It’s time to list my favorite TV shows from the last decade. Since they tend to last several seasons, some might have not begun during the decade but did end in the 2010’s.

10. Game of Thrones

GOT

Game of Thrones was a phenomenon like none seen before in TV, a series that proved fantasy could be taken seriously as a prestige drama AND be immensely popular. For the first five or six seasons (debatable) the writing was top-notch and it seemed it was destined to become the best show of all time. Then the last two seasons happened and it all went to hell. Though the production values were always a sight to behold, even the best cinematography, score, acting, and special effects could not save an atrocious script. I don’t ever want to watch this series again and wouldn’t even recommend it, but it was superb before it crashed and burned.

9. Parks and Recreation

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On first impression Parks and Recreation would appear to be a The Office knockoff, but soon the show develops its own identity. It reminded me of early Simpsons when the humor was still grounded. The town of Pawnee is like Springfield, filled with goofy side characters. Leslie Knope is a refreshing main character, her comedy comes from being TOO positive and caring for others, which is very refreshing and makes the show very feel-good. Though it’s an episodic series, there were plot and character arcs that got resolved in the very emotional season finales. And above all, I have a massive crush on Adam Scott.

8. Dollhouse

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This extremely underrated Joss Whedon series barely made the list (the last episode aired in January 29, 2010). While never gaining the same cult following as Buffy or Firefly, Dollhouse was really entertaining TV. It had action, drama, sci-fi, comedy, and witty dialogue. The show also dealt with heavy existential themes and ethical dilemmas, some very similar to the ones Westworld would touch upon years later. And the plot twists were many and always very clever (except maybe one in the last few episodes).

7. Bojack Horseman

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An animated comedy about an antropomorphic horse celebrity living in Hollywood shouldn’t also work as an effective drama, but it does. Visual gags and quirky characters are everywhere, but undeneath it all there is an ongoing reflection on depression and mental health. It is fun and sad and very enjoyable. It would be higher in the list if it wasn’t for Todd (which annoys me to no end).

6. Puella Magi Madoka Magica

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Growing up I was a huge Sailor Moon fan, so the premise of Madoka was immediately appealing to me. What would happen if a magical girl show was deconstructed in a similar vein as Evangelion and the mecha genre? Young girls in super cute outfits, an adorable mascot, magic, and battles against mosters; these elements are all there but there is also darkness, grimness and real stakes at play (girls can actually die). The artstyle is very unique too, with monsters (aka witches) being represented in bizarre or abstract artstyles. The show is only 12 episodes (and a movie) but it was enough to leave a great impact on me.

5. XY

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Mexican TV series don’t really have a good reputation. Even today, the mexican shows put out by Netflix or Amazon tend to be average at best. But at the beginning of the decade XY proved that quality television can be achieved in my country. The show revolves around an editorial group that runs a men’s magazine. The show is unique in that it tackles issues of masculinity (hence the title) and what it means to be a man in contemporary mexican society. The show’s social critique is so sharp and the magazine eventually touches upon themes of politics and media influence that there was a rumor going around that higher ups wanted to cancel the show to avoid controversy. It is a crime that this show isn’t easily available to watch. 

4. Breaking Bad

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Everyone knows Breaking Bad is one of the best shows of all time, it is common knowledge by now. Walter White’s journey from unremarkable chemistry teacher to coldhearted owner of a drug empire is done so, so well that without even noticing you end up rooting for a despicable man, because we understand his reasons. The cat and mouse game between Walter and the authorities is always suspenseful to watch and the tragedy that befalls the family and Jessee is trully heartbreaking. When Walter finally (SPOILER) dies, after all the damage he caused you’re left with tons of conflicting emotions.

3. Peep Show

Peep Show

This show is HILARIOUS. The series follows Mark and Jeremy, two young men (I’m tempted to say losers) living their average lives in a flat in London. Mark is an uptight office worker and Jeremy is a slacker. They’ve got a very disfunctional and codependant relationship, that is very amusing to watch unfold. The gimmick of the show is that it’s shot in first person view and we hear the protagonists’ inner monologues. The formula works so well I don’t know why it hasn’t been replicated (to my knowledge). Episodes and seasons are short, so it is a very binge-able show.

2. Succession

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Succession is only two seasons as I’m writing this, but it has already blown me away. It shares some similarities with my number 1 pick, it’s a grounded drama elevated by its writing and acting, with some dark humor from time to time. The main characters are all interesting, (very) flawed people and watching Logan’s children struggle and fail to become the successor for a powerful media empire is a delight. 

1. Mad Men

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Mad Men is a show about an ad agency in 60’s New York and the people that work in it. There are no big special effects, action sequences, or crazy plot twists, just excellent writing and incredible acting. No other series has such fleshed out and flawed characters like Don, Peggy, Betty, Joan, Roger, Pete, or even Megan. They feel like real people and we care about them. Protagonist Don Draper is tragic yet compeling, a womanizing man who appears to have it all while self-destructing underneath the facade. Watching Mad Men feels like reading a novel, it’s very dense with content and themes that you could write tons of essays about it. The series is a slow burn, but so effective that Don and Peggy arguing over a commercial is a series highlight and one of my favorite scenes of all time. 

Since it’s almost 2020, it’s time to look back at the past ten years and make lists, because everyone likes top 10’s. Here are my favorite games from the past decade.

10. The King of Fighters XIII

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This game is GORGEOUS. The pixel art is super detailed, vibrant and incredibly well animated. We will probably never get a 2D fighter as pretty as this one. The gameplay is very tight as well. I’ve been a longtime KOF fan and the mix of classic gameplay and eye candy fills me with joy.

9. Portal 2

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Clever, charming first-person puzzle-shooter with nice writing too (GLaDOS and Wheatley are the funniest robots ever). Where’s the Switch port of Portal 1 and 2?

8. Hollow Knight

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A Metroidvania with a bit of Dark Souls flavor set in a moody underground bug world. Everyone should download this game, it’s crazy cheap for so much quality content.

7. Celeste

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An insanely difficult platformer made less frustrating by charming pixel art and a great soundtrack. The plot deals with mental health issues, handled in a very touching way. Even though I died thousands of times, I smiled all the way through.

6. The Last of Us

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Videogame storytelling at its finest. There’s no survival horror as visceral and poignant as this one. The production values are top notch too. 

5. Undertale

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An instant cult classic, made almost entirely by just one guy (Tobyfox)! Deconstructing the old school RPG formula, think Earthbound, Undertale creates a unique experience that couldn’t be replicated on any other medium. The cast of characters are all very lovable, even random NPCs are full of personality. The soundtrack is a gem, so much that it has been played by video game orchestras. Don’t be fooled by the naive graphics, this game is spectacular.

4. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

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A crossover that no one could’ve imagined 20 years ago. It is truly incredible that this game even exists with so many characters and such respect for them and gaming history. Ultimate makes all previous Smash games obsolete and is still expanding its content with DLC. Smash is always fun.

3. Dark Souls

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I got into Dark Souls a little late, after playing the remastered version on Switch. I’d mostly heard that its ruthless difficulty was its main appeal, but it is so much more than that. Lordran looks like a common medieval fantasy land, but you soon get to know it’s actually a cruel, decaying land filled with people and creatures that want you VERY dead. It’s an action RPG that punishes and rewards both in great measure. You will die, hundreds of times, but getting better at the game is extremely addicting and satisfying. Trying to figure out the cryptic lore if also very entertaining.

2. Bloodborne

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Dark Souls, but with a more aggressive gameplay and a Gothic-Victorian horror setting. If H.P. Lovecraft were alive he’d love this game.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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This game has been so hyped before and after its release, and it DESERVES it. A true open-world game like none before, Hyrule feels like a real place you can (and will) get lost in. Just walking around and exploring the huge world is fun in itself. The sense of wonder and discovery is one that I had not felt in a long, long time. This game sets the bar very high for future Zelda games and adventure games in general. 

An illustration for an upcoming Culturico article about self-sacrifice and being your true self.

I’m going to paraphrase the main idea: human beings are a not static, but a myriad of ideas and concepts, sometimes contradictory or random. We perform to adjust to other people’s expectations, but if we were true to ourselves, we might become unrecognizable to others.

And we’ve reached the end of Inktober. Overall, it has been a really fun and useful activity for me. Thinking of an image for each word prompt was a nice creative challenge in itself, and I got to practice my hand-drawn drawing skills, which were a bit rusty. I’m quite fond of how some of them turned out.

21. Treasure
22. Ghost
23. Ancient
24. Dizzy
25. Tasty
26. Dark
27. Coat
28. Ride
29. Injured
30. Catch
31. Ripe

Here are the next ten Inktober drawings, only eleven more to go. I’ll continue posting them daily on my Instagram.

In case anyone’s wondering, I’ve been inking with a Zebra V-301 Fountain Pen, a Zebra Zensations Double-Sided Brush Pen, and a regular Sharpie marker. They might not be the most professional tools available but they’ve been working well enough for me.

11. Snow
12. Dragon
13. Ash
14. Overgrown
15. Legend
16. Wild
17. Ornament
18. Misfit
19. Sling
20. Tread

So I decided to try the Inktober challenge after avoiding it for several years. I’m limiting myself to only using black ink.

Here are the first ten drawings. You can follow my progress on my Instagram.

Illustration of a severed finger with ring
1. Ring
Illustration of Parasect
2. Mindless
Illustration of mermaid reaching for prince bait
3. Bait
Illustration of frozen Jack Torrance from The Shining
4. Freeze
Illustration of a hamster building a brick wall
5. Build
Illustration of a Husky cosplaying as Greater Dog from Undertale
6. Husky
Illustration of Willow and Tara from Buffy The Vampire Slayer in the episode Once More with Feeling
7. Enchanted
Illustration of a frail old man
8. Frail
Illustration of a shiba inu on a swing
9. Swing
Illustration of of a witch with patterned clothes
10. Pattern

[Some book and TV series spoilers]

I read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale after watching the first few episodes of the TV series. The book was a fascinating read because Gilead, unlike other fictional dystopias, felt like something that could actually happen or may be even going on right now, to some extent, in some parts of the world. Social anxieties from the 80’s like women’s reproductive rights and oppressive gender roles are, sadly, still very relevant today, making the book feel eerily current.

The original novel’s subject matter is no easy read as the acts of cruelty done to woman are deplorable and infuriating, and worse of all based on historical practices according to Atwood. Offred’s narration reads like a disorienting and claustrophobic nightmare, something the first season of the series captures perfectly (minus some questionable “badass” musical montages). The book is ambiguous about the protagonist’s fate (not even her real name is revealed) but the epilogue leaves a glimpse of hope when it confirms that Gilead would eventually fall.

The second season of the TV show continued directly after Offred’s book ending and stretched out her story to exhausting lengths, leading to a third and even more confirmed seasons to come. I must confess I stopped watching after the first couple of episode into the third season, since it started feeling like glacially paced misery porn not even Elisabeth Moss’s great performance could make bearable. After spoiling myself the latest season’s ending I don’t think I’ll give the show another chance, since the speculative fiction turning into almost fantasy isn’t sitting well on me.

Enter The Testaments, Atwood’s direct sequel to the original book, released 34 years after the original and set 15 years after The Handmaid’s Tale ending. Not following the TV series canon, the story follows three different women affected by Gilead’s regime, none of them handmaids. After being disappointed by the repetitive TV show, this is a very welcomed breath of fresh air. Horrific and tragic things do happen, but hope is more prevalent this time around, leading to a satisfying conclusion.

Aunt Lydia, one of the most captivating antagonists from the first book and the series, is now a point of view character and is fascinatingly fleshed out. Through Offred’s eyes, the aunt was a cruel and hateful woman, but The Testaments lets Lydia speak for herself. Her chapters are presented as her own written testimony and reveal her moral complexity and sometimes even evoke sympathy for her. Yes, she has committed atrocious acts but we get an understanding of her reasons. In fact she is one of the key figures to the downfall of Gilead, with the help of Agnes and Daisy, the other two main characters.

Agnes is a girl raised in Gilead by a Commander and a Wife, after being separated from her mother at a very early age. Her story is as compelling as Aunt Lydia’s because it showcases the way education works under the regime and the psychological impact it has on the children, particularly the “privileged” girls like her friend Becka. Learning to be a dutiful wife coupled with the suppression of her real desires creates unmanageable distress and a pessimistic view of life, not far away from considering suicide as a viable option to escape. Her only other choice to avoid her unwanted fate is becoming an aunt with the help of Aunt Lydia.

Daisy is a rebellious teenage girl living in Canada with her adoptive parents. Of the three protagonists, her journey is the weakest one in my opinion, playing out too much like a conventional YA chosen one journey without any subversion. After tragedy strikes, Daisy is taken by the Mayday organization, which had already been established in the first book as an underground rebellion group that helped handmaids and children escape from Gilead while also working to take down the government.

Not everything is wrong with Daisy’s part though. Her chapters are actually the most dynamic and add a real sense of urgency, compared to the more subdued psychological conflicts of the other two women. We also get more world building through the introduction of the Pearl Girls, missionaries who recruit girls from around the world to bring to Gilead. Additionally, we get a glimpse of how Canadians and other nations deal with Gilead, something only previously shown in the series.

As expected, the three stories eventually converge and everyone has a part to play in Gilead’s inevitable downfall. The final act comprises of the adventure Agnes and Daisy escaping from Gilead with key information while Aunt Lydia deals with the chaos that ensues and her enemies close to finding out her real agenda. 

I consider The Testaments a success at exploring more facets of Gilead ripe for dissection. Atwood’s decision to shift the focus away from the handmaids and the use of a time skip were very much needed, there is just so much handmaid suffering we can endure before exhaustion, as the show proves.

The exploration of Aunt Lydia’s psyche was a very welcome surprise. Feeling sympathy for her is complicated because we know she is capable of consciously abusing others, but nonetheless she is still a woman living under an oppressive, unjust system where women hold on to whatever power they can amass. And she is indeed playing a long term game by helping Mayday while risking her own life in the process. Aunts and wives are indeed complicit in perpetuating misogyny as means of self-preservation. What we do with that idea is up to the reader, but it is symbolic that Aunt Lydia’s statue is shown as a decaying relic of the past.

Atwood makes it clear that the theocratic, fascist Gilead is rotten at its very core and its injustices and power imbalance are the reasons for its eventual collapse. A society where women (and minorities) are not full persons cannot prosper, a lesson that the world unfortunately needs right now.

The original Handmaid’s Tale is a classic and The Testaments is a worthy follow-up. The novels create a wholesome experience that doesn’t actually need the TV show to be fully appreciated. It is a scaringly-close-to-reality tale that echoes current bigoted, misogynistic discourses in politics and religion. That is the real terror we should keep an eye on.