During the pandemic, I have failed to succumb to the pull of Netflix’s most-talked-about new shows. No Emily In Paris for me (which was probably a good idea), or The Queen’s Gambit (I’ll get to it, I promise), and Bridgerton only held my attention for about 15 minutes before I hit pause (I’ll return to it one day!). But when a friend told me about an addictive French thriller starring a modern-day “gentleman” thief named Assane Diop (played by a mesmerizing Omar Sy donning an enviable collection of Air Jordans), I subsequently lost two weeknights of sleep hitting “next episode.” And I’m not alone — the show has already dethroned both Gambit and Bridgerton as the streamer’s most-watched new series, with 70 million people tuning in during its first 28 days. (It’s also got a 96% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.)
The show’s name comes from novelist Maurice Leblanc’s early 20th-century series about Arsène Lupin, a gentleman thief who Assane is obsessed with and whose techniques he’s spent most of his life studying. The goal? Take on one of the most powerful families in Paris to avenge his father’s death 25 years before. There’s a heist and a red Ferrari crashing through the ceiling of the Louvre in the first episode, but I guarantee you won’t see what’s coming around the corner. What follows is a bingeable quest for justice, with all the twists and turns you’d want from a thriller without a pitch-black tone or extreme violence. Yes, it’s an emotional roller coaster, but Lupin, and Sy as Assane, is impossibly charming.
So far Netflix has only released the first five episodes, leaving hungry viewers (me) with a cliffhanger that made me scream at the TV. It wasn’t the first, trust me. The second half drops this summer and I can’t wait. —Karolina Waclawiak
Where to watch: Netflix
I frequently have no idea what is going on in this show, which is exactly why I like it.
The first of Disney+’s new Marvel TV series, it stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany as newlywed superhero couple Wanda Maximoff and Vision. They have just moved to the freakishly cheery town of Westview, where they take special pains to blend in and hide their powers. Vision isn’t human; he’s made of metal and can move at great speed, while Wanda can control and transform objects. The first three episodes mimic the tropes of past sitcoms. The pilot, for example, is shot in black and white and has the same whimsical energy of I Love Lucy, complete with a canned laughing track, while the second episode jumps forward to the ’60s as Wanda and Vision attempt to gain favor with a snotty neighbor by participating in a charity magic show.
But undergirding each zinger and toothy grin is an uncanny feeling that something is not right in this world. A neighbor uses a chainsaw to hack into the wall that marks their property. A man wearing a beekeeper suit emerges from a maintenance hole with a sinister look on his face. “No,” Wanda tells him and that shit is frightening even if I have no idea what’s going on. Marvel fans probably know where this is headed, but for now, the unsettled feeling the show captures really feels apropos. —Tomi Obaro
Where to watch: Disney+
The Flight Attendant
HBO’s new dark thriller is really the Kaley Cuoco show.
Cuoco, who I knew simply as the hot girl on the unwatchable Big Bang Theory, absolutely acts the hell out of the lead Cassie Bowden, a flight attendant turned private investigator after she wakes up in a Bangkok hotel room next to the dead body of a guy she’d picked up on her flight.
And so begins her attempts to figure out what happened, keep herself alive, and also come to terms with her own messed up childhood, which has left her swigging mini bottles of vodka throughout the workday.
The show feels like a reward for Cuoco after years of sitcom acting. She optioned the rights to the novel before it was even published, and this is the first live-action show by her production company.
Cassie is a hot mess — a nightmare to her best friend, played by Zosia Mamet, and unreliable and cruel to her brother, played by T.R. Knight. Both of them are wonderful in their roles as the calm to Cassie’s chaos, but the chaos is the fun part.
Is The Flight Attendant the best show you’ll see this year? Absolutely not. But at a time when the only travel and mystery I encounter is walking to the fridge to see what I will make for dinner, this mayhem of Italian moped adventures, private planes for smuggling weapons, beautiful people in great outfits, and multiple storylines I struggled to follow, left me happily overstimulated. —Amber Jamieson
Where to watch: HBO Max
Dickinson (Season 2)
If you’re looking for a show to be both charmed and intrigued by, look no further than Dickinson. It piqued my curiosity last year after Apple debuted its new streaming service, which touted The Morning Show as its flagship series. But Dickinson is the platform's true gem. The show centers around — you guessed it — the prolific American poet Emily Dickinson, delving deep into the famously reclusive genius’s writing process and anxieties as she navigates life in 1850s Massachusetts. While the series is as true to life as one would imagine the Victorian era to be, it is made even stronger by showrunner Alena Smith’s decision to lean into modern sensibilities, thus making the show and its characters multidimensional and interesting. It’s anachronistic in its use of 21st-century slang and modern-day popular music, which could be seen as jarring, and yet because of the way the show toes the line between comedy and drama while incorporating magical realism, it works well.
One scene in Season 2’s third episode, "The Only Ghost I Ever Saw," perfectly encapsulates the show’s wit. Prior to a séance Emily wants to hold in the hope that the ceremony reveals whether or not she should become a published writer, Ayo Edebiri, who writes and acts in the series, enters the scene, with the titular character’s two mischievous cousins in tow. Emily asks Edebiri’s Hattie, who is a maid, if she could stay for the séance, and she’s reluctant. “Why do you want her to stay?” one of the bratty cousins asks. “She’s a medium,” Emily replies. To which the other cousin says, “I thought she was the maid.” Edebiri’s character, without missing a beat, hilarious rattles off: “I’m a maid, a medium, a washerwoman, and a seamstress. I also write plays and autobiographical sketches, sing in a quartet, sell my own haircare products, and create a unique line of floral centerpieces.” Lavinia, Emily’s sister, says, “Wow.” Hattie, smiling, says, “I’m just a freelancer.”
Dickinson is a lot more thoughtful than you’d imagine and excellently touches on topics of same-sex attraction, longing, the limitations of married life, especially for women, and abolition (as the show steadily creeps toward Civil War–era America) while, for the most part, keeping things fun and interesting. If that’s your thing, this show is for you. —Michael Blackmon
Where to watch: Apple TV+
Rich people are nothing like us. The ultrarich exist in an even more distant universe. But on occasion, even the wealthiest people have to deal with problems familiar to the rest of us: difficult relationships with parents, manipulative partners, desperation to reconnect with estranged family. Netflix’s Bling Empire is a reality show positioned as an IRL Crazy Rich Asians. Are these families crazy rich? Absolutely. Do they throw obscenely lavish parties with a 1-to-1 butler-to-guest ratio? You bet. Is there a minor feud built around a penis pump? Definitely. The first time you meet Anna Shay, who’s the heir to a Russian weapons fortune, she is taking a sledgehammer to her closet while wearing a ballgown, for no other reason than “she felt like it.” But the dramas and trajectories animating these people are heartbreaking, moving, and actually kind of relatable. And all of us without a trust fund get a useful avatar in Kevin, a “regular” guy who gets gifted Dior just because, and flown on private jets. His shock at the price tag is our shock at the price tag. Sometimes, he’s there to make sense of the ultrarich world for us. Most of the time though, he’s just there to take his shirt off. —Elamin Abdelmahmoud
Where to watch: Netflix
A conference room wouldn’t be the first place I’d expect to hear a couple discussing douching before anal sex, but that’s what happens during the opening sequence of HBO Max’s Perfect Life. María, a dentist (Leticia Dolera), and her boyfriend, Gustavo (David Verdaguer), are arguing in front of their real estate agents about how frigid she is.
It’d be tempting for card-carrying members of the Sex and the City fandom to compare María to Charlotte. But Perfect Life is a far cry from that HBO series, or Girls for that matter. This is a show about three women in Barcelona grappling with the fact that they aren’t anywhere close to where they thought they’d be in their thirties.
María’s friend Cristina (Celia Freijeiro) is secretly taking birth control to fend off the desires of her husband to have a third child, as she can barely balance motherhood and her legal practice as it is. María’s older, more free-spirited sister, Esther (Aixa Villagrán), is a queer struggling artist in a creative funk.
How will these three women navigate their personal drama while trying to figure out what they want in life when they already feel trapped? It’s a beautifully shot series, and the chemistry between Dolera, Freijeiro, and Villagrán had me smashing the “next episode” button immediately. A little Spanish escapism is just what I need. —Jason Wells.
Where to watch: HBO Max ●