JoJo Whilden/Netflix

The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows
The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows

10

House of Cards

House of Cards allowed David Fincher’s seductive aesthetic sway to carry on well beyond the inaugural diptych he helmed, despite TV’s well-noted preference for story over artistic signature, but that’s almost besides the point. The scheming exploits of Kevin Spacey’s silver-tongued congressman-devil provide a galvanic shock of political satire and thrillingly modern melodrama, but the real hook is Robin Wright’s stirring performance as the politician’s better half. In the thick of it, this addictive series convincingly depicts a shifting political landscape, wherein an ascending class of strong and brilliant women retools man’s ruthless personal and professional strategies to better advance a contentious, testosterone-weary nation. Cabin

The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows

9

Marvel’s Jessica Jones

Marvel’s Jessica Jones breaks so many molds, and with such brio, that it feels almost super-heroic. If the violence on Marvel’s Daredevil, no matter how kinetic and operatic in its brushstrokes, is primed to excite, the violence on Jessica Jones seeks to disarm our pleasure centers. And if this violence is so discomforting, it’s because of how hauntingly, stubbornly, necessarily it’s rooted in the traumas that connect the victims of the ominous Kilgrave (David Tennant). The aesthete in me wishes the series exhibited a more uncommon visual style. At the same time, maybe the show’s portrait of abuse, of heroes and villains whose shows of strength and mind control are so recognizably human, wouldn’t exert half the chill that it does it didn’t approach us so unassumingly. Gonzalez

The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows

8

Sense8

Like much of the Wachowskis’ work, Sense8 is a series of extremes. Hold a gun to my head and I still wouldn’t be able to make sense of the ins and outs of the show’s overarching plot, about a mysterious organization hunting down eight strangers who come to realize that they’re telepathically connected to one another. But that plot, even at its most abstruse and ridiculous, is understood as nothing more than an excuse to foist the eight sensates in and out of each other’s exquisitely melodramatic lives so as to make a case in favor of empathy. The show’s power resides in its pop-operatically earnest belief that there’s only ecstasy in embracing the superficial differences of background, race, language, and more that divide us. Gonzalez

The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows

7

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

As she exhibited on 30 Rock, Tina Fey has a formula: Tell a thousand jokes, tell them in all shapes and sizes, and tell them at a rapid-fire pace. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s bingeability owes in large part to this “make ’em laugh by any means possible” philosophy. It also allows for a certain amount of forgiveness: If a joke is stale or dated (and plenty are), one need only wait a few seconds for the next pun or gag to make our memory of a comedic faceplant fade. After three seasons, the series, co-created by Fey and Robert Carlock, remains as much of a beautiful mess as ever. Its bright, kooky universe is stuffed with enough zingers to fill an entire season of CBS programming. Julia Selinger

The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows

6

GLOW

One of the challenges of producing a smart, heartfelt series about wrestling is that the sport is often dismissed as gimmicky and theatrical—characteristics that seem to counter intelligence and emotional poignancy. But co-creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch approach GLOW and its subject matter with the same earnest enthusiasm as many of the show’s wresters. As much as GLOW is a series about wrestling, it’s also, more broadly, an examination of the entertainment industry and how a decadent, cocaine-riddled era produced a cult hit that simultaneously celebrated and mocked the excesses, stereotypes, and questionable fashion trends of its time. Selinger

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