The 2014/15 television season has become well known as the season of the comic book television series. While we used to be content with the occasional Smallville or Birds of Prey (ok, no one was content with Birds of Prey), it’s now possible to watch comic book programming 5 nights a week (or more thanks to DVR). While most of these shows have been ratings successes, I’ve been looking at them on my own scale of general artistry and adaptation. To me, not all of them have been stellar, but it’s certainly been interesting to watch them grow, regardless.

10. Gotham: Season 1
Gotham is a series that had a ton of promise. Essentially based on Gotham Central, an excellent comic, the show quickly got bogged down in gimmicky origin set-ups and one-note characters. I’ve praised the look of the show before, and I stand by that, but I think that is a great example of why the show fails. So much time is spent on its outward appearance that the cast and stories are treated like an afterthought. There tends to be little in the way of character motivation outside of extremely broad strokes. And that’s saying nothing of Barbara Keane, one of the poorest written characters in any show ever. What’s even more aggravating is when the show would flirt with greatness. “The Red Hood” is an exceptional episode and is what the series should be doing regularly. As it stands, it’s a frustrating reminder of how dour the rest of the first season is.

9. iZombie: Season 1
I tried to like iZombie. My god, I tried. By the time the sixth episode rolled around, there was no redeeming it for me. I like police procedurals, but this is one that doesn’t fit. It completely changes the purpose of the comic and in the process creates something that is wholly generic and easily forgotten. It’s gotten a fair amount of praise for it’s “quick” writing. To me it just seems cloying and over-written. “Virtual Reality Bites”, the episode where I finally gave up, is a prime example of this. There are excruciatingly long conversations in this episode about what internet trolls and MMORPG’s are. I understand the desire to provide context, but not when we’re dealing with things that everyone understands. I mean, no one marvels and explains the purpose of social networking on television, because we all know how it works. And I haven’t even begun to discuss the pitfalls of writing a lead whose personality changes from episode to episode. Honestly, if not for some genuinely likable performances, this would be my least favorite show.

8. Agents of SHIELD: Season 2
The first season of AoS was pretty tedious. It noticeably improved after its mid-season course-correction, and the second season premiere also promised another needed jump in its watchability. Sadly, to me, it’s not enough. The show has an incredibly generic and “made for TV” look that is so utterly jarring, considering that it’s supposed to be connected to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, that I can’t see past it. The disconnect between this series and the film universe is simply too obvious. Add to it that the show is still very much stuck in “reaction” mode and any gains made in the second season are quickly forgotten. The show did introduce Inhumans into the MCU’s lexicon, which is admirable, now if only they’d bring on some of them that are worth caring about. Sure, blind-teleporter-dude is interesting looking and multiplication-girl can sure make a lot of herself, but give me someone recognizable that I can get behind. Again, Calvin Zabo was a nice addition on that front, but it took half the season to reveal who he was. Which is a whole other issue that this show has: it’s tendency toward burying comic-based characters. Why hide characters who have a built in fanbase when it makes so much more sense to lead with them?

7. The Walking Dead: Season 5
I’ve complained about the show’s lack of hope so many times that I’m sure loyal readers could recite it from memory. But a bigger problem is that characters in this series seem to never learn from mistakes and frequently forget the rules to the world that they live in when in the midst of a crisis. In one episode midway through the season, a major character is killed off simply because he cannot hear the hissing zombie slowly lumbering behind him. There’s no reason he should have died in that fashion. He was a capable zombie killer and was able to fight his way out of far more dire situations than that. And there’s the issue: the writers always tend toward convenience. “Hey, it would be easier to separate the characters if Glenn sped needlessly through a horde of walkers thus crashing their car. We’ll think up some nonsense for him to spout out to justify it later.” Perfect!

6. Powers: Season 1
I feel bad about rating this right now. Of all of the comic book television this year, this is the only series that I haven’t watched the entire season of. I’d like to put off rating the season until I’ve watched it all, but with it being a Playstation exclusive, I’m going to have to wait until the first season DVD comes out. I have watched about half of the season, however, so I’m not totally guessing. What I’ve seen was an odd mix of good intention and poor execution. I’ve enjoyed the overall plot (which gets a much-needed punch up in the 4th episode) but the aesthetics and a fair amount of the acting still seem bargain-basement. Look no further than the character of Triphammer. Go ahead and Google him. See what he looks like in the comic and compare it to the show’s version. If the season makes a sudden up-turn in quality, I will surely re-evaluate at a  later date.

5. Arrow: Season 3
If I had to describe Arrow‘s 3rd season in one word, it would be this: uneven. The show still has definite strengths (Stephen Amell continues to be the most likable lead on a TV show) but it has also shown some flaws this year. Using the flashbacks to take Oliver off the island was an interesting idea that I don’t feel fully landed. It feels a little disingenuous to retcon that simply for the ease of the story, but then again, the island had kind of run it’s course. On the plus side, the inclusion of Ray Palmer (as played by Brandon Routh) has provided some much needed positive energy that resonated with fans, and now he’s headlining a spin-off. I also can’t help but see the “Olicity” relationship as blind fan-service. It feels like a square peg rammed into a round hole. My only hope now is that it’s either downplayed or there’s a logical way to dissolve it in the fourth season. There was, however, one hugely positive aspect of this season and that is the work done with Laurel. She is finally the compelling character that she should be. Her transition was probably my favorite through-line of the season.

4. Agent Carter: Season 1
Just when I think that Marvel’s issues with television may be a result of their cinematic-mindedness, this little gem hits the screens. All of the personality and soul that AoS lacks (to say nothing of set design) is made up for in spades here. Peggy Carter, last seen in the Captain America films, is an insanely interesting and likable lead. And she should be, Haley Atwell has played the role a few times now and clearly nothing of her personality is lost when shifted to the small screen. The show neatly avoids the trappings that Marvel’s other network television series falls into, in that it actually looks and feels like it belongs in the same world as its cinematic kin. The sets and locations feel like a vibrant, lived-in 1940’s and occasionally sections of the series feel like they could come straight off of the big screen. The only negative in my eyes is that the season is only eight episodes long. As such, the story can feel a little rushed in places, but this is mainly only an issue in retrospect. A second season was recently announced, and I can’t wait to see what kind of trouble Peggy and Jarvis get into. Could an appearance by Isaiah Bradley be possible?

3. Constantine: Season 1
The little show that could…and was cancelled anyway. Had this show been given a different time-slot (seriously, what was wrong with Thursday night?) I would likely be discussing what a great full season it had and how excited I was for season two. As it stands, it only got thirteen episodes. In that time, it established its lead character wonderfully and created a cool little world full of magic and arcane beings just under the surface of everyday life. It had a few issues here and there, but I still commend everyone involved for how well Hellblazer was adapted. “Feast of Friends” remains its best episode, and is incredibly re-watchable due to the strong performances from Matt Ryan and Jonjo O’Neill. Ryan will forever be Constantine in my mind and I hope, in some form, we get to see more of him (and Charles Halford’s Chas!) in the future.

2. The Flash: Season 1
Week to week, The Flash wasn’t always the best show on television. The plot of each episode tended to be a bit formulaic and for fans of the comics, none of the major reveals were very shocking. And yet, for those very same reasons, it was a near perfect adaptation of the the stories on which it’s based. This show completely accepted its roots and created a serialized, live-action comic book like I’ve never seen on television. About the only negetive thing I can think of for this show is the character of Iris West. She’s initially written as a typical damsel in distress, but even that is chipped away as the season goes on. All of the actors from Grant Gustin to Jesse Martin and John Wesley Shipp have been excellent. However, there are two that I must single out for praise. Tom Cavanagh had one of the most complex roles of his career with Wells/Thawne. He excellently balanced Yoda-like warmth and wisdom with sadistic pragmatism that the two sides of his persona demand. I’ve also been very taken with Wentworth Miller’s Leonard Snart. He plays the role as a villain who is shockingly self-aware and at times almost speaks for the audience. I’m very excited to see where this character goes in the future, since he’s been added to the roster of the aforementioned spin-off. So, The Flash was a great show, but believe it or not, there was a show that was even better…

1. Daredevil: Season 1
While Agent Carter was an improvement over AoS, in the lead up to this series there was really no way to tell how it would turn out. We could be living in a world where Affleck’s take on the character was considered the gold-standard. In reality, Netflix’s Daredevil shattered expectations so thoroughly that whatever speculation there was about this show seems quaint, looking back. Exploring the darker side of Marvel’s shared universe, the series follows the titular protagonist as he begins his crusade to rid Hell’s Kitchen of crime. The hero’s pathos are on full display but what’s more fascinating is how much of the villain’s motivations and backstory inform the narrative. I find it very fascinating that Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk is the romantic lead in the series. Few stories have this much faith in the character audiences are supposed to actively root against. Above all else, my favorite aspect of this show is the pacing. It’s no secret that I enjoy slow paced narratives that are punctuated with brutal violence. And yet, I find it incredibly surprising to see a superhero television series use this format. Daredevil is a remarkable breath of fresh air that proves Marvel can do more than just lighthearted entertainment and that DC doesn’t have a monopoly on dark and brooding heroes.

Yes, “concerned parents” have already
tried to get
Lucifer cancelled.
Looks better than
Man of Steel!

Aside from Constantine (man, that hurts) all of these shows will be returning next season. Not only that, but some other comic characters will be joining their ranks, making for an even MORE interesting season next year. Supergirl is coming to CBS, and based on the trailer it looks like it’s going to be quite a bit of fun. AMC is bringing us Preacher. Developed by Seth Rogen and Even Goldberg and based on the beloved Vertigo comic, it’s doubled down on actors from comic TV series’, poaching Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga from Agent Carter and Agents of SHIELD, respectively. Speaking of Marvel series, their Netflix programming is expanding to include Jessica Jones, based on the Marvel MAX series, Alias. There was also talk of an Agents of SHIELD spinoff centered on Mockingbird and Lance Hunter, but it seems to have been put on turnaround. The CW is expanding it’s “Flarrow” universe with Legends of Tomorrow starring reocurring heroes and villains from those shows. Meanwhile, Fox is bringing Neil Gaiman and Mike Carey’s Lucifer, also from a Vertigo comic, to their line-up. Finally, AMC is expanding The Walking Dead with a prequel series called Fear The Walking Dead. Honestly, I’m not sure where they’re going with that one.

Is there any stopping CW’s DC Universe?

That’s quite a line-up. Which will become television staples and which will go the way of my favorite trenchcoat-clad exorcist? Only time will tell. But one way or another, I’ll be there to write my ramblings about them. Bring on the fall television schedule!

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Comments
  1. td9993 says:

    Can't disagree more with you about Gotham. The acting had been supurb. My only real argument is the female cast. Fish and Barbara are either boring or eye candy. Just not needed.
    For me, the rankings would be :
    1) Agent Carter (mainly for the Era)
    2) Daredevil
    3) Walking Dead
    4) Agents of Shield
    5) Gotham
    6) Flash
    7) Arrow
    8) i Zombie
    9) Powers
    10) Constrantine
    Powers felt like a fan film, which sucks because I'm a big fan of the main star.
    Constantine left me bored. I stopped watching after the fourth episode. I just felt I had something else better to do.
    I still like Flash (more than Arrow) but CW just had to stop the teenage angst or at the very least show less.
    Daredevil made me like Arrow less when I saw what was possible.
    Walking Dead is still fun but it's a family fun where we sit around and laugh about it.
    Finally AoS, is still a favorite but I could less with the A Team feel. I want suits and tiess and conspiracies.

    Like

  2. C_P says:

    Thanks for commenting! It's interesting to me what a polarizing show Gotham is. I've had people explain, in detail, why it's the best show they've seen and also why it's the worst. I certainly don't think it's without merits, but it never really clicked with me. That said, I think “The Red Hood” is still an excellent episode and I will likely purchase the DVD just to re-watch that episode.

    With Daredevil and Agent Carter, Marvel sure stepped up their television game this season. I've recently read that AoS season 3 will introduce the Secret Warriors, which is interesting in theory but I'm curious to see how it plays out on the screen. Any of the new shows that you're looking forward to?

    Like

  3. td9993 says:

    Supergirl SHOULD interest me but I don't have a lot of faith with that channel.
    Can't wait for Daredevil season 2. I heard the Powers team said they learned a lot from season one so I hope that gets better.
    I also heard Agents will lead into Civil War. I like the idea but it needs to get more old school Iron Man Shield and less stragglers for me to care more.

    Like

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