Marco Polo and Peaky Blinders.
This show has the most amazing sets, costumes, and cinematography. It focuses on Marco Polo's adventures in the court of Khublai Khan in Mongolia, and you can tell that they went to central Asia to film the landscapes. It may seem like this show would have an excess of men, but there are a lot of amazing women with complex portrayals in this series. Kokachin and Empress Chabi were two of my favorite characters--they exist to break down the princess/queen stereotypes and show how Mongol women, including royal Mongol women, had distinct skills and customs from royal western women.
There was a lot of well-choreographed martial arts in this show, so if you're a fan of different fighting styles or at all interested in well-presented action then I encourage you to watch it. One of my favorite things overall was how much detail went into the presentation of Mongolian culture vs. the culture of the Song Dynasty. You really got a sense for how different and unique the two groups were, which is where a lot of Western adaptations of Asian history run into trouble. Another wonderful thing to note: Marco does not serve as a white savior in this show. In fact, he's shown as being thrown into a very rich, complex world where he must quickly learn to adapt.
I got the sense that this show was created to compete with Game of Thrones, and honestly, based on recent seasons of GoT, it definitely surpasses it in terms of writing quality. Marco Polo hasn't received a good response from critics, which makes me worry that there won't be a second season, but fans have given it a very high rating, I think it was rated at above 8/10 on IMDB the last time I checked. I loved the series and watched the whole thing in two days.
The second season of this show was recently put on Netflix (I think it actually aired on TV in Britian) and I gobbled up the whole thing in a matter of days. Firstly, I love Cilian Murphy, and he really delivers in this series. His character is Tommy Shelby, a WWI veterain and gang member from Burmingham, England, and he's both very, very bad and yet sensitive at the same time. We're introduced to Tommy's brothers, his aunt, sister, and friends, and each relationship adds a layer of humanity to Tommy's ruthless character.
The story focuses on the conflict between the Peaky Blinders gang and the new head of police that's come to Burmingham from Belfast. There's also a romantic storyline between Tommy and Grace Burgess, an Irish operative sent to spy on the Peaky Blinders. Grace plays a large role in season one, which is mostly about Tommy and his family trying to make something of themselves after their horrific experiences during the war. Seaosn two is much darker, with more severe consequences, more surprising twists, and a storyline that focuses on the Blinders forcing their way into the dangerous, competitive world of London's gangs.
Peaky Blinders has been renewed for a third season and I'm beyond excited for it. The writing on this show is perfect for the period and the plot is wonderfully developed. Every character in this series has an interesting, fully developed story that is actually explored, no one feels like a place-holder.
During my few weeks of freedom I've been trying to finish a couple different shows. Recently I watched two Netflix original series that I fell in love with: