As science has proven time and again, Valentine’s Day is a corporate invention designed to extract money from the public by exploiting our capacity for love. So what better way to rebel against that than holing up in your living room and watching TV until your eyeballs bleed? Netflix and chill people – it’s not just a phrase, it’s a lifestyle choice! Fortunately, our streaming overlords have provided plenty of options to watch with your loved one, or if you’re one of the lonelyhearts, all be yourself in a fit of existential despair: Netflix has a one-two punch of futuristic nightmares; Hulu delivers a new drama that delves into the early days of the war on terror; and Amazon is ready to tie a ribbon on their first bona fide cult hit. Here’s what you’ll be binge-streaming this month. (Check out our old-school TV picks for February here.)
Absentia (Amazon, Feb. 2nd)
While hunting a serial killer in Boston, FBI agent Emily Byrne (Castle‘s Stana Katic) goes missing. Eventually, the agency declares her dead in absentia. Six years later, she turns up, discovered as a captive in a deserted forest cabin. This thriller chronicles her difficult reintegration to society, as she readjusts to the notion of human contact and reconciles with her now-remarried husband/fellow agent Nick (Patrick Heusinger). (The trailer lays the Homeland and Room vibes on thick.) To make matters even worse, she gets implicated in a new string of murders and Nick has to take the lead on the effort to apprehend her. And you thought you were having a bad week!
Altered Carbon (Netflix, Feb. 2nd)
In a Blade Runner-y future, citizens with the required cash can have their consciousness transplanted into a fresh body referred to as a “sleeve.” That’s how someone with the name “Takashi Kovacs” can have the Swedish-American face of Joel Kinnaman, who leads this handsomely budgeted bid from Netflix to land their own Game of Thrones-caliber hit. After two centuries of hyper-sleep, our hero awakens in a fit new body with an assignment to solve a murder for a mysterious, wealthy benefactor. Those viewers with a passion for dystopian production design – floating digital readouts, cybernetic fusions between skin and machine – are in for an embarrassment of riches.
Beach Rats (Hulu, Feb. 5th)
Eliza Hittman cemented her reputation as an indie-director-to-watch with her sophomore feature last year, about a brawny teen Frankie (Harris Dickinson) who kills time around South Brooklyn hanging with his friends during the day and propositioning older men for hookups and drugs on the internet at night. Never mind the careful compartmentalization; the inevitable overlap of his two lives confronts him with difficult questions about who he is and wants himself to be. A sleeper hit at Sundance, it’s one of those quiet, stunning little films that probably came and went before you had a chance to see it. Now’s your chance to catch up.
Everything Sucks! (Netflix, Feb. 16th)
Sex sells, they say, but let’s be honest: These days, nothing moves units or nabs eyeballs quite like millennial nostalgia. Only nineties kids will remember this – “this” being the dense stew of throwback reference points dished up by this high school comedy set in 1996. In a world of VHS tapes, classic Nicktoons and 58008 jokes, the members of Boring High School’s Drama and A/V Clubs band together to create their own movie and survive the social crucible that is their teen years. Brace for crushes, Walkmans, public humiliation and plenty of other zeitgeist bait in this odds-on viral sensation from the writer of Like Crazy and a cast of up-and-comers.
The Looming Tower (Hulu, Feb. 28th)
In the years directly prior to the September 11th terrorist attacks, the FBI and the CIA were locked in a stiff competition to see who would get the drop on Al Qaeda first. This series dramatizes the rivalry between these two federal organizations, making the daring suggestion that their eagerness to show the other up hindered them both – and inadvertently paved the way for the tragedies in 2001. Jeff Daniels and Peter Sarsgaard portray the blustery, egotistical heads of the FBI and CIA, respectively; world-cinema MVP Tahar Rahim is poised for an on-these-shores breakthrough as an agent who goes undercover to find out what extremist groups are plotting. Equal parts espionage thriller and modern history lesson, this series finds the earliest seedlings of catastrophe on home soil.
Mute (Netflix, Feb. 23rd)
The box-office faceplant and critical pillorying of Warcraft may have been a setback for Duncan Jones, but the director has returned undeterred with a sci-fi fantasia set in the Berlin of 2052, where a mute bartender (Alexander Skarsgard) must search every dirty corner of the city after his girlfriend (Seyneb Saleh) goes missing. A pair of American surgeons (Justin Theroux and Paul Rudd, the former sporting an awesomely bad wig and the latter a robust handlebar mustache) are somehow tangled up in the lovers’ fate as well. We’re crossing our fingers that Jones has returned to the elaborately wrought perfectionism of his earlier space-madness opus Moon.
Queer Eye (Netflix, Feb. 7th)
So much has changed since this makeover reality series’ original run on Bravo from 2003 to 2007 – luckily for the folks behind this reboot, slovenly heterosexual men are an eternal constant. A new quintet of experts from the worlds of fashion, grooming, cuisine, interior design and culture are out to tidy up Straight America, and the trailer announces that the gay community’s fight has progressed from “tolerance” to “acceptance.” In other words, you can expect the new episodes to send the Fab Five through the rural South to broaden some minds while they’re shopping for pocket squares.
Seeing Allred (Netflix, Feb. 9th)
Whenever sexual harassment revelations topple a rich and powerful man, civil rights attorney Gloria Allred is usually somewhere close by. The legal crusader spearheaded cases against Bill Cosby and the current Commander-in-Chief, and this feature-length documentary peers into Allred’s professional and personal lives. Luminaries such as Gloria Steinem and Don Lemon appear to discuss the great challenges the legal eagle has overcome and the expansive legacy she’s created for herself. And don’t worry, the film will address her cameo on The Simpsons.
Seven Seconds (Netflix, Feb. 23rd)
How’s this for timely: In the new drama from The Killing creator Veena Sud, a white police officer inadvertently runs over a black teenager in Jersey City. Why yes, it does create a powder keg of racial tensions, a media feeding frenzy and an attempted coverup! An intense war of words breaks out between the closed-rank cops and the boy’s grieving, furious mother (Regina King), with hot-button issues like police misconduct and the Black Lives Matter movement coming to the forefront in this procedural. Early word has been resoundingly positive for Clare-Hope Ashitey’s performance as the assistant prosecutor assigned to the case, too – a 2018 breakout who’s about to break out.
The Tick, Season 1B (Amazon, Feb. 23rd)
When we last checked in with the magnificently screwloose superhero monikered the Tick (Peter Serafinowicz), a flashy bus rescue had made him a local celebrity. Trouble, naturally, is never far behind. After months of bated breath, the rest of the season is nearly here to resolve the fates of the Tick, his trusty sidekick Arthur (Griffin Newman), revived villain the Terror (Jackie Earle Haley) and fan favorite Dot (Valorie Curry), Arthur’s sister and generally the only one who’s got her head on straight. If you’ve ever wished the Avengers had just a touch of daffy Dada comedy, you’re in luck.