Press pause: Outstanding shows of summer 2017

By in Culture

Although the fall television season historically has presented a greater quantity of shows, the 2017 summer schedule offered a few great new seasons of television.

The seventh season of Game of Thrones, which started airing on HBO earlier this summer, was perhaps the most anticipated returning series of the summer. The latest season narrows its scope early on, gathering up all of the characters on the single continent of Westeros and positioning an army of undead white walkers as a common threat.

The seventh season scales back the political intrigue of past seasons, choosing instead to focus on two conflicts: the North’s war against the white walkers and the mounting war between the Lannister family and the forces loyal to Daenerys Targaryen.

After seven years and countless character deaths, the show seems finally to point to a conclusive end with these two plotlines. It’s hard not to miss the more politically grounded stories of past seasons, but when the result is this thrilling, there’s not much to complain about. Viewers who have followed these characters up to this point are going to find a lot to enjoy here.

Showtime’s Twin Peaks marks another highly anticipated return to TV, for both the fictional town of the series’ namesake and the show’s enigmatic director, David Lynch. The series picks up where the 1990s original left off, with Agent Dale Cooper escaping the other-dimensional black lodge and becoming trapped in the body of an insurance agent from Las Vegas, while his evil doppelganger creates havoc.

It’s a bizarre premise for a reboot of a show that is already better remembered for its strange dream sequences than for its central murder mystery, but Lynch directs it with all of the paranoia and intensity that has defined his filmmaking career. His direction elevates a seemingly nonsensical plot to something atmospheric and foreboding.

Each Lynch-directed episode mixes surrealism, psychological horror and comedy to disorienting effect. The end result is the fever dream of a creator who is much more concerned with imagery than canon.

Through a collection of disjointed vignettes, the show finds emotional resonance in both the mundane and the unnerving. Lynch’s camera doesn’t discriminate, giving a nuclear test the same importance as a worker sweeping the floor of a bar. While the connection from one scene to the next is often unclear, what is clear is that Lynch is telling stories in a way that is completely new to TV. With any luck, it’ll leave just as big of an impact on the TV landscape as its groundbreaking predecessor did.

After flying under the radar last year, AMC’s Preacher is back as well. The series — based on Garth Ennis’s comic book — follows Jesse Custer, a preacher who possesses the ability to bend reality with his speech, on a quest to find an absent god.

The original comic book combined the grotesque artistic style of early independent comics with a quietly subversive take on superhero archetypes. AMC’s adaptation reimagines the source material as a neo-western in the style of some of the best Coen brothers’ films.

The second season of Preacher sees Custer and his pals heading to New Orleans, a nice change of pace from the small-town-Texas locale of the first season. The second season also introduces The Grail, a crypto-fascistic organization concerned by Jesse’s new-found powers, and the Saint of Killers, an immortal gunslinger who tracks the protagonist on foot.

The villains in Preacher are the standout element of the show, but the commitment to Breaking Bad-style storytelling and character development is rock solid. As far as AMC shows go, Preacher is one of the best since Mad Men went off the air.

With these three solid entertainment choices from the 2017 summer TV season, your fall procrastination routine is already thanking you.

Cole Chretien

Graphic: Robert Ball / Flickr