January 2022 Pop Culture Free Time: A Dumb Detective, Wild Boys, and Euphoria
And we’re back. If you’re following me closely, first: please stop. But second, you might have noticed that there was no Pop Culture Free Time last month. That’s because I didn’t really have any actual free time, and the pop culture I consumed was mid-tier at best. We could just throw some filler at you, but I care about you, individually, as a person. As such, I don’t want to share the stuff I experienced in my free time unless I’m actually into it. With that said, I’m excited to tell you what pop culture I liked in my January 2022 Free Time.
January 2022 Pop Culture Free Time Books
Man, I started off this month by reading some real stinkers. I won’t mention them, although you can probably guess them from my Goodreads. Finally, though, the tide turned.
It started with Isabella Maldonado and the second book in her Nina Guerrera series. I really liked The Cipher, the first book, so seeing a new to me book in the series was a welcome relief. A Different Dawn follows FBI agent Nina as she and her team find links between a few crime scenes. They then realize that those murders are actually part of a long pattern of killings that stretch back decades. Nina also finds out more about her mysterious past. (As we learned in The Cipher, someone abandoned baby Nina in a dumpster.) And heads up, Jennifer Lopez is planning on starring in a film adaptation of the first book.
image via Thomas & Mercer
Before she became a writer, Maldonado carved out a career in law enforcement. That lends an authentic edge to her books. The brilliant serial killer is largely a Hollywood myth, but Maldonado grounds that implausible premise in a protagonist who feels true. In addition, Nina is cool and capable. I cannot say the same about the protagonist of the other book series I’ve been devouring.
I read The Girl in Cabin 13, the first book in AJ Rivers’s Emma Griffin FBI Mystery series, on a whim. And I have to say that wow, Emma Griffin is a world-class ding-dong. From the start, for example, she’s too aggressive in her approach to her casework. She misses the blindingly obvious clues, trusts the most suspicious characters and situations, and never met a red herring that she wouldn’t chase. It is maddening to watch her charge into a clear trap with nothing more than half a cellphone battery and a coupon for a free sub at Jersey Mike’s.
At the same time, though, the books are addictively compelling. Emma Griffin may be the most annoying character I’ve ever loved reading about. This is not a new sensation to me–I love Karin Slaughter’s books, for instance. This includes the Grant County series, even though I can’t stand the collection’s main character Sara. Anyway, I started reading the Emma books, blinked, and now I’m almost finished with the eighth one.
Streaming TV and Other Pop Culture Things I Watched
This is a bit strange to talk about, because the shows I got into in January are still ongoing, at least to me. So if I say that I like them now and they turn out to be disappointing, then I’ll write a scathing update later. First, though, I’m almost through with Cobra Kai season 4.
It’s kind of weird to me, but kind of not, that more TV critics don’t talk about this show. I mean, I know that it gets good reviews. But I would like to see more about it, like really self-serious think pieces. At its heart, yes, it’s a silly premise on an often silly show. (If you’re somehow unaware of it, then all you need to know is that it’s an update on the lives of the characters at the center of the film The Karate Kid.) However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s also hilarious and well-acted, with a standout performance from William Zabka. His 80s work often had him typecast as a bully character, but through the reprise, Zabka is able to show that he can do so much more than that.
image via HBO
While Zabka’s Johnny Lawrence escaped high school, the kids on Euphoria are, of course, still going through it. And hot diggity dog, are they going through it. It’s too early to judge the season as a whole, but as Meghan discusses in her review of the season 2 premiere, it’s kind of a hot mess so far. I like the longer focus on characters like Cassie, but it also feels as if it’s coming at the expense of other characters. It’s still as visually stunning as ever, though.
I’ve also dipped a toe in part 1 of Ozark‘s final season. I’m very early into it, for two reasons. Number one, it’s a very stressful show and I’m just a soft baby wolf. And number two, as this is the first part of the final season, I don’t want it to end yet. I’m letting it stretch out and breathe a bit. (But if you have seen the season, then you can read Meghan’s thoughts here. I don’t know if there actually are spoilers in it, because I was covering my eyes when I retrieved the link.)
And finally, I’m still watching and finding new (to me) reaction channels. For example, I love watching Alanda Parker watch horror movies. She’s funny as hell with whipsmart insight. And in case you’re a scaredycat, she doesn’t just watch horror.
Then there is someone whom I hope never watches horror, Dasha of Russia. She has never met an emotion she will not feel with her entire soul (and also parts of yours). Furthermore, it’s fun to watch Dasha navigate her way through American culture via our art. Or give her perspective on works that touch on her homeland, like Chernobyl. Dasha isn’t actually in Russia anymore, but it’s always good to get a reminder, especially these days, that we can find common ground no matter where we came from.
Okay, Listen Up: What I Heard in My January 2022 Free Time
I am unashamed to report that I really didn’t listen to any new music in my free time for January 2022. I either listened to some stuff that’s basically vintage or I dug deeper into my Taylor Swift fandom. For the former, Euphoria‘s Cal-focused episode has me in an INXS spiral. They packed their 1987 album Kick so full of bangers that it’s incredible to read that Atlantic Records tried to get them to scrap it. Apparently, they thought it would alienate fans of the band’s earlier, more rock-focused sound.
Besides this, I’ve also had “Tolerate It” and “Starlight” on repeat. I’ve said that I try to live my life where, if scandal entangles me, then people don’t flood the comments to quote Taylor Swift lyrics from a song she wrote specifically about me. I was thinking of “Mad Woman” when I wrote that. However, “Tolerate It” works just as well. It’s officially about Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. The fact that multiple people heard it and thought of Charles and Diana, though, is not a good sign for Prince Charles.
The latter, on the other hand, is inspired by true events. And let me say once again that it baffles me that people ever thought she might be a conservative. Exhibit A, this song, which is a love song from the POV of Ethel Kennedy. Knowing what we know now, about how history unfolded for Bobby and Ethel, it’s bittersweet. But at the same time, what a marvelous tune.
Before I go, I want to mention some podcasts. As I’ve previously written, I really dug Last Podcast on the Left‘s historical episodes last summer. Unsurprisingly then, I also was a fan of their recent three-part series on Ma Barker and the Barker-Karpis gang. I’m a sucker for old-timey crime stories, but I wasn’t that familiar with the real details of the Barker exploits. Everything I thought I knew was based on a Saturday afternoon movie I watched and it turns out, they might not be the most historically accurate. Wild, I know. (Also, fyi: LPotL ended their exclusive contract with Spotify and as of February 1, is available wherever podcasts are told.)
Then there is a podcast that is both new to me and the world. Well, the podcast, Chameleon, isn’t new, but their third season just started last week. The general theme of the podcast is cons. Season 1, for instance, followed a bizarre scam involving a fake movie that ensnared “hundreds of Hollywood gig workers.” Season 2’s con was about money laundering and an FBI sting in Las Vegas.
Season 3, though, is the most interesting to me. For one thing, I can’t believe I haven’t heard of this story, since it happened in 2003. It’s important to remember, however, that while the internet already had us in a death grip by then, it was still pretty primitive. I chose that word on purpose, by the way, because of season 3’s story, Wild Boys.
Basically, residents in small-town British Columbia noticed two gaunt teenagers wandering around the burg. The boys told the folks there that they had been raised off the grid in what was essentially wilderness. Like Saturday Night Live‘s Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer–RIP, Phil Hartman–the boys find the modern world frightening and confusing. So the townspeople took them in. And as I just got finished telling you that this is a podcast about trickery, then you can probably guess that something’s up with these boys. (You can find out for certain by just googling, but I’m liking letting it all play out.)
So that’s it, my favorite pop culture I got into in my January 2022 free time. I would love to hear what you liked last month, so comment on our social media or down below.
featured image via Netflix
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at [email protected]