One of the criticisms that’s dogged the Star Wars movies for years now is their lack of originality and too-rigid fidelity to the franchise’s canon, a shortcoming that’s often gone hand-in-hand with poor writing, a lack of character development, embarrassingly bad dialogue, and the like. There are, of course, exceptions to that rule — like the utterly sublime Andor on Disney+, as well as the two-season animated masterpiece Star Wars: Visions.
The latter, in fact, is one of two non-Netflix TV series currently available to stream that I’m actually surprised more people aren’t talking about, given that each of these shows has a perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes at the moment and offers something fresh, memorable, and pretty much impossible not to get hooked on. The other series I’m referring to is exclusive to a streamer that I bet almost none of you are currently subscribed to (MGM+), and that show — titled, simply From — blends elements of Wayward Pines and Lost.
Let’s take a closer look at both of these titles, starting with Star Wars: Visions.
Disney+’s animated Star Wars masterpiece
Season 2 of the show just hit Disney+ on Friday, which was appropriate as that also happened to be the fandom’s annual Star Wars Day.
What I love about Star Wars: Visions: For one thing, I’m a big fan of its bite-sized episodes. They’re each around 15 minutes or so, and while you might think that’s nowhere near enough time to get you invested in what’s on your screen, you’d be surprised.
In Season 1, seven Japanese anime studios craft a series of animated films that amount to, basically Star Wars short stories. The anime studios involved include Kamikaze Douga, Geno Studio, Studio Colorido, TRIGGER, Kinema Citrus, Science Saru, and Production I.G. (Season 2 repeats that formula, of spreading out the work to a multitude of top-tier anime studios and giving them license to be as creatively adventurous as they want).
Starting with Episode 1 of Season 1 (titled, The Duel), I found myself mesmerized, over and over again, by the visuals, and alternatively the stories that are tight and well-written enough to get you fully invested — nevermind the super-short runtimes. Cinephiles, in fact, will find so much to appreciate in an episode like The Duel, produced by Kamikaze Douga, which is like the love child of a Star Wars movie crossed with a Kurosawa film.
There are 9 episodes in each season of Star Wars: Visions, a series that surprised and captivated me to the degree that few Star Wars titles do anymore, with the exception of Andor.
The horror series From, on MGM+
If I told you that this next series, meanwhile, is set in a cursed place where a mysterious force pulls in visitors who are subsequently unable to leave — who keep getting looped back into the town, and who get killed if they try to leave via the forest around it — that description might give you some pretty strong Lost vibes. All the more so, when you see that this town’s sheriff is played by Harold Perrineau (aka Walt’s father on Lost).
“From,” explains the show’s official synopsis, “unravels the mystery of a nightmarish town that traps all those who enter. As the unwilling residents search for a way out, they must also survive the threats of the forest including the terrifying creatures that come out at night.”
I don’t expect From to ever be the kind of breakout, ratings smash that we saw with a show like Lost, with which this new series shares many similarities — but that doesn’t mean it’s not fantastic, regardless. The world-building, the endless mysteries, and the at-times graphic violence make this a show that sucks you in and keeps you on the edge of your seat (when you’re not hiding your eyes in terror). No wonder From, too, currently enjoys a perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, with one critic raving that its “full-throttle pacing, incredibly high stakes, enigmatic horrors, and an immensely talented cast exploring the murky grey areas of morality make for one of the most thrilling horror series that shouldn’t be missed.”