Station Eleven, Squid Game, Ted Lasso, Mare of Easttown and WandaVision are among the shows ultimately offering hope as a message, says Justin Kirkland. "In the final scene of Station Eleven, HBO Max’s excellent new post-apocalyptic miniseries, two main characters stand before a massive forked path in the forest," he says. "After a 20 year journey together, they turn to one another, embrace in a hug, and head in different directions. It reads like a cliché, here in plain typeface, but it doesn’t feel like one while watching. And contrary to the image, the move is more about a convergence than dichotomy. That’s because Station Eleven—like many other current storylines—isn’t dabbling in predictable, conflict-free conclusions or nihilistic plot-lines. Instead, knotty sincerity is on the rise, and TV is better than it's been in years as a result. For decades, antihero narratives have dominated in prestige television, but recently, we have entered a period of noticeable, compelling reinvention. Creators are opting out of the egocentric central figure for nuanced earnestness. (And I’m not talking 'earnest' in the way that This Is Us terrorizes tear ducts on a weekly basis, but rather vignettes and characters that honor the complexity of life.) Like any seemingly overnight pivot, this shift has been inching along in this direction for a while." He adds: "For other series, like Squid Game or WandaVision or Mare of Easttown, that evolution unfolds more quickly. The first, Netflix’s runaway Korean-language hit of 2021, places its characters in the most dire of circumstances, where the only thing keeping them alive is their own selfish interests. But as the series moves through its short run of nine episodes, it grapples with the idea that even in an oppressive system that relies on 455 people to die for one to win, people can still choose honor and goodness, even if it costs them their lives. WandaVision helped revive the stakes in the superhero universe. After a decade of big booms, few deaths, and even fewer consequences, the series allowed viewers to see a character on their truest, granular level. The most vulnerable thing about a superhero is their humanity, and Disney+’s first Marvel outing allowed us to follow Wanda Maximoff through the correcting of her own missteps, made in the throes of grief. It grounded the episodes in an almost bizarrely personal way. Mare, billed as a series about a grisly murder, was actually a rumination on one woman’s rocky, one-step-forward, two-steps-back path to forgiving herself."