Quarantined: Binge-Worthy Shows with Strong Female Leads
April 1, 2020
Best Series to Binge Watch While Quarantined
The Coronavirus pandemic has altered life as we know it. Gone are the awesome girls nights out that we have come to depend on, and even our beloved girls nights in are out. Covid-19 may keep you from enjoying your friends’ company in person, but you can still enjoy sharing the excitement of watching your favorite series with your loved ones over social media and apps. It’s time to make a list of the best series to binge watch, pull out your cocktail recipes and cook up some appetizers for an evening at home.
Instead of getting down and out about having to shelter in place away from your favorite women, cue up a feminist flick or a series with a strong female lead and get inspired. If you are struggling to come up with some binge-worthy, girl-powered shows, the following list features series with strong female characters who are exploring their lives in captivating ways.
I have watched every episode of each pick, so you know my recommendations come from personal experience and a passion for women’s stories. Read on to find your next woman-centered adventure, create your own list of best series to binge watch, then grab some popcorn, a cocktail and enjoy.
The Best Series with Strong Female Leads to Binge Watch During the Pandemic
I Am Not Okay With This (Netflix)
If the idea of watching a show that feels like Stranger Things and The End of The F***ing World had a baby, then this is the series for you. Made by the producers of both of the aforementioned shows and based on a graphic novel by Charles Forsman, I Am Not Okay With This stars It’s Sophia Lillis and Wyatt Oleff, and gives both of these beloved start the room to flex their acting chops.
Lillis plays Sydney, a teen struggling with her father’s death and a strained relationship with her mother. Her one stable relationship with her best friend is changing…into a crush…while she simultaneously is coming into and discovering her own sexuality. Sydney’s strong emotional outbursts manifest in telekinetic surges, which start to cause big problems in her life.
One of the most recognizable scenes that repeats itself until the end is Sydney running down the street in a dress covered in blood. The mystery of what has caused this gore-riffic scene will keep you binging all seven of the 20 minute episodes until you are at the end and hungry for more. I promise, you’ll LOVE Sydney and all of the main characters in this thrill of a series. It gets extra points for featuring a bisexual female lead character so perfectly! Hurry up with season 2 already will ya?
Dare Me (USA Network)
This 10-episode thriller will likely take you and your lady friends back to your younger years with it’s bold expression of the adolescent female experience. Set in a small Midwestern town, Dare Me centers around the competitive world of high school cheer leading.
When new cheer leading coach, Collette French (Willa Fitzgerald) arrives to prepare the local high school cheer squad for competition, the interim leader of the team, Beth (Marlo Kelly), turns sour. Beth’s best friend Addy (Herizen Guardiola), on the other hand, takes interest in the new coach and gets caught up in her drama along the way, while risking her connection with her childhood bestie.
Look, you are going to love and then hate and then love and then hate each of the female characters in this show along the way, but chances are, you’ll see a little of your own story reflected in their experiences. Dare Me takes on the ugly (sometimes violent) complexities of the adolescent female experience with out pulling any punches. Drugs ✓. Bullying ✓. Sex ✓ . Sexual assault ✓ .
This suspenseful series allows the main characters to tell their story, hinting at a crime that happens along the way. I think Dare Me is a perfect pick for girls night. It’s a conversational piece that is sure to illicit strong opinions, it’s suspenseful…and regardless of how you feel about it, you’ll keep coming back for more.
Fleabag (Amazon Prime)
I’m sure you’ve already heard about Fleabag. You must have, because it is one of the best damn shows I binge watched in 2019. And it’s stuck with me all of the way into 2020. To say that it’s “binge worthy” is an understatement. This show won Golden Globes for Best Television Series or Comedy – Musical; Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), garnered more nominations and won a bunch of Emmy as well. But who cares about all of that? Most importantly, one scene in, and it has won my heart.
The main character, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and known only as Fleabag, is a thirty-something Londoner who is navigating sex, grief, and family dynamics all while trying to make a living. While this show is billed as a comedy, it’s easily a dark comedy that female viewers will relate to, and likely find themselves both crying and laughing to.
Throughout each episode, Fleabag confides her true thoughts to the viewer, effectively making you her very best friend. In fact some of her side notes to the camera feel quite a bit like the belong in Locker Room Talk.
The bad news is that there are only two seasons. The good news is that they are both superb. The first deals with Fleabag’s experience as she grieves the loss of her best friend. The second? Well…it’s a love story of sorts. A Holy love story. Trust me. Call the girls, make up a pitcher of margaritas, and get ready for the best girls night ever.
I actually re-upped my subscription to HBO just to watch this series, and I have zero regrets. Thank you Mrs. Fletcher! You binge worthy broad you!
Thank you for taking on the tired “cougar” stereotype of women in their forties and showing the world that women in their forties are sexy as fuck. Thank you for showing the world that women in their forties love to fuck. Thank you for showing the world that women in their forties watch and enjoy watching seriously dirty porn. Thank you for showing the world that women in their forties are kinky as hell. Thank you for showing the world that women in their forties are badasses that know what they want and are done putting up with shit from men in their forties and pretty much the whole old-school patriarchy.
The rest of the details are unimportant…you know…the plot and stuff. But just in case you want to know, the series is about a single mom in her forties who is rediscovering herself after sending her son off to college. There are multiple interesting and intersecting story lines that follow complex characters like her son as he faces college and the undoing of how he thought the world worked.
This series is being championed for it’s inclusivity and honesty. You are sure to fall in love with it.
Halfway through the first episode, I wasn’t sure I was going to like this British dark comedy series. I couldn’t tell if it was going the direction of being super campy or genuinely creepy. But, before I knew it, it was almost midnight and I had binge-watched the entire first season of the series.
This story is based on a graphic novel by Charles Forsman and follows 17-year-old Alyssa and James, who are both outsiders at their school. James believes himself to be a psychopath on the verge of becoming a serial killer, and Alyssa is an angry rebel with and overwhelming number of daddy/parental issues. Admittedly, I didn’t like either of them at first. Alyssa’s rebelliousness seemed bratty and James actually seemed super believable as a creepy serial killing kid.
But that’s where the magic happens. Somehow I end up cheering for the duo as Alyssa takes us on her internal journey of self-awareness and growth , and James somehow sheds his hard-to-look at psychopath-in-the making exterior. The two become lovable heroes as they embark on an adventure to find Alyssa’s father (who left her when she was small) and end up tangled up in dark, frightening events. Think rape and murder.
Alyssa emerges as badass young woman warrior, and James softens into a “clearly-not-a-serial-killer” kinda guy. Trust me. You’ll dig it.
There isn’t one single person who should go without watching Unbelievable. This 8-episode series starring Toni Collette, Merritt Wever, and Kaitlyn Dever, recreates a the true story of a young woman (renamed Marie for anonymity) who was raped by a serial rapist, only to have the crime discounted by male policemen who then forced her to lie, and say she hadn’t been raped. Only after two female detectives dig into the rapes, is Marie’s truth unearthed and the charges brought against her dropped.
Based on a the 2015 article “An Unbelievable Story of Rape”, written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, the show is about series of rapes that took place in Washington State and Colorado. At the center of the story, Marie is a teenager with her own past trauma, who spent her youth in and out of foster homes only to be accepted into a transitional living setting where she is sexually assaulted. While viewers watch Marie’s life come apart as everyone turns against her for her for lying about being raped, the story of the two female detectives who work together to find the rapist (and eventually Marie), commences.
If this isn’t a girl-power series, I don’t know what is. It’s so incredibly impactful and applicable to today’s social climate. Feminists, and allies alike will unite while binging this series. And it’s a fantastic selection to suggest all of the men in your life, and individuals who worry more about false claims of rapes, instead of of actual rapists and their victims. I suggest you put it at the top of your list of best series to binge watch.
Head back to the 80’s with this girl-power packed series that will have you laughing and pumping your fist in solidarity. Ruth Wilder (played by Alison Brie), is an out-of-work actress living in LA and chasing her dreams when a chance at becoming a real star is dropped in her lap. Introducing the world of women’s wrestling.
Glow tells the story of the birth of women’s wrestling and the ladies who made it all happen. Working alongside 12 strangely matched women, Alison Brie’s performance is on point and delivers lots of laughs, along with some serious lessons about chasing dreams, sisterhood, and the impact of competition between women.
This show will take those of you old enough to remember, back to the 80’s. And for those who are just a bit too young to have experienced the glory days, you’ll get a front row seat to the shit show that was the Gen Xer’s youth. Enjoy!
I can’t express enough how much I love this series. It’s filled with strong (some murderess) female characters. The basics: Eve (played by Sandra Oh) is a spy who is tasked with hunting Villanelle (played by Jodie Comer) an employed serial killer/hit woman. But instead of becoming enemies, a sexually charged enchantment grows between them as their cat and mouse game ensues.
I guess you could call Killing Eve a cross between a serial killer love story and a spy/thriller. Sandra Oh has earned all of the accolades she has received for her role, but Comer, in my opinion, really makes Killing Eve exceptional. You can’t help but feel as obsessed with Villanelle as Eve as Comer creates a strangely likable…even lovable but brutal and heartless killer out of her character. Dexter doesn’t hold a candle to Villanelle. (And I loved Dexter!) So binge this series before season 3 comes out.
The OA (Netflix)
If you haven’t watched the first season of this spectacular show, it’s time to queue it up. Look, the reviews of the second season are mixed, but I don’t care. The OA is definitely at the top of my “best shows to binge watch” recommendations .This story has a magical female lead (Prairie Johnson) played by Brit Marling, who is also its creator and producer.
In the first season Prairie returns after going missing for 7-years. When she vanished, she was blind, but upon her return her family is shocked to find her sight returned. Season one weaves the story of a kidnapped woman who falls in love while being held captive by a man who believes he has the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe.
Returned home, Prairie finds 5 willing participants to listen to her story and learn, what she believes, are key movements that will return her to her lost love. Make sense? It shouldn’t. Just trust me: the story will captivate you.
I devoured season two in a single day, and its even more intense and mind bending than the first. I laughed, cried and hurt my brain trying to keep up. If you like scifi, you’ll love The OA.
Who is sick of misogyny in the workplace?! I am! Small spoiler alert—in the end, there’s a little dose of satisfying revenge.
Julia Roberts plays Heidi Bergman, a caseworker fresh out of school and hoping to climb the corporate ladder. She works at the Homecoming facility: a place that is supposed to help soldiers transition back to civilian life.
This story begins after Bergman has left her job, moved in with her mom, and started working as a waitress. Things start to unravel when the Department of Defense comes to investigate the real reason why she left and she begins to remember a forgotten past. This is a great mystery that is also a pretty quick watch, with 10 episodes that are only about 30 minutes each.
Thank the stars for Margret Atwood! She gave us The Handmaid’s Tail, which was turned into an award-winning show, and in 1969, she managed to pen the book that would eventually give us this enthralling series. One of the things I love most about Alias Grace is that, though it’s certainly a time-piece, it forces viewers to examine the complexities of womanhood and the consequences of misogyny.
Alias Grace tells the story of a poor Irish immigrant girl—Grace Marks—who attempts to support herself as a domestic servant in Canada after being tossed out by her abusive father. She and a man named James McDermott are convicted of killing her employer and his housekeeper (who was also his lover). Grace is sentenced to life in prison, and her tale unfolds as a psychiatrist attempts to determine whether she should be pardoned due to insanity. You will find yourself wondering, right alongside the psychiatrist, whether she is innocent, guilty, possessed, or completely crazy.
Based on actual 19th-century events, Alias Grace makes you take a hard look at the history of the treatment of women. You will have a hard time peeling yourself away from this one.
This mini-series is based on a novel by Gillian Flynn. I read it shortly after it was published and fell in love with her work. When I found out it was being made into a series, I was skeptical. But, I love Amy Adams, who plays the lead character, so I decided to dive in as soon as it came out. It was absolutely captivating.
Amy Adam’s performance as Camille Preaker, the emotionally-unstable reporter who is tortured by her past, is spot on. I thought she might have difficulty overcoming her natural “good girl” feel, but she embodies the role perfectly. Everything from the cinematography to the soundtrack transports viewers to Camille’s hometown—Wind Gap—in Missouri, where she has returned to cover the story of two young girls who have gone missing. While she is there, she is forced to deal with her own dark past and mental illness while she unravels the mystery.
Once you start this show, you won’t be able to stop it. Go into it prepared: it’s dark.
I’m not going to even pretend that I watched the 1990’s sitcom version of this story. Its many iterations never caught my attention before, and most certainly wouldn’t have made my recommendation best series or best shows to binge watch. But, this new version had me hooked immediately. I’m not going to lie, I was skeptical at first. As a 44-year-old woman, I feel a bit silly watching teen-witch or teen-anything shows, but The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is straight-up adult. And by adult, I mean the female characters are strong (all of them), the storyline is creepy, and the feminist slant is not subtle.
This show is scary (really scary at times) and a bit gory. That’s one of the things I like most about it. It plays with being kind of campy, but then quickly shifts and becomes downright chilling. In fact, I would classify some of the episodes as horror (one of my favorite genres). It’s refreshing to watch female characters of all ages and ethnicities kick ass in a thriller/horror show, rather than scream and cry and trip and die. So if you like your shows a little scary, with plenty of kickass women, give this series a try.
Look, I was an X-Files fanatic back in the day. I watched every episode, planned my Friday nights (while in college) around the show, and mourned and mourned after it was taken off the air. So it will always be considered one of the best series ever to me. I don’t care what any of the other reviews say: I think season 10, and especially season 11, were great. Season 11 felt a lot like the old show to me, and I made my way through the episodes in the blink of an eye. I love X-Files for plenty of reasons, but I love it mostly for Gillian Anderson. First, she is totally one of my most beloved sheroes. She has proven to the world that women do get better with age (Gillian, please, please share your secret with us). Second, her character is intelligent, strong, sexy, emotionally intelligent…you name it, and she’s got it. Every woman wants to be her. Well, at least I do. If you want a couple of highly entertaining, supernatural nights, I recommend you put these last two seasons on your list of best shows to binge watch.
While the lead character is a man (Marty Byrde) who is seemingly caught up in a man’s criminal world, it is the women that make this show truly excellent. From dissatisfied wife, Wendy Byrde, played by the incredible Laura Linny, to the hardened young Ruth, played by Julia Garner, to the deadly Darlene Snell, played by Lisa Emery—the women own this show. You will likely relate to each of them; love them, loathe them, fear them, and eventually want to be like one of them or the other. Season 1 hooked me, but the women really took the lead in season 2. You can get a good week of watching out of this nail-biter of a series.
Chances are good that you’ve heard of this show, but have you watched it? If not, link up with HBO and dive in. The female protagonists in this series are seriously badass taking it to the top of our list of best shows to binge watch. The characters explore all of the different facets of womanhood as they slowly begin to discover the nature of their reality and then set out to explore the boundaries of their world and the world beyond. Watching each of the female characters evolve is fascinating and horrifying. I found myself wondering what it would take for me to grow in the same direction they do. Love, sex, motherhood, survival: what would you kill for?
Dakota Fanning’s character, Sara Howard, made this murder mystery and easy pick for best shows to binge watch. Watching her character — a trailblazer attempting to climb the ladder from her position as the first woman hired as a police secretary to Theodor Roosevelt, to the first female police detective — is truly inspiring. It’s actually quite relatable, as well, as we are all currently watching a long list of women become “firsts”. In general, the show is solid, focusing on Alienist Dr. Kriezeler as he attempts to catch a serial killer. But Fanning’s performance as a strong, capable and ambitious woman doesn’t disappoint.
Fanning isn’t the only female character to take note of in this series. Mary Palmer, Dr. Kreizer’s housekeeper, played by Q’orianka Kilcher, is subtly essential to the whole storyline, and Kilcher’s performance, as well as her character’s story, stayed with me for days.
The Obvious: Best Shows to Binge Watch
The following have been covered by every female-leaning pub, but we definitely didn’t want to leave them out: