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After three years away, Donald Glover’s sometimes gritty, sometimes surreal examination of race and fame returned with a season in which four of 10 episodes were stand-alones without the core cast. The best of those — “Three Slaps” and “Rich Wigga, Poor Wigga” — meshed intriguingly with the hilarious and sometimes profoundly sad installments that found the central characters traveling around Europe. — DANIEL FIENBERG
In its third season, the HBO series plunged to new depths of bleakness with its title character’s quest for forgiveness — and, with that stunning highway chase, hit new heights of artistry as well. At the same time, it’s still good for laughs, especially when skewering the cruel inanities of showbiz or marveling at the wisdom of one particular beignet slinger. Is it still a comedy? Should we be calling it a drama now? I have no idea. I just know it’s excellent television. — ANGIE HAN
Creators Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan are masters of pre-finale escalation — and with the end near (the last six episodes are set for July and August), the series has ramped up the tension, the shocking twists and the tragic love story at its heart. Is Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) corrupting Kim (Rhea Seehorn)? Is Kim corrupting Jimmy? And with the Breaking Bad timeline looming, does the future Saul Goodman have any hopes for a happy ending? — D.F.
BETTER THINGS (FX)
Pamela Adlon’s dramedy ended its five-season run in vintage form, as a celebration of our literal families and the families we build for ourselves with friends, loved ones and even strangers we meet along the way. Highlights included a trip to London, a cameo from Danny Trejo, a wedding, an abortion, a musical number and, if you squinted closely enough, a possible UFO sighting, all delivered with laughter and tears. — D.F.
Heartstopper may not be reinventing the wheel with its liberal deployment of YA romance tropes — but it’s using them better than just about any other recent show, and in service of young queer characters defined more by joy than pain. Leads Kit Connor and Joe Locke share a squee-worthy chemistry as Nick and Charlie, and their relationship is cast in such a wistful and rosy glow, it might almost make you wish you were a teenager again. Almost. — A.H.
PACHINKO (APPLE TV+)
Soo Hugh’s adaptation of Min Jin Lee’s novel takes liberties with structure and plot but retains the emotionally epic scope of the generation-spanning narrative. It’s driven by impeccable period production design, a masterful balance of restraint and melodrama, clever use of language and a cast with too many standouts to list — Minari Oscar winner Yuh-Jung Youn, Minha Kim and Jin Ha, among others. Plus, it boasts the best credit sequence on TV. — D.F.
From Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette to Bo Burnham’s Inside, upheavals within the comedy special space occur just regularly enough to cause discomfort for stand-up traditionalists. This year’s paradigm-shifter has been Jerrod Carmichael’s impressively intimate hour — directed and edited by Burnham — that played as half confessional, half support group. Carmichael’s coming-out got the headline, but Rothaniel is as much about the secrets and lies that bind every family together. It’s often hilarious, brilliantly constructed personal storytelling. — D.F.
SEVERANCE (APPLE TV+)
Initially, what’s intriguing about this show is its dystopian premise, or maybe its eerie midcentury-flavored sets. But what lingers after the credits to that thrilling season finale have rolled is the humanity of the characters — including depressed Mark (Adam Scott) and defiant Helly (Britt Lower) — who fumble toward love, community and rebellion within a system designed to stamp out all of the above. — A.H.
SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE (HBO)
Don’t let the vague title fool you: The series is nothing if not specific about the everyday rhythms of the small Midwestern community it’s set in, and sensitive to the heartaches and joys and laughs — lots and lots of laughs — its characters find within it. Bridget Everett’s Sam is its narrative center, as she emerges from a fog of grief to rediscover her creative passions, but Jeff Hiller’s pure, sweet Joel is its heart. — A.H.
UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN (FX/HULU)
In a year when you can hardly throw a rock without hitting a billboard for another new true-crime show, this one stood out for its excellent performances (especially by Andrew Garfield and Wyatt Russell) and its cultural specificity (creator Dustin Lance Black has firsthand knowledge of Mormon life, and it shows) — but also for its insistence in tracing the roots of a murder back to the very foundations of the community in which it’s set, raising far more unsettling questions than your usual ripped-from-the-headlines fare. — A.H.
This story first appeared in the June 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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