Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel (Netflix)

This limited series focuses on the mysterious disappearance and death of Elisa Lam while staying at the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.  This story could have served as a fascinating single episode of Unsolved Mysteries.  Unfortunately, what we get is four overly padded episodes that eventually confirm what I suspected all along.  Worse still, significant time was devoted to talking head commentary that is irrelevant to the case, especially the commentary made by several self-described “YouTubers”, “web sleuths” and “journalists”.  The commentary they made online at the time was entirely baseless speculation on what happened to Ms. Lam.  The decision to include them along with the interviews of the actual detectives and forensic specialists involved in the case was a decision that turned what could have been a serious examination into the case into laugh-inducing material.  Not recommended.

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Unsolved Mysteries (season 15, vol. 2)

As was the case with volume 1, the six episodes released as volume 2 of season 15 are a mixed bag.  Back in 1981, the rock band Genesis decided to name their latest album after the grades they gave the songs contained within (ABACAB).  I’ve used their simple but effective method of categorization on the episodes included in volume 2, and grouped them accordingly.

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The Mandalorian (Season 2, Disney+)

This post is full of spoilers.  If you have not watched all of season 2 yet, you have been warned!

The arc of Season 2 of The Mandalorian shows the title character slowly changing his ways, acting less like an independent bounty hunter and more like a collaborator and friend.  From here on out, whenever I’m referring to the title character in The Mandalorian and not the show itself, I’ll refer to him as “Mando”.  This seems appropriate since most everyone who talks and writes about this show on the internet refers to him as “Mando”.  Heck, even a character within the show (Greef Karga) calls him by that nickname.  Mando actually has a name, Din Djarin, but calling him “Din” all the time would sound weird.  (Not as weird as calling someone “Greef”, but  weird enough.)  Rest assured, I’m going along with calling Din “Mando” out of expediency.  I still think it sounds too much like Lando, as in Calrissian.  Calling him “Man” would have been ridiculous.  But I digress.

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The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)

What exactly is “The Queen’s Gambit”?  According to Wikipedia, it is a chess opening by the white player.  This opening is mentioned once or twice in the series, and pieces are moved on the board accordingly. Since I’ve never played chess, I couldn’t explain to you what the strategy actually involves if my life depended on it, however.  Nevertheless, I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed everything about The Queen’s Gambit: the acting, the direction, the characters, the story, the fashion and music, all of it.  This has been one of the best, if not the best series I’ve watched all year.  I highly recommend it, regardless of your understanding of chess.

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The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)

So far in my life, I’ve seen Kaley Cuoco in TV three series: Charmed, The Big Bang Theory and now The Flight Attendant.  I don’t remember her making much of an impression in Charmed beyond being young and pretty.  As someone who liked and enjoyed The Big Bang Theory, I appreciated how she transformed Penny from essentially eye candy to a person with self-awareness, vulnerability and the ability to deliver a punchline.  With The Flight Attendant, Cuoco managed to destroy twelve years of good will over what I can only describe as a mess.

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The Haunting of Bly Manor (Netflix)

The Haunting of Hill House, released on Netflix in 2018, was regarded as both a commercial and critical success.  The series was a retelling of the novel by Shirley Jackson published in 1959.  While two movies based on the novel have been released (the 1963 being far superior to the 1999 version), the Netflix series felt fresh due to a new take on the material, one which retained the scary elements at its core, but moved the story to a modern setting and tweaked the plot in ways that defied expectations.

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American Murder: The Family Next Door (Netflix)

American Murder: The Family Next Door, was released on September 30.  Certainly Netflix could have waited to release it one day later, so it could appear alongside other movies and television programs typically scheduled for October.  Maybe they made the decision out of respect for the families involved.  Maybe the algorithm that Netflix utilizes to determine when to release its content decided on the last day of September for reasons only it knows deep down in its code.  We will probably never know why Netflix releases its content on particular days, but American Murder definitely could have been released during the month Halloween, alongside other horror films.  Because while American Murder is many things, in the end it is a horror story.

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I’ll Be Gone in The Dark

Not all murders are created equal, or equally entertaining.

This series primarily serves as an examination of the life of Michelle McNamara, a true crime blogger who spent years investigating and chronicling the crimes of a man known under many names, including the East Area Rapist, the Oakland Night Stalker and the Visalia Ransacker.  Between 1973 and 1986, the man she would eventually name The Golden State Killer would commit at least thirteen murders, fifty rapes, and 120 burglaries across California (thank you, Wikipedia).

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