The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017

TV Lists Best of 2017
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The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017

When we polled Paste editors, staff writers, and contributors on the best TV shows of 2017, more than 60 series received at least one vote—already a slim 15% or so of the total number of original scripted series to air this year. To narrow that “shortlist” to 25 titles was an almost impossible, often thankless task; an alternate list, made up entirely of programs that missed the cut, would still keep you entertained for a good chunk of next year.

Still, what follows is, we hope, a worthy slice of the “peak TV” pie, one that ranges widely across a flourishing medium. From midcentury crises to dystopian futures, the afterlife to the Red Keep, the sitcom soundstage to the (near) end of the world, our ranking may not be yours, but it is an annual reminder that we are, truly, in a remarkable age for television, golden, platinum, or otherwise. To crib from one of our selections, it is happening again: Paste’s list of the 25 best TV shows of the year.

25. Search Party

Network: TBS

Search Party carries its charm into Season Two through a scintillating evolution from mystery to horror. From a neon sign that reads “slay” and an eerie synth jingle to a painting of a dead man and a play about Charles Manson, it’s littered with half-frightful, half-funny details; the episode titles (“Murder!” “Suspicion” “Obsession,” etc.) might’ve been culled from the poster for one of Hitchcock’s classics. Indeed, if the first season’s search for Chantal Witherbottom (Clare McNulty) once reminded me of Vertigo, the second completes the connection: Dory (Alia Shawkat) and co. are the series’ Scottie Fergusons, unraveled not by the chase, but the capture. Though I want to put on my Stefon voice and say, this show has everything—the relentlessly funny John Early, as the fast-unraveling Elliott Goss; a Marge Gunderson figure on the characters’ trail; a guest arc for J. Smith-Cameron; scatological humor, awful pseudonyms, primal screams—the fact is, that everything is working in felicitous harmony to underscore Search Party’s most elemental fear: Seeking, and ultimately locating, the thing we thought would make us happy, only to discover that it’s not what we’d hoped. —Matt Brennan

24. American Gods

Network: Starz

Have you written something un-adaptable? Something nobody in their right mind would ever tackle? Give it to former Hannibal head honcho Bryan Fuller and screenwriting workaholic Michael Green (he did Logan, Blade Runner 2049, Alien: Covenant and Murder on the Orient Express in 2017 alone), because they made American Gods real. Starz’s beautiful consideration of faith in America is both lyrical and foul, exploring all our violent, sex-driven, small-minded tendencies with the same forgiveness and understanding of the gods suffering from the same vices. Its structure is an easy-going road trip, but its stylistic offerings are milk and honey. Some of the year’s most spectacular televised images were from this show, and none of them were easy to process. Each asked for commitment and faith from its audience, and I’d be lying if I denied being part of the cult. —Jacob Oller

23. The Crown

Network: Netflix

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In its second season, which arrives on Netflix Dec. 8, creator Peter Morgan’s lavish treatment of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II retains much of what made the first such a notable achievement: Claire Foy’s utterly captivating performance as the flinty monarch; the impeccable period detail; a sense of historical scope that outstrips its forebears, Morgan’s 2006 film The Queen and 2013 play The Audience. But to call The Crown’s sophomore effort merely “lavish” seems unfair. Rather, as time marches on—Season Two is set between the Suez Crisis, in 1956, and the Profumo affair, in 1963—the series elaborates a thoughtful style and episodic structure that fleshes out the supporting characters, including Elizabeth’s husband, Philip (Matt Smith), and sister, Margaret (the standout Vanessa Kirby), by turning the focus away from the queen herself. It’s a surprisingly full-throated examination of Britain’s public life, and its public figures’ private ones, capped by a mesmerizing midseason coup, “Beryl,” that suggests The Crown is still discovering the true extent of its powers. Good news, that: Olivia Colman has already signed on to play Elizabeth in Seasons Three and Four. —Matt Brennan

22. Sweet/Vicious

Network: MTV

There is little that seems, at this point in 2017, more sweetly, viciously of the moment than a dramedy thriller about an odd couple pair of coed women going full and violent vigilante on their liberal college campus’ worst sexual predators. Alas, MTV set itself a newly scripted-free chart this year, and Jenn Kaytin Robinson’s groundbreaking rape survivor buddy comedy came out an early casualty. While both the daily news and victims’ lived experiences prove the longevity a series like this could and should have, the first season’s ten perfect episodes did give sorority girl Jules’ (Eliza Bennett) recovery/revenge arc a satisfying conclusion, and brought her friendship with Kennedy (Aisha Dee) and partnership with Ophelia (Taylor Dearden) to equal emotional satisfaction. It also modeled how allyship, both from non-victimized women and from the “not all” faction of men in the world, can be executed, even (or especially) when done so imperfectly. Sweet/Vicious is not an easy show to get ahold of to watch if you missed it in its original run (it is not part of any streaming package or on DVD; it is available for purchase digitally through Amazon and iTunes only), but next to just believing women, putting in the effort to do so is close to the best investment you can make this (or any) holiday season. —Alexis Gunderson

21. One Day at a Time

Network: Netflix

I can’t remember a time I loved something the way I love the new One Day at a Time. Part of my affection stems from the fact that the show was such a discovery. It arrived in January with almost no hype. I write about TV for a living and I barely knew it was premiering. Almost immediately, I dismissed the show as yet another ill-advised remake. How wrong I was. The comedy is a pure delight. A throwback to the defining comedies of the 1970s (with a modern twist), the series deftly tackles some hot-button issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, wage inequality and teenage sexuality, amid real conversations about generational differences and Cuban heritage and traditions. Justina Machado (Six Feet Under) is fantastic as the recently separated veteran raising her two adolescent children with the help of her mother Lydia (living legend Rita Moreno) and her landlord Schneider (Todd Grinnell). Moreno gives an amazing speech in the season’s penultimate episode that should have nabbed her an Emmy nomination. But above all, the show is funny and grounded. Once you start watching, you won’t be able to watch this gem one day at a time. —Amy Amatangelo

20. Legion

Network: FX

We were introduced to Noah Hawley’s dark humor with Fargo, but Legion allows the writer/creator to play in a more fantastical sandbox—and thus to truly revel in a batshit crazy world. If ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gave us the light-hearted comic-book action and Netflix’s quartet of interwoven series showcased the grittier side of superheroes, FX’s first partnership with Marvel embraces the insanity of a lesser-known X-Men character, making you forget it has any shared DNA with those blockbuster men in super-suits. The story is as much about Dan Stevens’ character’s grasp on reality as his struggle for survival. David Heller suffers from schizophrenia, but what’s real and what’s the product of malevolent forces is often unclear, with his friend, Lenny Busker (Aubrey Plaza), playing the imaginary devil on his shoulder. The production design, full of 1960s and 1970s psychedelia and striking color palettes; the cast, which includes Hawley’s Fargo collaborators Rachel Keller and Jean Smart; and the sharp writing all make this another win for FX. —Josh Jackson

19. Master of None

Network: Netflix

The long-awaited second season of Aziz Ansari’s masterful Master of None begins with an homage to Bicycle Thieves and ends with a nod to The Graduate. In between are beautifully nuanced episodes as Ansari’s Dev Shah tries to navigate his love life and his career. Even when the show goes the traditional sitcom route—the will-they-or-won’t-they romance of Dev and the engaged Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi)—the dialogue and interactions are decidedly not traditional. They talk like real people, not ones created in a writer’s room. “New York, I Love You,” which steps away from the main characters to showcase the vibrant diversity of the city, and “Thanksgiving,” which chronicles Dev’s childhood friend Denise (Lena Waithe) coming out to her family, are easily the season highlights. —Amy Amatangelo

18. Catastrophe

Network: Amazon

When Rob Delaney, the funniest man on Twitter, and Sharon Horgan, the “brutal romantic,” lock themselves up in their writers’ room for a few weeks, you know that whatever comes out of it will be nothing short of filthy magic. Season Three of their painfully funny comedy Catastrophe confirms this fact once again: The fusion of these two charmingly warped minds makes for a viewing experience that likens life in all its unpredictability. The shitty day-to-day aspects of marriage and life in general are voiced by characters Rob (Delaney), Sharon (Horgan), Fran (Ashley Jensen) and Chris (Mark Bonnar) through a hail of blunt comic relief that will have you swinging in and out of your seat on the volatile rollercoaster ride that is Catastrophe. —Roxanne Sancto

17. Game of Thrones

Network: HBO

To paraphrase bland news features and documentaries since TV time immemorial, the seventh season of Game of Thrones is “a land of contrasts.” The bedrock of this show is pure iron—four excellent seasons, bolstered by the existence of George R.R. Martin’s source novels, followed by two pretty solid seasons of somewhat diminishing quality. We care deeply about the stories and the characters, and there is a lot of forgiveness built into this machine. The show needed it in Season Seven—at times, the writing and plotting were abysmal. But the direction, the acting, and the intangibles were all strong enough to sustain interest, and a solid, back-to-the-roots finale salvaged the wreckage of the lesser moments. Despite a false step or two, this is still appointment viewing, and nothing generates nearly the volume of conversation. In its penultimate season, Game of Thrones remains one of TV’s best stories. —Shane Ryan

16. The Vietnam War

Network: PBS

In the spring of 1975, after the strains of “White Christmas” signaled the conclusion of the United States’ foolhardy sojourn in Southeast Asia, the CIA’s Saigon station chief, Thomas Polgar, composed his final wire to Washington. “It has been a long fight, and we have lost,” he wrote, as allies clamored for space in the chaotic evacuation and American servicemen sent helicopters toppling into the sea. “Those who fail to learn from history are forced to repeat it. Let us hope that we will not have another Vietnam experience, and that we have learned our lesson.” These are old saws, of course, so oft repeated as to demand a certain skepticism, but in PBS’ 10-part, 18-hour examination of that long, lost fight, appearing at a moment in which the past’s dread echoes cannot be ignored, old saws cut deep. Indeed, it is by marshaling the familiar images and frequent phrases of that tumultuous era into a single, stricken epic that The Vietnam War becomes the most thorough screen treatment of the conflict since its ignominious end, and perhaps the definitive one: What it lacks in the immediacy of Emile de Antonio’s In the Year of the Pig, the Winterfilm Collective’s Winter Soldier, Peter Davis’ Hearts and Minds, and the thousands of hours of ghastly footage that Americans watched from the dinner table in the 1960s and 1970s, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s indispensable docuseries regains from the sheer grandeur of its portrait, and from its plaintive understanding that the war was the hinge on which the optimism of “the American century” swung firmly, irrevocably shut. —Matt Brennan

15. black-ish

Network: ABC

Ours is not a country that has been kind to its black citizens. So how do you make a comedy about this when you have a show that, by its very title, suggests that its characters are worried about losing their roots? Simple. You don’t. Creator Kenya Barris and his writers have been particularly adept in 2017, from an Inauguration-related “Lemons” that gives star Anthony Anderson one of the best monologues in recent TV history to the musically-inclined fourth season opener, “Juneteenth.” (Not to mention covering other pressing topics, like post-partum depression). Expect even more socially conscious comedic commentary when spin-off Grown-ish premieres on Freeform next year. —Whitney Friedlander

14. Big Little Lies

Network: HBO

Based on Liane Moriarty’s best-selling novel, Big Little Lies has the hallmarks of what we might call “prestige TV.” The HBO miniseries features an A-list cast, including Oscar (and now Emmy) winners Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, doing some of the best work of their careers as Monterey housewives. It’s got marquee names behind the camera: director Jean-Marc Vallée (Wild, Dallas Buyers Club) and writer David E. Kelley (The Practice, Ally McBeal). It’s even got a cable-ready plot that tackles domestic violence and sexual abuse in a picture-perfect if gossipy mommy community in California. And yet, with its focus on the perks and perils of female friendships, Big Little Lies is a thing unto itself: a sun-dappled murder mystery focused on the inner lives of women, featuring the year’s best use of a prosthetic penis—all scored by a killer soundtrack. —Manuel Betancourt

13. BoJack Horseman

Network: Netflix

That Netflix’s animated comedy manages to pinpoint the character of the zeitgeist and map a few of the ways through it is at the heart of its profound genius, always slipping, almost imperceptibly, from silver-tongued satire to pathos and back. As washed-up, alcoholic actor BoJack Horseman (Will Arnett) forges a relationship with the daughter he didn’t know he had (Aparna Nancherla) and cares for the mother he’s long wished to forget about (Wendie Malick), Season Four doesn’t forgive his cruelties—or anyone else’s—so much as suggest that cruelties are now our dominant form of currency, the payola that secures the White House for the wicked and Wall Street for the damned, the surest path to fame and fortune for the tiny few and destitution for the many. In BoJack, the backdrop to the characters’ familiar foibles—their unthinking insults, their unspoken apologies, their selfish choices, self-doubt, self-flagellation—is the even more familiar crassness of lobbyists, donors and campaign managers; of studio heads, ambitious agents, stars on the make; of cable news anchors, dimwitted columnists, “Ryan Seacrest types”; of a social order so inured to insincerity, whataboutism, political profiteering, environmental collapse that being kicked in the stomach starts to feel like a gift. In short, BoJack Horseman is the defining series of our time, and also a handbook for surviving it. —Matt Brennan

12. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

Network: TBS

No one familiar with TBS’ still young Full Frontal with Samantha Bee is under any delusion that the bracing, cathartically enraged, meticulously researched and reported weekly late night comedy show (it’s funny because it’s depressing!) is, in these deeply divided times, anything more than a coping mechanism for the hashtag Resistance—especially no one who has a hand in making it (“If any legislators are accidentally watching my show because they fell asleep during Big Bang Theory,” Bee quipped on November 8, by way of launching into another post-mass shooting plea for gun control legislation). But in a world where the oft-excoriated mainstream media can too easily tip into a self-obsessed spiral over puffily subtle Nazi profiles, and late night’s murderer’s row is mostly a bunch of white dudes who are only now—and only barely—confronting the structural hurdles their careers in both comedy and on network television never faced, and the daily barrage of micro-news cycles leave an engaged person barely able to think straight, well, here is an unapologetic Canadian lady and her unapologetically diverse and battle-ready writing staff to punch us in the brains with, of all things, real news. Or at least, righteously funny news. And in 2017, that’s the best any of us in the hashtag Resistance could hope for. —Alexis Gunderson

11. Jane the Virgin

Network: CW

With respect to, well, all other television, there are few shows that are as wildly, earnestly, joyfully ambitious as Jennie Snyder Urman’s Jane the Virgin. It’s bilingual! It has a Latin Lover narrator (the glorious Anthony Mendez)! It features highly stylized and costumed daydreams! It uses metatextual elements to tackle social justice issues AND celebrity shenanigans! It began, back in 2014, with the off-the-rails premise of the very Catholic, very career-focused Jane (Gina Rodriguez) getting accidentally artificially inseminated by the unstable OBGYN sister (Yara Martinez) of the man (Justin Baldoni) whose “sample” was used and who is also, incidentally, both Jane’s boss and old almost-flame… and then opened into Act Two. Three and half seasons later, the series has not only lost none of its joy and ambition, but has gained complexity and richness as its antagonists—particularly Petra/Anezhka (Yael Grobglas), but recently also Rogelio’s (Jaime Camil) nemeses Darci (Justina Machado) and Esteban (Keller Wortham)—have been given more layers to work with, and as Jane’s romantic and familial entanglements have, both leading up to and following (SPOILER) the affectingly mundane midseason death earlier this year of her husband, Michael (Brett Dier), been allowed to mature with grace, humor, and realism. Here’s to another three and a half great seasons. —Alexis Gunderson

10. Better Things

Network: FX

Pamela Adlon’s semi-autobiographical dramedy reaches new heights in its sophomore season, retaining the series’ painstaking realism as it explores more imaginative emotional terrain. From the “funeral” of “Eulogy” to the modern dance of “Graduation,” Better Things transforms kinship, its problems and possibilities, into an impressionistic, often dreamlike experience; for each thorny conversation and uncomfortable silence, there’s a flight of fancy suffused with love. Recklessly funny and slyly affecting, the series’ frank dispatches from the life of actress Sam Fox (Adlon), raising her three children and sparring with her mother (Celia Imrie), ultimately manage to transcend the connection to disgraced co-creator and co-writer Louis C.K.: From the artful direction to the set decoration to the hand-me-down costumes, Better Things is Adlon’s own. —Matt Brennan

9. Halt and Catch Fire

Network: AMC

By the time Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers’ group portrait of the dawn of the digital age concludes its final act—a four-episode coda, including the magnificent “Goodwill,” that alone qualifies it for inclusion here—cable’s most underappreciated drama emerges as one of its most poignant, a treatment of connections broken and (re-) made over the course of a distant decade. Halt and Catch Fire has always been, as Joe (Lee Pace) proclaims in the pilot episode, about “the thing that gets us to the thing,” but it’s the series’ final season, set amid the scramble to build the Internet’s dominant search engine, that draws the point most elegantly. Through video games, coding assignments, nascent ideas tied to the web’s wide reach, Halt and Catch Fire suggests, Joe and Gordon (Scoot McNairy) and Donna (Kerry Bishé) and Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) complete the circuits of affection at the heart of all human endeavor, and so discover life’s “one constant”: “It’s you. It’s us,” as Donna says in the series’ sublime finale. “The project gets us to the people.” And so it did. —Matt Brennan

8. The Deuce

Network: HBO

Since creating The Greatest Series of All Time, David Simon has maintained a fruitful relationship with HBO. Like The Wire, his fifth project for the premium cable channel lives at the margins of society, those scraping by to survive or taking advantage of the only opportunities they see. The Deuce is set in and around the Times Square of the 1970s, where pimps, prostitutes, beat cops, pornographers and reporters make sense of a world in which New York has just decided it doesn’t have any decency standards. The cast includes A-listers James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal, as well as The Wire’s Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (this time on the other side of the law from D’Angelo Barksdale), Chris Bauer and Gbenga Akinnagbe. But the show relies as heavily on its large ensemble cast, including Dominique Fishback (Darlene), Chris Coy (Paul) and Gary Carr (C.C.), as well as musicians-turned-actors Black Thought and Method Man. A show about sex workers on HBO could easily feel exploitative, but Simon and co-creator George Pelecanos seem more interested in the stories of their characters than titillating their audience. In The Deuce, the grimy heart of New York is nonetheless full of humanity. —Josh Jackson

7. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Network: The CW

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After its Season Two finale, which left lead Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) jilted at the altar, it would have been easy to assume this musical comedy would become a singing and dancing revenge fantasy. Instead, the third season of the CW series, which Bloom co-created with Aline Brosh McKenna, has gone on to tackle something much more important than boy problems: mental health. It was recently revealed that Rebecca has borderline personality disorder, and a healthy support group of friends who will help her cope with her new diagnosis. But don’t worry. The show still has time for songs about poop jokes and nostalgia for the first penis a woman ever saw. —Whitney Friedlander

6. Insecure

Network: HBO

Despite what the title implies, Insecure approaches its second season with an inspired confidence, following both Issa (Issa Rae) and Lawrence’s (Jay Ellis) journeys as they navigate their newfound singleness. For Issa, that starts with an effort to win Lawrence back before reigniting things with her ex, Daniel (Y’lan Noel), and cultivating a revolving “ho-tation” of partners. For Lawrence, it means treating his rebound girlfriend Tasha (Dominique Perry) terribly before throwing himself into his work. It shouldn’t be revolutionary that the series doesn’t make a big deal of Issa having multiple partners and embracing her sexual freedom, but it still kind of is. Amid all this, the show deftly explores the casual racism and sexism Lawrence, Issa and Molly (Yvonne Orji) encounter daily, the white privilege that surrounds Issa at work and the racism Issa is seemingly okay with even when her co-worker Frieda (Lisa Joyce) calls her on it. Through it all, Insecure remains terrifically funny, down to its sharp skewering of the TV landscape (I need to see a full episode of Due North). And I must pause for a special shout out to Natasha Rothwell, whose hilariously frank Kelli has quickly become my favorite character. —Amy Amatangelo

5. Twin Peaks: The Return

Network: Showtime

Twenty-seven years after David Lynch changed the face of television with a whodunit/whydunit about a murdered homecoming queen, he created an extraordinary 18-episode sequel. The Return wasn’t merely a return: It ranged from Las Vegas to New York to 1940s Los Alamos, N.M. before bringing Special Agent Dale Cooper (the incandescent Kyle MacLachlan) home to the land of Douglas firs and dubious owls. Lynch’s master preoccupations hit as hard as ever: violence against women, metaphysics and the supernatural, nostalgic pop music, and the ways in which good and evil are at once mundane and unfathomably mysterious (television itself gets a bit of a meta-referendum, as it did the first time around). Featuring much of the original cast (including the last performances of Catherine Coulson and Miguel Ferrer) with a host of fabulous newcomers, Twin Peaks: The Return is sometimes a hoot and sometimes an utter tour de force, but always, always, classic David Lynch, which is to say, completely dedicated to the mystery. —Amy Glynn

4. The Handmaid’s Tale

Network: Hulu

There’s no way The Handmaid’s Tale could’ve fathomed how incredibly prescient it would be. But as women’s rights were chipped away this year, the story of a dystopian near-future where women are held as slaves and forced to procreate is a harrowing and plausible fiction. The idea that June (Elisabeth Moss), her husband, Luke (O. T. Fagbenle), and her best friend, Moira (Samira Wiley), thought that, despite governmental changes, their lives would go on as normal is eerily familiar, but it’s not just the show’s impeccable timing that makes The Handmaid’s Tale one of the year’s best. The performances are magnificent: Moss’ star turn as Offred, who despite acting passive has a consistent undercurrent of rage; Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy, a woman who’s buried her moral compass in order to mask her sorrow with cruelty; and Emmy winner Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia, who rules the Handmaids with unwavering authority but still manages to make us believe she loves her charges. Visually stunning (the Handmaids’ red capes were instantly iconic), the ten episodes breathtakingly unfold via both flashbacks and current horrors. Under His eye, we were all captivated. —Amy Amatangelo

3. The Americans

Network: FX

In The Americans’ penultimate season, helmsmen Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields’ careful aesthetic, their uncommon precision, cultivate the sincere pleasures of “slow” TV: Despite the criticism from certain quarters, the series is neither loose nor languid, using its methodical construction to reconsider, as Paste contributor Evan McGarvey writes, “the serrated edges between parenting and handling.” If The Leftovers externalizes psychic strain, The Americans bottles it up, tamps it down, quiets it, deploying its changes of tempo—the silent stretch capped by the report of the gun, the argument accompanied by the awkward silence—to create a sublime charge. Anchored by four extraordinary performances, from Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell, Frank Langella and Holly Taylor, The Americans pursues its portrait of spies hemmed in by history until the terse language and succinct images come to represent the characters’ own evolution, turning inward as the passage of time turns their politics upside down. In other words, Season Five of The Americans is an ideal meeting of form and function, an ambitious family drama caught in the Cold War’s tightening vise: still one of the best shows on television. —Matt Brennan

2. The Good Place

Network: NBC

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You know a show is good when its “out of context” Twitter screengrab account is my favorite follow of the year. The Good Place isn’t just a weird dark horse for the best comedy on TV, it’s weird and dark in other ways, too. It loves puns, philosophy, and ragging on the highest- and lowest-class dorks in our nation. The second season of the afterlife show took everything that was great about the first season, stuffed it into a mind-boggling twist, and squeezed it until the corner the writers backed themselves into became their perfectly-positioned pulpit. The world follows an amazing fantasy logic while still being flexible enough to humor any wild thought experiment. It features some of the best performances on TV by actors that, before the show, were relative unknowns. It made me care deeply about both a anthropomorphic database and a part-time DJ from Florida. The Good Place forking rules. —Jacob Oller

1. The Leftovers

Network: HBO

In its third and final season, Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta’s portrait of a world in extremis remains television’s most wildly inventive series, testing the limits of faith by testing the limits of the medium in equal measure. From a St. Louis hotel room to the Australian Outback, the distant past to the unknown future, its set of strange, loosely linked dispatches, dense with unexpected allusions (Perfect Strangers, the Wu Tang Clan) and lashed together by Max Richter’s devastating score, edges toward despair again and again—and then pulls us back from the brink with gestures of kindness, of understanding, of connections not broken but forged. Written, directed and acted with almost religious conviction, it is as inexplicable and as beautiful as a lost scrap of scripture, earning our devotion by proving itself yet again one of the decade’s signal works of art. —Matt Brennan