Top 4 TV Series of 2022

Best of the year

Top 4 TV Series of 2022

Words by Harry Moore 

4) We Own This City

         David Simon and George Pelecanos’ miniseries charts the rise and fall of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force, revealing the extent of the unit’s excessive corruption set against the backdrop of citywide protests following the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who was killed while in police custody in 2015. Told through a non-linear structure, where the internal affairs investigation unfolds into flashbacks that detail the moblike behavior of these police officers whose actions had a major impact, and in many cases completely destroyed, the lives of people living in the community. Simon brings his journalistic instincts that made The Wire a methodically layered masterpiece about the failure of America’s institutions, as Pelecanos utilizes his pedigree as a crime fiction author to make the characters multi-faceted and engaging for the screen. Brought to life by a terrific cast that has Jon Bernthal at the center of it as the charismatic and repugnant head of the GTTF, Sergeant. Wayne Jenkins. Bernthal is magnetic in the lead role and steals practically every scene he is in, but manages to never overshadow the all too real systemic tragedy that this series is dramatizing. Another terrific, must watch series straight from Simon’s wheelhouse.

 

3) Better Call Saul

         Where parent show Breaking Bad climaxed with a bloodbath, Better Call Saul ended its run with a former couple sharing a cigarette in a moment of quiet reflection. Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould gave their phenomenal spinoff series the swansong it deserved with Jimmy “Saul Goodman” McGill (Bob Odenkirk) finally facing the music for all his moral shortcomings. Like he has done throughout the series, Odenkirk gives a nuanced performance that reveals plenty of depth to this character who originated as a shallow caricature. He is matched by the rest of the cast which is made up of a combination of returning Breaking Bad characters and new creations for the prequel. Giancarlo Esposito triumphantly returns to his career defining role of Gus Fring, as does Jonathan Banks who has quietly turned his gravel voiced Mike into an icon of modern television. As constantly downtrodden Nacho Vargas and the charmingly villainous Lalo Salamanca, Michael Mando and Tony Dalton were able to establish themselves as memorable characters in this saga. While Rhea Seahorn gave a complex and interior performance, that became emotionally wreaking in this final run of episodes. A beautiful end to a wonderful series that will surely become a textbook example of how to successfully close out a show.

 

2) Barry

HBO’s hitman drama-come-Hollywood satire continued its tightly calibrated highwire act of balancing thrillingly cinematic action set pieces, devastating moments of inevitable tragedy and idiosyncratic, often hilarious, jokes about algorithm-led business decisions, partners with too many dogs and beignets – all accomplished in the uniquely defined Barry voice. After a prolonged, covid induced break, Barry returned this year for its strongest, and undoubtedly darkest, season yet. Bill Hader writes, directs and stars as the eponymous hitman turned aspiring actor in a virtuoso display both in front of and behind the camera. The supporting cast are also of the highest order, with Sarah Goldberg, Henry Winkler and Anthony Carrigan all able to deftly balance their comedic delivery with heartbreaking turns. Alongside co-writer Alec Berg, Hader has created an unpredictable and deeply human exploration of redemption and whether people who have committed numerous evil deeds (or have just live a perpetually selfish existence) can earn such catharsis. Barry manages to simultaneously be one of the most provocative dramas and funniest comedies to grace our screens this year, and also makes a strong case for Bill Hader, one of the best actors, and most promising directors, working today.

 

1)      Atlanta

 

Another victim of covid delays, Atlanta wasted no time upon its return to the airwaves, dropping both the third season as well as the fourth and final season this year, reminding people that watched why it was hailed as one of the most confident, creative and flat-out best series to be made in the last ten years. Donald Glover’s ode to the city of Atlanta, and black culture at large, took its surrealist perspective of the world overseas to Europe for the third season, showing that across the pond has just as many issues to work through as back home. The fourth season then operated as both a homecoming and farewell, with the core quartet all looking ahead to the next phase of their lives. And it has been said before, but the main cast of Atlanta is among the best ensembles in tv history. All have gone from relative unknowns to stardom over the course of the series’ run; Zazie Beets is appearing in major blockbusters, LaKieth Stanfield has cultivated an eclectic filmography, Brian Tyree Henry has garnered acclaim as one of the strongest character actors working today, while creator and star Glover has become among of the most highly sought-after creatives in Hollywood. Even up to its end, Atlanta was always unabashedly, almost defiantly itself, never caving in to convention or attempts to appease the audience. And for its efforts, the series was always satisfying and surprising. For instance, the finale finds a way to give us both our four heroes driving off into the sunset in a pink sports car and also a touching, Inception inspired, “was it all a dream?” ending, all while spending most of its last episode on a non sequitur story set at a struggling sushi restaurant. Like a lot of the best shows, Atlanta could elicit almost any emotion at the drop of the hat. But few could do it with such style and distinctiveness.

 

 

 

About Harry Moore