Disclaimer: While we’ve done our best to avoid spoiling anything too important, please note that this list includes some specific references to several of the shows listed.
It was another banner year for television, in which streaming continued to dominate with a vengeance, giving us spy thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, tormented superheroes , inner-city dramas and feel-good comedies. In fact, this is the first year without a single major network series on the Ars year-end list.
Who knows how long this cornucopia of creative goodness will last? Almost all major streamers, including Netflix, have reported at least some losses in 2022, and the outlook for next year is cloudy at best. Budgets are being cut, streamers are consolidating, and promising shows are being canceled left and right as streaming services adapt to the changing market environment. For now, at least, we are still reaping the rewards of the investments of the past years. Our top TV picks for 2022 are listed below, in no particular order. Be sure to weigh in with your own favorite shows of 2022 in the comments.
Making a prequel to a beloved series is never easy, especially when it comes to a prequel to one of the most influential hit series of the past decade, a series that sniffed out its finale that she alienated some of her most devoted fans. HBO Dragon House rose to the challenge, debuting in August with a solid and promising pilot episode. The rest of the season delivered on that initial promise.
The series is set approximately 200 years before the events of game of thrones and chronicles the beginning of the end of the reign of House Targaryen. The basic material is fire and blood, a fictional story of the Targaryen Kings written by George RR Martin. As book readers know, these events culminated in a civil war and the extinction of the dragons, at least until Daenerys Targaryen arrived. It’s King Viserys I Targaryen’s (Paddy Considine) fateful decision to name his fierce dragonrider daughter Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) as his heir – passing by his brother and heir apparent Daemon (Matt Smith) – that triggers the events. As Rhaenys Velaryon (Eve Best) – aka the “Queen that never was”, because she was passed over when Viserys was crowned – knows full well, “Men would rather torch the kingdom than to see a woman ascend the Iron Throne.”
Dragon House lacks the epic scope and multiple storylines of game of thrones, focusing instead on exploring the complex fundamental relationships and family dynamics that will ultimately lead to Civil War. The first season spans many years and makes some pretty big time jumps, which required younger cast members to be replaced as their characters got older. For example, Emma D’Arcy plays the older version of Rhaenyra. It might have been better to just compress the timeline or spread the events over two seasons, but the pacing might have lagged. And the time jumps aren’t particularly shocking until the final episodes, when one is tempted to pause and draw up a pedigree chart to keep track of all the incestuous marriages and generations of silver-haired offspring.
It’s still an engrossing and entertaining series, with plenty of personal conflict and political intrigue, and dragons galore. Accommodation has a particularly gifted stellar cast, and yet Matt Smith steals every scene as Daemon, even when he’s just standing there smirking. And her chemistry with D’Arcy goes a long way towards offsetting the speed factor of their eventual coupling and marriage. The S1 finale brought Westeros to the brink of civil war, and we can’t wait for S2 to watch that conflict unfold.