Composing year-end lists appeals to my desire for useless organization and my tendency toward capricious judgment. Nevertheless, I started this project with a smug certainty that I had enjoyed absolutely nothing this year and I was going to retreat to the FemFreq bunker with my graham crackers and colored pencils. I still might. But until I do, and in the spirit of bonhomie that fills the air during the holiday season, I will grudgingly admit that I did feel actual human joy at least five times this year.
1. “Heaven Sent” – Doctor Who
First up: a controversial choice. Blame Steven Moffat.* I know that this episode technically came out at the end of 2015, but it appeared too late for inclusion in many folks’ best-of lists for 2015, so I’m giving it shine now.
To be honest, I could have written this list at 12:01 a.m. on January 1st, and just put in a placeholder for something Doctor Who-related. There’s no way Peter Capaldi’s eyebrows weren’t ending up in this recap. 12 is the GOAT. Capaldi carries this entire episode on his more-than-capable shoulders, as his Doctor finds himself transported — through the shenanigans of the sneaky Ashildr — to a mysterious island keep. Over the course of the next 50 minutes (or four-and-a-half billion years, depending on your perspective), the Doctor struggles with despair, fear, and his Companion’s loss as he attempts to free himself and discover who’s behind his abduction. Best episode of the season; and possibly one of the best Who episodes ever.
2. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
Back when I thought I could write, I tried to write books like N.K. Jemisin. Turns out you need to be brilliant. Who knew? So now I just buy everything she writes and cry. It’s hard to express how dense, vivid, and compelling her worlds and characters are. The Obelisk Gate is the second book in The Broken Earth series, and it’s a breathtaking expansion of the setting of the Stillness. Rich, riveting speculative fiction.
3. Luke Cage (Netflix)
Gloriously black. Stupendously black. Unapologetically black. Absolute black. Vantablack. The entire aesthetic, vibe, and foundation of this show is its embrace of Black people: our speech, our music, our in-jokes, our art, our way of moving through the world. The complexity and nuance available here, with multi-layered heroes and villains–I was in heaven. Full disclosure: I wasn’t a huge Power Man fan to begin with, so I really only gave this show a chance in the first place because Misty Knight was going to be in it. Simone Missick’s Misty is absolutely perfect. And when we finally see her at the end in her trademark red? With the hoops?! And that afro picked to the gods? Gloriously black! Stupendously black! Absolute black.
Bonus: all the stricken Marvel fans who took to social media to complain that they “just couldn’t relate” to this presentation of Luke Cage. Luke Cage. A Black superhero. In Harlem.
What were they expecting?
We’ve got two things going on here: 1) Asian-Americans righteously taking Hollywood to task over bullshit whitewashing and a studied refusal to offer opportunities for Asian actors; and 2) a mission to make sure John Cho is offered every leading-man role from now until the end of time because he’s just that great. Glad to see my vision boards are finally getting their due.
5. “Freedom” BET Awards performance by Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar
“This isn’t a zoo, zoo nerd!” Tiffany
“A stranger’s just a friend you haven’t taken candy from yet!” – Jake
“Six hit singles in 72 hours, all recorded because some Chicago knuckleheads thought they were vegetarians. “
The “I’m Getting To It” Awards
I spend 97% of every year rewatching old Star Trek episodes, and then binge on all the critically-acclaimed stuff during the holiday break. I anticipate that I’ll spend all of January irritating everybody with my Jamal-come-lately adoration for these shows; so until then, sputter amongst yourselves!