December comes bearing gifts—and not just because Christmas is around the corner. The last month of the year is a busy one in the streaming world, from Oscar hopeful films, to the return of The Matrix and Sex and the City, to a brand-new Star Wars series. Here’s everything worth watching on streaming this month ...
What’s New to Streaming in December
A selected list of movies and TV shows coming this month that The Ringer is very excited about.
The Power of the Dog (December 1, Netflix)
Adam Nayman: An unhappy marriage is at the center of Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, which earned its director a prize in Venice and also features a score by Jonny Greenwood—this one more than a bit reminiscent of his atonal accompaniment for There Will Be Blood. Campion’s film, adapted from a novel by Thomas Savage, unfolds against a similar early 20th century backdrop, in a Montana landscape still very much in social and economic formation. Facing middle age as a bachelor, dumpy rancher George (Jesse Plemons) proposes to widowed road-house proprietor Rose (Kirsten Dunst), much to the chagrin of his hard-working (and drinking) brother Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch). Tremulous and vulnerable—and devoted to her painfully shy teenaged son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee)—Rose’s presence obliviously drives a wedge between two men whose codependence is as thick as blood.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Season 15 (December 2, Hulu)
Andrew Gruttadaro: Nothing has changed, and no one has learned anything. For 14 seasons, that has been the unifying theory of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. These are characters who have failed to sell gasoline door-to-door … twice; characters who have gotten addicted to crack multiple times. This is a show that has repeatedly thumbed its nose at the notion that it’d have to eventually mature, with Charlie once singing “Go fuck yourselves” while high on spray paint fumes. For years, Always Sunny has violently resisted growth and change. Why start embracing it now?
Mariah’s Christmas: The Magic Continues (December 3, Apple TV+)
And Just Like That… (December 9, HBO Max)
Kate Knibbs: Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte York (Kristin Davis), and Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) first appeared on HBO 23 years ago. They’d debuted in a very different New York, where cigarettes were still smoked in bars and the Twin Towers still stood in Lower Manhattan. Brooklyn was a frequent punch line, and Miranda’s late-season decision to relocate there with her husband and child was treated as evidence that she was willing to radically reinvent herself in the name of family, a voluntary banishment to a far-off place. Now, rents in the borough’s luxury condos and rehabbed brownstones can exceed those of Carrie’s Upper East Side neighborhood. Meanwhile, the rows of designer stores on Bleecker Street, once a condensed paean to Sex and the City’s consumerist vision of city living, is dotted with vacant storefronts, a victim of “high-end blight.”
The Expanse, Season 6 (December 10, Amazon Prime)
Miles Surrey: It might feel a little bittersweet that The Expanse won’t follow the entire journey of the eponymous book series, which would presumably answer more questions about the origins of the protomolecule and how far humanity stretches itself in the cosmos. But for a show that almost suffered a premature end on cable television, six seasons with a mapped out conclusion is nothing to scoff at—especially when, in its penultimate season, The Expanse is as great as ever. And I’m sure fans of this brilliant series will agree: Let’s hope the ending is one area where The Expanse separates itself from Game of Thrones.
Tron: Legacy (December 10, Disney+)
Jonathan Tjarks: Tron: Legacy—the long-awaited sequel to Tron (1982) that flopped when it was released in 2010—is both ironically and unironically great, as are all movies that eventually build cult followings. Come for the special effects and stay for a meditation on the relationships between fathers and sons, God and man, and movies and sequels.
The Witcher, Season 2 (December 17, Netflix)
Mani Lazic: I first reacted to the strikingly epic poster for Netflix’s latest weird TV show, The Witcher, by crying out, “What the hell is that?” to no one in particular. I had somehow never heard of this series, based on video games that were themselves interpretations of short stories by Polish fantasy writer Andrzej Sapkowski. “No way,” I blurted out when finding out that Henry Cavill, Superman himself, was the guy with long blond hair standing in the middle of said poster, a fierce look of defensiveness and incalculable sadness in his eyes. “Geralt!” I simply repeated, as IMDb informed me of this mysterious hero’s name. The Witcher didn’t seem real, yet each and every strange detail about it compelled me to know more. And soon I realized how the bizarreness of the show was essential to its functioning. There is method in the madness.
The Matrix Resurrections (December 22, HBO Max)
Emily in Paris, Season 2 (December 22, Netflix)
Star Wars: The Book of Boba Fett (December 29, Disney+)
Jake Kring-Schreifels: Perhaps no character in the Star Wars canon has ascended to legendary status on looks alone the way Boba Fett has. Despite barely appearing in the saga’s original trilogy and dying in pathetic fashion in Return of the Jedi, falling listlessly into a Sarlacc pit, he’s remained a prominent figure in the extended universe and its fan base’s consciousness, fueled by the power of a design that, in Star Wars, is perhaps rivaled by only Darth Vader. Now, 40 years after Boba Fett’s debut, Disney+ is staking a series solely on the power of the character’s imagery. ... It’s further evidence that between the action figures and video games, the aura of Boba Fett and the fervor of the online cult fandom he’s attracted begins and ends with his iconic look.
Cobra Kai, Season 4 (December 31, Netflix)
Surrey: It might be a stretch to consider a half-hour dramedy about karate a bold creative undertaking, but it’s hard to overstate how terrible a small-screen continuation of a decades-old franchise centered on a fairly one-dimensional villain who got a crane kick to the face sounds on paper. The feeling of watching Cobra Kai is not unlike the Ted Lasso experience: once you get over the shock that this ill-advised concept actually works, you can appreciate just how damn good the show is. And much like Ted Lasso, the key lies in the sincerity of the show’s lead performance subverting expectations.
Some New-ish Things You Might’ve Missed
Because it’s hard to keep up with everything, here are a few things that have premiered somewhat recently that may be worth catching up on.
Daniel Chin: In Hawkeye, the third MCU TV show to be set after the events of Endgame, Clint Barton will face the consequences of his time as Ronin. Thanks to a talented young archer named Kate Bishop, an overzealous fan who decides to fight crime in New York while wearing the same black-and-gold Ronin suit, Clint’s Christmas plans are interrupted and he’s pulled back into superhero life. Together, this new duo of archers is forced to take on the city’s criminal underworld, with Clint’s only wish being to make it back in time for the holiday with his family—who were resurrected by the Blip.
How to With John Wilson, Season 2 (HBO Max)
Alan Siegel: “After you shoot it, you don’t feel that great, but I mean, it’s nice,” a man tells John Wilson while looking at all of his kills. “It’s like anything. You got it—now what do you do?” Over the past year, Wilson has wondered the same thing. The first season of his docuseries, a painstakingly curated collection of extraordinary vignettes of city life, was like a perfect debut album. The idea of making a follow-up that lived up to the original intimidated him. But then he realized that he was more prepared to do it than he’d thought.
The Wheel of Time (Amazon Prime)
Herman: As a story, The Wheel of Time hits almost all of Jeff Bezos’s self-proclaimed sweet spots, from “civilizational high stakes” (just look at that title!) to “wish fulfillment” (who wouldn’t want to go on a road trip with Rosamund Pike?). It also shares many traits, at least superficial ones, with Thrones in particular. Some are the series’ shared inheritance from common ancestors like J.R.R. Tolkien: CGI creatures (ogres called trollocs instead of White Walkers), Manichaean cosmology (“light and dark” instead of “fire and ice”), a potpourri of accents from across the U.K. (and some from Ireland, too). Others go back further still, to the hero’s journey as outlined by Joseph Campbell in the 1940s.
The Great (Hulu)
Cowboy Bebop (Netflix)
Justin Charity: It was never going to be easy for live actors to reimagine Cowboy Bebop. Typically live-action anime adaptations struggle to reconcile the cartoonish elements—the character styles, the exaggerated movement, the stark colors—with the practical constraints on real actors and real sets, CGI notwithstanding. And Cowboy Bebop is an exceptionally tall order given the sophistication in Shinichiro Watanabe’s animation, bolstered by a tremendous jazz soundtrack from the composer Yoko Kanno and her band, the Seatbelts. Netflix hired Kanno to rerecord songs, produce new pieces for the score, and recapture the magic of the original series. But really—and rather unexpectedly—the live-action Cowboy Bebop more so resembles the 1980s and 1990s TV versions of Star Trek. It’s a rare style of TV these days: modest sets, goofy props, and stagy performances redeemed by great characters and thoughtful dialogue. The live-action Cowboy Bebop works so shockingly well on those terms that ultimately I didn’t mind the series working a lot less well on the terms set by its own source material.
King Richard (HBO Max)
The Beatles: Get Back (Disney+)
Katie Baker: The Beatles: Get Back is an eight-hour, three-night spectacle that uncovers new territory by mining old ground. It combines the wonder of fresh eyes and ears with the institutional wisdom of an old head. (Also, John Lennon does dick jokes.) Sprawling in its confinement and generous in its conflict, Get Back peers into what had been known as a dim and uncertain time for the Beatles. And what it finds gives ancient lore both new life and new light, in a shine-on-till-tomorrow kind of way.