The second season of ‘Barry’: You almost have to pity the rest of HBO’s offerings while its dragon show took all the air out of the room. But while fan communities were collecting signatures for a series finale do-over, Bill Hader’s “Barry” was expanding on a promising beginning to become the daring show that made “Game of Thrones” a phenomenon. Answering the question of where the show could go after a first season that stood up as a satisfying story unto itself, “Barry” further explored its main character’s futile efforts to escape his violent past with a dark humor that remained surprising. Just watch Episode 5, which was stolen by a vengeful little girl after a hit goes wrong.
The National’s ‘I Am Easy to Find’: This durable indie rock band has built a steadily increasing following with moody middle-class narratives led by singer Matt Berninger’s baritone. But its latest album upends the National formula in a collaboration with director Mike Mills (“20th Century Women”), who also produced an accompanying short film starring Alicia Vikander. Resisting the cathartic guitar anthems of the National’s past for lush songs that can carry a more theatrical bent, the band adds multiple female voices such as Lisa Hannigan and Sharon Van Etten to counter Berninger. The results may not always be easy for fans of the familiar, but are still intriguing as the band expands its reach.
The legacy of ‘Game of Thrones’: If you’ve looked at the internet over the past week, it was obvious that HBO’s blockbuster “Game of Thrones” reached a long-anticipated conclusion that could at best be considered divisive among fans. While pleasing everyone in wrapping up a story line that spanned continents, time and an army of devious characters was always a challenge, especially with such high expectations, the show’s departure from an established high level of intrigue, character development and dialogue will impact how it’s remembered. With a show built on surprises, you can be traumatized by a Red Wedding only once, but an underwhelming ending is forever.
New Coke nostalgia: Beware of Netflix’s “Stranger Things”: More dangerous than its flower-faced demogorgons, the show has shown a dark power for spurring unearned fondness for 1980s artifacts that weren’t worth experiencing the first time. Consider the canny marketing effort by this soft drink giant, which is partnering with the series on another go-around for its biggest debacle: New Coke. It’s a buzzy stunt to allow a new generation to experience what carbonated hubris tastes like, but the idea that something so widely derided in its time might gain second life some 30 years later is one of the strangest things.
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