It's addicting. It steals your sleep. It makes you stay up at least an hour past your bedtime even though you swore up and down you'd stop. What am I talking about? Netflix. And its lure is growing stronger all the time with new, original programming. Here are my top five shows that fall into the category of speculative fiction:
#5 The 100
Based on the books by Kass Morgan, there are currently 4 seasons available and a 5th to come. This mash-up of sci-fi meets fantasy follows a group of older teens as they are kicked out of the orbiting space station they were born on to go back down to earth. Their mission? To see if the old green and blue ball is habitable after humanity let loose with nuclear weapons about a hundred years previously.
The first season grabbed me with constant nail-biting tension and some curve balls. Unlike a lot of YA stories, the parents of these kids aren't dead (yet), but stuck up in the space station while the kids try to adjust to earth. The influence these separated groups have (or don't) on each other is fascinating. Plus, if you think the scariest thing the kids deal with is growing their own food or finding mutated animals, think again. I don't want to get into spoilers, but they aren't alone...
#4 Black Mirror
The Twilight Zone meets the technological age in this series, which includes 19 separate episodes spread over 4 seasons. The first one, The National Anthem, had me hooked, jaw on floor in complete disbelief. It was probably the most psychologically disturbing thing I've seen on television, period (closely followed by renting Deliverance).
On the other end of the spectrum, San Junipero is one of the most beautiful love stories I've seen. Other episodes, like The Entire History of You and Black Museum, are fiendishly clever stories.
#3 The OA
This eight episode series follows the extremely odd life of Prairie Johnson. She reemerges into her adopted parents' lives seven years after disappearing. Previously blind, she can now see, but she won't talk about where she's been. Instead, she becomes the leader of a band of misfits who get together to learn a routine that might be described as Garth Fagan dance combined with high speed tai chi. It all has a higher purpose though.
I loved this show's stunning visuals and creepy mood.
#2 Stranger Things
The strangest thing about this series is that after watching the first half of the first episode, I got so bored, I quit watching. Then all the hype finally convinced me to give it another go and what a ride! If I hadn't, I would have missed the upside-down, Joyce's Christmas lights, Dustin's lisp, and Eggo waffles.
Not only does Stranger Things serve up a heaping dose of 80s nostalgia, but it borrows from all the movies I loved as a kid. Does telekinetic Eleven's bleeding nose remind you of someone? Of course! While the girl in Stephen King's Firestarter had the power of telekinesis and pyrokinesis, it was her dad who got a bloody nose whenever he used his mind to control someone. You can also find the influence of Poltergeist, Alien, and a host of other popular movies from that era.
This show is completely bonkers and so, so fun. There's two seasons (17 episodes) to relish and if your pining for season three, you're not alone.
Because Dark and Stranger Things feature a missing boy in their opening episode, it's natural to compare them. But missing child aside, these are quite different shows. While Stranger Things has its scary moments, there is a campy vibe that lets you know your favorite characters may be put through the wringer (or become invaded by soul-sucking worms from another dimension), but chances are, they will emerge victorious.
So why would I put this show above Stranger Things? The title says it all. Dark is, well, very dark. You don't know what's going to happen. There is no feeling that things are going to turn out all right in the end. The cinematography is so gorgeous. There are long overhead shots of a lush, green forest in every show and this deep cave nestled in a hillside that just begs you to enter, but promises you'll be terrified with every step. The characters are extremely realistic in their flaws, but even as they do terrible things, part of you sympathizes with their plight.
Luckily for me, there is a season two in the works.
Have you watched any of these shows? Do you have recommendations for my next Netflix addiction? How much sleep have you lost binge-watching?