for a welcome playfulness in the series’ style, which also naturally extends to the interviewees involved in this sprawling plot. But while McMillions is a surprisingly fun examination of the con and the con men, it’s also a worthy portrayal of the toll that predatory offers take on those most vulnerable to their poisoned charms. —Allison Keene
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