Note: This article was first published on 1st April 2019.
Netflix has come a long way since its global launch in 2016. While the local catalog back then was mostly stocked with titles from other networks, Netflix has since invested a ton in original content, and it's paying off handsomely. In 2018, the streaming platform spent around US$12 billion on content, and that's expected to increased to roughly US$15 billion in 2019.
These originals, as the company calls them, include content that the company produced in-house or with other studios and also shows for which Netflix holds exclusive streaming rights.
Netflix started releasing original programming in 2013 with House of Cards, and it's truly impressive that barely six years later, we're able to make a list of the best original shows to watch.
Helmed by David Fincher and Deadpool director Tim Miller, Love, Death & Robots is a fun, gory experience that packs a surprise at every turn. The 18-episode series is also another example of Netflix's willingness to experiment with different forms of storytelling. Instead of lengthy expositions, each episode is a bite-sized peek into a fascinating universe that somehow manages to pack an impressive amount of world-building into mere minutes. The episodes range from six to 17 minutes in length, and are alternately absurd, whimsical, and violent in a visceral way that few other shows are.
Myth, legend, and folklore are deftly infused with futuristic elements that make for a supremely compelling ride. If you're a fan of science fiction, Love, Death & Robots is a must-watch that will send you careening from one outlandish world to the next, even mixing realistic CGI with various animation and art styles. Standout episodes include Sonnie's Edge, Three Robots, and Suits.
Russian Doll is probably what happens when Happy Death Day meets Groundhog Day. Helmed and produced by the inimitable Natasha Lyonne, the series follows Nadia as she celebrates her 36th birthday. Unfortunately, she seems to just keep dying in the weirdest ways possible, including tumbling down a manhole and dying in a falling elevator. It also starts to get creepy toward the end, as Nadia starts seeing herself as a little girl, which kills her nearly instantly (think internal hemorrhaging and plenty of blood oozing from orifices).
Ultimately, Russian Doll is an intriguing blend of dark comedy and probing questions about morality and the decisions we make as we bumble through life. It is a poignant and funny study of regret and possible redemption as Nadia struggles to find a way to escape the time loop. As the world around her begins to disintegrate – first objects then people begin to disappear in each new loop – Russian Doll begins to structurally resemble its namesake, slowly shrinking down to a smaller and smaller core and terrifying nothingness.
Set in near-future Paris, Osmosis asks what would happen if technology could crack the most inscrutable thing about being human – who we love and why. Esther and Paul are a pair of upstart siblings who have created Osmosis, a new dating app that injects nanobots into your brain to probe your deepest emotional recesses. It'll then literally tell you who your soulmate is, an unequivocal, absolute version of love that is supposedly grounded in science.
The series taps into one of the most fundamental human desires, the need to believe that there is someone out there for us and that we will not be condemned to go through life alone. Conversely, Osmosis' rivals, including an app called Perfect Match, espouse what they say is the freedom to love whoever you want and change partners whenever you want, instead of being shoved toward your so-called soulmate. Ultimately, Osmosis shines a spotlight on the nature of relationships and how they progress. If we found someone that fit us just right, would we really then forever experience the heady rush of a new relationship?
If you liked Kim Sung-hoon's Rampant, Kingdom will be right up your alley. A zombie period drama with shambling legions of the undead, it unfolds during Korea's Joseon dynasty, during which the country is crumbling under the weight of corruption and famine. Ju Ji-Hoon from Along with the Gods and Sense8's Bae Doo-Na star, and they together form a solid cast that helps propel the show along.
The zombies in Kingdom aren't slow corpses that shuffle along. Instead, they're fast, agile, and possess a keen appetite for flesh. Adding to the action are the deftly choreographed fight scenes and tense stakeouts, which make for a very compelling watch. To cap things off, the show is smartly paced, with night and day sequences that allow for some of the tension to be relieved as the characters go about preparing for the nocturnal denizens.
If I Hadn't Met You is an unconventional love story that spans literal universes. Eduard is a distraught widower who blames himself for the deaths of his wife and two children, and with good reason. The night before the accident, he and his wife, Elisa, argue over who will drive the kids to school the next day. She wants to take his car, because hers is making a funny noise, but he refuses. He wins, and she ends up taking her own car in the morning. Predictably, it breaks down, precipitating an accident that kills her and the children.
What follows is an outlandish mix of science fiction and romance. Eduard meets Dr. Everest, a silver-haired enigma of a woman who says she has created a portal to parallel universes, where alternate versions of themselves exist. Desperate for a chance to see his family again and possibly save them, Eduard ventures into these alternate realities, first trying to pick a different path by giving Elisa the keys, and when that doesn't work, trying to stop himself from meeting her altogether. Perhaps if he had never met her, he thinks, they would both be happier. It may be a love story at heart, but If I Hadn't Met You also prompts some searching questions about the small choices we make every day and how they can have rippling effects.