When it comes to entertainment media, whether it’s games or TV, I live for the big moments. Those points in which the entire experience comes together to produce a feeling of such rightness that it cannot be ignored. If I can look back over a year and remember many of these kinds of moments, I know it was a great year for entertainment. As 2017 fades behind us, I can say without a doubt that it was one of the best years I’ve ever had.
In the spirit of the year’s end, I will be highlighting 20 of my absolute favorite moments and experiences from entertainment in 2017. I started with my top six gaming experiences, and this second piece will feature TV. Whether you already know these shows and want to share in another consumer’s perspective, or if you’ve yet to try them and want to know what there is to like, I hope you enjoy the list.
Broadchurch – A Case Study on Sexual Assault
I don’t do cop shows. I started watching Broadchurch because ex-Doctor David Tennant starred, but I stayed because the show is primarily neither a whodunit nor a workplace drama. Over its first two seasons, rather than just solving a murder, Broadchurch depicted the effects of the murder of a child on an entire culture – in this case, the culture of a small coastal town in southern Great Britain.
In its third and final season, Broadchurch tackled a different grim reality: rape. Even with a new crime, the show kept its focus of portraying the far-reaching effects on the town and beyond. Everyone is affected: the victim, her family and friends, the local newspaper editor, the town vicar, the women and men on the police force (in different ways), the suspects, the suspects’ families, and many others. Each character, whether major or minor, has his own struggle in the fallout of this vicious crime, and each is given enough screentime for the struggles to resonate.
Countless aspects of this heart-wrenching reality are examined. Previous victims explain why they haven’t come forward. Tennant’s character, Detective Inspector Hardy, grapples with shame at the male sex in the face of such brutality. The grieving mother of the first two seasons becomes the victim’s main emotional support, and she must learn to help others through trauma while still combatting her own. The depth and breadth of the character arcs and intense, real issues this season presented left me astounded and thoughtful.
Broacdchurch‘s final season was probably not the most purely entertaining bit of TV I watched in 2017, though it was far from bad in that department. Instead, Broadchurch told us the truth: the ugly, uncomfortable truth that we’d rather not see. It also told us some other truths: things can get better. People can be better. For these and many other reasons, Broadchurch season 3 was my favorite television experience of the year.
Stranger Things 2 – Dustin and Steve
The return of Netflix phenomenon Stranger Things last Halloween was not the most poignant or emotionally stirring TV experience I had in 2017, but it was among the most downright pleasurable things I was able to watch. The pure entertainment value of the series comes largely from its excellent cast of characters. Two of those were particularly enjoyable this time around.
Season 1 centered the party member dynamic on Mike, but season 2 saw Gaten Matarazzo’s Dustin rise to the forefront. Adorable and self-sufficient in equal amounts, Dustin takes charge with more frequency, and the results are both hilarious and impressive. My favorite moment of the season comes when Dustin puts Mike’s useless father in his place. I cackled unashamedly. Underneath the bravado, Dustin also has his tender moments, including some interactions with our next MVP: Steve.
The Duffer Brothers had an impressively long-range plan for Steve’s character development. Through the entirety of season 1, Joe Keery’s character was 65% asshole, 30% useless tool, and 5%… something more. That spark of intrigue was so small that I had forgotten about it by the time I saw Steve again in season 2, and I think that was the desired effect. It isn’t until Steve starts to show more of his potential as a human being that you remember he always had a little of it in him. Through interactions with the boys, especially Dustin, and a growing sense of clarity about his role in Nancy’s life, Steve comes to a sense of purpose and acceptance that was incredibly fulfilling to watch.
Between Dustin’s rising dominance and Steve’s satisfying development, Stranger Things season 2 amazed me again with its ability to maneuver its excellent characters in one of the best TV shows of the year.
Little Witch Academia – A Joyous Finale
Little Witch Academia is one of those lighthearted anime that have you smiling incessantly. In fact, it’s a masterclass on how to execute that style successfully. Its final episode thus far, “Changing at the Edge of the World,” could not have been a more triumphant and satisfying season finale.
The show’s biggest strength is its wide-eyed protagonist, Akko, and her relationships with the rest of the cast. Sure, the bonds of friendship is an extremely common theme in anime, but Little Witch Academia is more about optimizing the wheel than reinventing it. After 24 episodes of forging friendships, chasing a childhood idol, inspiring a young man to find his compassion, and clashing with a far superior rival, Akko brings all of her experiences to a head in a climactic episode that made me sigh with contentment. While the plot is interesting and serviceable, the show is not afraid to focus on the power of faith, hope, and friendship at the expense of a little realism. For something like Little Witch Academia, that tradeoff works just fine for me.
Full kudos to Yoh Yoshinari for creating such a joyful and captivating experience in Little Witch Academia.
Note: Netflix splits the episodes into two seasons, but the original show in Japan keeps them together as one season.
The Flash – “Runnin’ Home to You”
Warning: The Flash season 3 spoilers ahead
This is a unique entry because it’s a piece of music (the subject of my next section) that comes from a TV show. As a fan of The Flash, this song meant a lot within the show itself, but I’m truly including it on this list based on its musical merit. But let me explain.
Grant Gustin, an ex-Glee member, was told early in his tenure as the Scarlet Speedster that he may one day be called upon to sing. As more and more musically gifted actors and actresses joined the CW’s DC universe, it was decided that March 2017 would feature a musical episode. Despite the star-studded crossover cast, the musical episode “Duet” was mostly a silly, poorly written disappointment. Until the final minutes, that is.
The producers brought in the writers from the 2016 hit movie musical La La Land to write Gustin a love song. As the musical episode reached its conclusion, Barry Allen proposed to Iris West (as it should be, always) by singing the newly written “Runnin’ Home to You” for the first time. I’ve never rushed to buy a song from iTunes so quickly.
Gustin perfectly delivers this beautifully written love song in such a way that it works equally well independent of the show. “Runnin’ Home to You” tells the story of a man who has decided that, regardless of what trouble and pain await him in the future, he knows exactly where he wants to spend the rest of his life: beside the woman he loves. There’s nothing complicated going on here, but it couldn’t be sweeter.
Some of Caleb’s earliest memories involve watching his father battle Ganon in A Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo. Since then, his love of gaming has steadily grown, along with a passion for the written word. When not playing games or writing, Caleb can be found watching Doctor Who reruns, finding Star Wars plot elements in everything, or loudly explaining the history of the Elves. They never let him finish…