5. Game of Thrones
Our next entry is a surprise, not that Game of Thrones being named in this list is at all shocking but what is surprising is how far down in its ranks it has managed to find itself. The penultimate season of the hit HBO series was certainly a mighty achievement but it failed to meet its own lofty standards and delivered what was surely its weakest effort to date – a true disappointment so close to the finish line. With that being said, the show still does enough to beat the majority of its competition and at its best was wickedly entertaining. There is also no doubt that this season of Game of Thrones conjured up some of the series’ most astonishing set-pieces.
Mindhunter was always going to be a show to look out for, its premise intrigued and David Fincher forever demands our attention, but the series that found its way to our Netflix screens was far better than we could ever have dreamed. Mindhunter is Fincher at his best: a dark, intoxicating labyrinth of dread that buries deep under your skin, placing you right there with its impressionable main character. Visually immaculate, Mindhunter’s journey into the minds of America’s most depraved killers is an experience that you just can’t deny yourself. More Zodiac than Seven, this show is unquestionably the new kid on the prestige TV block.
3. The Leftovers
And the winner for the best ever final season of a show goes to… well, that still belongs to Breaking Bad, but The Leftovers came mighty close. What an impeccable final outing season three of this wonderful show was. With performances to die for from Justin Theroux and Carrie Coon and a surreal, dreamlike concoction of narrative events across its eight episodes, The Leftovers had never been better. A show that improved year on year and a rare example of a series being stopped at the right time, The Leftovers was without flaw in its final season. There was no better place for these characters to end up than right where they did, a place between worlds, a place where it’s okay to just let the mystery be.
2. Better Call Saul
Another example of a series starting out wonderfully and only getting better with each new season, Better Call Saul has moved past just being the best TV spinoff ever and become a classic show in the making all on its own. Considering the limitations of its prequel premise, it’s a work of genius that the show is as unpredictable as it is. With flawless performances from its stars and the best writing in TV, the journey of Jimmy McGill is only becoming more engrossing and sadly ever more agonising. With a truly shocking closing event and its characters balanced on a chasm’s edge before season four, Better Call Saul simply has no competition for being the best returning season when it rides back into town in 2018.
1. The Young Pope
It’s unbelievable. How did this happen? The Young Pope, which debuted in the US right at the start of 2017, claimed TV’s top spot from the get go and somehow managed to fight off every contender that looked to depose it. There’s been many great shows in 2017 but none could reach the heights of this most divine of television experiences. The Young Pope should have been a joke, and it looked like it might be from its previews, but for those that bought the ticket, what was found was an exercise in all the majesty that TV can turn out to be
With a truly astonishing and, dare I say, ‘illumined’ performance by Jude Law, as what might be one of the most fascinating characters in TV history, The Young Pope elevates itself above all competition. Lenny, or Pope Pius XIII, shocks, charms, frightens, and inspires the faithful at the Holy See, and has a similar effect on the audience at home. Who is this man? As Lenny says, he confounds expectations, he is a contradiction, perhaps a living saint, and our time with him during The Young Pope’s one and done outing is impossible to forget – a beautiful, heartbreaking, and homiletic TV offering.