If you turn on your television on any given the day of the week you’re sure to find a television show that is based on a comic book and its characters. This increase comic book based shows have reached a new height not seen in live action television before. These shows come in many different forms: amazing ones, good ones, campy ones, ones that follow “canon”, ones that have made the story their own, ones that make you think, ones that make you absolutely giddy, and ones that make you say “WTF did I just see?!?”. Over the course of the last few months, I have talked about the comic book based TV shows that I watch and now it is time to pit them against one another in the ultimate showdown. There will be blood and tears, some will be victorious and others will go in the pit.
Here we go! (Beware: This is spoiler filled and pretty long. So, grab yourself a drink.)
Honorary Mention: Lucifer
Initially, I was wary of Lucifer, considering it shared some similar elements with Gotham and Constantine, the prior I had given up on and the latter being cancelled last season. (RIP Constantine.) I knew that the character, Lucifer Morningstar (the Devil) was based on a character in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novel but that was the extent of my knowledge of the show.
I picked it up after hearing all the praise from many different individuals whom I shared similar viewing interests with. I was pleasantly surprised when I began watching the show. The characters were enigmatic and brilliantly portrayed; they drew you into the storyline. The diversity of the cast was also a huge bonus and one that other TV shows can learn from. The storylines were exceedingly well executed. The action, the suspense, the comedic dark humour, the characters, and all the different cases, all worked to drive the story forward. The execution of the storyline was one of my main concerns about the show, and if it were to have been executed in a different manner the entire show could have fallen flat on its face. Thankfully it didn’t. Lucifer’s first season only contained 13 episodes, which worked in its favour, I think. There were no moments of drag in the show, not much filler contained in its season-long arc. I was over the moon when the news hit that Lucifer was getting a second season. I, for one, am excited to see where season two takes us on the journey of the Lord of the Underworld on his Earthly sojourn.
WTF Happened?!? : The Flash
I had my doubts going into the sophomore season of The Flash. Its freshman season finale left me acerbic feeling and a little befuddled. But I decided to give it the good old college try and see how it would spin the events that occurred. And now, after completing the season, I can honestly say that I have regrets about giving it a try.
The biggest problem with The Flash this season has been its inconsistency. From the many diverging storylines, the main character arcs, the additions of new characters and their arcs, the time travelling, the multiverse jumping, the Big Bad Villain, and even the CGI graphics, everything was a muck and it made watching the episodes and the overall story being told tiresome to watch. The season was a hot mess. Iris West and Caitlin Snow had their individual storylines either pushed aside or subjugated to that of another. (I mean, seriously, Caitlin and Jay Garrick/Hunter Zolomon’s relationship was just stupid.) Cisco Ramon was the only character that showed any true character growth, which I am exceedingly grateful for and was well deserved. What was the point of Patty Spivot, and to a lesser degree, Jesse West? The storylines of Wally West and Henry Allen nearing the end of the season were a clear plagiarism of the storylines of Roy Harper and Moira Queen circa Arrow season 2, respectively. There was a Sharkman! A FREAKING SHARKMAN! There were other daft Earth-2 metahumans. Zoom’s scare-ability declined drastically as the season went on. And don’t get me started on the irrational reasoning for Barry’s actions in the season finale. Instead of having all these interconnected pieces all working together to tell this greater story, the whole show and season felt disjointed. Substance, actual tangible substance, was in short supply on The Flash this season and that is why I will not be returning for its third season. You can only have so many regrets.
Meh: Legends of Tomorrow
Legends of Tomorrow was one of the newest additions to the DCTV universe this season. It was lauded as the second coming for the DCTVU (on CW at least), full of action, suspense, heartbreak, etc., etc., by the network and its creators and it did not live up to that praise at all. Legends was jointly launched through Arrow and The Flash (the former doing majority of the work) culminating in the annual Flarrow crossover where Hawkman met Hawkwoman and everyone discovered there was an immortal baddie after them that was somehow resurrected by Malcolm Merlyn. (Reason #238 as to why Merlyn should be dead.) While the story arc of the first season was well scripted, it fell flat because portions its characters could not carry the weight of the story. How I see Legends in retrospect is it’s a C-grade Americanized Doctor Who wannabe with a Junior Doctor and eight companions that are 1/8 of Rose Tyler. (¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
The entire season had one overarching storyline, to find Vandal Savage, kill him and thus turning eight misfits into legends, and saving Rip Hunter’s family. That should have worked in the show’s favour, and it did for the most part. Where it fell flat was in the characters that Rip Hunter brought on to become Legends. While there were extremely thoughtful and well-portrayed characters like Leonard Snart, Martin Stein, and Sara Lance, you also had characters like Kendra Saunders and Carter Hall who were predisposed to carry out large swathes of the backstory and the show moving forward but who failed to do so. One word to describe the Hawks is that they were monotonous, which they really should not have been since they were time travelling and all. Jefferson Jackson, Ray Palmer, and Mick Rory were the swing characters, all three hitting highs and lows. (The reveal that Rory was the mercenary Chronos was a delight.) Vandal Savage had his own campiness to him, at times he was very villainous and other times he was just laughable. The show had a good overarching storyline but it was not maximized to the effort and premature praise that it received. I will not be returning to witness Legends sophomore season.
B+ Attempt: Supergirl
Supergirl roared onto our screens as the second newest addition to the DCTV universe this season. Kara Danvers is seemingly your typical early 20-something woman trying to figure out what it is that she is meant to do with her life, i.e. your typical millennial, except Kara’s not your typical millennial. Kara’s not actually human. She’s actually an alien from the planet Krypton with superhuman powers, oh, and she’s also Clark Kent’s (Superman) cousin whom she only talks to via instant messaging. Over the course of the season, we watch as Kara embraces her powers and a part of her identity that she has long kept hidden. We watch as she flourishes and falters as a hero and as Kara. It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for Supergirl’s freshman season as the show hit some stumbles and had some real highs.
Relationships were one of Supergirl’s biggest stumbling blocks and one of its best features. Human beings and even aliens from Krypton are social creatures. We crave interaction with others and Kara is no different. The best and strongest relationship Kara has is the one she has with Alex, her adoptive sister. It was because of an imminent danger to Alex’s life that Kara revealed her true nature to the world in order to save Alex. Alex’s position in the DEO provided her with the opportunity to protect Kara from both human and non-human threats. The love that these two sisters have for one another is evident throughout the series and is really one of its core relationships. Kara’s relationships with Cat Grant and Hank Henshaw (J’onn J’onzz) were another one of the shows highlights. Kara had different relationships with Cat and Hank but both are symbiotic in nature. You watched as Kara flourished in her interactions with the both Cat and Hank and vice versa and was really enjoyable to watch.
The relationship stumbling blocks on Supergirl started early on. We all know that Kara is Clark’s cousin, it wasn’t a fact that was kept hidden, which is where the show falters. The show is about Kara’s rise as Supergirl, as a hero, and while a relationship with Superman is important it’s not as important as the relationships we get to see versus the one that we don’t get to see. Saddling Kara with the being Clark’s cousin and constantly referring to this vague relationship didn’t benefit the show or the protagonist. It’s a show about Kara; let it be about Kara and not the older cousin that gets all the accolades and praise that we can’t legally see. The romance part of the show was also where it wobbled. We went from a triangle (Kara, Winn, & James) to a square (Kara, Winn, James & Lucy) back to a triangle (Kara, James, & Adam) to another triangle (Kara, James, & Lucy) to just Kara and James. Personally, I didn’t feel that any of the relationships added to the whole scheme of the show. Do I like romance in the TV shows I watch? Yes, yes I do. Do I always think they are necessary? No, not always and that was the case when it came to Supergirl. Will we see more of it in season 2? More than likely and I hope it works out better than it did in season 1. Supergirl is probably going to get a little chillier in season 2 as it moves production from LA to Vancouver to match its switch from CBS to the CW. Whether I will be returning to Supergirl is still up in the air.
The Oldie But The Goodie: Arrow
Arrow began their fourth season in a place we never expected Ivy Town, a suburban haven with your own complimentary nosy neighbour and Oliver Queen, the master of crockpot cooking, preparing to propose to the love of his life. It was a brilliant start, something entirely different from any of Arrow’s previous season premieres. Other equally brilliant parts were the in-depth look into the lives of Felicity Smoak and John Diggle, two characters that have taken a backseat in order to the push out masked vigilantes. Unfortunately, as the season went on the cracks in Arrow’s façade began to show, cracks that need to be sealed before the changing tides begin to seep in.
While the cracks were not large schisms like they could have been, they do exist. Arrow, being the oldest in the DCTV universe, was used once again as a jumping board to launch the Legends of Tomorrow, which did them no favours. The crossover event was where the cracks in the façade really began to show. The reveal of Oliver’s illegitimate child and how it was handled was poorly done and did little to create the desired drama that the writers and producers were aiming for. Instead, we were left feeling like Oliver had digressed in his journey towards becoming the hero and the man that we know he can be. Oliver’s fatherly actions weren’t the only one that reeked. The relationship between Malcolm Merlyn and Thea Queen has been drawn out for the course of the last two seasons. It’s a relationship that is extremely toxic for Thea and one that needs to end sooner rather than later for Thea and ours’ sake as the storyline becomes monotonously repetitive. The flashbacks this season can be described succinctly in one word, dreadful. The flashbacks were badly placed in each episode, dragging down each episode instead of complimenting it as it was supposed to. All of this also added to the diminished time that could have been spent getting a better look into the life of Diggle and Felicity, both of whose arcs were expanded upon this season but not to the point that matches their significance in the show and to Oliver. Season 5 of Arrow will mark its entry into the 100 episodes club, fingers crossed that it’ll bring more of the grounded grittiness, the friendships and relationships, the action, and flashbacks that have made Arrow stand out from the rest of the pack.
Ensemble Excellence: Agents of SHIELD
Season three of Agents of SHIELD is arguably their best season so far. Filled with twist and turns, action and suspense, moments of heartbreak and triumph, laughter and love. Moments that made our jaws’ drop and moments that we could not believe were finally happening. (Who didn’t cheer when FitzSimmons finally crossed the event horizon?) There were Inhumans, HIVE, Hydra, the ATF, MCU Easter eggs, and of course, the agents of SHIELD. One of the core strengths of AoS is in its ensemble cast and the writers and producers’ ability to balance that with each characters’ individual storyline. Every main character had either episodes or an episode focused on their individual story arc and how it tied into the grander story arc of this season. Few shows are able to achieve that kind of balance that makes watching such a large cast of characters entertaining and draws you back for more.
Essentially, AoS had two separate but still interconnected story arcs this season. The first half of the season was the search and rescue of Jemma Simmons from the alien planet that she was transported to through that giant rock in season two’s finale. Jemma Simmons and Leo Fitz, respectively played by Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain De Caestecker, shone in this first half. FitzSimmons, together and separately, started stealing parts of my heart from the moment they arrived on screen and having increasingly stolen more and more with every season. You could feel the pulsating anguish that filled Fitz as he tried to find a way to bring Simmons home. You felt every emotion that Simmons cycled through on that alien planet in the episode “4,722 Hours”. (One of the best hours of TV this season.) The entire story arc was incredibly written, paced, and portrayed while maintaining that balance with individual storylines like Coulson and May’s.
The other half of the season was focused on the consequences of Coulson’s actions on the alien planet and the Inhumans. Ward death and resurrection as HiveWard was a brilliant device that made Ward’s character even more deadly and sinister than he had been in before. The Inhuman storyline, especially concerning Skye and her relationship with not only herself but also those around her, really brought home the different dynamics and powers at play in the AoS universe. Skye’s storyline has had the most concentration so far, it’s a good storyline but one that I hope changes and becomes more dynamic as we move forward. The loss of Bobbi and Hunter was a blow to the team. (Hopefully, we’ll be able to see them in the next since their spin-off isn’t happening.) The flash-forward that we saw at the beginning of the second half of the season paid off brilliantly in the finale. The white-knuckle suspense and fear that one of your favourites could possibly be the fallen agent made AoS’s finale one of the best this season. The death of HiveWard and Lincoln closed that chapter of AoS and the flash-forward at the end of the finale opened the next chapter of Agents of SHIELD and I cannot wait to see it.
The Best of Them All: Agent Carter
Agent Carter takes the title of the best comic book based television show this season. It was a marvellous season from beginning to end, encompassing everything you would expect from a show with a comic book history and many things that you would not. Agent Carter separated itself from the rest of the pack squarely on the back of its title character, Peggy Carter. While season one gave us a look into Peggy’s life post-Steve Rogers and her struggle to be recognized as a fully-fledged agent in the SSR, season two allowed us to dive deeper into Peggy’s psyche, her history, and her continued push to do what is right in a world that was so very grey. Season two saw Peggy take on a new position, a new location, and an entirely different type of villain that was not seen in any of the other comic book based TV shows this season, a woman. There was suspense, action, intrigue, romance, heartbreak, new and delightful characters, and Peggy Carter showing the world once again that she is the director of her own worth.
The light versus dark motif underscored much the overarching storyline and characters this season but there was also a nuanced complexity to it. No character was completely light and no character was completely dark, they were all multidimensional. All of the characters, Peggy included, were driven by emotions that every human being desire, to be accepted, to be loved, to be in control of one’s own destiny, to have a voice, to be able to think independently, to be able to be both weak and strong in a world that often forces you to choose one over the other. You sympathized with every character that you saw on screen, even if they were the villain à la Whitney Frost, which made her the best kind of villain. You watched as Peggy struggled with the losses that have befallen her, all while trying to save the world and stop the bad guys from destroying in with Zero Matter. You also watched as she triumphed again and again and again. You watched as characters like Jarvis, Sousa, Jack, Jason, and even Howard struggle to find their way in a world that was both made by and for them, and the world that worked against them. Agent Carter, more so than any of the other shows, delved into feminism and racism and the strides that were made and the strides the still have to be made throughout the season and did so in a way that seamlessly worked with the story they were telling.
Some of the best moments of Agent Carter were also some of their most intimate. Many of the scenes between Peggy and Jarvis revealed so much of who they were and who they were becoming and made us fall in love with the two of them even more. All the character interactions, whether the characters were opposing one another or working together, were so dynamic and captivating that you wanted to see more and more of them. The parallels between Peggy Carter and Whitney Frost could be seen throughout the season, especially when it came to their individual’s flashbacks and the choices that both of them made when it came furthering their lives going forward. Who wasn’t invested in the flourishing romance between Peggy and Sousa? The two of them had this chemistry, a quieter one albeit, but still this sizzle that ignited the screen every time they were together. Even the addition of the new characters like Jason Wilkes and Ana Jarvis added this new and refreshing dynamic to the show. And who’s jaw didn’t drop when Jack when shot at the end of that cliffhanger finale?
Unfortunately, for us, Agent Carter was not renewed for a third season so we may never find out who shot Jack, or how Peggy and Sousa’s relationship continued on, or whether Jarvis and Ana would become parents another way, or find out if Michael Carter is indeed alive (I think he’s alive), and how Peggy helps to form the agency we now know as SHIELD. Agent Carter gave its viewers all they could as for in a television show and I am thankful but sad to say that we only got two seasons of it.
Thank you for reading this ultimate Superhero Showdown where I pitted all the comic book based television shows I was watched this season against one another. I hope you found it at least a little bit enjoyable. Which show was your favourite of the season and why? What shows will you be watching when they return in the fall? And which shows will you not be watching when they return in the fall?