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Samantha Reflects on Entertainment in 2023

"This isn't going to go the way you think."

2023 has been a year. That's about all I can say about it. It is entertainment that makes it better.

This has been arguably the worst year of my life. I won’t go into details because that’s not what this is about. Still, there has been some pretty marvelous stuff that released this year, mostly in games. So here are five things that helped me get through my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

My Favorite Game of 2023

This one is hard, because there have been a ton of wonderful games released this year. But I have to agree with the hype and give this to Baldur’s Gate 3. Why? Well, quite simply it is the deepest, most impressively built game I’ve ever played, from the absolutely absurd amount of content (easily 100 hours of playtime) to the small details involving the world.

For example, at one point you find a man trapped under some rubble in a burning building. The obvious solution would be to save him and reap the rewards of your heroism. At least that would be what happens in most games. Here you can absolutely save him, or fail in the attempt. You can let him die, or even question him to get details of his quest without saving him. You can go on the subsequent quest after you rescue him and retrieve the thing he wants to find, or you can keep it for yourself. You can give it back and finish the quest, and then kill him and loot his corpse. Or you can totally miss him entirely, and only later after he is dead do you find his body, a story you never got to experience.

Suffice it to say the level of player choice is off the charts, like any good game of Dungeons and Dragons. The game master in this digital version is clearly capable of handling the strange party decisions that almost always crop up, and they run with it. Yes, I’m talking about a videogame and not a tabletop game, but this is the closest anyone has ever gotten to replicating that social experience. There is a reason why it has won several awards, including game of the year.

My Favorite New Show of 2023

To be fair I have only watched a handful of new shows, and only finished one. I wouldn’t even include it here if it hadn’t been one of the best shows I’ve seen all year. I’m talking about the unexpectedly wonderful show titled The Diplomat. This Netflix original stars Keri Russell as a career diplomat who likes to focus on problem areas instead of high-profile work. She ends up as the ambassador to England which should be largely ceremonial, but ends up being incredibly important.

I won’t go into plot details, because I don’t want to spoil you, and because it is far too complicated to explain in a paragraph. But it is easily one of the most engaging shows I’ve seen in years. Starting with the absolutely fabulous cast, Russell exudes quiet determination, brilliance and just the right amount of disheveled confidence that creates additional layers to a character with a lot of depth already. Rufus Sewell almost steals the show as her husband who is also a diplomat but goes about things in a very different, and often problematic way. David Gyasi is another stand out as the UK Foreign Secretary who is way more interesting than that role would typically demand.

I could go on to list most of the rest of the cast, but I’ll stop there. This show has great writing, acting and cinematography, the story is engaging throughout and it ended on one hell… well I’ll leave you to find out for yourself. Best of all it was renewed for a second season.

My Favorite Show Continued in 2023

There are a ton of shows I could put in this category, like Loki and its fabulous second season. But I think I’m gonna go with Harley Quinn. Yes, you read that right. This R-rated animated show about the titular Harleen Quinzel and her complicated relationship with Pamela Isley, otherwise known as Poison Ivy, is one of the best adaptations of the Batman universe I’ve ever seen. It also goes to places I never would’ve expected an animated Batman cartoon could ever venture.

If you are starting it for the first time, the first few episodes of season one are unforgivably gory, but the show quickly finds its rhythm and begins to focus on Harley and Ivy and their adventures as friends as they form their own group and fight to make a name for themselves in a Gotham where all the big name villains are men. The secondary characters are deep cuts from Batman lore, and yes, the Dark Knight and extended Batfam do make several appearances.

This is quirky, funny, romantic and one of the best ‘cartoons’ set in the DC universe since Batman: The Animated Series. It also has some of the best LGBTQ representation I have seen in animation outside of dramatic offerings like Arcane. If you haven’t given it a try, I highly recommend it, as long as bloody animated violence, censored nudity, foul language, and adult themes don’t bother you.

My Favorite Show Watched in 2023

Again, I could go on about several wonderful shows I have been rewatching this year, everything from Buffy to The Expanse, and they would be perfectly suited for this spot. Yet I have to go with something a bit unexpected: The Mentalist. Yes, I did just give my best watched show of 2023 to the ten-year-old procedural about a con-man working with a fictional California police agency.

So why would I pick a show like this? Simon Baker. That’s it, really. I could also include Robin Tunney as well. But for me, the show is all about Simon Baker’s wonderful and nuanced performance as Patrick Jane, a former ‘psychic’ whose arrogance led to a serial killer named Red John killing his wife and daughter. A broken and desperate Jane (as he is generally called in the show) goes to the California Bureau of Investigation where he encounters Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) who reluctantly lets him help on a case.

I also have to mention the supporting cast is a lot of fun, with the primary three, Cho (Tim Kang), Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) and Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti) adding wonderful chemistry that rounded out the team. Cho in particular has a wonderful deadpan delivery, and somehow ends up not being the butt of jokes. No, that usually falls on Rigsby who is sort of the straight man to the rest of the team, but is really just a loveable goofball. His on-again off-again romance with Van Pelt is also one of best on-going plots in the series.

The Mentalist runs the gamut from farce to emotional devastation and everything in between. The main hook for a big chunk of the series was dedicated to solving the identity of Red John, and those arc episodes were almost always the best in the season. But it is really about Lisbon and Jane, whose partnership spans years. Their subtle flirting, friendly verbal jabs and bickering are built on a foundation of trust and respect they clearly felt for each other. Even when he went off on his own and did some very illegal things to solve a case, they always had each other's backs.

If you have never watched a single episode, I do recommend giving it a shot, if only for Baker and his absolutely magnetic smile.

My Favorite Movie of 2023

I looked at everything that came out this year that I actually watched, and I should mention there are four movies I haven’t seen that might’ve taken this spot but I didn’t get a chance to watch them yet (Oppenheimer, Spider-man Across the Spider-verse, John Wick 4 and Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning). I almost went with Barbie which I just saw a couple of days ago, but I had to go with my gut on this one. Barbie was delightful and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who can look at two hours of pink and not have an aneurysm.

But my favorite movie of the year has to be Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3. Hear me out, I know a comic book movie, especially an MCU movie in an era where people are trashing the MCU daily, and isn’t a popular choice. But this one was not only my favorite of the year, but also my favorite of the trilogy of the Guardians films. This film explored the nature of individuality and what it means to make your own choices.

It never went in the obvious direction, and often went places I wasn't expecting. It made me laugh and it made me cry, and it made me love the characters even more than I already did. It also set the stage for the next phase of Guardians movies and I’m excited to see where it goes. Is it the best Marvel project this year? Maybe, maybe not (Loki season two might’ve been stronger). But it was my favorite movie of the year, in a year where I haven’t seen that many movies. Oh and if you haven't seen it, check out the Guardians of the Galaxy: Christmas Special that was released last year before watching this one.

So that’s it, my reflections on 2023. Let's hope next year isn’t another dumpster fire.

Samantha M. Quinn spends most of her time in front of a computer typing away at one thing or another; when she has free time, she enjoys pretty much anything science fiction or fantasy-related.


  1. A great list, Samantha. I really loved The Diplomat, too. And I've always enjoyed The Mentalist. It's one of my favorite procedurals, and I don't do many procedurals.

  2. The Diplomat almost made my list, too.

    John Wick 4 was good!

  3. Samantha -- I am so sorry you have had a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year." I must admit, however, that I smiled when I read that sentence.

    My year has not been much better, but that is the phrase I have used when things are going badly ever since that beautiful little book was published all those many years ago.

    I hope 2024 is much improved.

  4. So sorry for the hard year. Prayers that the next one is better.
    Thank you for this list! I can appreciate your choice of Simon Baker and The Mentalist. I love it too and followed it every week as it aired. There’s not too many shows that that are so engaging through all the seasons and then end well. The Mentalist did and ended Very Well!
    I’m a little surprised that Andor didn’t place somewhere! Loved your reviews there.
    I hope there’s a show I like that you will be able to review this new year. 🙂. It’s always something to look forward to!

    1. Måge, thank you. It was just a bunch of small things and two major life issues that just piled up. I'll be fine.

      I would've included Andor but it was last year and I'm not in a current rewatch (although that is planned and a continuation of the reviews for early next year). Ahsoka was also pretty darn good, but I'm not sure it qualified for a top spot.

    2. Wow, oops, Andor was 2022! These past years have flown in some ways, crawled in others.

  5. Baldur's Gate III is in my future. I'm glad to see it getting so many good reviews.


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