There were a lot of great TV shows in 2017. We loved the new Star Trek (and The Orville), the new season of Stranger Things (well, most of it), the Handmaid’s Tale, the Deuce, Legion (well, most of it) and even Taboo. There was a lot to watch on TV this year. On the other hand, a lot of great shows had particularly bad episodes this year (we’re looking at you, Stranger Things). Even weirder, a lot of our favorite shows had their worst seasons ever. Not Dexter Season Six bad, but these were easily the worst seasons for a lot of great shows. Here’s our list of six great shows that had their worst seasons in 2017.
Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones is gearing up for its final season in 2019 and apparently the writers are anxious to make sure that you’re done with this series as soon as they are. Maybe that’s why this season was just the worst. For a show known for confounding fans’ desires, this season seemed obsessed with letting the fans finally get all the meet-ups and hookups they’d ever wanted to see. Over and over we saw smart characters doing ridiculously stupid things like the bizarre attempt to kidnap a zombie and how Tyrion was just wrong about everything. Worst still, the show ended with Daenerys and Jon Snow – who share both zero chemistry and a family tree – hooking up. Even for a show with disembowelings and castrations, that’s just gross.
Veep’s fifth season ended with Julia-Louis Dreyfuss’ Selina Meyer losing her office and being relegated into early retirement, leaving a wide open space for the writers to explore post-public life. I had high hopes, but these hopes were slowly and painfully smashed to pieces. It turns out Veep’s characters need each other; here they were largely isolated in their own lives and far less funny without the variety of interactions they had in the Oval Office. Without her power, Selina is somehow more pathetic and less sympathetic. Characters got louder instead of funnier; even the awesome Peter MacNicol’s return was just loud, irritating ranting. The one true highlight was Timothy Simons’ Jonah Ryan (and his friendship with Sam Richardson’s Richard Splett, who’s political ascent is the show’s ultimate indictment of our politics. I’d love to see another term for those two.
Good God, what is going on with Outlander? With two of the most talented leads and strongest chemistry on television, Outlander started its third season strong. Jamie and Claire, separated by 200 years, find a way to reunite after 20 years apart. Their sweet, gentle reunion is a nice high point for the series, but then things get weird. Jamie’s nephew is – improbably enough – kidnapped by pirates forcing Jamie and Claire to pursue his kidnappers to Jamaica. There, they battle a witch (?) and island natives in a series of scenes that make Temple of Doom look downright woke. This show tried to do too much in too short a time and is a good reminder that if your source material gets weird, don’t feel that you have to let it sink your show.
The Walking Dead
I’m including The Walking Dead on this list for the spring season, not the fall (which has been a big improvement). The spring season was a plodding, miserable mess. Watching all of our favorite characters enslaved by Negan who, for an entire season, wasn’t given any characterization beyond being a tough, omniscient bad guy. We saw all of our heroes enslaved for the first half of the season and then kickoff a doomed rebellion by the season’s end. It was as much fun to watch as watching an upside-down turtle trying to right itself for six months. This season has been better (and more exciting), but Negan’s still irritating, Rick’s still obsessed with the junkyard gang, and the show still doesn’t seem to know what life after Negan’s going to look like. Whatever it is, I hope we get there soon.
I wish there was a big enough wood chipper to stuff this season of Fargo into. Joyless, meandering, and entirely wasteful of its extremely talented cast, this season of Fargo was as frustrating as it was overlong. I could never imagine a show would waste as talented an actor (and unusual television presence) as Ewan McGregor, but here he’s trapped playing two boring brothers who are both getting pushed around by other characters. Carrie Coon, similarly, is a great actor who is reduced here to being a by-the-book cop who is repeatedly stonewalled by her superiors. They’re both trapped in a cycle of being passively shoved aside repeatedly while other characters (most notably Mary Elizabeth Winstead and David Thewlis, both doing great work) plot and connive. This should have been an incredible season of Fargo but instead it felt like a show that was running on fumes.