Geeklings, to the delight of many of you I assume, 2021 is on life support. It’s strapped to the hospital bed and it’s ready to say goodbye before the plug is pulled. My only hope is that the spirit of 2021 doesn’t inhabit the body of 2022 which I can only assume is what happened at the end of 2020. This has been an endless cycle of strange times and honestly, I think we could all use a break. A little bit of normalcy maybe. A year where it doesn’t seem like the world is ending. I’m not asking for much here, just some calm.
Granted, not all of 2021 was a wet dog shaking off in our living rooms. In fact, I Am Geek celebrated its best year yet, something I’m incredibly thankful/grateful for. One of the best aspects of the year has been this outlet and this community with you. I Am Geek is home and every time I’m writing new content here, everything just feels right. I’m excited to see what 2022 brings with it, but this site wouldn’t be anything without your eyes Geeklings. I appreciate every time you stop on by to see what’s going on and start a conversation. You really are the best and have made 2021 very memorable for this little site.
As 2021 heads out the door, I Am Geek is here, as is tradition now, to discuss all the pop culture goodies that helped us survive the year. Could you imagine if there were no pop-culture goodies this year? Another year without Marvel? Further delays on television shows and movies. No Fast and the Furious?! I don’t think that I could’ve handled another year like that and thankfully the universe worked its magic so we wouldn’t have to. 2021 provided a ton of comfort watches/reads, music, and games that provided the much-needed escapism that prevented us from pulling out our hair and eating it while staring into the mirror.
So, strap in Geekling as it’s time for the I Am Geek Best of 2021 Part One! If you head over to our Facebook feed, you’ll see that all the Honorable Mentions were uploaded yesterday. I would like to add a couple of things that I foolishly left off the list. My apologies to Fast Nine, The Suicide Squad, and the Masters of the Universe reboot because all of these nuggets provided a great deal of fun in 2021. Try and imagine this year without all those Dom “family” memes, seems kind of hollow and lame, doesn’t it? I would also like to substitute the Fear Street Trilogy on Netflix with a different Honorable Mention which you’ll see in a moment. Sometimes I make mistakes.
As per usual, we’ll be splitting the Top Ten into two parts. Numbers ten through six will be in this column here while numbers five to one will be tomorrow. It’s a strategic move that is essentially aimed at bringing your eyes back to the site. I know, pretty clever, right? Also, if I’m being honest, splitting it into two parts eases the amount of writing which is something that has admittingly gotten a bit lax these last few months (#sortofburntout). All that’s a discussion for another day though. Today we’re focusing on the awesome.
So, without further ado let’s break down some of 2021’s greatness…
10. Bo Burnham- Inside (Netflix)- Last night when I posted the Honorable Mention list my wife turned to me and said “Bo Burnham is just an honorable mention” and I responded with yes… and then I kept thinking about it and she was one hundred percent right. Just an honorable mention?! No, that couldn’t be correct, and considering that this is my list, I wouldn’t let it be correct either.
Inside is more than just a comedy special and has been something that has stuck with me since its release earlier this year. I don’t think I’ve watched a more personal or vulnerable “comedy” show ever. Burnham mixes some true angst, horror, and fear in his songs and I honestly can’t think of a piece of pop culture that captures the last two years as perfectly as Inside.
Yes, the songs can be found all over TikTok but when you take a minute to listen to the album, damn, it really hits home. Songs like “Goodbye” (which has made me cry on more than one occasion this year) or “Welcome to the Internet” (which really captures the horror of this place in comedic carnival fashion) or “Shit” (something we all can relate to at some point in the last two years) have filled both the speakers in my car and apartment all year long-serving as a soundtrack that not only understood the madness but was willing to speak honestly about it. This is an album full of tracks that not only make you laugh or giggle but sincerely move you to your core. Burham has tapped right into the thick of it, he gets it, and his vulnerability not only resonates but feels familiar.
Not to mention, “Bezos I”, for reasons I can’t explain, might be my favorite song of the year? Maybe? Sorry Silk Sonic or Taylor’s version.
Inside is a time capsule of these crazy times we currently live in and the very definition of art. It’s moving and poignant and one of the best things to come out of 2021. Hands down.
9. Invincible (Amazon)– Heading into the release of Amazon’s Invincible, I had only read a handful of Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels. After watching the first season of this incredibly animated family drama, I spent a good portion of 2021 reading all the rest. And what a freaking journey that was.
The first season of Invincible was outstanding! Trimming away some of the fat from the comic series, the television show focuses not just on the teenager with new superpowers aspect, a tried and true story, but what it means to live in the shadow of a superhero father. What it means to live up not only to his name but establish your own. What it means to have a son with powers. And a deep exploration that not every super-person is who you think they are and what that means to the world at large but to their family.
The themes are heavy but navigated by a tremendous voice acting squad (led effortlessly by Steven Yeun and J.K. Simmons), Invincible delivers in spades. Hour-long episodes really give the characters time to shine and the plot to unfold at the proper pace and the action is bananas. If you’ve read any Invincible then you know that some of these fights can get pretty violent and being an animated television series gives Invincible the freedom to not mute the blood and carnage. Like at all. Sometimes I think of the things that happen in the finale and can’t believe they were actually on my screen.
Invincible at its core is a family drama disguised as a superhero show and it was one of my favorite watches of the year. I’m anxiously awaiting season two and further exploration of Robert Kirkman’s beloved comic series.
Bring on Conquest!
8. Loki (Disney+)- After a year without the MCU we really got our money’s worth in 2021. I would make the argument that the best MCU stories happened through television and look for no further proof than the first season of Loki cause holy crap sticks this was a ride.
Continuing the journey of fan-favorite Loki was a no-brainer for the MCU, who wants to say goodbye to Tom Hiddleston after all? But with him dying in Infinity War things were a little tricky. Insert a television series that uses a time-displaced Loki that explores/celebrates what has made the character so tremendous while also kicking open the door to Phase Four of the MCU.
At the core of this series is the introduction/exploration of the multiverse and what it and the TVA have meant to the MCU at large over these last ten years. Is there such a thing as free will or was everything predestined from the jump? These are just some of the ideas that Loki presents while never losing track of the fact that this is a character-driven series.
Some of the best aspects of Loki are the conversations. Whether it’s Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson’s dazzling back and forth or an entire episode that felt like Before Sunrise with Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino just absolutely crushing it, Loki wanted us to feel for these characters and we did. I mean, how many of us were shipping a Loki and Sylvie relationship? Which when you think about it is a Loki on Loki romance. Amazing how not weird that felt.
Then introducing Jonathan Majors’s Kang in the finale, something that might have derailed all of this, was not only my favorite performance of the year but made for a captivating finale that was centered on conversation. No kicking and punching, just stunning performances and a massive change for the MCU at large. Breath-taking, and I’m basically giddy for the promise of season two.
Oh, and it gave us Alligator Loki. What else could you possibly want?!
7. Squid Game (Netflix)- If Battle Royale, Stephen King’s The Long Walk, and Hunger Games had a child, I think it would be Squid Game. Holy crap, I was not expecting this at all and now I can’t look at my Playstation controller the same way ever again.
Squid Game was more than just a hyper-violent television series that forever changed the way we view a number of childhood games. No, this was a show packed full of social commentary that really hit home in these current times. What it means to be a good father or son. What makes you a good person. Are you defined by your debt? Has society rigged everything so you keep losing? Who are you really when there’s nothing left to lose? Squid Game impactfully works through these narratives, with surprising and uncomfortable answers that leave its audience super introspective, all while presenting an engaging story with some truly effed-up deaths. I’m still haunted by the marbles and the glass bridge.
Heavy in character and with enough mysteries to fill a second season, Squid Game was the rallying cry that the world didn’t know it was looking for. I mean, it’s Netflix’s most-watched series ever for a reason. There is something here that everyone can relate to. A show that makes you not only question the world we live in but our morals as people. Any kind of medium that makes its audience look internally to analyze who they are is a success in my eyes.
I’m not entirely sure if the tears from the marbles episode have dried yet.
6. Arcane (Netflix)- Holy hell, where did this come from!? Seriously, I was not expecting to become obsessed with an animated series based on a video game I have never played but here we are. I’m obsessed and have already watched Arcane twice.
I’ve also started playing the League of Legends spinoff, Ruined King on my Switch. So yeah, they hooked me.
But let’s talk Arcane for a minute because, whoa. The animation is crisp. The voice acting is fantastic (Hiiiiii Kate Bishop). The story is super engaging. And the characters, well, the characters drive it all. What can I say, I’m a sucker for tremendous character work and Arcane delivers on that front tenfold.
Arcane is essentially a story about two sisters and their fractured relationship. How each deals with trauma and the idea that family creates who we become even if that wasn’t their intention. And despite all that, how truly important family is. We’re defined by our relationships… or are we?
Yes, this is a prequel to the League of Legends game and shows us a world dived by the rich and the poor. A world where one makes all the decisions and the other has to abide by choices they had no say in. The political commentary hums as our characters try and move forward despite some of them being held down by unseen hands.
Arcane is emotional and heavy while also being badass and cool. Such a fantastic experience and one that not only has me anxiously waiting for season two but looking for more stories in this world. 2022 is about to have plenty of video game hours. Mission accomplished.
There you have it Geeklings, the first half of The Best of 2021 is now complete. Now go, explore some of this awesome if you haven’t already, or hit me with your counterarguments in the comments or Twitter (@iamgeek32). I will see everyone tomorrow with the Top Five as we get ready to say goodbye to 2021!