Although “You” remains the worst show I watch, it definitely had some competition with the completely unnecessary second season of “Your Honor.” Both had such lousy seasons, that it makes me question watching any more shows with variations of the word “you” in the title.
“You”…Although I’m sure this isn’t actually the worst show on television, it’s unquestionably the worst show that I personally watch. I never thought I’d say this, but the Netflix seasons of “You” really make me appreciate the subtlety, realism, and darker edges of Lifetime. The first season of “You” remains the best (and probably will forever remain the best) because it’s not only the most creepily-realistic, but it also clearly understood that Joe Goldberg is the villain of the series, and in no way, shape, or form a morally gray, quasi-sympathetic anti-hero. The subsequent Netflix seasons have struggled mightily to understand clearly how dangerous and diabolical Joe actually is, and often feature weak attempts to water him down (the ridiculous portrayal of Love Quinn in seasons 2 and 3 bordered on sexist, as Joe was seen as “not that bad,” and a mere hapless bystander to the homicidal whims of some crazy lady).
In the fourth season, such an attempt is made by once again indulging in the notion that most of Joe’s victims actually deserve it because they’re hideous people. He’s not the real villain…no, no, it’s some combination of male college professors that only promote male authors (yes, because publishing has become such a den of testosterone in recent decades) or villainous billionaires that enjoy “white savior” historical novels. [One of the most insidious things about “You” is the way Joe indulges in the empathy-less, Reddit-reality that killing people for having taste in books he doesn’t like is pretty much fair game.] But a better show might notice that its main character who is constantly calling out the misogyny he sees in other men is the primary one actually stalking, kidnapping, imprisoning, and (usually) murdering women.
Of course, none of this would irk me so much if “You” weren’t also so spectacularly braindead. Despite Joe’s constant interior monologue of condescension and derision, the show itself is not actually earning its snob bonafides. It’s repetitive, dumber than hell, irritating (seriously…what the hell is up with that constant voiceover?), hackneyed (there are “plot twists” in the second half of season 4 that a novice screenwriter wouldn’t have thought were clever if they were submitting it for school credit), and completely reliant on “out of nowhere” twists to keep its main character in the game and out of prison. Nobody in this season asks any variation of the following: “Why does a billionaire need a scrawny American fugitive to murder a London mayoral candidate?” “And if said billionaire were really so protective of his daughter, why would he indulge a serial killer he believes has murdered multiple people dating that daughter?” “And if that daughter has been told multiple times by said serial killing boyfriend that he’s killed people and is a ‘bad person’ why would she just blissfully ignore that if she were as smart as the show keeps telling us she is?” “Are London police mentally challenged? Why in the hell else would they not think it’s weird that a shady American professor could be tied to a handful of seemingly unrelated crimes like the disappearance of a billionaire that ‘his girlfriend’ just texted or one of his students assassinating a top Mayoral candidate or a serial killer he had such strong overlap with?” “Once ‘Professor Moore’ is outed as the infamous Joe Goldberg, does that not make them want to retroactively look into the dozens of crime scenes they can directly tie him to?” …Ultimately, we’re stuck with a show where the main character keeps breaking all matter of logic and common sense in order to continuously get away with violent murders. Please God, let the fifth season be the last one…pretty please? Grade for fourth season: D
“Your Honor”…Bryan Cranston is one of the best actors alive, and so is Margo Martindale. It is truly saying something about this show’s lack of quality–or reason to exist–that it manages to be so bad even with Cranston and Martindale sharing scenes together (their few dozen scenes together are one of the highlights though). First, “Honor” didn’t have a great first season, but it at least had a purpose. There was a real plot, narrative drive, and featured realistic characters trying to wiggle out of tense situations they’d stumbled into like some New Orleans-set nightmare. Cranston’s character came up hard against his most deeply held beliefs, and learned he was willing to do almost anything to keep his son out of jail and/or the gunsights of a local mafia boss. The shocking twist ending to season one was soaked in irony so bitter, it felt like Greek tragedy.
However, the most “shocking” thing about season 2 is that it was made at all, and with such terrible planning. Before the season even premiered, Cranston made it clear this was the last season–almost as if it had been designed that way–and so why play it so monotonous, so dull, and so safe if you know you’re not coming back? Scenes stack themselves like joyless Jenga pieces (oh look, “Big Mo” is threatening someone again but not actually doing a damn thing…oh look, Jimmy Baxter is threatening someone again, but doing dramatically less than he did in the first season…oh look, Gina Baxter looks irritated but does virtually nothing all season…oh look, “Fi” Baxter pouts her way through every scene, because that didn’t get old enough in the first season), but nothing much really happens. Late in the season, Carmen Ejogo shows up to once again harangue Cranston, and you might find yourself asking “After everything that happened in season one, how on Earth can a character on this show still be this self-righteous and naive? And why is this one of those shows where there’s only a dozen people in a city the size of New Orleans and they all know each other? Does that even seem plausible?” Frankly, none of it does; this makes “Honor” the rare show to not only be dull viewing, but far-fetched dull viewing as well… Grade for the “final” season: D
“Mayor of Kingstown”…”Kingstown” isn’t remotely funny, and at times is full of so much machismo, it’s unintentionally funny. [This is a show where a character could ask another about the weather, and they’d respond “shut the fuck up” and maybe start waving a gun around.] Even though “Kingstown” has many of the same problems “You” and “Your Honor” do (extreme repetition, occasionally stagnant plots, too much monotonous exposition and character interactions, and a lack of credible police work that makes it ridiculous so many murders could be covered up), it’s also got a more propulsive plot that can make it more engaging to watch during certain episodes, like the action-packed season 2 finale. The season 2 ender featured no less than three expertly-staged gunfights, an execution or two, and a couple of tense standoffs to boost. Although I sometimes critiqued “Ozark” for being too fast paced (substituting plot acceleration for genuinely satisfying plotting), it at least understood that few people are watching a grim anti-hero drama to see a live-wire like Bryan Cranston mope through three-quarters of a final season. I feel “Kingstown”‘s second season isn’t as consistently satisfying as the first (too many similar scenes of Mike trying to get a couple of characters out of jail, and too few scenes between him and Iris), but it still knows how to deliver (most of) what you want in a finale. Grade for season 2: C…Grade for season 2 finale: B+