Streaming services, cable TV and Primetime television are fighting for your viewership now more than ever. UNBINGED is here to help you weed through it all, with reviews of the latest shows that highlight what we love, what we hate and what we love to hate-watch, too.
Supernatural series featuring teens and tweens are hotter than ever thanks to the success of shows such as Wednesday, Stranger Things, Teen Wolf, and whatever the hell was going on in the last couple of seasons of Riverdale.
Superpowers and super drama are in high demand but high quality can still be elusive. Right now, there’s a monster mash of paranormal thrillers out there, many featuring young adults. From spore-infected monsters to ghosts and werewolves, we take a look at The Last of Us, Wolf Pack, and Lockwood & Co. — shows in which the kids are far from alright, even if the shows are so much more.
Over the past few years -or at least since The Sopranos was the show of the moment- an argument has been made regarding the quality of television vs. theatrical releases. It can be a heated discussion between critics, Film Twitter, and Redditors, and both sides have compelling entertainment to make their cases. But if there was ever an example of exceptional, elevated television that surpasses most film offerings, it would be HBO’s The Last of Us. Thanks to creator Neil Druckmann and Chernobyl writer Craig Mazin, HBO has managed to produce more prestige television, only this time, from an unlikely source: a video game about zombies.
For those unfamiliar, The Last of Us follows Joel (played by Pedro Pascal) as he attempts to escort 14-year-old Ellie (Game of Thrones’ Bella Ramsey) through an apocalyptic wasteland once known as America. Civilization was destroyed once spores evolved to infect humans, turning them into fungi symbiotes with an instinct to kill. Traveling the open road and despite the dangers of man and monsters, Joel attempts to bring his ward to the Fireflies, the rebel group who believes Ellie’s immunity to the spores is the key to human survival.
Now granted, HBO can’t take all of the credit for the spectacular storytelling. The Last of Us was an engaging game before Home Box Office ever got their hooks into it. But due to the talents of its cast and writers, the story flourished, transforming the riveting tale from an absorbing adaptation to an astonishing one. The character relationship between Pascal and Ramsey is especially effective, as their bond grows from episode to episode. In fact, it seems each week The Last of Us is determined to destroy viewers emotionally, telling stories that can soften the most hardened heart.
There is no better example of this than the love story in episode three, titled “Long, Long Time.” In the game, the tale of Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) is part of a small backstory tinged with sadness. But on the show, the two have a life and a love together that is, without exaggeration, perhaps one of the most beautiful hours of television ever produced.
With The Last of Us, HBO turns an already well-crafted story into an exhilarating and engrossing saga filled with gut-wrenching moments and truly terrifying twists that keeps viewers at the edge of their seats. This show is raising the bar not just for adaptations and horror series, but for television as a whole. Let’s hope it can keep up the momentum and live up to real and raw fear and feeling it’s brought to the screen so far. This week, episode 7 (see preview above) airs on Feb. 26; the season finale (episode 9) airs on March 12 so there’s still time to join the fungi fandom. Don’t be the last of them.
After a fire causes all sorts of vicious varmints to come scurrying out of the Angeles National Forest, the craven critters take aim at a bus full of high school kids, eating and biting their way through the madding crowd. When a small group of students survive the beastie love bites, they form a psychic bond with new fanged friends as the teens morph into monsters.
The ragtag group of high schoolers include Everett (Armani Jackson), an “inside kid” with awful, awful parents and a whopping case of anxiety, and Blake (Bella Shepard), a tough chick with all the family issues. Joining them are siblings Luna and Harlan Briggs (Chloe Rose Robertson and Tyler Lawrence Gray), two foundlings with full moon fever of their own. Together, the gang form a reluctant pack as they look for answers.
Created by Teen Wolf‘s Jeff Davis, Paramount+’s Wolf Pack is the streaming service’s attempt to rouse a younger audience who might not be interested in Yellowstone. To help their efforts, they got former vampire slayer Sarah Michelle Geller to trade in her stakes for a badge as LAFD Investigator Kristin Ramsey, one of the few likable adults on the show. Almost every person over the age of 30 is an asshole, an idiot, or in the way but along with Geller, there’s Rodrigo Santoro as Garrett Briggs as Luna and Harlan’s dad who found them as mere pups.
Though many of the characters are pulled from the YA handbook on how to create a diverse high school friend group (a tomboy, a nerd, a popular jock, etc.) Wolf Pack has a lot more blood, guts, and cussing than one would expect from a teen romp. Even with a wealth of well-worn tropes, the carnage gives the drama some bite.
Teens with unique abilities are tapped to fight ghosts sans the help of a talking dog or caring adults of any kind. And though viewers are quite familiar with the concept of monsters and meddling kids, Netflix’s Lockwood & Co. offers an absorbing mix of both, especially for those who are eagerly awaiting a return to Wednesday’s Nevermore Academy or Stranger Things’ Hawkins.
Based on the books by Jonathan Stroud, Lockwood exists in a universe in which ghosts are normalized, thanks to an event known as “The Problem,” when spirits began appearing and causing issues for everyday folks. And since phantoms are now part of daily life, so are telekinetic teens who must battle the boogeymen. Thus, there are now a plethora of ghost-hunting investigative agencies made up of indentured families, troubled kids, runaways, and bullies who battle the specters, spirits, and all things that go bump in the middle night.
At the heart of the series is Lockwood & Co. a small agency led by Anthony Lockwood (Cameron Chapman) and consisting of Lucy (Ruby Stokes), a teen with listening abilities, and George (Ali Hadji-Heshmati), a young curmudgeon who acts as the brains of the agency.
Stepping out from her underutilized role as Francesca Bridgerton, Stokes does well as the show’s lead, creating sympathy for Lucy, a young woman with a traumatic childhood thanks to her unusual gifts and an avaricious mother. Everyone on the show is pulling their own weight equally, but the most compelling aspect of the series is the universe it creates, in which adolescent ghost hunters are regimented and have become an important part of society.
In addition to its impressive world-building, Lockwood & Co. also nails the tone. Moments of horror hit right thanks to the acting chops of the young cast, while the delightful decision to use songs from Bauhaus, The Cure, Siouxsie & The Banshees and other eerie alt rock ballads give the show a proper ambience. These elements allow Lockwood & Co. to sidestep tired cliches regarding mystery-solving teens by creating a unique mood that sets it apart from other youth-oriented thrillers.
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