Yes, we’ve already started preparing our Best of 2021 lists, primarily because we don’t want you missing out on any gems of series, but also because this first quarter’s harvest predicts a bumper crop this year. And boy, do we need 2021 to knock the ball out of the park.
1. It’s a Sin (HBO).
A group of homosexual friends form a second family in London in the 80s, at the beginning of the AIDS pandemic, in this magnificent tribute to the will to live despite the tragedy, resting squarely on the shoulders of a young and very promising cast and the mastery of Russell T. Davies deftly navigating an entire spectrum of emotions.
2. 22 de julio (Filmin).
This Norwegian miniseries about the attacks of July 22, 2011 does not focus on the perpetrator, but on the doctors, police and other first responders and the environment in which they were forced to work at the height of the national tragedy, in what is a bold and concise deconstruction of the idea of Norway “as the best country in the world”.
3. Calls (Apple TV+).
This anthology of unsettling mysteries played out entirely through a series of phone conversations skillfully exploits the power of suggestion and that which we cannot see. An adaptation of a French-language series that’ll send chills down your spine as it transports us to “The Twilight Zone” where the central mystery pans out brilliantly.
4. The Minister (Movistar+).
Icelander Ólafur Darri Ólaffson plays a presidential candidate who makes a surprising announcement that has audiences and voters eating out of his hand in this series that portrays the collective need to cling to a savior, regenerator of a political system we perceive as spent in the hands of a few.
5. The Serpent (Netflix).
The true story of murderer Charles Sobhraj brings us on a disturbing trip to Thailand that scrutinizes the vulnerability of the average Western tourist, shattering the fantasy of the traveler to exotic locations in search of what they lack at home. The deliberately slow pace is reminiscent of the last season of “Mindhunter” as the puzzle-like structure will hopelessly trap you in its web.
The dilemma faced by a social worker when a possible case of domestic abuse involving a teenage girl comes his way as he must decide who is telling the truth. A well-defined, blow by blow and detailed reconnaissance of the events from everyone’s point of view that pits individual rights against a state’s power to intervene. Slow-paced, as Nordic as it gets and with Danish actor Bjarne Henriksen at the helm.
7. Labyrinth of Peace (Filmin).
Swiss miniseries and a highly critical portrayal of the country’s role in the period post-World War 2. Through the story of three characters, the series highlight the contradictions of a country that welcomed refugees from concentration camps while at the same time served as a refuge for Nazi deserters, casting doubt on their supposed neutrality.
8. Small Axe (Movistar+).
Steve McQueen’s anthology of racism suffered by the Afro-Caribbean community in London in the 60s, 70s and 80s is remarkable for many reasons; the varied tone and style of the series showcases how racism can be expressed in many different ways and can develop into a host of incongruous types of stories. The jewel in the crown is ‘Lovers Rock’, which narrates a love story on a night out while conserving the tenacity of its social condemnation.
9. Lupin (Netflix).
Popcorn entertainment that hits the spot with the choice of actor Omar Sy, principally because his character of this aspiring-admirer of Arsène Lupine fits him like a glove. A mixture of impossible scenarios our protagonist resolves using his skill and social issues around racism and class difference rooted in the character’s origin.
10. WandaVision (Disney+).
The ingenious and surprising fusion between sitcom and superhero, well rooted and justified by the pivotal moment in the life of Wanda’s character, has brought some well-needed fresh air to MCU productions. Warts and all, ‘WandaVision’ sidesteps the generic and challenges everything you might have expected from a series about superheroes.