Here are my favorite books, movies, video games, tv series, and other moments in pop culture from the last decade.
Few TV shows have proven as emotional and rewarding for me over a long period of time as Arrow, through all its remarkable highs, and depressing lows. At its best, it set new standards for what comic book television can accomplish. Its morally complex world, its dark aesthetic, its character-driven approach. For me, there will probably never be another show quite like it.
Leslie and Ben (Parks and Rec)/Jake and Amy (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
This pair of Mike Schur-produced tv shows has set new standards of what a television couple can and should be. One where people come together out of mutual love, make sacrifices for the benefit of the other, happily accept the burden of caring for one another, and just generally all around make each other into better people.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Guerilla Games accomplished a rare and remarkable thing when they shifted gears from their usual brand of FPS to open-world RPG. This first entry in a newly developed IP, they hit it out of the park. With brilliant combat, stellar graphics, and an expertly crafted story, not only is it one of my favorites for the generation, the inevitable sequel is my most anticipated for the next.
The Fitz and Fool Trilogy (Robin Hobb)
Three successive trilogies (supplemented by two peripheral series) has made the Realm of the Elderlings one of the richest and most rewarding in all of fantasy. The final tale of FitzChivalry Farseer and his friend the Fool has been heartbreaking, poignant, and insanely, wildly perfect, further solidifying Hobb as a master of her craft.
Taking a break from fairy tales and princesses, Disney produced one of their very best movie in years: a world run by intelligent animals, in a clever and hilarious tale that explores and celebrates the diversity of people. The prejudices that come from our differences, the similarities that bind us, and why we’re all so much better off for trying.
Person of Interest
On the surface, this show looks (and often behaves) as a procedural. In actuality, it’s secretly a crime drama, with some Batman and Jason Bourne thrown in for good measure, gradually evolving into near-future speculative fiction with heavy shades of War Games and Isaac Asimov. One of the best, most unique, and highly original series of the last ten years.
This is really not a game I should love. I don’t gravitate toward difficulty, and I shy away from horror. Three playthroughs later, plus the DLC, and my first-ever Platinum, and I already know I’ll be going back in for more.
I missed out on seeing the first Avengers in its early run. Endgame more than made up for it. Attending that opening night showing, sharing all the literal laughter, cheers, and tears with fellow fans, has become one of my most treasured movie memories.
Flintlock fantasy was a sub-genre with which I was unfamiliar before picking up ‘Promise of Blood’. I constantly find myself surprised that fans are seemingly unfamiliar with McClellan’s works. Intense, bloody, brutal, with a wildly clever approach to magic in a time of wars and gunpowder, he’s already one of the most exciting new voices in the genre.
The Good Place
With a lot of creative freedom and impressive talent, Mike Schur has crafted one of the most original, absurd, whacky, thoughtful, unpredictable, and outrageous comedies ever put on tv.
Mass Effect Trilogy
BioWare was in high form when they developed their own new space-based IP. An RPG/shooter mashup that remains one of the most ambitious in all of gaming. With customizeability aplenty, an abundance of replayability, and a host of memorable characters and questlines in this richly-devised futuristic world. It may very well never be equaled by anything else in the industry.
No Man’s Land (Wonder Woman)
There’s a lot to love about the Wonder Woman movie, and no sequence reflects its successes better than this. In Diana’s moment of becoming, with all the grandeur, nobility, and courage that gives the character her due, our beloved Amazon storms across an impassable battlefield to rescue a small village of civilians. Because for Wonder Woman, everyone is worth trying to save, even in a war.
If you’re a fan of science fiction and you’re not watching The Expanse…seriously, why aren’t you watching The Expanse? It is top-shelf, high-quality character-driven, political intrigue, alien weirdness space opera/hard science on every single level.
I still consider this to be Miyazaki’s ultimate masterpiece. The world design is next to none. The sound design, the degree of show over tell, the moody atmosphere, the meticulous combat. Unraveling the world of Lordran, passing all its tests and trials, winnowing out all of its secrets, enduring to the very end, has been one of the most immensely rewarding and frustrating experiences of my life.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
In a nutshell, this film exemplifies (almost) everything that makes X-Men my favorite comic franchise. The ongoing conflict of humans and mutants, a serendipitous integration of past and present cast members, thrilling team-ups in power useage, successful introduction of Sentinels and time travel, and ultimately a very emotional and compelling story that explores everything Charles Xavier has to sacrifice in order to become our beloved Professor X.
Watching Arrowverse grow in real-time has been a true pleasure, and there’s almost no higher high than the yearly round of crossover events. What started as a simple meeting-of-the-teams in ‘Flash vs. Arrow’ has now evolved into wacky, high-stakes, comics-driven events. From body-swapping Oliver and Barry, to the literal end of every timeline in the universe. There are few events that get me more excited with such frequency like Arrowverse when everything and everyone all comes together.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Star Wars is a series that has gotten, shall we say, a bit long in the tooth. As my own investment has waned in recent years, Rian Johnson’s entry gave me the compelling and thoughtful new story I craved. Luke as a bitter old Jedi, the connection between Rey and Kylo Ren, the cost of war, the needs of being a hero in a rebellion. I loved it on pretty much every possible level.
(...Rise of Skywalker? What Rise of Skywalker?)
Best Reason To Love Dark Fantasy
Book of the Ancestor Trilogy (Mark Lawrence)
It would be so easy to mishandle a main character who believes she was born with a talent for killing. But Lawrence writes Nona with such empathy and complexity, and surrounds her with a whole host of challenging characters. Deeply original in its concepts (there’s a chosen one of sorts… but it’s complicated; there’s war, but it’s not for the usual reasons). Lawrence writes with unparalleled lyricism in his prose, and provides one of the most female-driven series I’ve ever read. Dark, bloody, and aching with humanity, it solidifies as Lawrence as a singular voice within the genre.
Favorite Television Character(s)
Oliver Queen and Sara Lance
I’ve loved a lot of different characters in my life. Of all stripes, across all mediums, with all manner of sensibilities. But over the last ten years, there are almost none that can compare with the emotional connection I’ve formed with these two Arrow-based characters. Emotionally complex, sympathetic, driven, and just all-around compelling and badass. Collectively, they’ve set a new bar for what I look for in my most favored of comic book characters.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
The team at Naughty Dog boasts one of the most creative and talented crews in the gaming industry. And giving a definitive end to Nathan Drake’s story is one of the smartest things they’ve done. Telling it with such flair, such emotion, such poignancy, solidified them as masters of their craft.
The ending of the Marvel Netflix series has been one of the most dispiriting byproducts of the MCU’s success. And in no show is that more the case than Daredevil. My personal favorite (ranked only behind Arrow) in the genre, that tells a gruesome, mature story about religion, faith, white masculinity, poverty, and the very real moral complexities of being a street-level vigilante.