This past TV season saw the number of comic book/superhero shows go from 2 to almost 10 in a year and there’s even more coming next season. How did they all stack up? Here’s how I see them ranking, let me know in the comments or over on Facebook if you agree/disagree.
1. Daredevil (Netflix)- We knew Marvel could be fun and crazy with movies like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, but for Daredevil , they managed to perfectly capture the darkness and grit of the streets that is inherent in the character and his stomping ground of Hell’s Kitchen. Charlie Cox brilliantly portrayed both sides of Matt Murdock, the charming, witty lawyer and the haunted, relentless vigilante and Vincent D’Onofrio, although introduced a little awkwardly, grew into one of the most nuanced and interesting villains yet seen in the MCU. The action was also spectacular, like the much talked about hallway fight at the end of episode 2. It sets a high bar that hopefully the other Netflix shows can hit.
2. The Flash (CW)- We’ll get to Arrow in a bit but it’s rookie cohort on The CW had a spectacular first season that was a total blast week in and week out and a great counterbalance to the brooding melodrama that was happening in Starling City. Going whole hog into the possibilities of superpowers being introduced into the CW’s DC universe, The Flash paraded out a colorful mix of rogues to take on Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen and his friends at STAR Labs, even mother-effin Grodd, and the show also did a great job of teasing out the ongoing story of who killed Barry’s mother and what was up with Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavenaugh) but it was first and foremost concerned with being super geeky and super fun, with lots of fun, knowing winks to the comics or resident nerd/tech expert Cisco giving everyone their comic appropriate nicknames.
3. Agent Carter (ABC)- There’s been a lot of bluster on the internet following Age of Ultron about Marvel’s lack of female heroes and how that movie destroyed Black Widow or some such nonsense. First of all, Black Widow was great in Age of Ultron and secondly, none of those complainers apparently watched Agent Carter, which featured the most ass kicking lady of the MCU, Peggy Carter. Hayley Atwell finally gets to show her full range of humor and action chops as Peggy, in post WWII NYC, gets involved in a conspiracy involving stolen Howard Stark tech, which Peggy has to investigate in secret because her fellow agents at the Strategic Science Reserve believe Stark is a traitor. There’s a great back and forth between Peggy and Edward Jarvis, whom Howard puts at Peggy’s disposal, and some interesting ties to the MCU, like the discovery of the aforementioned Black Widow program in Russia. The show also has a lot of fun with it’s retro setting, like featuring a terrible Captain America radio show that constantly irks Peggy with it’s portrayal of her as a damsel in distress constantly being kidnapped by Nazis.
4. Agents of SHIELD (ABC)- It only took SHIELD literally blowing up for Agents of SHIELD to turn itself around last season and, for season 2, it kept improving and is slowly becoming the show we all wanted it to be from the beginning. Picking up from Winter Soldier, the first half of the season found Coulson and his team in the shadows fighting Hydra and then uncovering the mystery of the Inhumans in the second half (yes, Agents of SHIELD is actually starting to set something up we won’t see on the big screen for at least 2 years). The characters all got much better in the second season, especially Skye, who became both an extremely competent SHIELD agent and developed superpowers when she learned she was an Inhuman (Quake for all you comic buffs). They also introduced other actually comic characters like Bobbi Morse aka Mockingbird (an ass kicking Adrianne Palicki) and a delightfully over the top Kyle Maclachlan as Mr. Hyde aka Cal Johnson. The Age of Ultron tie ins were also extremely well done too, although it’s still strange that Nick Fury or Maria Hill don’t acknowledge their existence in the movie or invite them to the big party at Avengers Tower. With the promise of more Inhumans in the next season and the possible formation of a Secret Avengers type team led by Skye, the next season should hopefully keep up the momentum of this season.
5. Constantine (NBC)- There was a lot of potential that we will unfortunately probably never see as NBC cancelled the adventures of John Constantine after it’s first season but it was definitely starting to find it’s legs and deliver some classic Hellblazer type cases for it’s title character. If nothing else, Matt Ryan wins the award for almost literally walking off the comic page, perfectly capturing smug, asshole side of Constantine as reluctantly accepts his position as the only one who can stop the “Rising Darkness” of evil magical powers springing up around the US, and possibly the world. There were some appearances by Constantine regulars Jim Corrigan and Papa Midnite on the show and they probably would have been developed more in the next season, with Corrigan possibly even turning into the Spectre at some point. There’s the slim chance another network might pick it up but for now it seems like this is the end of the line for Constantine.
6. Arrow (CW)- If you had told me at the end of last season that Arrow would be this far down on the list of superhero shows, I would have said you were nuts but here we are. I feel like Arrow had the same problem Justified had in it’s third season, both shows were coming off a tight, exciting season with an excellent villain (Mags Bennet on Justified, Slade Wilson on Arrow) and they just tried too hard to complicate things in an effort to top themselves. Season 3 of Arrow actually got off to a great start with the team trying to solve the mystery of Sarah Lance’s murder and then Oliver ultimately getting into a showdown with Rh’as Al Ghul. After that first showdown though, things just spiraled out of control with Rh’as and Oliver seemingly competing to see who could come up with the more convoluted scheme to kill the other, the development of Ray Palmer into The Atom, etc. There were some excellent episodes, like the Flash crossover where Barry and Oliver team up to stop a surprisingly lethal Captain Boomerang, and the Suicide Squad episode, but the entire end run of episodes never came together in any satisfying way and wasted the potential of one of the best villains in the DC universe. I’m hoping next season they can regain the focus and come back.
7. Gotham (Fox)- As strange and disappointing as Season 3 of Arrow was this past season, it was at least still watchable and fun a lot of the time, that doesn’t apply to Gotham. When it started out, I think the collective feeling was a shrug and the thought that it might be an OK procedural but it quickly turned into an insane mess of a show where things like Jim Gordon solving a murder by following a snake he lets loose at a circus is commonplace. Jada Pinkett Smith is the only person who seemingly understands how ridiculous the show actually is and delivers a performance that is so hammy it crosses over and becomes Spam. Pretty much every other character becomes a caricature or, in the case of Barbara Kean, the worst character in TV history. Barbara’s arc during the first season is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever witnessed, as she just erratically jumps from one bizarre personality to another (this week I’m a drugged out lesbian, this week I’m a secret murderer). Even ostensibly our main character, Jim Gordon, just devolves into a growling but weirdly uptight punching machine, who is constantly declaring he’s going to clean up the city but doing little to actually achieve that goal.