There’s less than 10 days left of May and, with a bunch of shows on hiatus and a lot more reaching their season finales, some of you are probably starting to wonder what you’re gonna do in this upcoming summer/winter break (depending on your hemisphere). If you’re already out of school and finished working full-time, you’re probably going to ask yourself what you’re gonna do on whatever you have left of free time. Worry not! Four amazing shows led by women of color are making a comeback this June, and you have just enough time to catch up with them before their next season(s) premiere.
Queen of the South (2016)
Based off the Telemundo telenovela “La Reina del Sur”, Queen of the South follows Teresa Mendoza (played by Brazilian actress Alice Braga). After her boyfriend is killed by a Mexican cartel, Teresa is forced to put her wits to work and escape the same fate. She sets on a path of revenge, becoming the biggest drug-smuggler of the country in the process.
Braga’s role as Teresa has gotten much praise, as she manages to go from underfed runaway in a world that’s trying to kill her to a pristine high-heeled kingpin while remaining charismatic and empathetic throughout the season. There’s also Brenda (Puerto Rican actress Justina Machado) and Camila (Mexican actress Veronica Falcon), two complex and compelling female figures who balance the struggles of motherhood, the drug-dealing world and their own personal arcs.
The plot follows a classical American Gangster narrative and it’s been often compared to Netflix’s “Narcos”, but the fact that the point of view is that of a Latina instead of a white gringo is, for me, a point in favor of Queen of the South. But, despite the women’s stellar performances, the season is not perfect. It relies a little too much on violence and flesh, with a particularly gruesome sexual assault scene in its very pilot, but it improves upon its source material by having the three female leads reasserting their power and agency over their abusers.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced, action-packed drama with some ass-kicking, gun-wielding Latinas, Queen of the South might just be for you.
Comes back: Thursday, June 8th, 10 p.m., USA.
Aired: One season, 12 episodes. You can catch up on Netflix or the USA website.
Trigger warning: The mentioned assault happens in S01E01, at minute 27, and the scene lasts for around a minute and a half.
Dark Matter (2015)
Genre: Science Fiction, Drama
Based off the comic-book of the same name, Dark Matter follows the adventures of a weird crew of misfits who wake up in a spaceship without any of their memories. They take numbers as names as they try to figure out who they are and Two (played by Chinese-Canadian actress Melissa O’Neil) quickly takes the role of their leader.
Two and her crew take control of their ship, the Raza, and set on a search for answers that places them right in the middle of a galaxy-wide political and economical conflict that is about to turn into a full-on civil war.
The pace is sometimes slow, as we unfold a world full of political intricacies and slowly learn the stories of each of the six Raza members and of a handful of other characters that show up through the first two seasons; but it always stays interesting. There are some action-packed episodes with some truly excellent fights, but the characters’ growth and their interpersonal dynamics are what really drives the show.
Besides Two, the other jewels of the show are Four (Filipino-Canadian actor Alex Mallari Jr.), the Android (an artificial intelligence with the form of a white woman played by Zoie Palmer) and, in season 2, Nyx (Black British actress Melanie Liburd). If you enjoy character-driven plots and complex world-building, Dark Matter will be right up your alley.
Comes back: Friday, June 9th, 8 p.m., SyFy
Aired: Two seasons, 13 episodes each. You can catch up on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
Queen Sugar (2016)
Ava Duvernay’s Southern drama, based off the novel of the same name, follows the lives of three siblings after they inherit their father’s plantation in New Orleans. The leading sister, Nova Bordelon (played by African-American actress Rutina Wesley) is a journalist, political activist and herbal healer. Her siblings are Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner), married to a famous basketball player and mother to a teenage son, who’s lived in Los Angeles for the past two decades; and Ralph-Angel (Kofi Siriboe), a recently released ex-con with a 6-year-old son, struggling to find work.
The season’s overarching plot is that of the siblings dealing with the loss of their father and the struggle to rebuild their family, and deciding what to do with the sugarcane plantation they’ve just inherited. It’s a beautiful and compelling plot, but there’s so much more: Nova has two romantic plots (one with a man, one with a woman) while she deals with uncovering a story about police brutality and unlawful imprisonment of black youth in New Orleans. Ralph-Angel deals with discrimination and abuse as an ex-con while trying to reach a balanced relationship with Darla (Bianca Lawson), his recovering-addict ex and the mother of his son. Meanwhile, Charley’s husband is involved in a sexual assault scandal and she drops her entire life to move with her teenage son to New Orleans.
The show deals with systemic anti-blackness, colorism, discrimination against ex-cons, addiction and PTSD, rape culture and victim blaming, the exploitation and discrimination towards undocumented immigrants, among other issues. Every single one of these themes is treated with care and respect, as well as are the characters.
Besides the Bordelon siblings, the cast is comprised of mostly black characters, with some Latinx side characters, and cast overall consists of diverse skin-tones, body-types and ages. Plus, the show is beautifully written, acted and filmed, with most of the directors and writers being women of color. So, if you’re looking for quality feminist media, Queen Sugar is more than perfect for you. (But, being honest, no matter what you’re looking for, Queen Sugar is just plain excellent.)
Comes back: Tuesday, June 20, 10 p.m., OWN
Aired: One season, 13 episodes. You can catch up on Hulu or the OWN app.
Trigger warnings: The talks of police brutality and rape are very raw but handled with respect, without shots of the violence happening and focused on the victims’ healing. The show is an emotionally-draining watch but it doesn’t rely on violence or gore for shock-value.
Genre: Science Fiction, Action
Killjoys is an entirely original sci-fi adventure that follows the story of Dutch (played by black British actress Hannah John-Kamen), an assassin turned bounty hunter in space. Dutch and her two sidekicks, siblings Johnny (Aaron Ashmore) and D’avin (Luke Macfarlane) run around a planet system called The Quad, catching people or retrieving property for a company called the RAC. Every week is a different case in a weird planet or asteroid, capturing a picturesque criminal or recovering some kind of stolen good.
There is not a dull second in Killjoys. There are campy, fun, action-packed fights; Dutch (whom the writers have confirmed is bisexual) has a lot of unresolved sexual tension with the very shady political figure Delle Seyah Kendry (Vietnamese-Canadian actress Mayko Nguyen) and a fling with her team-mate D’avin; there’s a dark figure from Dutch’s past manipulating her; and the extremely corrupt economical system of The Quad is about to collapse unto itself and turn into a very violent class war. The show deals with political corruption, PTSD and classism among other issues, all while remaining exciting and fun even in its darkest moments.
There is nothing not to like about the concept of a black bisexual bounty hunter in space, but the show is truly elevated by Hannah’s versatility as an actress and the amazing chemistry between her and her two co-leads. Witty dialogues, a world-building just imaginative enough to set itself apart from other post-apocalyptic universes and some excellent villains. If you like… well, if you like having fun, hell, you should watch Killjoys.
Comes back: Friday, June 30th, 8 p.m., SyFy
Aired: Two seasons, 10 episodes each. You can catch up on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
Trigger Warning: If you are affected by images of child manipulation or child abuse, you might want to thread carefully, since these themes are integral to Dutch’s story.
Author: Drea Merodeadora
Editor: Ammaarah Mookadam