There will always be a place for aliens, ghosts, and parallel universes on our screens. Those are probably the few constants of supernatural television. But it’s quite rare that a TV show forces us to rethink our perspective on life and our place in the universe. With HBO’s super-surreal show Westworld currently eating up the ratings, we thought it was the right time to revisit some of the most mind-bending series from the last few years.
One of the more fertile grounds of fiction is placing a non-believer into a situation that challenges their preconceptions. It’s the foundation of a thousand ghost stories and arguably much of the plot of Lost. Proof, a 2015 drama series, plays on that motif by telling the story of a scientist on a quest for life after death following the loss of her son. It's no wonder that some of the most powerful moments on our screens have to do with the loss of a loved one, and when the plot allows for the supernatural, the issue of life after death is bound to be explored, often with plots providing creative answers.
Before its cancellation at the end of the first season, Proof dealt with a multitude of awkward subjects like reincarnation, ghosts, and near-death experiences. It had an almost Saw-esque plotline (sans the terrible violence) with a dying billionaire dictating the actions of the rest of the cast. Proof was sadly canned in August last year allegedly because its viewership was too old.
One of the greatest things to come out of Hollywood in 1999 was The Matrix by the Wachowskis, a classic tale of humanity’s place in reality that made no sense at all. While totally unrelated to Keanu Reeve’s romp through cyberspace, Sense8 nevertheless shares a link to the Matrix in being written and directed by the Wachowskis.
Sense8 is about eight people who spontaneously develop psychic abilities and witness the death of a ninth, Angelica. The group eventually runs afoul of Mr. Whispers, a man who leads a group of similarly abled antagonists. The series, which has a second season in production, is acclaimed for its sensitive portrayal of LGBT characters.
Fringe tells the story of a motley crew of scientists and security agents trying to unravel the secrets of the universe. Sound familiar? The series is a modern X-Files, focusing on the ‘Fringe Division’ of the FBI, a department concerned with all manner of ridiculous and paranormal occurrences.
Over the course of five seasons, the cast tries to discover the intricacies of ‘The Pattern’, a journey that ultimately leads them through a parallel universe via just about every other science-fiction cliché imaginable - doppelgangers, alternate timelines, pseudoscience and doomsday devices. It’s the lovable cast of conmen, lunatics, and by-the-book agents that makes each episode a must-watch, however.
A bit of a cheat, this one, as everybody already loves Stranger Things. Falling somewhere between John Carpenter’s The Thing and everything Stephen King has ever written, Stranger Things is the heroic tale of a group of children trying to find their missing friend. Much like Fringe, Stranger Things features sinister agents, psychokinesis, alternate dimensions, and twisted monsters. It also features some of the most impressive child actors we've seen in a long time and one of the biggest cult icons the internet has obsessed upon in recent years - yes, Barb! What about Barb?
What truly set this series apart though are the feelings of nostalgia it invokes for anybody born in the seventies and early eighties. The synthwave beats of the intro tune; the comradery and wonder of the children and the unabashed use of supernatural plot elements are rare commodities on TV screens today.
Like Sense8, the series was recently renewed for a second series.