Amazon has often struggled with its original programming, lagging just behind Netflix in putting out consistently strong shows. For every Mozart in the Jungle or Transparent, critically-acclaimed mainstream hits, there’s been a slew of disregarded flops like Z: The Beginning of Everything and The Last Tycoon, which nobody watched. Do you know any fervent fans of Z: The Beginning of Everything? Exactly.
But one area where Amazon has been absolutely killing the game, maybe even surpassing Netflix, is in programming for younger viewers. Amazon’s children’s entertainment has been persistently fun, well-produced, and often progressive. One such original that you and your kids definitely shouldn’t let fly under the radar is Skyward, one of Amazon’s fall 2017 pilots, which is essentially The X-Files for viewers who don’t even know what the hell an x-file is.
Skyward stars Mia Sinclair Jenness (Orange is the New Black) as Piper, a young girl who witnesses a mysterious object in the sky with her best friend. Years later, the two host an underground podcast (topical!) called UFO Radio, dedicated to uncovering alien activity. Joined by nerdy intern Ira, the trio explores strange sightings in their tiny town of Wildwood, Oregon.
The pilot is a blast, and while designed for kids, Skyward incorporates enough heart and maturity to make watching it as a family worth it. It successfully builds off of the Stranger Things-revived formula of pitting goofy adolescents against mature challenges, and, aside from the procedural mystery-of-the-week format, the show also includes a serious and ongoing arc about the death of Piper’s mother, which gives it some gravitas.
Amazon might have miniaturized Mulder and Scully, but they haven’t sacrificed either the engaging mysteries or deeper human relationships that make a show about aliens, agents, and skeptics, even if those elements have been retooled for ages 5-10. Skyward will be airing on Prime Video, but the pilot is available to watch for free right now.