For some reason, unlike games and movies, I find it hard to kind of rank the TV shows I watch against each other and there’s also the messiness of some shows having half seasons in 2016 compared to one season for others so instead here’s, in no particular order, 10 of my favorite returning TV shows of the year. (*Spoiler Warning*)
- Better Call Saul: The Breaking Bad prequel continues to be just as good as it’s origin show with Bob Odenkirk continually bringing out new layers of Jimmy McGill aka the once and future Saul Goodman. Season 2 took things to another level with the excellent cat and mouse game between Jimmy and his brother Chuck which culminated in an incredible season ending cliffhanger and the show also had the funniest and best edited montage of the year.
- Game of Thrones: I could probably just say “Battle of the Bastards” and leave it at that but what an awesome season of Game of Thrones. With the endgame in sight, things moved faster than they ever had before with the return of Jon Snow and his reuniting with Sansa to form a new Northern alliance while Cersei pulled a massive, character clearing power move and Dany is finally on her way to Westeros with her dream team of dragons and advisors. Plus, there were some major revelations as Bran’s storyline got a boost when he started travelling back in time to key points in Westeros history.
- Arrow: Arrow was coming off a rough season in the spring of 2016, despite some delightful scenery chomping from Neil McDonough, but they completely turned things around for Season 5 in the fall with a return to the more street level vigilantism of Seasons 1 and 2, introduced a new team of sidekicks for Oliver that bring in a fun new dynamic, Dolph effing Lundgren is the villain of the actually interesting flashbacks and the action is just as great as it ever was. Hopefully it can maintain for the second half in 2017.
- Supergirl: Moving over to The CW, Supergirl followed it’s fellow DC shows and became even more comic booky than the second half of the first season, introducing Lena and Lillian Luthor (who is the evil head of Project Cadmus), a slew of new alien residents in National City and the Man of Steel himself, played by Tyler Hoechlin, who was almost as charming as Melissa Benoist. Speaking of both Arrow and Supergirl, the massive mid-season crossover was also an absolute blast, full of great inside jokes, one of the best episodes of Arrow period and Kara not only joining the ranks of the Earth-1 heroes but getting a convenient way to come back anytime from Cisco.
- Black Mirror: It’s been two years since the excellent Jon Hamm starring White Christmas episode but six new installments of Charlie Booker’s brilliant but horrifying technology anthology series arrived on Netflix. All of them were good but a few were some of the best entries in the series so far, like Nosedive, set in a world where everyone is ranked, Yelp style, or Playtest, about the world’s deadliest VR game.
- Ash vs Evil Dead: As nuts as the first season of Ash was, the second season went even more insane, sending the “Ghostbeaters” to Ash’s hometown of Elk Grove when things get beyond the control of Ruby (Lucy Lawless). Tons of fan service, including the return of two classic Evil Dead deadites, a filthy mouthed puppet and Ash’s dad Brock, played by Lee Majors, are just some of the highlights of the season and Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly has perfected her brand of snark and always had the line or lines that I laughed at the most almost every episode.
- Halt and Catch Fire: Thanks to the shift in focus in Season 2 to the upstart online gaming company Mutiny, Halt and Catch Fire evolved past it’s “It’s like Mad Men but in the 80’s” beginnings and became an excellent show and this year’s season continued that upward trend as Mutiny co-founders Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) and Donna (Kerry Bishe) started to have different ideas about how the company should grow, resulting in one of the most dramatic blow ups of the year and overall it’s definitely picked up the fantastically acted character drama baton from Mad Men for AMC. It also setup an extremely interesting time jump in it’s season finale that should make for a hopefully great fourth and final season.
- The Americans: I think people are finally realizing how great The Americans is, as it finally garnered some Emmy love (it didn’t win any but it’s a start) and it had another tense, slow burn season of 80’s espionage that revolved around Soviet spies Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Phillip (Matthew Rhys) being tasked with their most dangerous task yet, the procurement of deadly bio-weapons from a secure US facility. Dylan Baker had a fantastic recurring role as the Jennings’ inside man and Holly Taylor’s Paige continued to grow as well as she dealt with the fallout of learning the truth about her parents’ work.
- Penny Dreadful: The season 3 finale also turned out to be a stealth series finale as announced the Monday after it aired but it ended in a mostly satisfying way, propelled as always by the incredible performance of Eva Green but Rory Kinnear’s “John Clare” also got a surprisingly happy conclusion after all the horror he’s both inflicted and had inflicted onto him. The show also doubled down it’s Universal Monsters/Hammer roots with the introduction of a proper Dracula and also took things into the American West for a gorgeous looking and interesting change of pace.
- Daredevil: Even if everything else was garbage, the introduction of Jon Bernthal’s Punisher would have made Daredevil Season 2 worth it but, luckily, it continued everything the first season did right while expanding the Hand mythology and introducing Elektra into the mix. The staircase fight this season was one of the best action sequences on TV and the opening arc between Daredevil and Punisher is something comic book fans have been waiting for years to see and it did not disappoint.
I’m like the J. Jonah Jameson of Everything Action, writing and editing and constantly demanding pictures of Spider-Man.