Series to binge over the winter break


Les Misérables

“Les Misérables,” a French novel written by Victor Hugo in 1862, is a perfect read for winter break. When it was published, the novel instantly became a smashing success. To this day, it is still considered a chef d’oeuvre.
In the novel, Hugo covers the idea of social injustice during the French Revolution while delicately interweaving them with themes of love, solicitude and patriotism. The story follows the protagonist Jean Valjean, a victim of 19th century Parisian society, who was incarcerated for 19 years for the crime of stealing a loaf of bread. After his long awaited release, he is chased by an implacable police officer—Javert—who vows to bring Valjean back to prison no matter the price.
Over the course of the story, Valjean attempts to ameliorate his own wellbeing: a tortuous task with many obstacles. I recommend the 1862 translation of this book by Charles E. Wilbour, as it is an amusing blend of flavor and accuracy. Additionally, other mediums to digest this content exist, like the 1980 musical or the 2012 movie. Les Misérables the musical was a smash hit on Broadway, winning eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.



Animated by Fortiche, a French studio (co-producer of the Nickelodeon-Netflix show, Rabbids Invasion), the series Arcane alluringly blends 2D and 3D visuals, effectively making every scene a bewitching blossom of artistic craftsmanship.
Arcane starts by following two characters—Violet (Vi) and Powder—as they bring unrest to the ashen underground city of Zaun after an attempted heist in the posh and debonair city of Piltover. After the first episode, the show introduces countless other intricate characters who’s storylines are intertwined with Vi’s and Powders, all leading to a grand finale where an ultimatum between Zaun and Piltover changes both of the cities forever.
The show was originally based off of the massively successful multiplayer online battle arena game “League of Legends” with more than 120 million active players every month. This brought attention to the release of the series. However, it is important to note that Arcane can be enjoyed without any knowledge of the game or its lore. The first season of the show, released in November 2021, set a long kept record for being Netflix’s highest rated show within a week of its premiere. In addition to breaking Netflix records, the show also ranked first on Netflix charts in 52 countries, ranking at a peak of second in the United States.


Cyberpunk Edgerunners

Many consider winter as a time for thought and reflection. Cyberpunk Edgerunners is a series that provides differing perspectives on what we see as beneficial and virtuous today: capitalism and the pursuit of power. Animated by Studio Trigger, this series has an incredibly wide color palette and clean animations. This dystopian future explores the theme of true capitalism—corporatocracy—and the devastating effects it has on society. 

Cyberpunk Edgerunners follows the story of an ambitious protagonist David Martinez. Martinez experiences inequality from the beginning of the show: all of his peers are cybernetically enhanced with superlative cyberware provided by their wealthy families. These advancements essentially make them faster, stronger and smarter than the non-augmented human. However, after a tragedy rocked his life, Martinez joined the Edgerunners, a gang of inner-city fighters who steal from the major corporations. These events start his unquenchable desire for more strength and power, leading his gang to face off against the biggest megacorporations in the world. The series brings something for everyone—comedy, romance and fast-paced, seamlessly animated action.


The Queen’s Gambit

The Queen’s Gambit is a TV show about the game of chess and the life of orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon. Though the character is fictionalized, many of the events in the series are based on reality. It tells the story of Beth Harmon combating emotional distress and dependence on drugs, while conquering a male-dominated industry. 

After being hooked on drugs by her orphanage, the drug Harmon consumes gives her the ability to invision chess plays in her head, giving her what she believes to be an incredible advantage. Because of it, Harmon goes from learning chess in the basement of her orphanage to the chess world championships in Moscow. Traveling with the mother of her adopted family, Harmon also has to tackle her issues interacting with people and making friends, which proves especially hard for a woman in a sport full of men. Harmon is constantly mocked by her competitors. 

The story mainly features Harmon’s struggle with the doubt of her ability off the drug. Winter is the perfect time to pick up a new hobby, and this series is a perfect gateway into the world of chess. In fact, the release of this series in 2020 led to a meteoric rise in popularity of chess in the industry.