Rollo Tomasi’s Top Ten TV Shows of 2017
The 2017 television season was a year of surprise, with some TV shows evolving (in the characters they presented and/or in a show’s writing), while others made a slow, melancholy decline (the latter pertaining to The Walking Dead). Like any TV season year, not every television show met our expectations (The Gifted, Salvation). Some TV shows far exceeded what we thought they would be (The Handmaid’s Tale). Some new TV series premieres were hidden gems (Star Trek: Discovery). Other shows were subtle surprises (Fear the Walking Dead). A few were tragic disasters (Homeland, The Mist).
The TV shows that I have listed below are TV series that were fulfilling to me in some way, shape, or form. I like in TV series what I like in a great book: a creative narrative, three dimensional characters, strong character arcs, and all the other regalia of a fully-formed, thoughtful creation.
Rollo Tomasi’s Top Ten TV Shows of 2017
Personality growth, new, intriguing characters brought into the series, escalating tensions, and a extremely clever ploy in the final two episodes of the season were just some of the highlights present in the Second Season of Billions.
Acting Axe Capital CIO Taylor Amber Mason (Asia Kate Dillon) was a revelation for the series and season. From the moment Dillon’s non-binary analyst showed up, she was instantly captivating in the way she spoke, looked, and carried herself (not to mention her intellect).
Taylor was a proto-version of Robert “Bobby” Axelrod (Damian Lewis), idealistic, but just as smart, a foil that Axelrod’s character could play off of. Through their working relationship, the viewer could see how far Axelrod had grown as a finance professional and how far he had sunken morally.
The chess match between Bobby and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Charles “Chuck” Rhoades Jr. (Paul Giamatti) throughout the season was very good, coming to a head in the final two episodes where Bobby had finally been outsmarted by his nemesis and Bobby knew.
Star Trek: Discovery was the surprise of the 2017 TV season in more ways than one. The first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery were shaky. As soon as Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) was sentenced to life in prison for mutiny, the fledgling Star Trek series took a dramatic new turn i.e. Burnham had actually committed the crime she was accused of. It wasn’t one of those reversal, one-off episodes that Star Trek is famous for (or infamous for *cough* Year of Hell *end cough*, depending on who you talk to).
What Star Trek has needed, what the entire Star Trek universe has needed for a long time, were creative breaths of fresh air.
Through Burnham’s crime and other elements, Star Trek: Discovery was given that in droves. It was the little things: a science vessel, a mentally unstable captain that formerly killed his entire crew, profanity, on-screen blood-shed, quirky characters, Klingons that actually spoke Klingonese almost all the time, etc. that eventually drew in even the most jaded Trek fan.
Mindhunter: Season 1: Episodes 1-10 was
the best crime TV season released on television since the first season of True Detective and the first three seasons of The Killing. Mindhunter was released into a law enforcement, procedural TV landscape but only a small portion of it was a law enforcement procedural. The criminals in Mindhunter, for the most part, had already been apprehended, sentenced, and some had already been incarcerated for years.
Instead of trying to get into the heads of criminals to get them to confess, the FBI special agents in Mindhunter spent the majority of their time trying to draw out the inner workings of the criminals’ minds. Doing so had a myriad of side-effects, some good, some bad, and some almost insidiously undetectable.
Read my full review for the season here.
Fear the Walking Dead finally found then lost its footing again in its Third Season. It found its footing through Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey), the harrowing situations that she found herself in, what she did for and to other people, and her decision-making towards the end of the season.
Fear the Walking Dead: Season 3 lost its footing when it came to Troy Otto (Daniel Sharman). He murdered a family, got banished, led a walker herd back to camp, murdered hundreds of people, and then Nick Clark (Frank Dillane) protected him. It was so far-fetched and unbelievable that it made Nick, Troy, and what Troy had just done into a joke. No one would defend Troy after he just selfishly lashed out at the camp that banished him (showing him mercy) and killed everyone.
If the goal was to keep Troy alive i.e. some part of the Otto Ranch still part of the show, the writers of Fear the Walking Dead should have found a different way than using the inexplicable.
Even with that albatross around its neck, Season 3 of Fear the Walking Dead was the best season of the series thus far. Season 3 of Fear the Walking Dead was also better (by leaps and bounds) than the first half of Season 8 of The Walking Dead.
I never thought that I would say this but I missed Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall (Tobias Menzies)’s presence during Season 3 and the cloud that he cast over almost everyone he came into contact with, including the series’ two lead characters. The dual timelines and Geillis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek) in Season 3 of Outlander made up for it, for the most part, but it wasn’t quite the same without Black Jack lurking in the shadows. A protagonist is only as good as his villain or the obstacle they face.
“Mark me,” because of Black Jack, or in-spite of him, Claire Beauchamp Randall/Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) and James “Jamie” MacKenzie Fraser (Sam Heughan) were more than up to the challenges they faced in Season 3 (some rather daunting) after having faced dear old Jack for three seasons.
No season of The Americans has dropped the drama ball or the high bar set during its first season. The Americans‘ fifth season was no exception. On the contrary, during its penultimate season, the viewer got to know even more about the Elizabeth Jennings / Nadezhda (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings / Mischa (Matthew Rhys), especially Philip, and how they had changed from their previous incarnations.
Philip and his daughter’s change were pronounced and drove the at home and spy drama of Season 4. What fan of The Americans‘ isn’t looking forward to what Philip and Paige Jennings (Holly Taylor) evolve into by the season and series end of The Americans when Season 5 comes to a close. My prediction: Philip steps down from the true family business and Paige steps up.