Best TV series 2021

Three impactful stories to watch


Johanna Kaplan

At its heart, TV is a form of escapism. Sitting in a darkened room, planting yourself in front of the television, the world falls away. You are immersed in the life of someone else, living vicariously through characters who stretch from all corners of the globe. That’s the power of visual storytelling.

Following the halt of filming amid the chaos of COVID-19, 2021 saw the likes of TV and movies that had been in the works for a long time coming. 

The three TV shows below are not only new, but are fresh and immersive. They transport you to the lives of fictional characters and force you to empathize with their struggles. It is rare for a TV series to be executed so flawlessly, and yet these shows did just that. 


‘Squid Game’- ★★★★★

Fair use from Netflix

If any TV show took the world by storm this year, Squid Game would be it. I hadn’t initially planned on watching the South Korean series. But after hearing the whole internet rave about it, I couldn’t help myself.

With masterful suspense and a one-of-a-kind story, the Netflix Original received 1.65B total hours viewed in its first 28 days on the market. To put that into context, that’s about 188,356 years worth of time. 

“Squid Game” follows the life of a poor Korean man who is given the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s simple, really. All he needs to do is play some children’s games, like tug of war, marbles and red light, green light. Competing alongside 455 other financially destitute contestants, whoever wins will be at the receiving end of the thing they want most: money. It sounds too good to be true … and it is.

I’ll leave it at that because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say “Squid Game” does not shy away from violence and mature themes. 

This story is poignant. It’s depressing. It exposes the darkest corners of the human psyche. And yet, it is addictively entertaining. If you can stomach the violence, this show is worth your time.


‘The White Lotus’- ★★★★★

Fair use from HBO Max

Filthy Rich: the pinnacle of greed. From “Gossip Girl” to “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Hollywood has become increasingly focused on the lives of the top 1% in the last decade. 

“The White Lotus” is a glimpse into the seemingly glorious lives of the filthy rich. The six-episode miniseries is set in a high-end Hawaiian resort, named “The White Lotus.” It tells the story of several families whose vacation getaway goes horribly wrong, and the staff members who have to put up with their guests. 

I couldn’t get enough of this show. It kept me hooked from start to finish. The characters are real and not one-dimensional like you might expect, due in no small part to the incredible acting. 

With an ensemble cast, each and every character is portrayed perfectly and adds their own spark to the fire. My favorite performances included Alexandra Daddario and Connie Britton. I’d seen both of them in other projects previously but I would not have expected either of them to take on such different roles. 

Daddario’s character might just be one of the only likable characters on the show — unlike the others, she has not been consumed by the prospect of her own wealth. I found myself empathizing and rooting for her all the way through.


‘Maid’- ★★★★★

Fair use from Netflix

A victim of domestic abuse will, on average, return to their abuser 6.3 times before leaving for good.

“Maid” is the story of a young woman, Alex (Margaret Qualley), who runs away from her abusive boyfriend, Sean (Nick Robinson), with their 3-year-old daughter. She is left with no job, no money and no home. With fervor and strength, Alex must find a way to survive as a single mother. She snatches the first job she can find, leading her to become a maid. 

This Netflix limited series struck a chord deep within my heart — the real and raw nature of this story is strikingly somber. The cycle of abuse — how people return to their abusers despite all of the pain inflicted upon them — is devastating. Have you ever wondered why it is so hard for people to escape an abusive relationship? If someone is hurting you, why would you go back to them? This show immerses you into the world of a woman who is having this exact dilemma. 

I found myself absolutely heartbroken for Alex, who must navigate an unimaginable situation. Margaret Qualley is brilliant as Alex. It’s even hard for me to believe that this character is not a real person. Nick Robinson and Andie MacDowell are brilliant as well in their respective performances. 

“Maid” is an intense story but an immensely important one. It gave me so much insight into the lives of victims of domestic abuse. I cannot even begin to do this story justice with my writing, but take my word for it. Please watch this show.