Updated: Jan 10, 2019
As I reflect on the past year in television, the word that continues to come to mind is “expansive.”
We are in the age of rising television giants such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. The bounds of cable television are falling away and, for the first time ever, we are seeing some of the most forward-thinking and groundbreaking storytelling happening in the form of television series. Queer & POC characters are popping up everywhere and writers are tackling themes never before touched on the silver screen. What a time to be alive!
You can't imagine how hard it was to put together this list and identify my absolute favorites (and least favorites) of 2018. If there's a show you loved that you didn't see on this list, please let me know in the comments. And while not every show on this list is explicitly queer, they all tap into queer ways of looking at and existing in the world.
The Best of the Best
She-Ra & The Princesses of Power
Best Episodes: Princess Prom & Promise
She-ra is the queerest show on television right now, don’t @ me. Not only is it super gay, but the animation is beautiful, the story lines are captivating and there is a definitive anti-capitalist narrative that I am loving.
Although I love #Catradora, one of my favorite story lines is actually between Glimmer and Bow. Sometimes the lines between friendship, romance and sexuality are blurred, especially between two people who are sexually fluid. In Princess Prom, She-ra both examines and honors this grey area. We also see a joyous array of gender performance in Princess Prom. Seemingly butch character, Scorpia, rocks a little black dress. Catra dons a red tux as she continues her soft stud performance. (Is it weird to be attracted to an animated character...?) Bow crops his tuxedo in a mixture of femme and masculine performance. Princess Prom made us feel not only seen, but celebrated.
In Promise, the writers deftly explored themes of childhood trauma, envy, stereotypes and the complexity of lesbian love. While trapped in a magical temple, Adora and Catra revisit the shared history that led to their current relationship. While Adora was treated as the “good” child, Catra was always perceived as the "troublemaker" by their only maternal figure, Shadowweaver. Myself and my fellow QiP writers had some BIG feelings come up during this episode! We still root for #Catradora, but we understand Catra's need for independence from such a toxic and traumatic relationship.
I am so excited for the next season of She-ra!
Where to watch: Netflix
Best episodes: The Woods & Teddy Perkins
Atlanta was probably one of the hardest shows to watch for me this year, as well as one of most groundbreaking. In its second season, Donald Glover seamlessly combined horror, fantasy, drama and comedy. As a Floridian, I deeply identified with Alligator Man. As a fantasy nerd, Drake fan and social media addict, I FEEL YOU VAN. My favorite episodes of Atlanta (and of course the most fantastical) are The Woods and Teddy Perkins.
In The Woods, Alfred, AKA Paperboi, is woken up by the ghost of his mother calling him lazy. Alfred is clearly affected by the sound of his mother’s voice as she hums gospel music, but doesn’t show Earn or Sierra his feelings. Later in the day, Paperboi flees a pedicure appointment set up by his social media obsessed girlfriend, and is accosted by three “fans,” who praise him and then hold him at gunpoint. Alfred fights against the group of boys, but quickly realizes that running away is the safest choice. He runs into the woods behind a nearby gas station and enters a world of tenuous reality. He runs into Wally, who, to this day, I’m unsure was real or not. Wally and Alfred go on a journey that touches on grief, being lost and establishing a sense of self.
In Teddy Perkins, we find ourselves in the shoes of Darius as he tries to acquire a beautiful piano from a man he found on Craigslist. Darius goes to the home of the wealthy man, who eerily reminds me of Michael Jackson. The man, who is wearing a white mask, wig and white makeup, is reminiscing about his “brother” Benny who played the piano. Teddy continues to stall in giving Darius the actual piano and Darius gets more and more impatient and freaked out. It is clear from the pictures on the wall that Teddy comes from a black family, and yet is unnaturally white. As the show continues, Teddy tells Darius that great art comes from great pain, a platitude taught to him by his abusive father. Eventually, when Darius realizes that Teddy never intended to sell the piano and actually plans to do him harm, Darius is able to escape and leaves Teddy with an apology about his abusive upbringing: “Sometimes it’s not love...Your dad should’ve said sorry.” At the end of the surreal episode, Darius escapes with his life, but without the beloved piano.
We know there are secrets and stories in the South of pain, beauty and fantasy. Donald Glover brings all those to life in a modern world. We see the intricacies of identity and love in the worlds of Van, Earn and Alfred. Atlanta is not for the faint of heart as it explores suicide, racism, colorism, social media obsession, fame and terror.
Where to watch: Hulu
Best episodes: Day In a Life, The Fillorian Candidate
In my opinion, The Magicians is one of most the subversive shows on television. As a survivor of sexual assault, to watch the story of a survivor be told with care, consideration and heart-wrenching reality was liberating. In fact, when asked what drives her writing, showrunner Sera Gamble simply said “rape culture.” I fucks with that. In terms of queer culture, I haven’t seen any lesbian love yet but I definitely ship #Quelliot!
In this season of The Magicians, we find our motley crew on a quest to save magic and their sanity. Without magic, the characters are struggling with severe mental illness, grief and the harsh realities of the "muggle" world. Alice deals with the death of her father, Julia heals after her sexual assault, Margo struggles to be taken seriously in a patriarchal monarchy and Quentin comes face to face with his suicidal tendencies. Heavy shit.
In Day In a Life, we find #Quelliot on a journey through the beauty and mediocrity of life. They kiss, become parents and eventually die together. This episode is a magical take on what it means to have a companion that is both a best friend, a lover and neither, all at the same time. After this episode, both characters are forever changed and the viewer is reminded that there is an innate beauty in stillness.
In the The Fillorian Candidate, Margo, after an entire season of being shitted on by power-hungry fairies, Lorians, and men, is vindicated. The actress who plays Margo, Summer Bishel, is of both Mexican and Indian descent. To see a strong & vulnerable woman of color win against all odds is breathtaking. Summer Bishel adds complexity to a character that was originally written to be an angry woman of color and makes her a dynamic scene-stealer.
We love this season of The Magicians because it is the most raw and broken we have seen our characters. Without an outlet to confront their pain, they must find ways to heal their wounds without magic as a distraction. They must find the gods and goddesses within themselves to find the light.
Where to watch: Netflix
Best episodes: Kiksuya, Reunion
We are living in the future. We are living longer, easier and more technological lives. We have robots that follow our every command. But what happens when what we’ve created talks back? Westworld explores a brave new world in which “everything is magic except for the magician.”
In season two of Westworld, we find Dolores and Maeve healing from the chaotic and brutal world they were unwillingly born into, each in their own way. As a viewer, you can’t help but relate to the robots more than the humans. Just like us, they were born in a capitalist, cold society that dictates their jobs, love lives and sense of history.
In Kiksuya, the Westworld dystopia is seen through the eyes of the Ghost Nation. We follow the story of Akecheta, a peaceful Native American host married to a fellow tribe-member, Kohona. But their life is interrupted by Arnold’s robot massacre. Akecheta sees the destruction and finds the symbol of the maze, a tool use by Arnold to prompt self-awareness and enlightenment in the hosts. Soon after, Akecheta and other members of the Native American tribe are reprogrammed to be more aggressive and Ghost Nation is born. Ghost Nation is programmed to play into the colonization narratives that white people have about about the founding of the United States and Latin America. By making the robots more aggressive, the participants feel morally just in killing them. Of course, little do the participants know that many of these robots will continue their cycle of reincarnation and carry their past traumas, and love, with them. Akecheta finds Kohona again, despite his reprogramming. The spark that allows Aketchata to remember and find her is when Logan (after his terrible bro-trip with the Man in Black) yells “this is the wrong world!” It heartbreakingly resonates with Akecheta and propels him towards finding his meaning and destiny in Westworld.
The other episode I loved is Reunion. In Reunion, Dolores (the prototype and prized gem of Westworld) serves as the robotic escort for the white billionaires of the world. Here, Logan commiserates with Dolores, perhaps the only “friend” he has left, and says “Do you want to know what they're really celebrating up there? That, darlin,' is the sound of fools fiddling while the whole fucking species starts to burn. And the funniest fuckin' part? They lit the match. So here's to you, assholes. May your forever be blissfully short."
Both Kiksuya and Reunion touch on the nefarious and evil genius that is Westworld. Once again, humans have discovered a new world and endowed it with oppressive power dynamics and endless trauma. Westworld is terrifying because it’s themes hit so close to home and is definitely a must-watch for 2019 and beyond.
Where to watch: HBO
We also loved:
If you have been looking for sexy, poly-amorous, drug dealing sirens... look no further. This Netflix original had us captivated and a little turned on from the opening scene all the way to the surprise ending. Highly recommend!
Where to watch: Netflix
Black Lightning explores what it means to be both a superhero and black in modern day America. The story lines are compelling as hell and Nefessa Williams as Anissa Pierce, badass lesbian and superhero, is absolutely incredible.
Where to watch: Netflix
This show about a 1940's English woman who travels back to 1700's Scotland is super, super interesting and well-written. The narrative gets a little heavy handed at times and can become slightly boring. But overall, I really enjoyed this time-travel romance.
I warn you, though, this show is AGGRESSIVELY heterosexual. If you don't wanna see a bunch of (admittedly hot) cis, straight sex, this show is not for you.
Where to watch: STARZ
Let us just say that this show ROCKS and we are all hella side eyeing anybody who tried to bring it down before it even aired. Three WOC sisters taking on the patriarchy and magical enemies? WE'RE DOWN. Yeah, it's cheesy! Yeah, it's campy! Why would that be a problem?
Where to watch: The CW, Youtube TV
Do you wanna be scared and unsettled for like a week? You should watch Castle Rock! This horror/fantasy show set in the Stephen King universe has amazing production value and some really breathtaking twists and turns. Fun fact: main actor Bill Skarsgård is the brother of Alexander Skarsgård, AKA Eric from True Blood!
Where to watch: Hulu
Also, Also, Also: The Rain, Legacies, The Originals, Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams, Cloak and Dagger, Marvel's Runaways, Timeless, Dark, Siren, The Expanse, Humans, Altered Carbon, Colony, Diablero, Kiss Me First
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Spellman
Overall, I had high hopes for this remake. The trailer was just the right amount of quirky and creepy, and I was so excited to watch from start to finish the moment it came on Netflix. But sadly, Sabrina came up short.
The show went from supernatural and witchy to demon-hunters, REAL quick. It honestly felt as if I was watching a religious soap opera with Satan in place of Jesus Christ. In addition, I felt it trying SO hard to be woke and it was just... not.
HOW IS AMBROSE RELATED TO THE SPELLMANS? We can’t just plop black characters into white ASS families without explanation.
Ok, was it just me or did Susie just completely miss the mark on queer representation? Like, what is even going on with Susie? What's the deal with the ghost? Is Susie non-binary? WHY IS THERE NO CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT?
The lynching of Tati Gabrielle’s character Prudence while Sabrina was getting her “revenge” was completely uncalled for and deeply offensive to many black viewers.
Overall, the colorblindness of the show as well as the inauthenticity of Susie’s character made this a complete MISS for Queers in Space.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse
There is a gaping hole in Ryan Murphy and his team's writing and team in both Apocalypse and Coven:
Black. Witches. Are. Not. Taken. Seriously.
WE ARE NOT GOING TO BRING MARIE LAVOU BACK FROM HELL JUST TO KILL HER AGAIN.
At first, I believed that Murphy was making a comment on how whiteness CONSTANTLY appropriates, and how that holds true in the magical world. But instead, white magic is once again depicted as superior to Voodoo. This is a dangerous narrative and simply isn’t believable. Murphy - you can suck my bruja dick.