The Friday High Five, Year-End Edition
My 5 Favorite Pop Culture Things From 2022
Every Friday I share 5 things I am digging at the moment.
Like last week’s High Five, this edition is a bit different than the norm. (Can something I’ve only been doing for three weeks have a norm? Especially when two of the three weeks have been special editions?)
Year end tends to invite a lot of reflection. So in that spirit, this week’s High Five looks back on my favorite pop culture things from 2022.
Let’s start with the least-surprising entry (if you know me at all). The five items on this list aren’t ranked, but there’s a good chance Andor is my favorite thing from 2022.
Here’s what I said about Andor, from my updated ranking of all things Star Wars:
There is a depth to the characters and a maturity to the story that no Star Wars has ever managed. Not even The Empire Strikes Back. Of course, Andor is 4 times longer than Empire. As Yoda famously said while comparing lightsabers with Luke, “size matters not, but how you use it.” Or something to that effect.
Andor uses its 12 episodes judiciously. I think there are maybe 3 fight scenes across the entire runtime. But it is never boring. As much as I love Cassian, Luthen, and Mon Mothma, I think my favorite thing about Andor is its pace. Unhurried and deliberate, tension builds across episodes until it feels almost excruciating.
I have been begging for a more mature Star Wars for years and we finally have it. Thank the maker.
2. Project Hail Mary
Project Hail Mary—written by Andy Weir, who also wrote The Martian—was published in 2021 but I didn’t read it until this year, so I’m saying it counts. I read some amazing books in 2022: Piranesi, The Shadow of the Wind, and Doc are all 5-star books in my opinion. But Project Hail Mary was in a class of its own. I consumed it in 3 days. I simply couldn't put it down.
The natural impulse is to compare it to The Martian. Both are science fiction stories grounded in reality that feature witty protagonists pushed to their wit’s end trying to survive in the most inhospitable place imaginable. Project Hail Mary doesn't have the crazy plot twists that characterized Weir's debut, nor does it have the same breakneck pace. But it is the better story. It is the one that made my heart soar and brought me to tears frequently. One of the best novels I have ever read. Soon to be a film starring Ryan Gosling!
3. Stranger Things Season 4
There was a 3-year gap between seasons 3 and 4 of Stranger Things. Long enough for me to forget just how good the show is and to silently question if I still cared about it. We didn’t get around to watching it until several months after it released, and then we binged the entire season in about a week. Which is pretty impressive when you consider the movie-length runtime on some of the episodes. I think it’s impressive anyway. You might have another word in mind.
Season 4 provided something we have never had before: a true antagonist. In previous seasons, the monsters are more animalistic in their motives and reactions. But Vecna was a villain in the truest sense. Season 4 also gave us one of the best characters of all-time in Eddie Munson. If you know, you know.
4. House of the Dragon
I was completely meh about the idea of returning to Westeros. I love the books and enjoyed the first 7/8 of the show, but that last season hurt me bad. I tuned in to House of the Dragon out of idle curiosity more than anything else, and was pleasantly surprised to find it was good, if strongly reminiscent of its predecessor in the broad strokes: noble families doing unnoble things against a gratuitous backdrop of blood and sex. The initial sameness killed my buzz, but I hung in long enough for the characters to get their hooks into me, and that was that.
House of the Dragon suffers a bit due to its time skips, but there is no filler here. The entire season builds toward the inevitable conflict that everyone can see coming. Talk about tension. I’ll be there when season two releases, which sadly isn’t until 2024.
I had never even heard of this show until about 2 weeks ago. I was scrolling through the Apple TV listings, trying to decide if I wanted to start For All Mankind or Severance, when I stumbled upon this little gem. After finishing all 3 seasons in 2 weeks, I can confidently say that it is the best show on Apple TV. Yes, even better than Ted Lasso.
I know! Crazy, but true.
Your mileage may vary and all that, but it has the same heart-warming sentiment of Ted Lasso with even more lovable characters and a more meaningful story. Trying deserves more space than I can give it here—I’ll be writing a longer form piece on it sometime soon—but it completely swept me away. Season 4 can’t come soon enough.
What were your favorite pop culture things from 2022? Drop a comment and let me know! Don’t be shy. :)
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