Hello! Welcome to the Friday edition of Popculturology ... at least, I think it’s Friday? Between MLK Day on Monday and a snow day on Tuesday, this week’s felt a bit scrambled.
We wrapped up the new season of Fargo on Wednesday night. This was our first visit to the world of Fargo on TV, and I have little doubt we picked a fantastic season to begin with.
Putting together a great cast is obviously something Fargo has been known for since Noah Hawley brought the franchise to FX. Season 5 was no exception. This cast was stacked. Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lorraine Lyon, David Rhysdal as Wayne Lyon, Joe Keery as Gator Tillman, Lamorne Morris as Witt Farr, Richa Morrjani as Indira Olmstead, Dave Foley as Danish Graves. The highlight of this season, though, was watching Juno Temple, Jon Hamm and Sam Spruell play off each other.
Seeing Temple transform into Dorothy Lyon was incredibly refreshing after watching her get lost in the slog that was Ted Lasso’s final season. I don’t know if it was Fargo figuring out that Hamm works as a violent presence or if it’s just the added decades of weight (both physical and emotional) that Hamm now carries since Mad Men ended, but Hamm was terrifying as Roy Tillman. And then we have Spruell as Ole Munch. When the season began, who could’ve predicted what Munch would become?
Vanity Fair’s Anthony Breznican chatted with show creator Noah Hawley, which I highly recommend reading after you’ve watched the Season 5 finale.
I was able to catch up on a bunch of other TV shows over the past week, including Monarch: Legacy of Monsters and For All Mankind (and, oh boy, do I have more to say about them below). I still need to get going on What If...? Season 2 and Echo.
We wrapped up our lengthy Lord of the Rings rewatch, concluding it with Amazon’s Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Look, I know people have issues with the show and how it fits with J. R. R. Tolkien’s canon, but I enjoy Rings of Power. It feels like the original movies. And I love Morfydd Clark as Galadriel.
(We watched the original Lord of the Rings trilogy on 4K Blu-ray. That trilogy looked fantastic on those discs, a reminder that we should still be investing in physical media.)
You’ll probably also notice that this week’s edition of the Friday newsletter looks a tad bit different than usual. Over the weekend, I put in a few hours of work and took care of migration Popculturology from Substack to Ghost. It wasn’t a difficult process, just a lot of exporting and importing before praying that the domain name gods would shine their light on rerouting popculturology.news to the new site. (If you’re a Substack writer out there and want to chat about the migration process, feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com.)
I’m still working out a few kinks with the new platform, but it had to be done. When major Substack publications like Platformer announced they were leaving, it was definitely time to go.
One benefit of the switch is that I was able to implement a few design changes to improve on Substack’s basic options.
Before we jump into this Friday’s edition of Popculturology, can I ask for a favor? Can you take a few minutes to fill out the first ever Popculturology Reader Survey? After more than a year of writing this newsletter (and with the migration putting everything on the table), I’d love to get your feedback and thoughts. The survey is anonymous unless you want to add your name to say hi.
MONARCH: LEGACY OF MONSTERS AND FOR ALL MANKIND DELIVER TWO VERY DIFFERENT SEASON FINALES
Two of Apple TV+’s premiere series wrapped up their seasons last Friday, with Monarch: Legacy of Monsters finishing its first season and For All Mankind finishing its fourth.
I was a few episodes behind on each, but after catching up on both of them over the weekend, it’s pretty easy to say that these two shows delivered season finales of wildly different levels of quality.
Monarch is hands down one of the best shows we’ve gotten from Apple TV+. And For All Mankind? Well, they were once one of the best shows we got from Apple TV+.
The monster show with human stories
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters had no business being as great as it was.
The MonsterVerse — 2014’s Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Godzilla vs. Kong — were retrofitted into a franchise after the fact, with major plot points like Hollow Earth not even coming into existing until Godzilla vs. Kong.
Monarch effortlessly took all of these elements and wove them back through the MonsterVerse. It showed us how the Hollow Earth portals were discovered and why they were ignored in Godzilla. The show turned Bill Randa, a one-off character played by John Goodman in Kong: Skull Island, into a member of the Monarch’s founding family.