The Art of International Binge-Watching!!
Seven Overlooked Foreign Gems on Netflix
I'm just as guilty of this as you are...
We all have a list of half-done seasons of shows on Netflix that we've been blazing through because they were "pretty good", at first, but we loose steam with them, because we don't want to do the same thing over again. Then, after spending six whole minutes scrolling, we all have the same line; Let's say it together...
"THERE'S NOTHIN' TO WATCH!!!"
Well, here's the thing, And follow me with this... If you're tired of your surroundings, if you go to work, come home after work and do nothing else for weeks at a time, what's the first thing you end up saying? "I need a vacation", right? It's the same basic thing!! You turn on the T.V. and you go to another familiar place yet again!! Of course it's boring!!
Now, when you go on vacation, (and I said "vacation", not "stay-cation") You usually travel to someplace you've never been and/or just wanted to go to... stop me when I'm wrong...
What if I told you that the best way to cure "Nothing-to-watch syndrome", is to just send your Binge-watching experience on a vacation?
Now, I know that you, in all your intelligence -- don't be modest! -- you would've gotten around to that, at some point or another... more likely because you're desperate, but still, let me get you started on some real gems I just couldn't let go of!!
Just a note: These are all Netflix originals, because, y'know... I'm lazy.
1. Control Z (MEXICO)
There's this school where everything seems alright on the surface, but quiet, observant, socially isolated Sofia doesn't miss a trick.
Sofi is an absolute genius. She also has NO problem standing up for herself, even though she's constantly called a freak. She has no friends and she's okay with that. She picks up on things that NO ONE else picks up on -- like NO ONE -- and it makes her look like a psychic or something. It's freaky how smart she is.
Sofi also always noticed the shallow popular group who, from her perspective, barely have it together. And for a good reason... they all have secrets.
WELL, one day, when the school was having an assembly about phones or something, a hacker took over the A.V. system and broadcast the secret of one of the most popular girls in school. After the assembly rushed out, a guy, Raul, came to Sofia and asked if he could talk to her.
Basically, he told her that the reason that happened was because some hacker told him he knew his secret -- in fact, he showed him that he -- I should say he/she -- knew -- and blackmailed the guy into picking one of his other friends to be exposed, thinking that it was a joke. Raul asked Sofi to look into this, since she's so good at finding out the truth.
Sofia agreed to. She wanted to know the truth, too. Turns out, he wasn't the only one being blackmailed, he wasn't the only one a part of the assembly fiasco, and with the track record that all these popular kids have, both in public and behind closed doors, there are too many people with a motive.... Anybody could be the hacker.
It gets spicier with every layer - reveling episode! And some of it is in English, like the texts that show up on screen, just to make it a little easier.
It's very well put together, and leaves you on the edge of your seat!
2. Ragnarok (Norway)
Did you like the Marvel movies?
Well, get ready, 'cause this one digs a little deeper on Norse mythology... and it's GOOOOOOOOOOOODDDDD!!!!!
Magne, a kind of dorky blond high school kid with dyslexia, moves with his family to a really small town in Norway, called Edda. His brother, Laurits, in the back of the car with him, and his mum, Turid, driving.
They get there, and Magne met this strange old lady who apparently woke something in him. Weird things started happening, both to him and around him. He suddenly didn't need the glasses he needed since he was two, he had incredible strength and stamina... and there's something else...
His first day of school, the teacher was giving a lecture about the significance of Edda in Norse mythology.
"Ragnarok" means, "End of the World" in Norse mythology, (which explains the Marvel movie). The end begins with NATURAL DISASTERS and end with a huge battle between the gods and the giants.
Edda was the last town in all of Norway to become christian and give up the Norse gods, which also make sense that Ragnarok would happen there...
Now be patient with me, 'cause the back story helps with perspective...
The gods represented law and order and the giants, chaos. The balance of the world depended on the struggle between them.
The gods were betrayed and died and we don't know what happened to the giants.
Now, Magne meets a friend named Isolde, a goth green peace activist. She's not very popular because of it. That, and the fact that the leader of the teasing is also the most popular guy in school. Fjor.
Fjor and his sister Saxa (cool names) are part of a very powerful family, the Jutul family, and their mother is the principal, and the English teacher.
Without revealing too much, I WILL say that the main reason that Fjor makes fun of Isolde's environmentalism is because she's drawing attention to the fact that something's not right, and he's downplaying it... in fact, the whole family is in on what's wrong with the town. More specifically, the imbalance of the environment. You know, why there are so many NATURAL DISASTERS!?
The question is, will Magne find out what his purpose is, as the strange old lady keeps telling him? Will he find the other gods? Will he figure out what's going on with the town, and the Jutul family's significance in all of this?
As a bit of a history and mythology buff, I love the accuracy and how they use it all through the story. There's action, there's mystery, a little bit of tragedy... the perfect drama, if you ask me. Amazing.
3. Bring it On, Ghost (South Korea)
Before I start on this one, I have to say that my fave two genres are horror and comedy,
so I usually have a hard time with someone who doesn't know how to properly put together a good horror comedy. Having said that --
This is one of the best horror comedies I've seen in a long time!!
It had an equal balance of spooky and hilarious, and was never choppy, or corny, or awkward! It was so -- wait, wait -- lemme -- let me get to the story...
So there's this college student named PARK Bong-Pal -- I'm serious, that's his name -- with the ability to not only see ghosts, but he can even punch them! Yes, he can punch ghosts, stay with me here...
Because of his power, and the fact that he's strapped for cash, he started offering his services for money. And so far, he's been really killing it.
Well, there are these two other more dorky guys who are terrible at ghost hunting, but still do it and broadcast live online.
Bong-Pal is watching them online from home when he gets a call for hire to the exact same school at which the other guys are hunting. He thought it was strange, especially since the school was temporarily closed because of the recent death and sighting of a ghost... and that the person calling is a woman, and there are only two guys at that school. But the woman offered a ridiculous amount of money, so of course, he took it.
He gets there, and no one meets him outside, so he figures the person is already inside, hops over the fence and goes in. Inside, he runs into this girl, and believing that it's the ghost, he immediately starts fighting with her. She pleads with him, but when he won't listen, she turns, beats the living crap out of him and kicks him out!!
For the record, she is a ghost, but not the one in question...
The next day, he talks with a friend of his father's who Bong-Pal calls, "Fake Monk" who comes around from time to time, and asks him about what it takes to fight a ghost who's stronger than him. Fake Monk was pissed because he promised his father that he would keep Bong-Pal away from ghosts, and Bong-Pal said that he promised to run if ghosts see him, but Fake Monk reluctantly gives him some advice.
Bong-Pal finds a weapon he can fight with and goes back. Long story short, he finds out he's got the wrong ghost, the ghost girl, named KIM Hyun-Ji, is a badass fighter, and helps him fight the other ghost, she's better than Bong-Pal, plus she can see things about the ghost that Bong-Pal can't, which helps a lot in defeating them, and ends up joining him in fighting off this and other ghosts... and of course, falling in love.
Clearly, they can't work together without THAT happening.
Most other horror comedies are very awkwardly put together, and though I love them, I'm a little bit of a snob when it comes to this genre, but THIS.... And this is a lot, coming from me, it is so well put together! There were times I was at the edge of my seat, times where I was cowering behind my throw pillow, and times where I was busting a gut, all in the course of a half an hour!
Definitely worth binge-ing!
4. Frontier (Canada)
I'm not gonna lie; I clicked it for Jason Mamoa. Can you really blame me!?
But this historical fiction series honestly isn't half bad!!
Okay, so here's how it starts:
Black screen. Complete blackness. and up come these words:
"In 1670, King Charles II granted England's Hudson's Bay Company land that had been occupied by aboriginal people for thousands of years, creating a dominant fur trading monopoly.
"By the late 1700's French, Scottish, and American interests began to undermine the dominance of the Hudson's Bay Company -- In the years that followed, a bloody battle for control of the wealth ensued."
I thought that they said it better.
Cut to Jason Mamoa slitting three throats. Right at the start.
That should give you an idea of what this show is like already.
Basically, Declan Harp (that's Jason) is a half Irish, half native man with a helluva lot of power amongst the natives, and protector of the land, and is consistently pissing off England because he keeps getting in the effing way!
On a side note, I just want to say that the intro music is frigging unbelievable! It's got indigenous music and drums all strewn into the orchestral background, it's so cool!
Cut to Gravesend Pier, Ireland.
There are three poor people who are swiping and swindling their way through the winter, and doing a fairly terrible job at it. There are two men, Michael and... to be honest, I don't remember the other guy's name -- and the guy's sister... who's name I... don't remember either. *ahem*
Anyway, Michael's in love with the guy's sister.
So their on this pier, the three of them, and they were discussing what they're going to do for food. "If we keep going on like this," Michael says, "We're not going to make it through another winter!"
They then decide that they're gonna sneak onto a nearby ship, that just happens to be sailing off that night, and steal some gunpowder to sell. with that they'll be made for the whole winter!
That night, after staking out for a while until the coast was clear, they got onto the boat and made it downstairs, Michael and his girlfriend, and even got their hands on some powder. They were caught. He managed to get away, and he thought she did, too, come to find out she was captured and sent to prison.
Michael hid below deck and thought that he would just wait until the coast was clear, but like I mentioned, they shipped off that night! And he must've fell asleep or something, because he didn't realize that until the next morning. He was devastated.
He thinks he'll never get back to her.
Some time passes with him stowed away on the ship, and he's discovered and brought on deck. What saved him? Two things: the fact that he outed someone who was stealing from the captain, which is why everyone in the crew was was called on deck, so Cap could find out -- and his Irish accent.
The captain, hearing the guy's accent, suddenly has a plan. That night, after having the crew spoil and schmooze up to Michael, pulls him down to his office and offers him a "job" as "gratitude" for what he's done.
By the way, The captain works for the Hudson Bay Company, the one Declan's pissing off?
This captain wants Michael to take his Irish accent, go into the woods, and make his way towards Declan's camp, saying he's a fellow Irishman looking for his people. Then, find out everything about him: his camp, his men, his weapons, his connections, his blood type, which way his dick hangs, and bring back the info, and Cap will give him anything he wants.
Michael says, "My girl's in prison, get her out!" and Cap's like, "Cool. Whatever. Deal."
So now, Michael is smack in the middle of freezing ass Canada, combing through the forest for a man who seems to ALWAYS be covered in blood, in the slim chance that he'll gain his trust, then betray him and save his girlfriend.
And this is all with Declan trying to protect his land and the indigenous people, and fighting the trade with all these other countries being greedy as hell! Whoo!!! It's intense!
I love a good historical fiction story! This one is really awesome! Ten outta ten!!
5. Always a Witch (Columbia)
This is a show that I just CAN'T let go of!! There's a little bit of historical fiction in this as well, and it's REALLY well written!!
Also, I personally LOVE stories about magic...
The story starts in Cartagena, Columbia in, like, the 1600s. This girl called Carmen Eguiluz, a slave and one of a long line of witches falls in love with the slave master's son. They're found out and she's sentenced to death for bewitching their son... because clearly, there's no way that witches, or even slaves, could love anyone.... clearly.
The son, named Cristobal, stand up in front of everyone and declares that he loves her, and that she should be allowed to live so they can be together. His father, who believes he's being bewitched to say that, then decides to shoot his own son to save his soul from hell... (Really!?!? Wow!)
In prison, Carmen is crying her eyes out over her boyfriend's death, and her neighbour in the next cell hears her. He knows who she is and says that he can get him back.
"How?" She says, "He's dead."
"I can send you back in time to stop them," He says, "but first, You'll have to do something for me."
Then he does, like, magic levitation spell on her, 'cause there's, like, a whole brick wall between them 'n' stuff, except for, like, this one window, but it's, like, really high 'n' small, or whatever.
Through the bars, Carmen can see him sitting on the cell floor, he looks up at her and smiles. And she's terrified. Well, maybe not that scared. She just didn't know who he was or that he knew who she was.
"What do you want me to do?"
"I need you to go forward in time. I need you to find someone for me."
The next day happens, and Carmen is brought to the stake. The priest reads out her sins and lights a fire. Carmen was given a spell last night by the wizard in the cell, and she recites it on the stake. Now one second, she's getting third degree burns on her feet, the next, she's in modern day Cartagena, coming up out of the salt water ocean... with her burned feet.
Yeah, I'd faint, too.
There was a beach party going on nearby, and someone sees her faint and takes her to the hospital.
She comes to in the hospital and get's freaked out by all the gadgets and people in strange clothing. She's like, "What year is this?" And they're all like, "Huh? What do you mean -- are you on drugs?"
She was in the in - patient ward, and some people came in asking for her. She didn't really know it, but they were the cops. Apparently, because of the series of cases of girls disappearing, they want to ask her some questions about what happened. She wanted to stay under the radar until she gets home, so she she slips out of the hospital while no one's looking.
Bad move. Now the cops are looking for her.
She finds the place that was once her master's home. It's now a bed and breakfast. She manages to get a job there, and even her old room, and after finding out that the person she's looking for is a University professor, pretends to be a student and goes to school.
There's a couple of problems; one, she doesn't know what the person looks like, she can't seem to get a straight answer from anyone, and the professor seems to always be gone. And two, there's a spirit out there that has been abducting women, and the professor has been investigating, trying to find the ghost and get all the missing women back.
Carmen finally meets the professor, tells be who she is and who sent her, and the professor said that she'll help, but she has to come back later, when it's not so out in the open.
Next thing you know, the female professor gets abducted, too.
Now, Carmen only has a certain amount of time to find the spirit who abducted the professor and all the other women, before getting the professor to help her go back in time with what she needs, and it's running out. And all while the cops, who are on the same case, find her and are hounding her and accusing her of being a part of the disappearances, because she ran away. The professor is the only one who can free the man who freed Carmen. Can she save everyone in time?
This series has to many fun and entrancing moments, not to mention relatable teenager things, as Carmen makes friends along the way.... even those relationships get a little dark.
This is one of the Spanish-speaking shows I recommend at the end of my Spanish lessons... You can have a look at them here.
It keeps me on the edge of my seat, and I look forward to the next episode every time... of course.
I gotta stop going to bed a 5 am.
6. Luna~Nera (Italy)
Another extension of my obsession with Magic shows...
Plus bonus; it's also an historical fiction series!! YAY-YUH!!!
It's got , like, a real Game of Thrones vibe, so if you were fortunate enough to catch that series, and/or just have that type o' good taste, You'll like this show...
We open in the 17th century, with two midwives, an old woman and her granddaughter tending to the wife of a very important man. She had been in labour for a while, and even the wife had said to the midwife that the baby felt stuck.
The granddaughter, Ade, comes closer so she can help. she reaches out to touch the woman, and she gets a vibe. She can feel the woman's baby dying.
"It's too late," Ade says, "The baby is dying."
Naturally, the woman freaks out about her saying that, and accuses her of witchcraft. She screams at her an calls her a witch over and over. The grandmother takes her things and Ade and leaves. "There's no hope for her now," She says.
Back in their village, they barricade themselves inside their cottage. They both know that hunters will be coming for them, and when they find them, they'll kill them.
Ade doesn't understand what's going on, with her, this situation, how she knew that, or what her grandmother -- who actually was not her grandmother, but someone who took care of her and her brother after their mother left -- was talking about when she said that Ade was powerful.
"You have a power growing inside you. That must be protected."
And Ade's like, "What the hell is going on?" And Grandma's like,
And Ade's like, "Lay off the drugs, Grandma. Like really, you're scaring me."
She tells her that there's, "A barrier between the living and the dead, and women keep it closed, but if it were opened, an army of the furious dead would populate the Earth.
"At first it would wipe out these women, and then it would impose it's power on the world."
"People call them witches," Grandma says, "but they're so much more than that."
They hear the hunters coming. Grandma runs over to the bookshelf and grabs a book Ade knows nothing about. She lifts the floorboards out of the way, and has Ade help with her newfound power to move the dirt and roots out of the way to that she can hide it.
She grabs her shawl, kisses her and her brother, lying sick and asleep on the bed, and tells Ade to protect him. Then she runs out in front of the hunters to sacrifice herself.
Ade's left to fend for herself and her sick brother, all the while everyone in her village and in the city is shunning her out of fear because of who she is. No one will help her they spit at her and throw rocks at her whenever she comes around. They're starving. Not even the priest would help her.
She meets and falls for a man who is in medical school who's life's mission is to get people to use their logical brain to understand a situation in order to eliminate fear. He even managed to sneak into where the baby was being kept to investigate what really happened to him. Even with proof, no one would listen, and Ade and her brother were still forced to flee for their life.
She finds more like her, witches, and now she's told that she has to fulfill a destiny to become the greatest of all of them, but can she choose between her love and her destiny?
This series so far has been a very dark whirlwind, full of little truths about fear that anybody can relate to.
I can't wait to stop writing and watch the next episode!
And last, but CERTAINLY not least...
7. Valeria (Spain)
Just so you know, if you're looking something to really Netflix-n-chill to, this is VERY MUCH an NSFW series....
We're touching into the dirty side of Netflix.... I mean, it's about time, right?
Think, Sex in the City... But in Spain... 'n' stuff.
There's Valeria, this writer with the worst case of writer's block and a deadline coming up, a failing marriage, and less than 200 euro in the bank. She has three friends: Lola, The openly promiscuous one who keeps trying to get her girls to do the same, Nerea, A lesbian still looking for love, and Carmen, an awkward woman with a huge crush on someone who wants to just "take it slow" and doesn't know what to with that.
Valeria, waiting on Lola at a club, meets a guy friend of hers, and while they were waiting -- because, uh... Lola was, uh... *ahem* was busy... for a LONG time -- got to know one another, including the fact that she was married, so he wasn't in the dark, and talked about how she was stuck on what to write about, so he suggested that she write an erotic novel...
They were really hitting it off, by the way. He clearly didn't seem to care that she was married. He seemed to smell an unhappy marriage from a mile away... er, kilometre away... this IS Spain.
But nothing physical happened... yet. Just a lot of sexual tension.
She decides to take his advice, but because of her nearly nonexistent sex life with her distant husband, and partially because of that, her own personal inadequacy as a writer, the whole book situation was getting worse and worse.
Couple that with this other guy breathing down her neck and telling her everything her husband isn't, pressure about money, because of her husband's job issues, and all the while fighting against herself to get ahead, can she even overcome herself and sort all this mess out?
This is a very VERY saucy series, meant ONLY for adult eyes... which is why I don't have kids. That, and I'd prefer to be drinking.
And that's all I could really think of right now!!
I wanted to do more, but... again... I'm lazy.
Hope you like these as much as I do. I'm going back to binge-ing. BYE!!!
You can also gaze over here for a sec:
Again, THANKS FOR READING!!