As I sit here typing away at my keyboard, looking over my shoulder longingly at the beaming sunshine outside, blissfully unaware of the procrastination that is unfolding, I imagine that there are still a number of shows that you haven’t watched yet.
Am I right?
Are you still after a few new titles to pass some of the days until the world opens back up again?
Thought so. Which is why I’ve put together a list of the shows that I have been watching recently on Netflix, which have had me at the edge of my seat. They will thrill you. Some might even scare you. But they will ALL entertain you (please don’t say I was the only one to read that as Robbie Williams would…)
You do not need to fret though, as these are completely spoiler free, I merely introduce the outline of the stories and put my credibility as a fellow audience member on the line. So without further ado, allow me to introduce you to our stars of the evening…
This little firecracker begins in Chicago where Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman), a successful financial planner, watches his business partner being killed by a Mexican Drug Cartel. Jointly accused of stealing the money during their money laundering activities, after some quick thinking, Marty convinces the Cartel to spare his life and repay the money that had been stolen. Upon his new lease of life working for the Cartel, Marty and his wife Wendy, take their children with them to the very isolated Ozarks to begin anew. Not only do they face the uncertainty of death at every step thanks to the constant surveillance by the Cartel, but some very aggressive locals make life even more difficult for the Byrdes, not to mention their own family crumbling due to the lies and deceit that followed them.
In what can be seen as quite a nod to the Nordic noirs that have proven quite popular on our screens of late, this series rarely disappoints. Not only is it a pleasant surprise to see Jason Bateman in such a serious role, he executes the performance so convincingly, you start to believe this could be a documentary. His family are also very well put together and give extra strength to it as you watch them grow individually and adapt to their ever changing lives. As an example, their son Jonah starts to mine cryptocurrency using hacked servers. The apple doesn't fall far...
Even the antagonists that are thrown in to disrupt the family often become friends of the Byrdes or even pawns in their game with the Cartel. There are currently three seasons of Ozark, each more exhilarating than the last, with some addictive characters, stunning locations and decisions that you would never have seen coming. Enjoy!
2. TIGER KING
Okay, this is going to be one of the most difficult to write about. Not only because it’s one of the world’s biggest shows right now, so the likelihood is that about 99% of you have already seen it, but also it’s one of the strangest stories I’ve ever encountered. (And I write some strange stories!) Hailed as Netflix’s most successful show of all time, more than 34 million people watched it over its first 10 days of release.
It was released on March 20th, 2020.
Allow that to sink in.
The sheer volume of people that would have seen it by now.
Oh and by the way, it is a DOCUMENTARY. The people, the story, everything and everyone in it...they're all REAL!
Enough awe and amazement, let’s get down to business. The story revolves around Joe Exotic, who has owned and run his Zoo (Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park) since 1999 and his bitter feud between him and rival Big Cat owner, Carole Baskin, who consistently berates Joe for his treatment of the animals via her various social media channels and lobbying of Congress.
Each episode gets stranger and stranger as we discover that Joe is a self proclaimed “Gay Redneck”, has married two straight men (both in their late teens at the time) to feed their drug addictions, is constantly talking about killing Carole on his TV Channel and begging for help (even offering rewards) to prove that she killed her ex husband, who has been missing for decades. Mix all of that drama with some very intriguing side characters, including an opportunistic TV producer, charlatan business man and several other “Big Cat Sanctuary/Zoo” owners that have been hiding their own skeletons, you can start to see why this show has proven so popular. I feel that if I say anymore, I will end up divulging all of the twists and turns of this very intriguing visual narcotic. So I shall leave it to you to watch…
3. BETTER CALL SAUL
A direct spin off from the acclaimed hit Netflix series, “Breaking Bad”, Better Call Saul follows the story of Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), a loveable con artist who desperately tries to turn his life around and build a career as an honest and upstanding lawyer. Under the constant criticism of his older brother, Chuck, who happens to be one of the named partners at the firm he is working for, Jimmy is met with a number of moral challenges that force him to choose between making his brother proud or following what seems like a pre-determined route to becoming the beloved character, Saul Goodman.
The show also moves between past and present, as the majority of it pre-dates Breaking Bad, with a portion of it highlighting Saul’s life after the final events of Heisenberg’s disappearance and subsequent collapse of the drug empire. This is where we get to glimpse the eponymous anti-hero's current whereabouts, interestingly enough as the Manager of a Cinnabon store as his nervous disposition has you asking many questions as to who is looking for him. So there’s a lot here for fans of the original hit show to get their teeth stuck into.
Better Call Saul is filled with hilarious situations, as Odenkirk delivers every joke and witty remark with the same energy and brilliance that made Goodman a household name to begin with. Not only is he a skilled negotiator, whether that be in the court room or in a dark alleyway as he tries to peddle ‘burner phones’, Odenkirk demonstrates the softer and gentler side of a character that was so often perceived as just a conman. A number of times, we are met with scenarios where you really cannot see how Saul/Jimmy will escape another life or death situation and you actually begin to fear for his safety. Coupled with the thrill and humour, the show delivers some very real emotional relationships including Jimmy’s romantic interest Kim Wexler and his tenuous relationship with older brother Chuck. The show reintroduces some old as well as new characters, including Gus Fring and Mike, who reprise their roles very well.
You really do start to love all of the characters in the show, whether they are ‘good or bad’ and it’s no surprise that Netflix have just finished airing their fifth season of the popular series, with the final season set for 2021. So get yourself a margarita, pop on your sombrero, put your feet up and enjoy this sun kissed, laugh filled series.
4. MURDER TO MERCY - THE CYNTOIA BROWN STORY
Granted, this is a Netflix film rather than a show, however it was so gripping and emotionally moving, there was zero chance of it being left out. It had to make the final cut.
“Why is that?” you ask.
Well, where shall I begin…?
Take yourself back 16 years. It’s 2004 in Nashville, Tennessee and 16 year old Cyntoia Brown has been arrested and charged with the murder and robbery of 43 year old, Johnny Allen, a local youth pastor, real estate agent and founder of a homeless ministry at a local Baptist church.
Sounds pretty dark, right?
The story unfolds that Allen offered Brown $150 to have sex with him and after being intimidated at his home and fearing for her life, she fatally shot him.
Gripping stuff right?
If you weren’t already interested, you surely are now.
Netflix goes on to do what it does best and presents us with court room footage, interviews with the accused and her legal team and delves deep into her troubled and chaotic upbringing. Not only was she the daughter of a 16 year old alcoholic who put her up for adoption, Brown was dating a man eight years her senior who was commonly known as “Cut-throat” and had been pimping her out for a while preceding these events. Unlike other Netflix shows such as “Making a Murderer” this has a resolution, which will be an uncommon thing for regular consumers of Netflix’s true crime series who are used to continuously following the developments of cases that proceed the series. Touching, engaging and even bringing a tear to my baltic heart, this show would definitely be considered a pleasant surprise to all fans of Netflix documentaries and highlights the awfully flawed American justice system.
5. THE STRANGER
With strong echoes of “Safe”, starring Michael C.Hall (Dexter), The Stranger is a mystery thriller series that centres around Adam Price (Richard Armitage), a lawyer that is randomly approached by a mysterious woman who tells him a secret about his wife. Upon validating her claim, Adam begins to unravel a crazy web of lies, deceit and blackmail that culminates in a very explosive finish. This is one of those mystery thrillers that not only has a very strong central plot, but interlinking sub plots that carry the story and mean that missing even the slightest second can risk the chance of losing a vital bit of information. As a taster, think cult sacrifices, alpaca beheadings, sugar baby blackmail, murder and the misappropriation of funds for an amateur football team.
Okay, so the last one wasn’t particularly out there…
But the unraveling of the dramatic knot makes it…
The cast has a stellar line up, including Richard Armitage (The Hobbit/Captain America), Jennifer Saunders (really need to list something?), Anthony Head (Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Percy Jackson) and Siobhan Finneran (Benidorm/Downton Abbey), so you are attacked from every side with unrivalled acting talent. This furthers the credibility of the characters, as well as the strength of the writing, as the dialogue can be very witty and generationally accurate (think someone 40+ discussing the use of an app). You got it. Well worth the watch.
So there you have it. FIVE of the most popular Netflix shows currently that will have you at the edge of your seat, whether that’s for the sheer thrill or because you aren’t sure if they are actually going to kiss or you're still not sure if she really did put her husband in that meat grinder...
I’ll leave that last one for you to ponder over.