There is a battle brewing, and it is being fought by streaming services, cable TV and primetime television. If you are too weak to resist, UnBinged is here to help you. This week, a mixed bag of youthful angst, audacious animation and dark fantasy.
Rick and Morty | Cartoon Network
It’s been two years since we’ve been thrown into an existential crisis by an animated show on break, but with wait over and the fourth season of Rick and Morty in full swing (though it just went on break, the creators promise more in the new year) we feel satisfied. The Adult Swim cartoon is not really for kids (which means, of course, they love it). Focusing on horny scientist grandpa Rick Sanchez and his stressed-out, inquisitive grandson Morty, their dysfunctional family and their intergalactic adventures, the show has continued a manic, mind-bending momentum that represents what made it a cult hit, with new storylines featuring jewel heists, a monster Morty and evil app-building.
Part of what makes Rick and Morty a great show is that it understands world building. For example, there is a creature named Mr. Meeseeks who only lives to serve a person’s every whim. He also comes in a Kirkland off-brand version which will do the same task, but is kind of a dick. Rick and Morty’s genius is the way it introduces new ideas into its fictional world, relating novel concepts to stuff familiar to the viewer. Like shitty Kirkland products.
There are also the darker moments on the show that give it depth. Characters reflect on themes of loneliness and the futility of life quite a bit, and it all makes a lot of sense. Like the final twist of a dagger, these moments of introspection at the end of an episode, are intense and deep, even if the episode is about shy pooping.
The absurdity of this mixture is what fuels the ingenuity of Rick and Morty. It is a balance of observational anecdotes and dark subject matter delivered by means of a curmudgeon cartoon character. Add some of the dirtiest jokes this side of the galaxy and fans will continue to follow these two into many worlds to come.
The End of the F***ing World | Netflix
In its second season, we are reunited with budding psychopath James and the slightly sociopathic Alyssa and everything is great — for us, the audience, anyway. For James and Alyssa, it’s another series of painfully awkward moments filled with heartbreak and regret.
When we last saw our heroes, James was shot and Alyssa was blonde. Two years later, James is far from the scary teenager from the pilot. If he lacked feelings before, he’s now making up for it in spades. Alyssa, on the other hand, has plateaued emotionally due to her inability to find any type of support after her assault.
But this time around, the focus of World is not just on James and Alyssa. They share the spotlight with Bonnie, a would-be assassin who has Alyssa in her crosshairs. It appears that prior to his career as a rapist and a corpse, the professor who assaulted Alyssa managed to manipulate Bonnie into performing bad acts for the sake of love. His death drove her off the deep end and now she is set on revenge.
The End of the F***ing World is more than a quirky show with quirky characters doing quirky things to quirky music. It is a series of genius moments wrapped in sarcasm and delivered at neck-break speed with a love story. What makes the series a true stand out are the characters, who share themselves completely thanks to the narration of their inner dialog. Viewers are given insight into every bad decision and terrible mistake. We cannot help them, but we cannot turn away from their despair either.
And fuck, is it funny. Agonizing and strangely poignant in one moment, then absurd and hilarious the next. It is wonderful to sink into the abyss with these characters as they help you embrace your dark side.
His Dark Materials | HBO
Adapting Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is an epic undertaking, even for the channel that brought us Game of Thrones. An effort to adapt the book series was made 12 years ago with The Golden Compass, but the potential franchise collapsed under the weight of its own importance. Back for a second try, HBO will attempt to foster the epic saga as a series, thus giving the story time to develop.
Headlined by James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Dafne Keen as Lyra, the fantasy drama takes place in world where the steampunk aesthetic hasn’t become a banal cliche used to represent the future. It is a world ruled by prophecies, witches, portals, CGI animals with British accents, and delicate brass detailing attached to everything that isn’t a CGI animal with a British accent.
And while the performances are good and the world is visually striking, the series commits the same cardinal sin that Compass did — it takes itself too seriously. It piles the viewer with so much information that it burdens the entertainment of the show. Taking the SATs were less demanding. For those already familiar with the source material, His Dark Materials is fine, but it could’ve done a better job of sorting out the saga and infusing new life into the material.