Personal Favorite Television Shows of 2021

As I sometimes feel closer to television than with a cinema, I decided to post my recommendation list of the shows that were, for me, best this year. 2021 was a rich year for television. We’ve received many surprises. Many shows became beacons of hope and comfort for those deeply affected by the pandemic and overall state of the world.

I, too, discovered gems that greatly influenced how I perceive certain things. Moreover, the below positions brought me much-needed comfort, sometimes thrill, sometimes tears. Similar to my list of personal favorite films, the list is not ranked nor in any particular order. I haven’t had a chance to watch all the shows that the television offered us so treat this list as merely a suggestion and, sort of, a love letter to the shows that helped me survive this year, thrilled me, often shocked me, or thoroughly made me laugh.

What We Do In The Shadows: Season 3

FX Networks

After two hilarious seasons, the third season of What We Do In The Shadows maintains a steady pace while making us laugh all over. The cast and crew deliver even more ridiculous, humor-laced situations and character development. With its new season, it remains a magnificent, bloodthirsty spectacle of laughter and absurdity.

When we think of Staten Island, we can’t help but think of Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), Laszlo (Matt Berry), and Nandor (Kayvan Novak), who live there with an energy vampire, Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), and Nandor’s familiar and vampire enthusiast, Guillermo (Harvey Guillén). Following the shocking season 2 finale, the pack must deal with Guillermo’s brutal, albeit phenomenally coordinated vampire slaughtering who additionally turns out to be a descendant of the one and only Van Helsing. What does one do with someone who has killer instincts towards fangs in their blood?

What We Do in the Shadows maintains its momentum, with more entertaining adventures and engaging interactions for the audience. Season 3 unequivocally demonstrates that the series is one of those that never gets old. The characters of Berry, Demetriou, and Novak, as well as Proksch and Guillén progress and grow, taking us to places we’ve never seen them go before. You don’t want to miss it.

My full review here.

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 4

Hulu

The fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale brings the audience something that they’ve been waiting for—a taste of long-awaiting freedom, rebellion, and sweet revenge. The newest chapter delivers an utter satisfaction with characters evolving in a way that we’ve never seen before.

Each episode is filled with tension, often showcasing the rawness of the characters’ feelings. The creators take us outside the impenetrable walls to the outskirts of the country, where rebellion in the Southern and majority of Northwest and Northern District is alive and well. There are many people, rebels who actively fight against Gilead’s government. All the cards are on the table, and nobody is safe. Reunites ensue as well as heartbreaks that struck us into our seats and hold us there throughout the whole season. The Handmaid’s Tale is a television series that masterfully teaches us a lesson about the power of resilience. Although we’ve been reminded of it throughout three seasons, each new episode reminds us that the fight never ends. 

This season is unlike anything that we’ve seen before. Be ready for a wild, anxiety-filled rollercoaster that will leave you questioning your favorite characters and deeply realizing the damaging impact that Gilead leaves on its victims. 

My full review here.

Mare of Easttown

HBO Max

I’m sure that we all heard of Mare Of Easttown, if not through watching it, it’s certainly thanks to the sketch with Kate McKinnon on SNL.

When Easttown’s detective, Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet, Ammonite), is awakened by her elderly neighbor and informed of a prowler on the front yard, it’s just the start of the day straight from hell. She’s soon reminded of her long-lasting guilt when Dawn Bailey (Enid Graham, The Sinner), a woman battling cancer, goes on to the local tv and publicly demands answers regarding her missing daughter, Katie (Caitlin Houlahan). The young woman went missing a year ago, but the police never found anything. Young women continue to vanish, and a gruesome murder occurs as Easttown is rocked to its core. Mare joins forces with a county detective, Colin Zabel (Evan Peters, American Horror Story), to look into the murder and kidnappings.

Mare of Easttown is a thrilling, surprising murder-mystery drama. Many cliffhangers and startling moments keep the audience invested as they follow Mare’s investigation and want to know who the killer/kidnapper is. Although it’s not anything extraordinary, that’s what is best about it. The series has all the components we need: a compelling, mysterious murder, interesting characters, and a feeling of thrill. We don’t always need something fresh and reinvented. Sometimes, we simply want to visit a small town, live amongst its suspicious residents, and attempt to solve the murder faster than the detectives.

My full review here.

Midnight Mass

Netflix

Midnight Mass, starring Hamish Linklater in the lead role of Father Paul, manages to completely perplex the viewer and provoke further discussion on the subjects of faith, its abuse in the hands of a human, and rebirth, both presented metaphorically and literally in the show.

In Midnight Mass, Flanagan takes the theme of rebirth quite literally. After the “angel” drinks his blood, Father Paul is reborn, and the man then makes the decision for his parishioners and takes the choice away from them. They, too, are reborn for a brief time.

However, the rebirth can also be interpreted symbolically, as in Riley’s character. The Flynns’ oldest son, brilliantly portrayed by Zach Gilford, begins his life anew after returning to the island. Riley, who is still haunted by his past actions, keeps seeing a young woman he murdered while driving drunk. His rebirth is slow and subtle. In the final scene with Siegel’s character on the boat, we see him truly reborn. He lets go of the guilt, and he allows himself to be forgiven.

Midnight Mass has many other wonderful aspects. Among them are a stellar cast, stunning direction, and an emotional soundtrack composed by The Newton Brothers. Furthermore, the series tells a unique story and brilliantly explores it. In today’s world, the topic of faith and its abuse for selfish purposes has become personal. Midnight Mass becomes one of the scariest series this year due to this aspect, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Reservation Dogs

FX Networks and Hulu

Written by Serlin Harjo, Taika Waititi, and Bobby Wilson, Reservation Dogs premiered this summer and is currently available to stream on Hulu.

When I watched the first episode of this brilliant show, I couldn’t believe that we’ve been presented with so little Indigenous representation on screen. Reservation Dogs features all Indigenous writers and directors, along with an almost entirely Indigenous North American cast and production team.

The series focuses on and follows the lives of four Indigenous teenagers, as they spend their days committing crime and fighting it, in an effort to get to California. The main cast is absolutely amazing. Paulina Alexis (Willie Jack), Lane Factor (Cheese), D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai (Bear), and Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs (Elora) will make you laugh and cry, that much is guaranteed.

Ted Lasso

Apple TV

The second season of Ted Lasso delivers even more utterly hilarious, easy-to-repeat lines while providing the audience with insight into the soccer team’s daily life coached by a well-crafted character portrayed by Jason Sudeikis. At the same time, the show created by Bill Lawrence, Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, and Joe Kelly puts a focus on the development of the supporting characters, who realize that mental health is just as important as physical health.

The show’s success would be meaningless without the eloquent, witty, and refreshing writing, which only grows more powerful as it progresses. In some ways, the new season of Ted Lasso changes right in front of our eyes. Previously a baby, the story is now reaching its full potential, with the characters maturing and learning new things about life.

There is one constant in Ted Lasso that will never change. We feel it palpitating and surrounding us whenever we spend time with Ted, Rebecca, and the team. It’s the characters’ unending love and passion for football. “Football is life,” as Dani says, and the creators continue to follow this rule while creating characters so well-crafted and complex that anyone can fall in love with this exceptional series.

Yellowjackets

Showtime

Yellowjackets, by Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, was the biggest surprise to me this year. Ever since I heard about the show coming, I planned to watch it. However, I didn’t expect that it would swiftly become one of my favorite shows of 2021.

Adapted from the Lord of The Flies, the series tells the story of the soccer group including high-school students female—the titular Yellowjackets. As they fly to attend the competition, their airplane crashes in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by wildlife, the girls alongside their coach and two male students, are forced to search for food and safety. But what happens when the winter comes?

As we see the glimpses of the crash and the past, Yellowjackets presents the lives of the girls as grown women—at least those, who survived and were later rescued. When the threat from the past appears on the horizon, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey), Natalie (Juliette Lewis), Misty (Christina Ricci), and Taissa (Tawny Cypress) must reunite to find the one who threatens them and forever close the doors to the brutal past.

I could not recommend Yellowjackets enough as it currently airs on Showtime. The series and its creators remind us that, while binge-watching is fun, there is nothing more special than anticipating that one day of the week when your favorite show is on.

Dexter: New Blood

Showtime

Dexter comes back. I didn’t think I would ever say (or write, rather…) these words. New Blood was another big surprise at the end of this chaotic year. The creators take on the sociopathic, albeit polite and charming killer once again and attempt to rewrite what they, frankly, messed up at the end.

We pick up where we left it. Dexter Morgan, now widely known as Jim Lindsey, is a “golden, very helpful resident of Iron Lake—the town is now covered in snow. If Jim aka, Dexter doesn’t work in the hunting shop, or meeting his partner, a Chief of the Police, Angela (Julia Jones), the ever-smirking vigilante attempts to deny his true self.

But, the Dark Passenger eventually comes out of the shadows, just in time to meet his student in the person of a 16-year-old Harrison (Jack Alcott), who not only seeks the answers about his life, but also wants to meet a man who so wanted to be dead.

What I like about this show is that its cast is quite diverse. Besides Julia Jones in the first supporting role, we see Johnny Sequoyah as Audrey, Angela’s daughter, or Alano Miller as Logan.

The most important and, especially important factor of the show is the town’s relationship with the nearby Seneca Nation of Indians and the plotline revolving around it. The narrative talks about missing girls, many of whom are Indigenous.

The show takes unexpected twists and turns as it takes us on the nostalgic ride with the quite interesting present and future. Dive in if you didn’t yet.

That’s all! I do hope you enjoyed reading my list while finding out why I selected the above positions.

Author: Zofia Wijaszka

I am a Los-Angeles based film and television critic with bachelor's degree in Journalism and Social Communication with Creative Writing. I am a staff writer for First Showing, a contributing writer for AwardsWatch as well as a freelance writer for Nerdist, Film Inquiry, In Their Own League, and more. I was published at The Mary Sue, Film Threat, Reel Honey, and Polish film portals. I love the "Scream" movies, "Carol", "American Horror Story", "Schitt's Creek," and "The Haunting of Bly Manor" - pick one of these and I won't shut up about it for the next five hours. Twitter – @thefilmnerdette

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