The streaming services decided to get (even more) serious over the past year while attempting to give us no opportunity for boredom during our extended stay-at-home time. Netflix somehow kept on cranking unabated while several new streaming services launched, including Disney+ and HBO Max, and those two are reigning supreme this weekend for the services that are giving viewers the most for their dollar. On Disney+’s part, they’re bringing us the season finale of their second Marvel Cinematic Universe series, and there’s more of John Stamos’ basketball-coach-redemption show along with fresh offerings from two National Geographic shows. For sure, the Falcon and the Winter Soldier show coming to a head will be the must-see installment of the weekend, and for that reason, they’re winning the top prize this week.
However, the WarnerMedia streamer came damn close to edging out the competition, given that HBO Max is still committed to doing blockbuster releases both in theaters and at home this year. So, Mortal Kombat will be available at no extra charge to subscribers for you to “finish” your weekend off in (bloody) style. The new HBO Sunday night shows, The Nevers and Mare of Easttown, will also help fill up your streaming time, but do not sleep on the other streaming services. BET+, Amazon Prime, Peacock, and Hulu all put up good fights, and Apple TV+ should come in strong next weekend. Here are the best offerings of this week, beginning with the victor.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Disney+ series) — It’s finale time. Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes are still doing their buddy action-comedy thing, but things accelerated quickly (to put it mildly) when John Walker turned Captain America into a villain and got booted from the gig. This led to an honest-to-God surprise cameo, but there’s still plenty of loose ends to clean up. Who’s the Power Broker? Can the show decide if the Flag Smashers are baddies, or nah? Let’s all root for an action-packed finale with clarification on the Sharon Carter/Batroc issue and then send Bucky to Aruba, alright?
Big Shot (Disney+ series) — David E. Kelley co-created and executive produces this series starring John Stamos as a down-on-his luck, ousted NCAA coach who’s attempting to get back on his (angry) feet with a ritzy private high-school gig. While reluctantly seeking redemption, Coach learns that his new team benefits from him showing some actual emotion beyond rage and stoicism, so he must — gasp — learn how to be vulnerable and empathetic. He might actually become a better person, too. The show co-stars Yvette Nicole Brown, who I hope gives Coach a really hard time (dude seems like he deserves it).
Secrets of the Whales (Nat Geo series on Disney+) — This four-part special event aims to celebrate Earth Day while exploring the newest technology to spotlight whales, including their friendships and traditions, and plenty of expertise shall be revealed by National Geographic Explorer and Photographer Brian Skerry.
Earth Moods (Nat Geo series on Disney+) — This five-part series launches this weekend to show us various “moods” from the corners of the globe to soothe us with the natural world. Each one (from glaciers to deserts to rain forests to cities) will take us on voyage to help our minds reset. Sounds fantastic.
Mortal Kombat (Warner Bros. film on HBO Max) — We’ve got another blockbuster-type movie in our living rooms this weekend, and this incarnation promises to be R-rated to the max with plenty of carnage in tune with the video game. Among other qualifications to that point, James Wan produced, so that makes sense! In all seriousness, this is a more serious treatment than the 1990s film, and we’ll get to see Sub-Zero hunting down MMA fighter Cole Young, and someone will end up being the loser of the “finish him” concept. HBO Max released the first seven minutes of the film ahead of time, if you’d like to get a taste of the bloodshed coming to your TV screen.
Mare Of Easttown (HBO series streaming on HBO Max) — Kate Winslet returns not only to TV but to HBO (a decade after her award-winning Mildred Pierce turn) to star as a hard-vaping detective in a small town where she both portrays and elevates the “complicated” cop trope. She’s captivating while digging into a murder mystery that has rocked her small town and caused the community to feel utterly claustrophobic. Evan Peters portrays her young, whippersnapper partner on the case, and he’s electric, as are the wonderfully sarcastic Jean Smart (as Mare’s mom) and an understated Guy Pearce (as the maybe-love interest). This show will suck you in, and you won’t mind one bit.
The Nevers (HBO series streaming on HBO Max) — This Joss Whedon-created show offers an intriguing setup about a group of “orphans” (almost exclusively women) who find themselves “gifted” with supernaturally-powered abilities. Although there’s far too many plot lines (and some plot holes), there’s also a fair amount of butt-kicking, and the atmosphere is killer. The embattled Buffy and Firefly creator officially exited the series last year, but you won’t be able to forget his presence. Whether that hurts or helps the show remains to be seen.
Pray, Obey, Kill (HBO series on HBO Max) — Catch a double-dose installment of a five-part documentary series from investigative journalists Anton Berg and Martin Johnson in a project directed by The Bridge‘s Henrik Georgsson. Follow along while Berg and Johnson retrace what happened on a frigid night when a small Swedish village saw a woman murdered and a neighbor shot before a nanny confessed to the acts of violence while citing a strange motivation. This led to a scandalous tale of a love triangle and a link to a prior suspicious death. Yet is the whole mess tied to the local tight-knit Pentecostal congregation and its charismatic leader, who referred to herself as “The Bride of Christ”? Get ready for an unpredictable true-crime ride.
Our Towns (HBO series on HBO Max) — This film (which is based upon journalists James and Deborah Fallows’ book, Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America) zeroes in on how local initiatives lead to change that spark a different future.
Shadow and Bone (Netflix series) — Need a little fantasy to shut down reality for a while? You’re in luck. Based upon Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling Grishaverse novels, this show follows dark forces that move against an orphan mapmaker (Alina Starkov), whose power might be the key to transforming a war-torn world. Alina must conquer the Shadow Fold threat and train as an elite magical soldier (a Grisha) while learning that nothing is it seems, and she must also maneuver around a crew of charismatic criminals to determine who is an ally, who is an enemy, and who is both. The good news is that you really don’t need to know the books to enjoy the first season of this show, so surrender to the fold, so to speak.
Stowaway (Netflix film) — For All Mankind arguably sets the bar too high for every other space travel-focused streaming offering out there, but listen up because the cast is the real treat. Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Shamier Anderson, and Toni Collette are a dream team when it comes to delivering the drama. As you may have guessed from the title, there’s an (inadvertent) stowaway aboard a three-person mission to Mars, and that’s going to affect the oxygen supply in a crucial way. It’s not the most original space crisis you’ll ever see, but with a cast like this, the freak-out performances (and the solving of the dilemma within mere hours) are guaranteed to be worth the click.
Life in Colour with David Attenborough (Netflix series) — Earth Day needed this three-part series, and so does your soul. Or at least, I’m assuming that your soul will be soothed while watching Sir David Attenborough traveling from Costa Rica’s rainforests to Scottish Highlands’ snow-covered landscape to show the world how animals make extraordinary use of color. The show promises “revolutionary camera technology created specifically for this series” (according to Netflix) to reveal, uh, invisible-to-us colors? It’s fascinating, especially the details about a butterfly wing sending “seemingly magical ultraviolet signals” and the revelation of what a Bengal tiger’s stripes truly signal.
Zero (Netflix series) — This new Italian original series illuminates the power of invisibility with a new kind of superhero (a modern hero), who discovers his powers while hoping to save his suburb outside of Milan. In the process, the shy teen must at least wear a hero’s clothing while discovering the power of friendship and love.
Chadwick Boseman: Portrait Of An Artist (Netflix documentary) — Following the Black Panther and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom star’s too-soon death last August, the streamer fathered an all-star team for this documentary that aims to explore “Boseman’s extraordinary commitment to his craft [and] an intimate look at the Oscar-nominated actor’s artistry and the acting process which informed his transformative performances.” Settle in for a long list of participants, including Viola Davis, Danai Gurira, Spike Lee, Phylicia Rashad, and Glynn Turman. This one will be available for a limited 30-day window, so don’t let it languish in your queue for too long.
Rutherford Falls (Peacock series) — The newest Michael Schur sitcom is doing the streaming thing, and this show is flat-out putting its location in the title, in lockstep with the co-creator’s fixation with location. Can Rutherford Falls match up with Scranton and Pawnee, in the long run? That remains to be seen, but Ed Helms stars as Nathan Rutherford, who is (obviously, due to the last name) inextricably tied to the town’s history, and Nathan’s not taking too kindly to a movement to eject a historical statue. There’s more to that topic than one would assume, and the wrangling of Nathan seems down to his lifelong best pal, portrayed by Jana Schmieding. This looks about as refreshingly and delightfully offbeat as one would expect from The Good Place creator because everything he touches is magic.
Bigger (BET+ series) — Season 2 brings back the fan-favorite Will Packer comedy about thirty-somethings living in Atlanta, while they attempt to maneuver their way through, well, life. That would include professional, personal and other such obstacles, all while searching for love and dealing with uncomfortable truths on occasion. The whole season’s dropping at once, only on BET+
Invincible (Amazon Prime series) — This animated romp drops a new episode and pleases both fans of The Boys and The Walking Dead, and the latter reference has everything to do with the source material by Robert Kirkman. Invincible is an ultraviolent deconstruction of the superhero, and yes, we’ve seen plenty of dismantling already, but this story has heart. Stephen Yeun makes a fantastic leading man here, and the cast (J.K. Simmons, Sandra Oh, Seth Rogen, Walton Goggins, Jason Mantzoukas, Zazie Beetz, Zachary Quinto, Mark Hamill, and several TWD names) is ridiculously good.
Them (Amazon Prime limited series) — This story’s sure to remind horror fans of Jordan Peele’s Us in more ways than a few, and for good reason. This show promises to explore American-bred terror with an anthologized approach, so the first season is all about the 1950s. Allison Pill’s reliably frightening, and here, she’s terrorizing a Black family, who moves into an all-white LA neighborhood and the welcome committee isn’t there for them, that’s for sure. Soon enough, the horror show begins; and both from a reality-based and a supernatural standpoint, this is pure nightmare fuel.
Sasquatch (Hulu series) — So officially, this is a documentary series, although the Duplass Brothers are behind the project, so you gotta know that the show’s approach will be anything but straightforward. The series promises to dig into a gruesome triple homicide that was allegedly carried out by Bigfoot back in the 1990s. Investigative journalist David Holthouse promises to tell the craziest story that he’s ever heard, even after his undercover dives into Nazi groups and violent gangs. He heads back to the Redwoods (and the infamous Emerald Triangle) in search of the truth about those homicides, and somehow, there’s a bunch of cannabis involved, and that could directly be tied to the murders? This title arrives on April 20, so that (and the tone of the trailer, with distorted voices and a purposefully over-dramatic approach) probably tells us a lot.