Take-charge women dominate the TV programming calendar this month, from a costumed crimefighter to an empress leaving history forever altered in her wake and an ordinary mom reclaiming her sense of self along with it. Meanwhile, a beloved teen drama returns, a legendary adolescent detective makes her debut, an animation legend returns, and HBO pulls back the curtain on one big, expensive secret. Oh, and Mr. Robot begins its long goodbye. Here’s what you need to tune into this October. (For your best streaming options, click here.)
Back to Life (Showtime, Oct. 6th*)
It’s another one of those shows about a young adult coming home again to pick up the pieces of their life — no big whoop. Except that Miri (co-creator Daisy Haggard) has been away serving a prison sentence, and when she returns to the English suburb of Hythe, everybody more or less associates her with that pesky murder she committed as a teen. Already a smash during its original run on the BBC back in the spring, it’s another tale of womanhood-in-progress from the producers of Fleabag. Just substitute homicide for hot priest.
*The premiere date has now changed to November 10th.
Batwoman (The CW, Oct. 6th)
In the connected web of DC Comics TV shows known as “the Arrowverse,” it’s been three years since the disappearance of Bruce Wayne. His cousin Kate (Orange Is the New Black‘s Ruby Rose) takes up the cowl in order to keep the streets safe from a crime wave that’s engulfed Gotham City and endangered her girlfriend. That’s right, Gotham’s newest crimefighter is out and proud and not taking any prisoners. With a cast more diverse than in any of the Caped Crusader’s big-screen vehicles and the sui generis magnetism of Rose in the lead, it’s a top-to-bottom rejuvenation of the bat-mythos.
Catherine the Great (HBO, Oct. 21st)
She’s the regent who steered Russia through the latter half of the eighteenth century, and with it, the trials of war and expansion. Helen Mirren, arguably the Catherine the Great of acting, channels the empress during her later years on the throne for this lavishly mounted UK-US coproduction. With painterly photography, the four episodes weave together the passion between Catherine and her lover, military commander Grigory Potemkin (Jason Clarke) — as well as the churn of history-shaping crisis, and one woman’s unending fight for personal independence. It truly deserves to be called “epic.”
Mr. Robot, Season Four (USA, Oct. 6th)
Yes, Rami Malek’s got an Oscar under his belt now — but this paranoid technodrama will get him for one last season before he goes off to be a full-time movie star. Our hacker-rebel hero Elliot returns for the show’s swan-song, as well as series regulars Christian Slater (radical anarchist extraordinaire), Bobby Cannavale (agent of the mysterious Dark Army), Carly Chaikin (Elliot’s sister) and Elliot Villar (last seen mercilessly murdering our hero’s girlfriend). As the series readies its endgame, expect layers of illusion will be peeled back to reveal a society more broken than anyone in this bleak cyberfuture could’ve imagined.
Mrs. Fletcher (HBO, Oct. 27th)
After going from good daughter to good wife to good mother, Eve Fletcher (Kathryn Hahn) resolves to take some time for herself — a vow that quickly pivots into sexual experimentation as she discovers a side of her personality she’s never known. The adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s novel cuts between her experimentation to her son Brendan (Jackson White) at college, forming a double coming-of-age story that guides the viewer through both a midlife and quarterlife crisis.
Nancy Drew (The CW, Oct. 9th)
The YA supersleuth gets the gritty-reboot treatment courtesy of Gossip Girl masterminds Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage. Newcomer Kennedy McMann is our Ms. Drew — who, along with four friends (Tunji Kasim, Alex Saxon, Leah Lewis and Maddison Jaizani), witnesses a murder most foul. Following the example of its network sibling Riverdale (see below), the show applies a moody sensibility and lurid color palette to its source material’s old-fashioned Americana iconography. And much like Archie and Co., most of Nancy’s social life revolves around murder, intrigue and the town diner.
Primal (Adult Swim, Oct. 7th)
Genndy Tartakovsky, the peerless animator behind Samurai Jack and Dexter’s Laboratory, returns to television after nearly a decade spent on the Hotel Transylvania series and other movies. He’s alos graduated from Cartoon Network to Adult Swim for this dialogue-free series imagines a prehistoric past in which dinosaurs live alongside cavemen, with one interspecies pair forming an uneasy alliance against the violent landscape’s many predators. The trailer reduces their shared existence to “hunt, kill, survive”; Tartakovsky’s gory minimalism couldn’t be better-suited to the blood-and-bone subject matter.
Riverdale, Season 4 (The CW, Oct. 9th)
The one primetime teen soap to rule them all hits senior year — but Archie, Betty, Veronica and the rest of the gang have a helluva lot more to worry about than college applications and finding prom dates. A flash-forward at the end of last season foretold a grim future with a seemingly deceased Jughead; could the town’s resident burger connoisseur really be dead? Will the Archie-Veronica-Reggie love triangle ever get a decisive resolution? And which contemporary pop hits will get a whispery cover courtesy of the now Josie-less Pussycats?
Treadstone (USA, Oct. 15th)
Everyone with a taste for popcorn movies already knows that Jason Bourne was upgraded into a super-assassin by the sinister doings of the CIA black-op known as Treadstone. This TV spinoff reminds you that he wasn’t the only one — and that countless test subjects across America await activation from their governmental handlers. Heroes creator Tim Kring introduces a new generation of souped-up killers with an action series chronicling their under-the-radar exploits, as well as the off-the-books origin story of the Treadstone program itself. Hollywood’s stunt people are about to enjoy a spike in the employment rate.
Watchmen (HBO, Oct. 20th)
No, this isn’t an adaptation of Alan Moore’s groundbreaking graphic novel — not really, at least. This new miniseries from Lost/Leftovers co-creator Damon Lindelof merely takes place within the immersive world that the Rosetta stone of revisionist-superhero stories created, telling a new story of tensions between the capes-and-tights set, some unhinged vigilante squads and a resentful police force. Some old characters may (or may not) show up; we know Regina King is on board as a masked do-gooder who’s getting a bit of pushback in this brave new world. But details beyond that much have been kept under lock and key. The only thing the fans can safely bank on at this point is moral ambiguity, and lots of it.