The words "HBO" and "free" have long been a dream ever since the premium cable network launched in 1970s. The Cadillac of cable channels is still one of the best options for quality television, and things have only gotten better since HBO launched its streaming service HBO Max. But can anyone really afford another monthly subscription?
Luckily, freebies are the result of an all-out war between massive media corporations as they fight for your earnings, and we've been given a good one from HBO Max. The streamer is offering up pilot episodes of several of its shows to entice you to purchase a membership, but you don't have to hand over any credit card information to watch. From the looks of it, it's a no-risk great deal. After checking out the free episodes, it's up to you to decide if you want to fork over the $15 for an ad-free subscription or $10 for an ad-supported subscription.
It's easy to check it out: Just grab the HBO Max app for your phone, TV, fridge, or whatever, and start streaming any one of the 13 offers. But once you're ready to dive in, what should you watch? Here are five shows to watch for free on HBO Max during its free trial that will make you subscribe in a jiffy:
Sure, the dull name might make you think it's a simple show about handing out bags of peanuts, but this HBO Max exclusive is also a globetrotting whodunnit comedy thriller with aspects of espionage, so you know, books and covers. Kaley Cuoco stars as the titular flight attendant who has a drunken fling with one of her passengers on an international flight to Thailand and wakes up next to his corpse the morning after. That catapults her on an adventure to figure out what happened, who killed her one-night boyfriend, and how to evade the suspicious creeps and feds that seem to be following her at all hours. It's zippy, suspenseful, and oddly funny.
Though it had its detractors, HBO's reboot of Perry Mason is definitely the perfect show for Matthew Rhys fans and cool dads. Rhys, an Emmy winner from FX's The Americans, dons the fedora of one of TV's most famous characters and spices him up for today's audience with random sex and a thirst for brown liquor. This Perry Mason f---s, as they say, and starting him off as a private investigator who works for a law firm before turning him into the defense lawyer we've come to know him was a wise move for HBO as it gets some dirt under Perry's fingernails and reestablishes him with a splash of antiheroism. There's a convoluted plot featuring Tatiana Maslany as a bellowing preacher, but the acting is top-notch all around and truckloads of cash were well spent on bringing 1930s Los Angeles alive.
The sheer amount of Asian-American representation should be enough to watch this action series that was finally ported over from Cinemax, where it sadly mired in obscurity, but stay for the solid gangster drama of Cinemax's best show since The Knick (which isn't part of this free trial but is also available on HBO Max). Set in late-1800s San Francisco, Warrior -- devised from the writings of Bruce Lee and created by his daughter Shannon -- follows a Chinese immigrant (star-in-the-making Andrew Koji) whose proficiency with turning his fists and feet into lethal blurs comes in handy as muscle for a local tong (a Chinese gang) during bloody turf wars. While that's happening, local Irish workers are boiling over with anti-Chinese sentiment, adding even more pressure to the cooker. It's a bit Gangs of New York and Peaky Blinders with much better fights and strong female characters, and it's effortlessly cool as it carries its Cinemax pedigree (which means there's plenty of violence and nudity).
There aren't many shows that will leave you thinking, "Well I certainly wasn't expecting that," but once you see a couple of androids wrapped in shiny silver bodysuits pulling human embryos out of slime cubes in the HBO Max original Raised By Wolves, you'll realize that it is indeed a truly unique experience. The sci-fi series, executive produced and partially directed by Ridley Scott, follows two androids raising children on a distant planet after a religious war decimates Earth, and the godly faction trying to stop them from spreading their atheist ideas by any means necessary. Obviously brimming with themes of religion and its place in the world, it's also rich with the debate over parenting and what it means to be human. The first episode is dense enough to feel like a movie, and getting just a taste may make you fork over your $15 at hyperspeed.
A nice little aperitif before the release of The Suicide Squad (which will also be available on HBO Max) is Doom Patrol, a superhero team-up series originally on DC Universe and seemingly created halfway through a bottle of absinthe. Adapted from the DC Comics by Jeremy Carver, who wrote some of Supernatural's best episodes, the insane Doom Patrol brings together several misfit superheroes -- a former NASCAR driver whose brain is put in a robot body, an Air Force pilot with a negative energy entity living inside him -- for what I can only describe as wacky misadventures. For example, the first season sees them go through a portal inside of a farting donkey. The Season 2 premiere, which is the one HBO Max is offering up for free during this trial, sees the crew shrunken down to the size in Halloween Fun Size candy bars and fighting off regular-sized rodents while they wait to be unshrunken. That's just two scenes I've described, folks. It gets even wilder.
HBO Max says it will cycle through different shows as part of this free trial program, but did not give any indication of when that will happen or when this round will expire. Here are all the shows included this time around (all pilot episodes, with the exception of Doom Patrol, are free to anyone with the app):
Game of Thrones
Raised By Wolves
The Flight Attendant
Doom Patrol (Season 2 premiere)