Comic TV 2016 Part Three: Beginning the wrap-up

I would do another Beyond the Capes section but there’s a lot to cover already and it mostly just would’ve been about Limitless. I liked Limitless and there aren’t a lot of venues to talk about it. But anyway… let’s begin the rankings.

11. Gotham

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I just… I can’t. I hit a point back in October where I just couldn’t be bothered. Limitless is canceled but this one just keeps going… how is that justice…

10. Lucifer

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Premise: Lucifer Morningstar, having abandoned his post in Hell, helps LAPD detective Chloe Decker solve murders (to her chagrin) while angel Amenadiel tries to get him back to Hell.

I only read one issue of the comic this is based on, but I don’t think there’s any way to hear “A spinoff of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman is reimagined as a Castle knock-off” and not think it’s a terrible idea. And yet… there is something there. Most of the appeal is in Tom Ellis’ performance, but there’s a cleverness to the writing at times, and Lucifer’s relationship with his sterner brother Amenadiel is entertaining. Especially in the last two episodes.

Strengths: Tom Ellis. The mysteries-of-the-week aren’t 100% predictable. Lucifer and Amenadiel’s weird sibling rivalry.

Weaknesses: One more time for the kids in the bleachers… it is a knock-off of Castle in which the Devil helps the LAPD solve crimes. Nothing I say can change that.

High Point: #TeamLucifer/Take Me Back to Hell. The two-part finale blows the doors off. Finally, the Amenadiel/Lucifer fight and buddy cop movie we deserved. And a potentially interesting (possibly terrible) twist for next year.

Low Point: Manly Whatnots. Lucifer decides the best way to get over his fascination with his partner Chloe Decker is to double his efforts to bang her. It gets uncomfortable and embraces the weaker aspects of Lucifer’s character.

Tips for next season: More mythology. And less running in circles where “Why does Lucifer’s invulnerability wear off when Chloe’s around.” Also, could one of the human characters figure out he’s not just pretending to be the Devil? Just one? That has to happen eventually, doesn’t it?

9. Agent Carter

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Premise: Peggy Carter transfers to the LA branch of the Strategic Scientific Reserve to investigate a new case… one her superiors don’t want her investigating.

I get that this is still an important show to a lot of people. Agent Carter was proudly feminist and examined the institutional sexism of a period of time conservatives love to call a golden age. But none of that changes the fact that the show lost a few steps this year. The “woman in a man’s world” angle got moved to the villain, so that “woman succeeding in a male-driven group” becomes something to root against. More problematic? “Peggy Carter goes rogue from the SSR because, as a woman, they don’t take her seriously” worked like gangbusters. “Peggy Carter goes rogue from the SSR because they’re being manipulated by the Arena Club (what Agents of SHIELD viewers recognize as a branch of Hydra)” is a lesser copy of that. And it weakens Carter as a character, because if she already lived through the SSR being manipulated by the Arena Club (Hydra’s most successful branch, they seem to already run the US), how on Earth did she miss SHIELD being infiltrated by Hydra Proper? But we know she did. We saw Winter Soldier. Also… it’s a little odd that after a season based around establishing Peggy’s worth beyond being Captain America’s girlfriend, so much of this season revolved around her love life.

Strengths: Peggy’s relationship with Edwin Jarvis. Their oh-so-British banter remained wonderful. The newly revealed and delightful Ana Jarvis. The continued employment of Enver Gjokaj. Chief Thompson’s turn back to the light in the final episodes.

Weaknesses: The Arena Club. Never managing to call Whitney Frost “Madame Masque.” Having ratings that low but still ending on a cliffhanger. Forcing a female lead into a romantic triangle. Spending one whole episode on race relations in the 50s then forgetting about it.

High Point: The Atomic Job. For one episode, Agent Carter became a comic heist flick.

Low Point: A Little Song and Dance. Despite a fun opening musical number, this episode ends with Peggy Carter becoming an “acting tough” version of the simpering girlfriend. Shortly after chastising her ally/would-be suitor Agent Sousa for letting his feelings for her compromise a mission, she allows her feelings for scientist Jason Wilkes to compromise an even more vital mission, risking basically the whole world to protect a man who asked her to let him die. She is not shown the irony.

Tips for next season: At the time of writing there is no next season, but we live in an era of unexpected revivals, the fan campaign to save it is passionate, and frankly, Agent Carter always belonged on Netflix anyway. Short seasons, one plotline, it’s a better fit there than on broadcast. So if the miracle comes… don’t waste it. Found SHIELD. Get it done. You can’t blow this on a third “Peggy Carter goes rogue from the SSR” plot. Two was clearly too many. Imagine a season arc where Peggy reassembles the team from the now-disbanded SSR to solve the cliffhanger from season two, and in the process they become SHIELD. Now that would work.

8. Legends of Tomorrow

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Premise: Rogue Time Master Rip Hunter unites a team of heroes and villains to bring down immortal villain Vandal Savage before he can conquer the world… and kill Rip’s wife and son.

I’ll admit… this one took some time to find its groove. But it was a team adventure featuring some of the best recurring characters of Flash and Arrow, featuring Arthur Darville as a time traveler and Victor Garber as… don’t even care. Love him in everything. That said, Vandal Savage (one of DC’s upper B-list villains who they blended with uninspiring 2000s era Hawkman/Hawkgirl villain Hath-Set) never really clicked as a great villain. And not all of the cast are on Victor Garber’s level. But in the back half, the show really took off. And they managed some impressive twists.

Strengths: Everything/anything Captain Cold. Arthur Darville and Victor Garber. Jonah Hex. The final arc. Wentworth Miller managing to out-badass James Spader with the line “There are no strings on me.”

Weaknesses: Reddit made a running gag out of how often Ray Palmer screwed up. Their habitual abuse of the timeline. Vandal Savage being a lovelorn Egyptian rather than a conquest-hungry caveman. Kendra/Hawkgirl and her frequent reminders of having just been a barista.

High Point: Destiny/Legendary. Legends wraps strong with a strike against the Time Masters, an impressive fight against Savage (in three time periods at once), and a name-drop that has me at the very least excited for another round.

Tips for next season: The last two minutes have my attention. Don’t screw it up. Also maybe make the next female Legend a little stronger than Hawkgirl ended up being.

7. Agents of SHIELD

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Premise: The Agents of SHIELD work with (sometimes against) the government to deal with the rising number of Inhumans caused by a leak of Terrigen, while a branch of Hydra schemes to bring back the One Inhuman to Rule Them All from his exile on a distant planet.

Agents of SHIELD still has two problems. They still burn through plot a little too fast, especially right before the fall finale. A lot of interesting stories got wrapped up in manners too fast and unsatisfying in order to clear the deck before the hiatus. But that’s still better than season one, in which they waited for 16 episodes to even have an interesting plot. Second… they still try to connect themselves to the movies when the movies don’t care about them. They’ve had four movie tie-in episodes in three years and only one of them is good.

Strengths: After three seasons and five radical changes to his character, they finally made a decent villain out of Grant Ward, even if it did involve killing him first. Fitz and Simmons coming together was adorable. Their fight scenes remain impressive.

Weaknesses: Apparently nobody told them that the Civil War movie wasn’t about registering powered people. Guess they wrote their tie-in based on the comics. Like I said, they tossed out too many interesting plots at the fall break. The much-ballyhooed Secret Warriors we’d been promised since the end of season two took forever to show up and were seriously underwhelming. Lincoln the electric Inhuman was never interesting as a character, although they found a way to make his powers interesting to watch in the end. They wrote out two of their best characters way too early for a spinoff that didn’t happen. Although, that said… their cast did need some pruning.

High Point: 4,722 Hours. The show breaks from their format to tell us about how Simmons stayed alive on a hostile planet for… well, it’s right there in the name.

Low Point: Emancipation. The aforementioned Civil War tie-in episode written by people who clearly weren’t shown the Civil War script, ending in a fight between Inhuman heavyweights Hive and Lash that should have been epic but was ultimately disappointing.

Tips for next season: The movie division doesn’t care about you, so stop caring about them. You likely can’t tie-in to Guardians of the Galaxy, so don’t bother trying to tie-in to Dr. Strange. Do like the DCWverse, find a branch of Marvel Kevin Feige doesn’t want (he is still hoarding all the big name Inhumans), and go to town. And do the right thing… bring back Bobbi and Hunter.

6. Arrow

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Premise: After giving up life as the Arrow, Oliver Queen finds himself drawn back to Starling City (now renamed Star City) to join again with his old team behind a new name: the Green Arrow. Just in time to try and prevent magic-powered Damien Darhk and his friends in HIVE from destroying what’s left of the city.

Arrow’s fourth season had its highs and lows. Was it as good as second season? No. Was it still an improvement on season three? Yes. Could they have toned down the Oliver/Felicity drama? Sure. Was it as bad as the malcontents in the Arrow subreddit claim? No. Is anything as bad as that toxic wad of Felicity-hating shitposters claims? No. Screw those guys. There are no actual Arrow fans on r/arrow anymore. The show managed to bounce back from a muddled and emo third season with a more focused (eventually) villain plot, better use of most of its cast, and while Curtis Holt is not quite Ray Palmer (and may never be Mr. Terrific, who by the way is named Michael Holt, why do they do that), he was a solid addition to the cast.

Strengths: Damien Darhk. Curtis. The fight sequences. Oliver beginning to work his head out of his own ass. Finally making good use of Thea as a character. Managing to still have an impact with their fourth major death in four years. And of course, John Constantine.

Weaknesses: While I stand by my dismissal of r/arrow and those who lurk there… I will admit that the Oliver/Felicity drama became a little much this year. Also, the flashbacks are beginning to struggle for relevance. Isn’t a little weird that everything that happens to Oliver in the present mirrors something that happened to him precisely five years ago? And a non-trivial portion of their run-time up until the fall finale was gobbled up in prepping characters for Legends of Tomorrow. But then, the main villain plot never really comes into focus until the fall finale. Hell, we spent the first nine episodes of season two thinking Brother Blood was the main villain…

High point: Haunted. John Constantine fit right into the ensemble. More of that, please.

Low point: Broken Hearts. “Olicity” drama hits its peak as they fake a wedding to lure out a villain targeting happy couples. I’m pretty sure Lois and Clark did this plot better back in the 90s, and that is not something I want to say again.

Tips for next season: Pick a side, people. Oliver and Felicity are together or they’re not. Make a choice, stick to it, and find your drama somewhere other than Felicity’s issues with Oliver’s secrets. Also, consider it a red flag when your episode summaries open with “Felicity and friends,” not “Oliver and the team.” And maybe we can wrap up the flashbacks? I feel you trying to stretch out Oliver’s five years in Hell/on the island beyond five seasons’ worth of flashbacks, and I ask you to reconsider. And please, please, please… we need to see Diggle react to Supergirl, given that he still hasn’t wrapped his head around the Flash.

Soon… a look at the top five.

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