I’m not too proud to admit that I watch a shit-ton of television. Yes, I know I should be doing other things, but dammit, there’s a lot of great stuff to watch out there. This is literally a Golden Age of television. So, yeah, I watched way too much television in the past year and the majority of it was pretty freaking good. Of course, this means that in order to recap the best of 2019, I had to do some creative thinking with regards to how to group these shows in batches of seven. Which basically means, if you don’t see a show you think should be represented, give it a few days. It’s probably on another list.

Next up, here’s my Psycho 7 list of my seven favorite 2019 Final Seasons of a television series, in no particular order. Most of these are shows that could have – or should have – run for years to come, while others wrapped up their stories and called it a night.


Into the Badlands

Created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar and debuting in 2015 on AMC, Into the Badlands was like no other show on television. Set in a post-apocalyptic world that had abandoned guns and restructured itself as a feudal society where Barons control states with armies of warriors called Clippers, every episode featured explosive martial arts sequences that somehow, over 32 episodes, never got boring. The main character, Sunny (Daniel Wu), is the head, and deadliest, clipper for the Badlands’ most powerful baron, Quinn (Martin Csokas). Thrown into this mix is a mysterious boy named M.K. (Aramis Knight) who becomes a black-eyed unstoppable warrior whenever his blood is shed, and therefore a living weapon desired by everyone in power, and the newest baron, The Widow (Emily Beecham), a violent revolutionary with an army of her own formed from her late husband’s barony.

Plus, it features Nick Frost as the morally questionable warrior Bajie! Nick Frost doing intricate martial arts fight sequences for the win!

The first two seasons focused on Sunny’s disillusionment with leading Quinn’s clippers, his desire to flee the Badlands with his secret lover and their illegal child, against a backdrop of political intrigue, backstabbing, and raging martial arts battles. The third season, which began in 2018, split into two eight-episode halves with the final set of episodes premiering last year to rapidly diminishing ratings. By the time the series finally closed up shop, there was barely a million viewers each week, with more than half of those DVRing to watch later.

Which is a crying shame, because the third season really opened up the world with the arrival of Pilgrim (Babou Ceesay), his high priestess, Cressida (Lorraine Toussaint), and their army of followers, determined to reshape the Badlands into a paradise modeled after their long lost homeland, Azra (that’s a whole other story). The introduction of Pilgrim allowed the creators to explore Sunny’s forgotten childhood, to expand the mysticism that lay at the core of the various fighting styles, and to free the Badlands from the rule of the barons. Alliances shifted as The Widow fights alongside Sunny and M.K. (after discovering the truth about the murder of his family) joins Pilgrim against his former friends.

The finale was as brutal and final as could be expected in a show that made its name on brutally violent and bloody martial arts fights, while still allowing for the possibility of a return, as well as a last-minute revelation of a potentially deadly future. Into the Badlands was always stylish and daring, never boring or safe, and every single episode was a gloriously colorful love letter to classic Hong Kong, Korean, and Japanese action films.


Preacher

I never would have imagined that Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s classic comic Preacher would ever make it the big screen, much less be adapted to television. But then along came AMC, Seth Rogan (yes, that Seth Rogan), Sam Catlin, and Evan Goldberg. Preacher, the television series, took a while to really get moving, opting to veer from the comic’s opening storyline and instead build up to the moment when Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga), and the vice-addicted vampire Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) took their road trip across America in search of a God (Mark Harelik) who has abandoned Heaven.

The comic was about as sacrilegious and offensive as humanly possible, and the television series ultimately represented itself fairly well in those categories, particularly with the introduction of Hitler (Noah Taylor), Herr Starr (Pip Torrens), and Humperdoo (Tyson Ritter), the last living descendent of Jesus Christ (also played by Ritter). Along for the ride, we also got very nice interpretations of iconic characters Arseface (Ian Colletti) and the Saint of Killers (Graham McTavish).

The series had, from the very opening minutes of the pilot, a freewheeling and idiosyncratic visual style and the combination of Cooper, Negga, and Gilgun was perfect. In the fourth and final season, their battle against the Grail (the religious organization prepping for the apocalypse) and God Himself took twists and turns that were hard to predict. Preacher on TV was ultimately a very different beast than Preacher, the comic, particularly when it came to Cassidy’s character development, but it was still one of the most interesting and daring shows on television.

And seriously, that final scene was about as perfectly heartbreaking as it could have been.


Happy

Speaking of interesting and daring, in December 2017, Syfy premiered an adaptation of Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson’s three-issue mini-series Happy, about a cynical cop, an imaginary friend in the form of a tiny flying horse named Happy, and a child murderer dressed like Santa Claus. For the transition to television, the story was expanded, with Christopher Meloni playing disgraced police detective Nick Sax, Patton Oswalt voicing Happy, and Bryce Lorenzo as Nick’s kidnapped, estranged daughter, Hailey, who sends her imaginary friend Happy to find help.

Writer/creator Grant Morrison teamed up with Brian Taylor (one half of the creative team responsible for Crank and Crank 2) to create one of the most bizarre shows on television. The first season basically told the story of the comic, expanding it to explore Nick’s backstory, to introduce the Scaramucci crime family, headed by Mr. Blue (Ritchie Coster), the disturbed children’s entertainer Sonny Shine (Christopher Fitzgerald), and Nick’s nemesis, Smoothie (Patrick Fischler), Mr. Blue’s main enforcer.

Season Two, which aired last year, cranked (pun intended) the insanity up to eleven as Hailey deals with PTSD, Nick gets more and more violent and deranged, Happy explores his “dark side” with the help of other imaginary friends, Smoothie tries to take Nick’s place as Hailey’s father figure, Sonny Shine tries to make Easter the new Christmas with the help of his Teletubby-esque sidekicks, the Wishees, and Nick’s ex-wife Amanda (Medina Senghore) is pregnant and the baby’s father is a mystery. Sort of.

Oh, and Mr. Blue becomes possessed by Orcus, the Roman god of death.

“Weird Al” Yankovic, Amanda Palmer, and Jeff Goldblum cameoed this season as Nick took on elderly Nazis, leather-clad orgy participants, the security detail of Bebe Debarge – Sonny Shine’s wife – (played by Ann Margaret!!), Orcus’ army of escaped prison inmates, and the aforementioned Wishees, who may be the most disturbing creations I’ve seen on television in decades.

Turns out they are, in actuality, Lemures, creatures from the underworld who do the bidding of Orcus, helping people throughout history (including Cleopatra, Lincoln, JFK, and Princess Diana, among others) rise to fame so that Orcus can kill them and then feed on the grief of the generations of people who loved them.

Yeah. It’s that weird. Unfortunately, that was apparently just too weird for audiences. The ratings for the second season, while fairly consistent from start to finish, never broke a million viewers, sometimes barely hitting the half-million mark.


Deadly Class

Based on the comic book series of the same name by Rick Remender and Wesley Craig, Deadly Class was a fantastic pairing with Happy for Syfy. Set in the late 1980s, the comic follows a group of students at a private academy for assassins. The television series is an extremely literal adaptation, with Remender on-board developing and scripting half of the ten-episode run.

I can’t explain why this didn’t catch on. The high concept is brilliant. The casting was equally impressive with Benedict Wong, Henry Rollins, Christopher Heyerdahl, French Stewart, and Ice-T all playing supporting or guest roles. The only thing I can think of to explain why Syfy pulled the plug after a single season is that the characters are mostly unlikeable.

I mean, they’re training to be assassins, after all. The morality of every character is firmly in the gray, without a doubt. Benjamin Wadsworth heads the cast as Marcus Lopez Arguello, the newest recruit, brought to King’s Dominion after burning down (or did he?) the boy’s home where he lived. He ends up in a love triangle with Saya Kuroki (Lana Condor), the leader of the Kuroki Syndicate, and Maria Salazar (Maria Gabriela de Faria), a member of the Soto Vatos. Both girls have psychological issues to deal with and Marcus isn’t really emotionally equipped for anything they bring to the table. Their clique is rounded out by Willie Lewis (Luke Tennie), the leader of F.W.O. (First World Order) and Billy Bennett (Liam James), a punk rocker who is the son of a corrupt drug smuggling cop. The group must deal with classwork, exams, Japanese assassins, Mexican assassins, and a psychopath named Chester “Fuckface” Wilson (Tom Stevens), who is out for revenge against Marcus.

Yeah, Syfy decided recently to just let the f-bombs fly in pretty much every show and I’m okay with that.

Deadly Class had a distinctive look and each character got a lot of screen time, developing from what could have just been stereotypes into full-fledged three-dimensional characters by the season finale. It didn’t skimp on the violence or the adult language, and when paired with Happy, it made me believe that Syfy might be the place for Grant Morrison’s potential Invisibles series to find a home.

Now, after cancelling these shows, as well as most everything interesting in their lineup, I’m not so sure.


Lodge 49

Lodge 49 was about the most sublime and inspiring show on television in 2019, but nobody watched it, so after two short seasons, creator Jim Gavin had to close up shop. On its surface, Lodge 49 was simply about a childishly optimistic ex-surfer, Dud (Wyatt Russell), who has been drifting ever since his dad died and they lost the family surf shop. His sister, Liz (Sonya Cassidy) began the series working at a theme restaurant, over her head in debt, and generally unhappy with her life. Things began to change for the siblings, when in the first episode, Dud found a lodge ring on the beach, which ultimately led him to joining the Order of the Lynx – a local private lodge that had also fallen on hard times, bleeding members and on the verge of financial ruin.

Dud was reluctantly taken under the wing of Ernie (Brent Jennings), a knight of the lodge and a plumbing salesman in a downward career spiral, and introduced to what initially seem to be the esoteric and purely symbolic rites and rituals of the Order of the Lynx. However, as the series progresses, it turns out that there may be more truth to the legends of alchemy, mystical visions, and magical histories. Which is where we picked up with Season Two.

While there have been plenty of shows about poor people on television, especially in the realm of the sitcom, it’s rare for the shows to actually address the existential and psychological experience of being truly poor. In recent years, maybe Hap and Leonard has been the only other show to really dig into what it means to live paycheck to paycheck, but even there, we got a more adventure-driven take where there was always the possibility of a payday. With Lodge 49, all of our main characters are bottoming out in an economic climate that can only provide con games and empty promises for the future. Nobody’s jobs are secure. Nobody has any idea what tomorrow might bring. Everybody could be living on the street at any moment. In fact, many of the characters end up basically living in the old abandoned plant where they used to work, and finding relief only the warm bar of the Lodge.

And yet, while the show was almost always teetering on the verge of bittersweet tears, Lodge 49 also was extremely open to the magical potential of hope and friendship in the face of impending financial doom. There wasn’t another show last year that could make me laugh hysterically, cry like a baby, and end up feeling like there was a reason to get up in the morning, all in the course of a single episode.

And that final episode really left me craving another season, as it implied that magic might actually be real.

It will be missed by me, maybe more than anything else on this list.


Mr. Robot

Created by Sam Esmail for USA Network, Mr. Robot is a monumental success of individual vision. The fourth and final season aired from October to December, 2019, and wrapped up one of the most consistently superb narratives, from a scripting, acting, and directing standpoint, that we’ve ever seen on television. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it’s not. Mr. Robot was just that good, week in and out.

Part of the reason for this is that from Season 2 on, Sam Esmail directed every single episode, and wrote the majority of them. This was his baby from the start and regardless of what you thought about the show, it was distinctly Esmail’s vision on the screen. As is usual, the ratings dropped off each season, until with Season 4 the combined live and DVR’d viewership hovered around half a million, ticking upward as the finale approached. Despite this, Esmail retained control of how to tell his story and ended the series the way he wanted.

For those who’ve not sat down to check this out, Mr. Robot is about a computer hacker named Elliot Anderson (Rami Malek) who’s day job is working as a cyber security engineer. He is recruited by the anarchist group fsociety and their leader, Mr. Robot (Christian Slater). As the first season went on, we discovered that Mr. Robot was actually Elliot’s alternate personality, based on his father. His sister, Darlene (Carly Chaikin) was also a member of fsociety, and together they and a small group of hackers attempted to take down the evil corporate conglomerate, E Corp. The show has been praised for its technical accuracy by cyber security firms and services such as Avast, Panda Security, Avira, Kaspersky, and ProtonMail thanks to having a team of actual hackers and cyber security experts on staff as technical advisers.

I’d imagine a lot of viewers checked out after the first season reveal, as it borrowed heavily from Fight Club (which Esmail admits), however, rather than being the big plot twist at the core of the show, it turned out to really be just another tool in the way Esmail planned to tell his overall story. As the series went on, Elliot’s interactions with Mr. Robot became central to the development of his character and essential to the way he played off the other characters.

Season 4 took a deep dive into Elliot’s childhood and really drove home just how broken he’s been all along. There are other personalities at work and by the end, it seems we may never have actually met the real Elliot. But that’s what Esmail is working toward, set against a backdrop of global financial meltdown (and a hint of sci-fi apocalypse). Outside of the central cast, Mr. Robot also featured amazing performances from Martin Wallstrom as Tyrell Wellick, a leading figure with E Corp, and BD Wong as the mysterious and enigmatic trans woman who heads the cyber-terrorist group the Dark Army while also being China’s Minister of State Security.

Mr. Robot is a show that will reward repeated viewings and probably works best as a binge watch.


Legion

Series creator Noah Hawley took some of the capital he’d developed with FX from the success of his Coen Brothers’ inspired series Fargo, and crafted one of the most experimental and mind-warping Marvel Comics adaptations that we’ve ever had on either the small or large screen. Legion tells the story of Professor X’s mutant son, David Haller (Dan Stevens), who was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a child, but is actually possessed by the bodiless psychic monster, The Shadow King / Amahl Farouk (Navid Negahban). While in an asylum, David meets the love of his life, Sydney Barrett (Rachel Keller), a mutant who can trade bodies with anyone she touches, and Lenore “Lenny” Busker (Aubrey Plaza), a drug addict who is killed in the first episode but lives on as one of the Shadow King’s avatars inside David’s mind.

After escaping the asylum, David and Syd end up working with a group of mutants at a facility called Summerland, while doing battle with the nefarious government agency Division 3. Over the course of the first two seasons, Summerland and Division 3 ended up joining forces to stop the Shadow King’s physical manifestation, Amahl Farouk, from destroying the world. However, as the third and final season began, David is revealed to be the real threat to humanity – although Farouk is still a serious danger and an untrustworthy ally.

If you don’t like time travel stories, Season 3 won’t be for you. But if you do, holy moly is this one of the greats. David forms a psychedelic cult and uses the time traveling powers of a mutant named Switch (Lauren Tsai) to try to go back to when he was a child and stop the Shadow King from invading his mind. This means that we are introduced to a young Charles Xavier (Harry Lloyd) and a David who is willing to do just about anything, and pay any price, to maintain his power and reshape the world by erasing the timeline that we’ve been watching for two seasons.

It is about as batshit crazy as it could get and Dan Stevens does a fantastic job over the course of three seasons moving from a damaged and timid schizophrenic drug addict to awakening as a mutant super hero to transcending limitations to become a megalomaniacal world-threatening super villain. This is another one that went out on its own terms, telling the story Noah Hawley wanted tell, right up to the grand finale. It’s well worth a watch, and, as with Mr. Robot, probably plays better as a binge than it did waiting a week between episodes.

(Visited 57 times, 1 visits today)