We are living in a Golden Age of TV where there’s always something to watch out there, so much so that it has become next to impossible to watch all the good to great shows, let alone the average ones. 2015 in particular was a banner year for the medium, for new shows and old, and nailing down a list of the ten best was next to impossible. That being said, what follows is a list of the 10 shows that have aired in 2015 that I believe represent the best TV has to offer.
- The 100
No show on TV manages to put its characters through as morally ambiguous situations as The 100 does, something especially surprising considering it airs on The CW. This post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama focuses on a group of teenagers who are sent down to a post-nuclear earth after the space station they have been inhabiting runs out of resources. Season 2 of the show saw massacres, torture and war, all dealt with in a serious and meaningful way, and further reinforces the fact that there are no true heroes and villains in this world, just people trying to survive. This is the show The Walking Dead wishes it were as good as. It’s a dirty, grimy sci-fi story that also happens to have the best written and most badass female characters on TV.
The story of a man re-adjusting to life after spending 20 years locked up for a crime he may or may not have committed is a fascinating character study. Rectify is a slow, methodical exploration of how the world appears to a person that spent most of his life in a cell not much bigger than a closet. The show is able to convey so much emotion by having a character just swim in the ocean, or walk through a convenience store marveling at everything he sees as if he’s an alien on another planet. Aden Young is doing some great work as Daniel Holden, and brings so much humanity and compassion to the role that it really doesn’t matter if he’s guilty or not, you just feel for the guy. The only downside to Rectify is that, at only six episodes, its third season finished way too quickly. TV needs more quiet and contemplative shows like this, and that’s why Rectify is on this list.
Sometimes, you just want to see some violent pulp entertainment and Banshee delivers that in spades. Not only does it have some of the best choreographed fight scenes on TV, but they are filmed in an almost artistic way that makes the fights look like bloody ballets. This show tells the tale of an ex thief who steals the identity of a town’s new sheriff after the real sheriff is murdered in front of him before anyone in the town sees him. A particular standout episode, titled “Tribal”, saw the show’s primary characters trapped inside the sheriff station as they must survive an attack from a criminal gang. Its 50 minutes of non-stop heart pounding action and added a lot of depth to the characters. Next season will be Banshee’s last, and while I’m sad to see it go, at least it will be ending while it’s still at the top of its game.
- Better Call Saul
Better Call Saul had a lot going against it when it first premiered. Not only is it coming out of the giant shadow of one of the greatest shows to air on TV (Breaking Bad), but it also had to make us care for the back-story of a character whose fate we already know. Season 1 of the show erased any skepticism as Vince Gilligan and company have once again struck gold. Better Call Saul was a perfect blend of comedy and drama, and utilised stars Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks to their fullest potential. The brilliant episode “Five-O” was a standout, focusing on Mike’s past as a cop and how he dealt with the death of his son, with Banks delivering a truly heart wrenching performance. If Season 2 keeps up the quality of the first, then it really won’t matter that we know how the stories of Saul Goodman and Mike Ehrmentraut end, because the journey is what really matters.
In the gluttony of superhero shows currently on TV, Daredevil easily climbed through the ranks to place itself at the top. It had one hell of a great villain in Wilson Fisk, some truly spectacular action scenes (the hallway fight alone secures the show’s place on this list) and brilliantly handled the flashbacks depicting a young Matt Murdock’s relationship with his father, and subsequent training with the mysterious Stick. Although technically set in Marvel’s larger cinematic universe, Daredevil set its own tone and mood and it was refreshing to see a superhero story include such a degree of violence and realism. Next season (which is premiering in March) will introduce Elektra and The Punisher to the show, which means things are about to get a whole lot more interesting in Hell’s Kitchen.
- Penny Dreadful
This melting pot of Victorian literary characters has managed to take the supernatural genre and turn it into a Shakespearean tragedy. Utilizing such characters as Victor Frankenstein, Dorian Grey, Malcolm Murray as well as some original creations, Penny Dreadful’s second season sees the eternally tormented Vanessa Ives trying to combat a coven of witches who have set their sights on her. John Logan’s poetic dialogue is magnificently delivered by the cast which includes Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett, Harry Treadaway, Billie Piper and Rory Kinnear. But it’s the mesmerizing Eva Green as Vanessa Ives who is the real reason to watch the show, as she is delivering what is unquestionably one the best performance on TV or film this year. Penny Dreadful is gloomy, dreary and heavy viewing to be sure, but it’s also just as beautiful, enchanting and divine to absorb.
- Rick and Morty
There’s no getting around the fact that Rick and Morty is a very, very weird show. I couldn’t even try to describe an episode without sounding like a crazy person, and that’s why this show is hands down the funniest thing on TV. Following the wacky inter-dimensional adventures of mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his nephew Morty, this animated comedy is not afraid to go full surreal and put its characters into truly deranged situations. Whether its aliens forcing entire planets to compete in an American Idol like competition, inter-dimensional TV channels, or a video game that lets you live an entire life as a fictitious character called Roy, Rick and Morty is absurdest comedy at its absolute finest, and I cherish every new episode I can get my hands on.
- Game of Thrones
Many people will argue that Game of Thrones crossed some kind of line this season, either because of its cruelty and wallowing in misery or because of its slow pace, but in my opinion, this season gave us more than we could have hoped for. Characters that have been separate for the entire show finally crossed paths to great effect, battles we have been anticipating came to exciting heads and, like Game of Thrones is want to do, characters we loved died in surprising and brutal ways. It might possibly be one of the most difficult shows to watch on TV right now both because of the confusingly large number of characters and its controversial subject matter, but it is definitely rewarding for all those who can stick with it. Now that the show is officially deviating from George R.R. Martin’s books, readers and viewers are on equal ground for the first time, awaiting whatever the show’s writers have planned. April can’t come soon enough.
Betrayal, death and vengeance were all themes dealt with in this amazing season of the history drama as Ragnar Lothbrok and his fellow northmen (and women) traveled to Paris, hell bent on conquering the famous city. This season in particular, the show had to balance a lot of plotlines, with events taking place in England, Paris and Denmark, but the show made them all fit perfectly. As with past seasons, Vikings continued to offer great political intrigue, familial drama, and epically staged battles, not to mention the fact that it had the most effective character death of the year (sorry Game of Thrones). Travis Fimmel and Katherine Winnick continue to be charismatic as hell in their roles, and the way this season ends leaves room for a lot of drama in Season 4 (which has thankfully been expanded from 10 episodes to 20).
Last year, Noah Hawley crafted a ten episode series based on the Coen Brothers’ great crime flick. Fargo the TV series perfectly captured the spirit of the film, and gave to audiences a mesmerising story about the everyday evils of life (represented by Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo) and how ordinary everyday people can stop said evil if they have enough courage. This year, Hawley outdid himself with this prequel season, set in 1979, chronicling the events leading up to a great massacre involving a small town crime family, and multiple law enforcement officers. With an exceedingly talented cast, led by Patrick Wilson, Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst and Ted Danson, sharp, witty dialogue and a brilliant soundtrack that perfectly fit the time era, choosing Fargo Season 2 as my favorite show of 2015 was an easy decision.
Well, there you go. Those are my ten favorite shows of 2015. There were so many other truly fantastic shows I could have easily put on this list (Gotham, Supernatural, Mad Men, iZombie, Justified and The Flash to name a few) which only reinforces the fact that we are drowning in quality TV series, and if you can’t find anything good to watch, than you obviously aren’t looking hard enough.