These are a few of GGA’s favorite things! As the year comes to a close, we find ourselves in reflection mode. The world is in shambles; a deadly virus runs rampant and wars of all kinds rage in every corner of the planet. That said, we have plenty of media escapism at our fingertips. If there’s one thing we at GGA love, it’s to be entertained.
So, we’ve compiled a list of our pop culture highlights from this year. Our personal greatest hits. Whether it’s a TV series that struck a chord or a performer that took us by surprise, you’ll find a mix of favorites here. Brace yourselves for the best of 2022.
I’m a Star Wars fan, but I’ll admit I was growing bored with the current formula. Call it a product of Disney’s lust for money and a desire to crank out a new project every few months. When quantity takes precedence over quality, the franchise falters — but I digress. Enter Andor, a sweeping, galactic spy thriller that boasts a broader appeal, audience-wise. Even non-Star Wars fans can enjoy it. Diego Luna presents a nuanced, swirling hurricane of complexity with his portrayal of rebel-in-the-making Cassian Andor.
Andor doesn’t pull punches, showcasing an unflinchingly darker world compared to some of its somewhat sanitized Star Wars predecessors. The series rings true with relevancy today and tackles topics such as the prison industrial complex, capitalism and the class system. Andor takes time to fully flesh out its characters while threading a compelling narrative that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. Give Tony Gilroy the keys to the Star Wars kingdom, please. — Melody McCune
The Legend of Vox Machina
At the beginning of the year, Prime Video and Critical Role gave us one of the greatest animated series of all time — The Legend of Vox Machina. The series follows the characters from Critical Role‘s first campaign as they uncover the truth behind what is happening in Whitestone. It’s epic in a laugh-out-loud, tears streaming down your face, emotional trauma and packed with action kind of way. Even those who didn’t watch their live Dungeons & Dragons can find a lot to love. Plus, Scanlan just going all out is worth it. — Julia Roth
Reservation Dogs Season 2 gave us some of the best moments in television this year. One, in particular, had all the Aunties dancing to their favorite ’90s R&B hits. In episode five, “Wide Net,” Rita (Sarah Podemski), Teenie (Tamara Podemski), Bev (Jana Schmieding) and Natalie (Nathalie Standingcloud) got a little wild and crazy at the IHS conference. The ladies have been friends since childhood and even made up a dance routine to Brandy’s “Sitting Up In My Room.” They got to show the world that routine in a dream sequence induced by CBD edibles.
While the ladies thought they were actually killing it on the dance floor, in reality, they were barely moving. It was a great throwback for those who remember making up those dance routines as a kid. And trying to recreate them on any drunken night … Thanks to Tazbah Chavez for that incredible Auntie moment. — Noetta Harjo
My favorite piece of media to come out of 2022 is Inside Man. The Netflix show revolves around the intertwined story of a death row inmate, a small-town vicar, a journalist and a math tutor. There is kidnapping, murder, mayhem, twists, turns and an excellent story. Not to mention the incredible acting from David Tennant, Dolly Wells, Lydia West, Stanley Tucci and all the cast. I binge-watched the entire show in a single day.
I cannot say enough about this show. The directing was brilliant, the scenes were stunning, and the atmosphere kept me on the edge of my seat. It is thrilling, has horror elements and plenty of drama. If you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for? — Becca Stalnaker
Atlanta Seasons 3 and 4
2022 saw the release of the second half of Atlanta, the four-season series created by Donald Glover and starring Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, LaKeith Stanfield and Zazie Beetz. Season 3 sent the gang on a European tour, unleashing a journey to the Heart of Whiteness as Paper Boi goes on a “trip” (in one episode, literally). Meanwhile, alternating episodes starring unknown white actors unspool a striking U.S.-based story in which a legal decision impels the white descendants of slave owners to pay reparations to those Americans whose ancestors were enslaved.
The fourth season returned to a more conventional format and location for the series – albeit with the addition of a “horror genre” element throughout. Along with an incredible “parallel documentary” that explained why A Goofy Movie is “the Blackest movie of all time,” the last few episodes gave our heroes a happy ending … maybe. Atlanta was a dream come true. — Avery Kaplan
I’m no good at picking favorites. Maria von Trapp’s “My Favorite Things” ain’t got nothing on me. So I decided to write about something that brought me joy in 2022. Well, someone: author Alexis Hall. He describes himself as a “genrequeer writer of kissing books,” which, yes. Hall is one of those authors who’s on my automatic preorder list. He’s also friggin’ prolific, having published four books in 2022 alone (Something Fabulous, A Lady for a Duke, Husband Material and Paris Daillencourt Is About to Crumble). And they’re all so different — in subject matter, setting and “heat level.”
From a historical romance about a trans woman reconnecting with her childhood BFF to a rich boy with GAD falling in love on a version of The Great British Bake Off, what they all have in common is that they’re (super British) queer romances. What’s not to love? — Melis Amber
Best Breakout Performance of 2022: David Dawson
If you’ve been paying attention for the last few years, this one shouldn’t be a surprise. David Dawson has been appearing on television in shows such as The Last Kingdom and Year of the Rabbit. However, the actor made his mainstream feature debut this year in My Policeman and did something we didn’t see coming. He stole the ensemble picture right out from under everyone’s feet. Dawson stuns as Patrick, a museum curator doing his darnedest to live his life and remain true to his passions and desires in 1950s England. The performance is beautifully heartfelt in a potentially stuffy movie. His story is the heart of My Policeman.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
I watched a lot of anime in 2022, but my favorite was the Entertainment District arc for Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. I never missed an episode premiere day. This arc gave us one of the best and most flashy Hashira in Tengen Uzui and an astonishing amount of character growth for the core characters.
In this arc, Tanjiro, Zenitsu and Inosuke are devastated by the tragic loss of Rengoku, the Flame Hashira. They bury their collective anguish with rigorous training until Uzui shows up looking for some help to stop a powerful demon stalking the Entertainment district.
I was blown away at the quality of the animation, even with a relatively short turnaround time between Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train and the new episodes. The attention to detail, high-quality art style and fluidity of movement brought the Entertainment District to life.
This season of Demon Slayer was so good that I had trouble starting another show after the arc completion. Eleven episodes were plenty of time to wrap up the storyline with a satisfying conclusion, yet not nearly enough to satisfy me. If the upcoming Swordsmith Village arc is even half as good, Demon Slayer will also be my favorite anime of 2023. — Lauren Darnell
Our Flag Means Death
Like practically everyone else in the world, I fell in love with a couple of middle-aged pirates this year. Part (semi)-historical adventure story, part rom-com, Our Flag Means Death is my new favorite obsession. It’s the first show that, after finishing it for the first time, I immediately started it over again. And the news that Season 2 is well on its way is the cherry on top! — Alex Faccibene
Quinta Brunson struck gold when she created Abbott Elementary. This series came when we desperately needed hilarious and heartwarming escapism. Season 2 is just as delightful as Season 1. The writers continue developing the endearing characters we fell for in the show’s freshman outing. The jokes land, and the physical gags, especially those involving the camera, are laugh-inducing. Brunson and Tyler James Williams deliver on the Granine chemistry front. Janine and Gregory’s will-they-won’t-they is as tantalizing as it is sweet.
This season, it feels like the Abbott teachers have become family. Every week, we spend 20ish minutes with our kin, whisking ourselves away to a lighthearted, tender and cleverly funny world where Ava Coleman stylishly rules the roost and Barbara Howard is our collective work mother. — Melody McCune
The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy
If you had told me at the beginning of the year that a book would be one of my favorite things in 2022, I would have doubted you. And then Megan Bannen dropped The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy, and my world changed. The story mixes magic, romance, mystery, enemies to lovers, action, angst, grumpy sunshine and much more. Seriously, it feels like Bannen peeked into my head, found out everything I loved and put it into this book. I fell head over heels in love with Hart, Mercy and every single part of this epic story. — Julia Roth
Prey proved that girls can kick ass and be warriors in a male-dominated warrior society. I’ve always known Amber Midthunder was amazing, and now the world knows it too. As Naru, she showed how women in these societies could also contribute to the safety and security of the community. Naru never gave up and never let anyone belittle her. She is a strong Indigenous female role model that is long overdue. Midthunder’s stunt work had Native girls everywhere learning how to throw axes.
This film is also a great example of how to portray Indigenous people in film respectfully. Dan Trachtenberg knew he wanted a Native tribe to be the story’s focal point and reached out to the Comanche Nation to consult on language and culture. This made Prey the most authentic portrayal of Natives in a film by a non-native director. — Noetta Harjo
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3
Series composer Chris Westlake didn’t write themes for any of the individual characters on Star Trek: Lower Decks, a tip of the hat to the fact that the series isn’t about any one person but rather about the Cerritos crew as a collective. In Lower Decks Season 3, this theme is brought to a crescendo as the show’s aperture expands beyond the beta shifters to encompass the entire Cerritos crew and the entire California class.
Emphasizing ideas like the threat of unbridled automation and intrinsic human roadblocks to collaboration, the show’s third season tripled down on the “alternate perspective” mission statement from the first episode through the last. And in “Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus,” Lower Decks finally got a cameo from a Star Trek: The Original Series alum, Captain Hikaru Sulu (George Takei), who steals the show with an impeccable delivery of a memorable and meaningful line. — Avery Kaplan
Red Dead Redemption 2
Yes, I’m late to the game (pun intended), but I played through all of Red Dead Redemption 2 for the first time this year, and it was amazing. I’m not a huge gamer, but I love a good story, and the tragic figure that is Arthur Morgan has my whole heart. I’m spending the rest of 2022 lingering in the epilogue because I don’t want to leave this world. — Alex Faccibene
What are your favorite things from 2022? Sound off in the comments below!