Everything That Didn't Die in 2018
As the legendary country singer and part-time gambler Kenny Rogers once said, “You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.” Unfortunately, 2018 didn’t get the memo. From Jack on This Is Us to all those dead (but not really dead) Avengers, 2018 was a year of taking subjects/characters/franchises that should have died, resurrecting them, and then wringing them out until they drip their very last drop of life.
We’re a society that isn’t particularly pleased with what we have before us, so we look to the past to try and remember something we did like. But that’s kind of dangerous, too. So in the name of Kenny Rogers, let’s say goodbye to the notion of not knowing when to let things go and focus on the prospect of some fresh ideas in 2019. But for now, let’s remember the things that just wouldn’t die—one last time.
Hollywood was so preoccupied with whether or not they could milk this franchise for another decade that they didn't stop to think if they should. Consider the irony: This is a franchise about humanity learning why it shouldn't resurrect creatures that died long ago. It's about the hubris of man, about the dangers of the greedy entertainment industry. Have we learned nothing?
Absolutely not, because in 2018 we got another Jurassic World movie. Considering Fallen Kingdom was the number four highest-grossing film of 2018, you'd better believe those fucking dinosaurs will be back for another round. Maybe this time the dinosaurs will run a theme park filled with human attractions. I'd watch the hell out of that. —Matt Miller
A Star Is Born
Amid a typical year at the movies, one that was filled with overlong and overwrought and overcrowded superhero tales that dominated the box office, there was one honest-to-goodness adult drama that wasn’t a sequel or a comic book adaptation. A Star Is Born was pure spectacle, offering Bradley Cooper the chance to sit behind the director’s chair (as well as behind a guitar) and Lady Gaga the film debut most actors never get: a leading role in an Oscar-hopeful film. But while A Star Is Born offered the kind of melodrama audiences crave (and a killer soundtrack, full of original music and one year-defining song in “Shallow”), the story of a faded male star and his young love is nothing new—it’s the third remake to the 1937 original, the third musical version, and the second about a country singer who falls for a young pop star.
And as it followed all of the notes of its predecessors (blissfully shorter than the Judy Garland version, and a hell of a lot better than Barbra Streisand’s), it was both refreshingly grown-up and laughably rote. The songs might be new, but the beats of its script are familiar. A Star Is Born is a Hollywood staple, one we will likely keep retelling over and over again. Every generation gets the A Star Is Born is deserves. While Bradley Cooper’s Jack Maine has the same untimely end as his story’s forefathers, it’s likely Hollywood will one day resurrect him—and this familiar, fabled tale—once again. —Tyler Coates
It's funny that The Last Jedi ends with Luke Skywalker whispering, "Nobody's ever really gone," because the film itself seems to be centered around the idea of letting the past die. But, despite the grand efforts made by Rian Johnson to bring the franchise into the modern day in his hotly-debated sequel to The Force Awakens, the Star Wars franchise is, at its core, obsessed with keeping the past very much alive. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca—these are all characters who effectively died 30 years ago.
But here we are in 2018, where we saw what happens when Disney tried to give Chewie and Han the origin story they didn't need. Ron Howard's disastrous Solo film was so bad it caused Disney and Lucasfilm to plan an entire course correction for the franchise. Despite the fumble, you can rest assured that Disney is already making plans to ensure that this franchise will produce TV shows and movies until our mortal souls fade from this planet. —Dom Nero
"Baby, It's Cold Outside"
For the past several years, every time Thanksgiving comes and goes, so too does the debate surrounding the 1944 Frank Loesser song, "Baby, It's Cold Outside." You know that Christmas song you enjoy without even a drop of critical reflection? It's actually super fucked up? write a handful of bloggers each year.
Meanwhile, a smaller handful of much more obnoxious conservative—or "anti-PC" as they might fancy themselves—writers counter those takes with their own, writing things like, My grandmother loved that song—are you calling my grandmother a whore? And, How dare you come into my house and turn off my CD player; how would you like it if I came into your house and threw your menorah out the window?
This controversy, which comes as reliably as snow doesn't on this warming Earth, returned yet again in 2018, with one particularly smug radio station playing the song for two hours straight. The verdict: The song is objectively creepy! So is a lot of stuff from the 1940s! Put this entire conversation to rest! —Joanna Rothkopf
Game of Thrones
Winter is no longer coming. It’s here. And boy is it sticking around. Even as we remain months away from the premiere of the final season of HBO’s wildly successful series, Game of Thrones has dominated entertainment headlines as teasers, spoilers, leaks, promo photos, and more trickled out during a year that didn't even see a single new episode. (Reddit theories! Social media pics from the set!)
And now, because "goodbye" is a concept lost on 2018, we are also preparing for the launch of new spinoff, which will take place several thousand years before the dire circumstances we all fell in love with in 2011. We are so very far away from the days when George R.R. Martin was willing to put an axe to Ned Stark’s head. For a series obsessed with killing its characters, HBO is certainly unwilling to do the same to its most popular franchise. —Madison Vain
Has the Pearson family jumped the shark? Maybe. It’s hard to tell in this era, but if any show has mastered the art of never saying die, it’s This Is Us—a show that has hinged on the death of a major character, killed him, and then has managed to feature him on every episode since his death. You'd think the big crockpot fire of 2018 finally spelled the end for Milo Ventimiglia’s Jack. The scene even featured the song “To Build a Home,” which is television speak for a sad, heartfelt death scene.
But in the wake of that great loss, we’ve actually seen more Jack: Vietnam Jack, child Jack, ghost old man Jack. You name it, our boy has been there. Don’t get me wrong: We love Jack Pearson. But you can’t mourn a man if he’s immortal. —Justin Kirkland
Adam Sandler's Career
After a pretty unimpressive couple of years, not only did Adam Sandler's career not fizzle out in 2018, he's hit a bit of a Sandleriassance. Kicked off by last year's objectively good The Meyerowitz Stories, this year saw his return to form with stand-up special 100% Fresh. It was good to see the SandMan atop your Netflix queue again.
It seems like it was just yesterday (it was 2015) that controversy on the set of Ridiculous 6 would surely push the legendary comedian out of the zeitgeist for a while. Like a birdie on the 18th hole, every time we're ready to give up on Sandler for good, he delivers something worth coming back for. With 100% Fresh, he delivered the goods in 2018, and that's something worth celebrating. —Ben Boskovich
In a era of reboots, it seems that even the most fragile bump could leave a straggler in the dust, but Roseanne did the impossible: It rebooted a reboot. Roseanne Barr’s own path should have tipped us off for the tragedy to come for her fictional counterpart. As Trump’s American reign raged on, Barr and the working class, liberal persona she created fell to the wayside in favor of a GOP-loving, conspiracy theorist counterpart in the reboot in real life. While it seemed that kind of shift might alienate viewers, it ultimately fed a base looking for a bit of nostalgia with their blue collar comedy.
But a slew of racist tweets about former Obama-aide Valerie Jarrett sealed Barr's fate, getting her kicked off of her own show. With the show cancelled, it seemed that a piece of pop culture had finally met its maker until it was resurrected as The Conners, proving that any character is expendable even if that character's name is the literal title of the show. —Justin Kirkland
How many times do we think Tom Cruise has nearly died IRL while filming the Mission: Impossible movies? A dozen? More? We're talking about a guy who continuously risks life and limb for our entertainment. He literally broke his leg and continued filming Mission: Impossible – Fallout. He didn't do it for fun, folks. He did it for us (and a massive paycheck).
And let's hope that Ethan Hunt and Tom Cruise and the Mission: Impossible franchise lives forever, because watching our hero save the world again and again never gets old. Hell, in 30 years we'll probably see Cruise launch his wheelchair into space for Mission: Impossible 16. And that movie will make approximately six billion Trump Bucks, adjusted for inflation. —Matt Miller
The Handmaid's Tale
If Hollywood has proven anything, it’s that ruining the integrity of source material is sport if there’s enough promise that continuing a story will be profitable. Margaret Atwood’s dystopian masterpiece The Handmaid’s Tale served as a dark and unnervingly timely guidebook for Hulu’s first foray into prestige television. But when Season One proved successful, they doubled down for a second season that provided some of the darkest scenes and storylines on television.
Sure, Yvonne Strahovski and Alexis Bledel kept the season afloat with nuanced performances, but how long can you drag out a story based on a single, concise book? With Margaret Atwood at work on a follow up to the original novel, that’s probably for at least a few more seasons. —Justin Kirkland
Everyone dies in Infinity War! It happened! They're all dead now! If you saw the climactic and haunting finale of 2018's largest blockbuster film, you might be a bit confused about the upcoming release schedule from Marvel. A Spider-Man sequel. A Dr. Strange sequel. Chris Evans saying that he may not even officially be done with playing Captain America.
Although Infinity War is one of the few things in 2018 that actually killed off a bunch of characters, we all know that Marvel isn't actually keen on keeping them dead. When Thanos snaps his fingers, he sends off a sense of finality for the franchise–but, like many of the phenomenons mentioned here, it's a false sense of finality. —Dom Nero
While the Creed series is re-treading the same themes of the raggedy-old Rocky franchise, Sylvester Stallone can't seem to keep himself out of the spotlight. For Creed II, he brought along an old friend: famed '80s Russian monster, Ivan Drago. Why is Ivan Drago still around?
The film meditates on the idea of Drago's failure and the longstanding chill between Russia and the U.S., but what's most bizarre here is that Rocky Balboa is somehow still in the picture. After Rocky 6 and Creed, where the actor-pugilist seemed to create fitting ends for himself in both films, it seems that Stallone will continue to keep announcing his retirement from Rocky, sequel after sequel, for the rest of time. —Dom Nero
In the summer of 2017, some malnourished teen wearing a backpack started doing a funny dance with his hips and long arms on the Internet. Then he did it at the Super Bowl alongside Katy Perry. And even though Young Backpack has many years left in his life, many of us hoped the dance would soon die.
Alas, we're at the end of the year of our lord 2018 and people are still out there, earnestly flossing. Thanks to Fortnite and all of our brains being broken, it seems like the flossing dance is here to stay. At least until Hillary Clinton uses it to announce her candidacy during the fourth hour of the Today show or something. —Ben Boskovich
The Walking Dead
The joke is on us for believing The Walking Dead would ever know when to stay dead. The show's premise is literally having to kill characters that won't die, but this season, the inability to die is two-fold. For a series that was lauded so much at the start, The Walking Dead has lost a good deal of its appeal because the stakes are so fragile: After losing three of its main characters this season (R.I.P. Carl and Rick... and thanks for ghosting, Maggie?), the series remains determined to trudge through with storylines that are so far removed from the source material at this point that it's confusing.
And if bidding farewell to its main stars weren't enough, Rick's big death scene wasn't a death scene at all. After blowing up on a bridge, his body was discovered (still alive) on the side of a river bank, and he was airlifted to who knows where. Why? Because he's going to star in spin-off movies, of course. —Justin Kirkland
Rebooting movie cult classics for the small screen is nothing new, but making the darkly satirical high school comedy Heathers into a contemporary TV series was always going to be a gamble. The 1988 original was shocking when it premiered, but it was a small indie movie that found its audience over time. So when Paramount Network announced the TV version of Heathers, reception was mixed; purists worried about the film’s legacy (as they often do in these cases), and the progressive-minded audience bristled at the contemporary twist: the Heathers were now marginalized figures whose fates would be at the hands of pair of pretty cis-het teens.
That the daily threat of gun violence in our nation’s schools—a particular cultural change from the late-‘80s—is fresh on most of our minds certainly didn’t help its chances. Its March premiere was pushed to July in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February; the near-daily mass shootings that followed caused Paramount to cancel the series entirely. And yet, in very 2018 fashion, Heathers was revived: The series was broadcast over the course of five nights in October, with its final two episodes—which depicted a school bombing and its aftermath—were combined into one. Can one really kill a Heather? Probably not. —Tyler Coates
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.