10. Black Lightning
The creator of Black Lightning himself thinks this show is brilliant, and he said that while slamming the character’s current comic gig, so he’s not just hyping his creation.
Every CW superhero show tries to create a family among the main hero and their team. None earn them like Black Lightning, where the team is a family. Most of this show works like gangbusters. Tobias Whale made for a better Kingpin than Kingpin; his rivalry with Black Lightning felt instantly lived-in; Anissa’s desire to help her community, even through unsavoury means, was a fun subplot; Lynn’s struggle to save the youths infected with unstable powers by the government gave her something to do besides wife/mother stuff; it’s all good, and the mini-arc structure keeps things moving.
Just… two things that really didn’t work, one big, one little. The little one: wow, this is not the time for Jefferson Pierce to cede the job of the school principal to a poorly suited white man just because Jefferson lacks ideological purity, that is a terrible lesson going into the 2020 elections. And the big one… so much of the second act depends on Jennifer’s relationship with track star-turned-Whale henchman Khalil/Painkiller, and it just did not land.
…How did they pull this off? Robin saying “Fuck Batman,” extra-emo Raven, Starfire’s less than impressive outfit, Beast Boy can only turn into a tiger… I was braced for an Inhumans level train wreck, and yet I couldn’t help unironically enjoying it. And am eager to see where season two goes, especially with Deathstroke and his family coming. The cast mostly sell this edgier take on the characters, especially Raven and Starfire-as-Pam-Grier, the action is rock-solid (if dark), Hawk and Dove’s origin episode was unexpectedly moving, they introduced Donna Troy and she’s great, the villains were effective, including the best Obscure Outsiders Nemeses of the year, and yes, there’s competition for that somehow…
Now if only Dick Grayson had pulled his head out of his own ass just a little more often, instead of brooding about his past as Robin for a whole season with only a slight tease towards becoming Nightwing. That’s their weak link right there. Dick Grayson is a moper and it gets old.
Sure Wilson Fisk became less interesting the more powerful he became, and sure that meant the central arc was a bit of a drag with an unearned happy ending, but… so much of this season reminded us why we loved the now-ended Defenders franchise. The performances were rock solid, the action great, and while the final fight between Daredevil, Fake Daredevil, and Kingpin is controversial (I thought it worked thematically, as Kingpin’s rebuilt life is literally destroyed around him), certainly the prison break one-shot fight was a perfect final Hallway Fight.
Yes, the central Daredevil vs Kingpin arc was severely lacking, especially compared to season one, or Black Lightning, or pretty much anything above it on this list… but so much of this season was a reminder of what Marvel Netflix in general and Daredevil specifically did right that I can’t slag it for the one thing it did wrong.
7. Custodians of the Chronology
No, wait, that’s not right…
7. Sirens of Space-Time
Nope, still wrong…
7. DC’s Puppets of Tomorrow
Closer, but still not quite…
7. Legends of Tomorrow
If you didn’t get that bit, it just means you need to start watching this show.
Okay, first, the few issues that knocked Legends out of the top five for the first time since the rocky first season… well, the issues aside from “Complete lack of Arthur Darville and Wentworth Miller for the first time,” that is. Number one… there were a lot of hints about Neron and Hank Heywood’s possibly sinister plans in the first half of the season, but looking back, by the time we hit the winter hiatus (which was super long) we still didn’t have a plot yet. And number two, when we came back from hiatus, they sank a lot of time into Mona Wu’s origin story, and she just felt so… unnecessary. A lot of time that could have been going to better characters was burned on a weak character the show just didn’t need.
Also, they almost never wear their super suits, which is a particular issue with Ray Palmer, because his suit is his power. Look, that one feels like a quibble, but I slag Marvel Netflix for it all the time, so here we are.
We still had some delightful time travel shenanigans, now with James Taylor loving minotaurs and fairy godmothers and the puppet of a beloved ex-teammate possessed by a ghost voiced by Paul Reubens. We had Back to the Future’s Tom Wilson, Matt Ryan’s John Constantine (can’t believe I didn’t honourably mention him as a lead…), a Bollywood musical number, Ray Palmer’s Legends-based Cards Against Humanity knock-off, an actually charming return appearance by Vandal Savage, the incredible time-warping fall finale that provided all those fake shows up there, and the best “Remember we’re doing Crisis on Infinite Earths next year” cameo by the Monitor of any Arrowverse finale.
They hit some bumps this season, but this show is a sheer gem. I keep telling people, it’s the best Arrowv–oh wait, hang on…
Look, I love the Legends as much as anyone but Supergirl was killing it this year.
Lots of shows took on fear and hate this season, but none so directly and passionately as Supergirl, in which the thinly-veiled alt-right begins to take over America, a problem Supergirl can’t punch away. And they did it great. Melissa Benoist somehow found new highs to her take on Kara/Supergirl, Sam Witwer nailed villain Agent Liberty, the whole supporting cast was great, and they even made an “all-knowing mastermind” plot I actually liked, revealing that Lex Luthor had been manipulating events all season, but not making him infallible.
Really my only note is that the “But killing Nazis is also wrong” plot with Manchester Black was… I don’t know, I didn’t love it.
This was quite probably Supergirl’s best season, and was up there with the best Arrowverse seasons in general.
5. The Tick
We’ve once again hit the “hard to think of big flaws” part of the Top 10, people.
Sure I couldn’t help but note that the Tick himself kind of got pushed to the side, and that Arthur’s arc wasn’t as strong this year, but everyone on this show is such a delight that it’s hard to be too angry about that. Superian parodying Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie, Dot and Overkill working together while Dot discovered her powers, John Hodgman as Acting Commander Agent Doctor Agent Hobbes (“It’s all of that?” as Arthur put it), the origin of Danger Boat, Dot and Overkill having a stealth dance party in a crowded lobby…
This show was a real treat, and only being 90-95% as good as its first season is nothing to sneeze at. I am so mad that it’s over.
4. The Umbrella Academy
Why did nobody tell me about this comic sooner. Why did I have to learn about this show from goddamn Instagram ads.
Why is this show so addictive? I’ll try to sum up. It’s a great deconstruction of the “Wealthy genius builds super-team of young misfits” trope, which is a messed up idea if you think about it even medium hard. Every member of the Umbrella Academy (even the dead one) is complex, good in ways and bad in other ways. Nobody’s simple. Even the time travelling assassins (no time to explain just watch it), while demonstrably the bad guys at first, have layers and complexity, and in the end, I couldn’t help but root for Hazel a little. The action is great, the cinematography excellent, the opening montage set to Lindsay Sterling’s Phantom of the Opera medley tells us so much about the world we’re entering without speaking a word. And the cast is top-notch.
Sure the twist with Vanya isn’t exactly hard to see coming, and man I wanted to punch Luther in his stupid bad-decision face by the end of the season, but hoo doggy this show was gripping. I cannot wait to see where they go with season two.
A year after Fox pulled the plug right when things were about to hit a new level, Netflix gifted us with ten new episodes of Bible deconstructing, crime solving, devilish fun, and man oh man they made sure to deliver their best ten hours. An intriguing twist for Dr. Linda, Amenadiel, and Maze; Ella battling a crisis of faith; Dan’s struggles with grief and anger; and best of all, Chloe finally knows the truth about Lucifer… just in time for Eve to sneak out of heaven to reconnect with her devil ex. There’s something so delightfully human about the celestial plot this year… Lucifer’s ex comes back into his life, causing him to backslide to his old ways. Which is a delightfully relatable story for the King of Hell and original sinner… the person from your past who triggers a regression to a simpler time in your life, even if it means becoming someone you’ve worked hard to move on from.
Being freed from Fox’s broadcast standards allowed them to slip in more butts (mostly but not exclusively Lucifer’s), a little mild profanity here and there (still no f-bombs)… but they still smash-cut to black for commercial breaks? That’s weird, but I guess when you’ve been writing a certain rhythm for three years, you stick to it. That weirdness aside, they delivered incredible performances and ten fun, compelling hours of TV.
I love this show. I need more now.
There is no show like Preacher, and this was their best season.
Finally, each lead had their own plotline, and was given a chance to shine in it. Jesse’s struggles to get out from under his grandmother, Tulip’s attempts to prove she isn’t cursed by her bloodline to always screw everything up, and Cassidy, heartbroken over Tulip, falls in with the vampire cult les Enfants du Sang. Plus God’s machinations against Jesse; Starr’s attempts to prevent his bosses at the Grail from starting Armageddon so that the super inbred descendant of Jesus, Humperdoo, can be put in charge of what’s left; and a better merging of the Grail and Angelville than I even hoped for.
Sure, it takes a long time to catch back up with Eugene, the Saint of Killers, and… I still can’t believe he’s been a credited series regular for two years… Adolf Hitler, but that’s because there’s so much going on with Jesse, Tulip, Cassidy, the Grail, and Angelville that you only think to miss them during the opening credits.
Damn it I’m not going to be ready to say goodbye in just ten more episodes, this show is great, The Boys had better fill the void it leaves.
1. Doom Patrol
I think by now we all knew where this was going. Like when Return of the King won every Oscar it was nominated for, and by the time we reached Best Picture nobody really thought Lost in Translation was going to pull an upset.
Doom Patrol is the best. It’s weird in all the right ways, nailing the should-be-unfilmable weirdness Grant Morrison brought to the team in ways I never would have guessed without sacrificing the rich and deep emotional journeys they put all of these broken oddballs through. All the leads are incredible, Alan Tudyk is a sheer sinister joy as Mr. Nobody, plus a hilarious Beard Hunter, Flex Mentallo, and the one I barely dared to hope I’d see, Danny the Street.
Doom Patrol is the BEST.
Hm. That’s five years running that the number one slot has gone to a show in its first season. Wonder if that trend will continue. Well… what new comic TV shows are coming now…
Ehhh… I’m looking forward to it myself, but I doubt it…
Also, the CW will have shows starring a Katy Keene and a Kate Kane? They are just barreling towards a misunderstanding…
Oh. Yes. That could do it.
Well, with this year’s rankings done, I can now rest for a bit, and– nope, gotta catch up on iZombie, Agents of SHIELD, and Krypton. Oooh, and Legion’s back!
It never ends.
Join us next time for travel stories! Remember those?