Wondering what to do with your upcoming free time? Good thing we have some suggestions for what you should be watching, playing, reading, listening to, etc.
Ben’s TV Pick: Invincible – Robert Kirkman’s (creator of The Walking Dead) superhero comic book series had been on my radar for a few years now, but Amazon’s animated adaptation was my first real experience with the world and characters of Invincible. This show tells a constantly entertaining story of an initially lighthearted superhero tale that pokes fun at and deconstructs other similar superhero stories and cliches, before it takes an extremely dark, abrupt turn. Mark, the eponymous superbeing, is instantly likable thanks to the great opening episode and Steven Yeun’s stellar vocal work, and the supporting heroes are all well-cast and fun to learn about too. Sandra Oh is fantastic as Mark’s mother, and J.K. Simmons is the best part of the show as Mark’s father, the Invincible universe’s Superman equivalent. The first season also introduces a S.H.I.E.L.D-like organization, as well as a whole rogues gallery of intriguing villains, one of whom fluctuates between a seemingly charismatic, likable person and an intimidating, terrifying, destructive threat. Here’s hoping season two can make the most of where season one’s finale left us, and Mark.
Lauren’s TV Pick: Squid Game – I have absolutely no idea how people watched Squid Game back to back with Mike Flanagan’s Midnight Mass when they first came out; honestly I never would’ve recovered had I done the same. Both shows absolutely wrecked me with the unexpected bursts of brutality – even going into Squid Game knowing elimination meant death, the number of contestants that drop in the chaos of the first game had my jaw on the floor – the utter lack of empathy and infuriating manipulation from those in power towards those they see as less than, and the depths of despair I’d reach thanks to how much I cared for, and how much I begged for the happiness of, these characters. Similarly to Midnight Mass, I had to walk away from this show for days at a time to recover from the total devastation certain episodes left in their wake (looking at you in particular, episode 6). Squid Game truly shines within the competition itself thanks to the contestants, and had it not been for a subplot that feels like it didn’t really amount to anything thanks to its lack of impact, the VIPs who didn’t fit with the feel of the show at all, and a baffling decision in the final episode that completely ruined some of the most crushing moments of the show, then I would completely agree with the ridiculous amounts of praise Squid Game got. Still great, just a bit overhyped.
Ben’s Video Game Pick: Deep Rock Galactic – When Deep Rock Galactic dropped on Playstation 4 and 5, my friends and I spent the majority of our collective weekend playing as four different dwarven miner classes tasked with finding specific gems and minerals, depositing them in a mechanized mule, and then retreating to a drop pod, all the while hordes of alien bugs chased after us. It’s like a combination of Minecraft and a cooperative shooter with an awesome art style, a terrific sense of humor, and a deceptively addictive gameplay loop. Each class has different weapons for defense and tools for cavern traversal, and the missions gain new challenges and objectives as you level up and improve your miner or choice. You can tell how much love went into DRG, not just because of the refined gameplay, but because of how much there is to do that goes far past what would already be a great game. Sure you can use the hub area to just adjust your gear and select missions, but you can also go dancing, play soccer, mess with the gravity, and get shit-faced (you won’t get hazard pay if you go on a mission while drunk though). It’s a total blast to play with friends, and a strong start for gaming in 2022.
Ben’s Video Game Pick: Halo: Reach – After being thoroughly underwhelmed with Halo Infinite’s campaign, I decided to return to what is (and probably always will be) my favorite game in the franchise, Halo: Reach. The Master Chief Collection makes Reach (the planet and the game) prettier, but even without the visual update it would still be a stellar experience. Bungie’s last hurrah with the franchise they created is set directly before Halo: Combat Evolved, putting you in the Power Armor of Noble 6, the newest member in a fireteam of augmented supersoldiers called “Spartans,” and tasks you with combatting an overwhelming onslaught of an alien faction determined to wipe out humanity. Reach has a far more somber tone than the other games in the series, one that’s elevated further by the melancholic soundtrack (which might be the series’ best), and your Spartan comrades have far more depth to them than regular Halo’s protagonist Master Chief. I ended up really caring about almost all of my teammates, which made it that much more harrowing each time the odds slipped further and further against them in their desperate fight for survival. Combine the expert storytelling with the oh-so smooth gunplay that put Halo and Bungie on the map, and you’ve got one of the all-time greatest first-person shooters.
So what do you think about these picks? What content did we miss over the past two weeks while we were spending time with these? Be sure to leave a comment below letting us know about everything (both current and simply new to you) you’ve been consuming lately!
And while you’re here, be sure to check some of the site’s other recent content:
- Lauren’s written review for the newly released to Disney+ Encanto.
- Middle of the Row: The Podcast episodes flashing back to 2001’s Spirited Away and Wet Hot American Summer, the newer The Suicide Squad, and our 2021 Time Capsule episode.