A Director’s Quarantine Series: Some Thoughts On Streaming Favs
Quark Henares talks Tiger King, Twin Peaks, Devs and Better Call Saul
Director Quark Henares isn’t afraid to go beyond his normal viewing material—or sharing his thoughts on whatever his most recent watch is. So while we’re all still staying at home as much as we can, he’s sharing what he calls his Quarantine Series. On today’s agenda are Tiger King, Twin Peaks, Devs and Better Call Saul.
Available on Netflix.
When Tiger King first came out on Netflix, a friend told me that she couldn’t stand it because sideshow reality shows weren’t her thing. And while I did see her point, as well as Tiger King’s similarities with “sideshow reality TV” stables like Toddlers In Tiaras and Duck Dynasty, I felt that the jury was out because Tiger King felt more artfully done and seemed to want to explore bigger things.
When I finally finished the show, I completely agreed with her. Tiger King IS a sideshow reality series, completely made for your amusement and entertainment. Joe Exotic, Carol Baskin, Doc Antle and all their spouses exploit and bamboozle as the big cats they own. As a documentary, it doesn’t have an overarching message like many of its beautifully-made true crime counterparts (The Jinx and Wild Wild Country come to mind), but man, did the directors strike gold with their subjects. It feels like a mockumentary half the time, with Joe Exotic’s music videos, Carole’s blog posts and that murdering drug dealer who’s actually the nicest guy in the bunch.
Does that mean it’s trash? Kinda. Does that mean I don’t like it? Of course not. But this is also coming from a guy who finished Love Is Blind in five days.
25 years ago, I saw my first episode of Twin Peaks and the last scene featured a dancing dwarf in a red room with a dead girl whispering in the hero’s ear.
I couldn’t sleep that night. It wasn’t that I was scared. In fact, it was more that I couldn’t place what I was feeling. What the hell was going on? What did it all mean? What was Laura Palmer whispering in Dale Cooper’s ear?
I’ve basically spent the rest of my life chasing this feeling. Twin Peaks taught me how much I could love stories, how fiction could sometimes affect me more than real life, how transcendental the moving image could be.
I’ve been meaning to do a re-watch on The Return ever since I, well, finished it. And now, three years later and on the original Twin Peaks’ 30th anniversary, I finally get to do so.
The show is so layered, so dense and so deep that there really is just so much to write about. The original was the masterpiece that took me down the rabbit hole of wanting to make stories in this medium when I was in grade school, and it ended on what was both a cliffhanger and a downer. Years after, the fandom was clamoring for more, but all we got was a prequel that was even more of a downer (but brilliant, nonetheless).
So getting this sequel, 25 years later, during the twilight years of its creators, was not only an unexpected surprise—it was a gift. And to have David Lynch, my favorite director, direct every single episode after an 11-year absence? So mind-boggling it actually made me nervous.
The result is without a doubt Lynch’s magnum opus. And that’s a big statement, considering this is also the guy who made Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet.
During this re-watch, I tried making myself aware of why it was so special to me and I realized it was because it made me feel things no other piece of fiction could. It is frustrating at times, yes, but also absurd with laughter, deep terror and a sense of mystery that gets to the heart of your subconscious. During one episode, I was touched to the point of crying only to feel absolute horror at the very next scene. And with so many members of the cast either dead or dying as they were shooting, I also felt this overarching sense of mortality. “You know about death; that it’s just a change, not an end,” the log lady says before dying, a scant four days before the actress Catherine Coulson died herself.
Twin Peaks isn’t for everyone—this is a lesson I learned in grade school, when that would be my parting words to each classmate every Friday it aired on ABS-CBN. But if you want something different, something that subverts what is safe and conventional and makes you feel things you never thought your television set could elicit, you might want to give it a try. Now is the perfect time, after all.
Upon first seeing the final scene of the series (and it DOES feel like it’s final), I found myself annoyed. So many questions were left unanswered, so many threads left hanging, so much unresolved.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I just kept thinking—what the hell was going on? What did it all mean? What WAS Laura Palmer whispering in Dale Cooper’s ear?
It felt like coming home.
Available on Fox Life.
I tried, guys. I tried to fill my days with Korean romantic comedies, cartoons and trashy documentaries. These days, the last thing I need is a darkly philosophical science fiction meditation on determinism and free will. Then Alex Garland comes along and ruins everything.
If you’re a fan of his previous work (Annihilation, Ex Machina), Devs feels like a culmination of everything he’s examined…going back to even The Beach. It’s also, I feel, his best work. Episodes 5 and 7, especially, are just intense mindfucks that make you lose your footing from the get-go. Sometimes it feels like an eight-hour Massive Attack music video, other times a Black Mirror episode that’s up there. The ensemble, which includes Nic Offerman and Allison Pill, is a delight to watch. Star Sonoya Mizuno might actually be the weakest link, but she also is the most magnetic.
Better Call Saul (season five)
Available on Netflix.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to the court: the best-written series in television today. For five seasons now, Better Call Saul has quietly flexed as a masterclass in writing and show running. It’s as if creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould sat back and told everyone, “You know what? Don’t mind us. Have fun with your epic series and high concept peak TV. We’ll just have fun in our little corner of the world. We did, after all, make the best series of the last decade anyway.”
Making prequels is probably one of the most difficult things to do in storytelling (and do well, even more so). Inherently, so much of the excitement and anxiety you feel with the original goes away because you’re secure in knowing how things end. The creators upend this by 1) creating something completely different from Breaking Bad and 2) supplying us with an amazing set of new supporting characters whom I actually love more than the Breaking Bad ones (I know this because most of them are now the mains in Better Call Saul). There is also a higher sense of maturity in the pain that Better Call Saul brings. Walter White can run over people and shoot them point blank and I’ll find myself cheering. Saul Goodman takes a breath and tells a lie, and I find myself crying.
The best thing about all of it? You CAN have your cake and eat it too. With its penultimate season, Better Call Saul finds itself knee-deep in Breaking Bad territory. And I know it’s more than a year away, but I just know that season 6 will break my heart.
So, what’s been on your quarantine series list?
Words Quark Henares
Art Alexandra Lara