Ben’s Favorite TV Shows of 2022

As another the end of of another year fast approaches, it’s time for my “favorite of” lists! First up: Television! I decided to do things a little differently this time around though, since a lot of the shows on this list are returning ones I’ve already written about either in Suggestion Boxes or previous “best of” lists. I wanted to prioritize the shows that premiered this year, so I’ll just briefly mention the continued hits before diving into the new ones. With that in mind, here are my favorite TV shows of 2022!

Returning Series (Alphabetical)

Barry (Season 3)

Best Episode: Starting Now, directed by Bill Hader

Better Call Saul (Season 6)

Best Episode: Waterworks, directed by Vince Gilligan

The Boys (Season 3)

Best Episode: Herogasm, directed by Nelson Cragg

Hacks (Season 2)

Best Episode: The Click, directed by Paul W. Downs

Love Death + Robots (Season 3)

Best Episode: Jibaro, directed by Alberto Mielgo

Primal (Season 2)

Best Episode: The Red Mist, directed by Genndy Tartakovsky

The Righteous Gemstones (Season 2)

Best Episode: The Prayer of a Righteous Man, directed by David Gordon Green

Stranger Things (Season 4)

Best Episode: Chapter One: The Hellfire Club, directed by the Duffer Brothers

What We Do in the Shadows (Season 4)

Best Episode: The Night Market, directed by Yana Gorskaya

New Series (Ranked)

Number 9: The Old Man

This enigmatic espionage thriller series has Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow in leading roles, and the legendary actors are as amazing as you’d expect them to be. Alia Shawkat and Amy Brenneman hold their own next to their seasoned, leading colleagues, respectively playing off of Lithgow and Bridges extremely well, and Bill Heck is terrific as a younger version of Bridges’ character. The story is instantly intriguing, eventually dropping multiple twists and reveals that caught me off guard. The mystery behind what really happened prior the show’s main timeline is slowly, expertly unveiled throughout the seven episode first season. The Old Man immediately caught my attention with its cast and premise, and kept me eagerly awaiting each new episode, staying in my mind in between the air dates as I wondered what new piece of the puzzle would fall right into place or new development would come to light. I wouldn’t say that it reinvents the spy vs. spy wheel, but it’s a strong example of why you don’t need to fix what isn’t broken.

Best Episode: III, directed by Greg Yaitanes

Number 8: Under the Banner of Heaven

Andrew Garfield delivers a nearly career best performance in this miniseries as Jeb Pyre, a man whose profession as a detective and personal life as a devout Mormon clash. Pyre’s case leads him to question the faith that he and his community live by. Garfield displays Jeb’s growing disillusionment with such sincerity that I often felt more of his anxiety and shock than I’d care to admit. Daisy Edgar-Jones, Wyatt Russell, Sam Worthington, Chloe Pirrie, and Denise Gough – who are all great too – give us further insight into how this disturbing act was born from the failings of both organized religion and men who twist their belief systems to suit them. Gil Birmingham’s turn as Pyre’s Paiute, outsider partner is equally brilliant as well, Watching someone grapple with their beliefs isn’t anything new, nor is a gritty detective tale, but similarly to last year’s Mare of Eastown, Under the Banner Heaven excels by refining the qualities of those stories that work, and also has the added uneasiness of following seemingly inhuman crimes that actually took place in reality. 

Best Episode: Revelation, directed by Isabel Sandoval

Number 7: Reacher

While I mildly enjoyed the Tom Cruise-led Jack Reacher films, I think the Amazon series based on the character’s adventures is the more memorable interpretation of the two. There’s no doubt that Cruise is one Hell of an actor, but Alan Ritchson’s take on the Jack is, in my opinion, significantly better. Ritchson’s portrayal gives the ex-military drifter a certain kind of charm, but never lets you forget that he’s probably the deadliest and most intelligent person in whatever room he finds himself. The show’s writing plays a big part of that as well, in addition to its longer format, which gives us more time to get to know the gargantuan veteran. The extra time allows for the supporting cast to endear themselves to the audience too, which was arguably one of the films’ weaker aspects. The action in Reacher is pretty great too, highlighting the efficiency and ruthlessness of the title character. A second season was announced shortly after the first premiered, and I’ll be sure to binge through it whenever it arrives.

Best Episode: Welcome to Margrave, directed by Thomas Vincent

Number 6: Obi-Wan Kenobi

Obi-Wan Kenobi may not be as consistently incredible as The Mandalorian or Andor, but it is still an easily recommendable Star Wars adventure that almost made me consider giving the prequel trilogy a rewatch. It nails the parts it needs to, particularly when it comes to the aging eponymous Jedi and his former padawan/friend, Anakin Skywlaker Darth Vader. Ewan McGregor is better than ever as Kenobi, bringing so much elegance and emotion to a character he clearly cares for, and Vader is nearly at his all-time scariest when consumed with the hunt for his previous mentor. The build-up between the eventual encounters the two share pays off in extraordinary fashion, leading to one of my top five Star Wars moments ever and one of the only two times a story from the galaxy far, far away brought me to tears. Oh, and before I forget, it’s also worth noting that the inclusion of another classic character, who I won’t reveal here is tons of fun too. Their appearance was a surprise to be sure, but a welcome one that I consider another highlight of Disney-era Star Wars.

Best Episode: Part VI, directed by Deborah Chow

Number 5: Werewolf by Night & The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

With the outstanding exception of Loki‘s first season, I wasn’t wowed by any of the MCU’s small screen, live-action offerings until these two specials came around. Werewolf by Night and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special are bite-size MCU adventures sprinkled with mild frights and holiday cheer respectively, and that format is more palatable in my opinion. Both of the specials are brisk, entertaining, only tell the story they need to, and therefore never suffer the bloated feel or meandering pacing that affects the majority of their miniseries or season-length counterparts. WWbN also benefits from feeling almost completely untethered to the MCU, and GotGHS gives us time with franchise characters who have been mostly sidelined for years. The more I think about these two, the more I really do believe that specials are probably the best way to go for the MCU’s future TV endeavors, and I’m pretty excited for whichever characters or stories come next to this smaller-scale storytelling format. Hopefully we get one of these for Valentine’s Day or something in the near future.

Best Episode: N/A, features directed Michael Giacchino (Werewolf by Night) and James Gunn (The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special)

Number 4: Interview with the Vampire

I haven’t read the Anne Rice novels, so I can’t say how well the television adaptation of Interview with the Vampire holds up to the source material it’s based on, but I found the former significantly more interesting than the ’94 film. Jacob Anderson’s portrayal of Louis, the titular interviewee, is nothing short of riveting the entire season. By the end of the very first episode I was completely captivated watching Louis’ literal and psychological transformation into a creature of the night. Guiding Louis is Sam Reid’s entrancing yet unsettling Lestat – a character that is charming, terrifying, and undeniably unique. In addition to better performances, I think the effort the series makes to highlight the unhealthy and downright toxic parts of the pair’s relationship elevates it even further above its film counterpart. You can see why Louis would love Lestat – at first – but also why he most definitely shouldn’t. The show’s score, cinematography, and supporting performances (big shout out to Eric Bogosian) are also leagues above the movie’s and almost everything else I saw on TV this year. 

Best Episode: A Vile Hunger for Your Hammering Heart, directed by Levan Akin

Number 3: House of the Dragon

The first season of the Game of Thrones prequel series is a compelling start, and one that I think should please the most fans of HBO’s original political fantasy juggernaut. As its predecessor does, House of the Dragon features a twist-filled narrative and boasts a humongous cast of characters whose stories often intertwine with one another. This story is set 150 years before the events of GoT, which means it doesn’t rely on previously introduced heroes or villains. The new cast is awesome throughout, and Paddy Considine’s powerhouse performance deserves all the awards. Despite the jump back through time, House of the Dragon still shares thematic DNA with the Game of Thrones; the political rivalries, power plays, and brutal, unpredictable nature of Westeros were present even a century and a half earlier. Alliances are made and unmade, oaths are pushed to their breaking point, friendships are destroyed, and plenty of people are incinerated by giant, fire breathing reptiles. Yes, as the title implies, House of the Dragon has way more flying beasties than Game of Thrones ever did, and the effects that bring them to life are among the best you can find on television.

Bes Episode: The Lord of the Tides, directed by Geeta Vasant Patel

Number 2: Andor

Warning: Rogue One spoiler incoming

Andor is easily one of the strongest pieces of Star Wars entertainment, pre or post-Disney acquisition. The eponymous character seen here is a far cry from the one who would eventually sacrifice himself to create a chance for others to defeat the Empire, but there are glimpses of that man seen even early on in the show. Diego Luna gives one of the most nuanced performances in the entirety of the franchise as Andor, grounding the show in something more relatable than space-wizards or ultra deadly bounty hunters. He’s a man just trying to survive, keep his friends safe, and his head down, later forced into realizing the importance of coming together to battle the Empire’s injustice and power. Speaking of the Empire, Andor does a great job showing the extent of their control and cruelty at a smaller, yet extremely dark scale. It’s not just the burgeoning Rebellion that’s being crushed under this galaxy-spanning evil, but everyone. It’s not like audiences were unaware of how bad the Empire was (R.I.P. everyone on Alderaan), but Andor shows it in a whole new, disturbing light.

Oh, and Stellan Skarsgård knocks it out of the park as one of Star Wars’ most instantly intriguing characters.

Best Episode: Nobody’s Listening! directed by Toby Haynes

Number 1: Peacemaker

Unsurprisingly, the sequel series to The Suicide Squad, my favorite movie of 2021, is also among the best live-action DC content of the past few years. John Cena’s second turn as the antihero throughout these eight episodes is the best work I’ve seen from the former WWE megastar, and astoundingly close to the very best acting that I’ve seen anywhere this year. The series also takes great care to never condone the things that the titular vigilante has done, but explores what made him the way he is and the emotional chaos that he continues to struggle with. Peacemaker’s supporting cast is excellent as well, often bringing the same level of hilarity and sincerity as Cena to their scenes. The stand out among the non-title characters has is Freddie Stroma, who plays another unhinged individual who fights crime with illegal, lethal force while simultaneously being unfathomably funny. The action feels in step with James Gunn’s gorier, raunchier projects too, and the show has many “I can’t believe they did that” moments spread out in the premiere season. All in all, If you enjoyed the mix of gleefully dark humor, insane action, and genuine emotion seen in The Suicide Squad, there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll enjoy Peacemaker as well.

Best Episode: The Choad Less Traveled, directed by Jody Hill

And those were my favorite TV shows of 2022! If you liked what you read here, be sure to follow me on Twitter, Letterboxd, and bookmark my author page. Until next time, remember: The best seats are in the Middle of the Row!

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