Superheroes have seen a huge rise in popularity in recent years thanks to the Dark Knight trilogy and the successful implementation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Whether you like it or not, the superhero genre has moved from the exclusive domain of nerd culture right into mainstream entertainment. With that shift to the forefront of entertainment, several shows about superheroes have been launched recently, a number of which were released this past season.
Ten years ago it would have been impossible to make a list ranking this kind of show. Well, it wouldn’t have been impossible, it just would have been a very short list. (Coming in first and last place – drumroll please – Smallville! Before I get a ton of messages, I’m sure I’m forgetting something; it’s just a joke.) But today, I’m happy to announce that there are plenty of superhero shows to put into a best/worst list, and I have done so.
Remember, this list is definitive and in no way influenced by any personal bias. The rankings on this list are not opinions, as they are purely objective and 100% demonstratively factual.
Before I start with the list, I have to make this disclaimer: as of this time, I have not seen Agent Carter (I plan to!) or Constantine (I probably won’t!), which is why neither appear on the list. If I haven’t seen it, how could I possibly judge it? That being said, from what I have seen, this is the undisputableranking of superhero shows from worst to best:
I was hesitant to even put this on this list since it’s not really a superhero show, but since it draws so heavily from the Batman mythos, I felt it should have a spot. More crime noir than comic book, this show is great if you like Easter Eggs, because that’s pretty much the entire connection to the comics.
The pitch for this show is “Batman without Batman”, which is like “ice cream without ice cream”, or “roller coasters without roller coasters”, or really, any “awesome thing x without awesome thing x”. The idea seems to be something along the lines of, “Hey, you know this really cool thing? Let’s do a show about everything but this really cool thing.”
For the life of me, I don’t understand who this show is supposed to appeal to. If you’re a fan of comic books, it’s a mediocre crime drama that is somewhat entertaining at times, filled with references to the comics. If you’re not a fan of comic books, it’s a mediocre crime drama that is somewhat entertaining at times.
The aspects of the show that deal with Gotham’s underworld are the best, and watching the slippery Penguin (played to creepy perfection by Robin Lord Taylor) weasel out of one tough
situation after another can be quite entertaining. The rest of the show is, and I’m attempting to put this as articulately as possibly, just “blehhhh”.
This season of Arrow wasn’t good. As a huge fan of the show, I wanted this to not be true, I wanted to find excuses, I wanted to rationalize it away (I mean, it is its third season after all, so after a while it gets more difficult to tell stories, plus some of the people left to work on Flash sojust stop). The sad fact of the matter is that, regardless of the reasons, it just wasn’t very good.
I think the worst part is that up till now, it had been great, and even at the start, this season looked like it was going to be so good.The shocking development at the start of the season had me on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next episode. Plus, we were finally going to see the big man whose existence had only been hinted at, whose name had only been whispered in fear Ra’s al Ghul.
It could have been a gloriously action packed, shocking, twisting and turning season. Instead, what we got was a slow paced, plodding story that focused more on Oliver’s angsty relationships which also had the side effect of turning Felicity, one of the joys of watching in previous seasons, into a romantic plot tumor. This season also introduced us to Ray Palmer, aka the Atom, and while I personally didn’t dislike him as much as a large portion of the fan base did, he did take an awful lot of time away from the story I wanted to see.
Highlights for me:
The season opener was great and the end was truly unexpected.
The main story this season was actually pretty good, when it was actually addressed instead of everyone standing around talking about how scary Ra’s and the League of Assassins were.
The midseason break was spectacular and I was stunned at the end.
The Suicide Squad episode, while not as good as the previous one, was a muchneeded break from the unrelenting brooding of the rest of the season. Plus, it’s alwaysnice to see Diggle in the leading role.
Getting rid of a certain cast member who never really seemed to do all that much wasa good move, in my opinion. If you’re not going to give this person a reason to bethere, let’s go ahead and write the character out.
The season finale, while not perfect, did a good job of tying everything up andproviding a sense of closure.
Agents of SHIELD
This season had an interesting structure: there were two arcs introduced and resolved, one before the midseason break, and one after, both of which contributed to the larger seasonal arc. It was ambitious, and looking back, I’m impressed with how well it turned out. If you had told me at the outset, that this season was going to be as good as it wound up being, I would have been incredibly skeptical.
This season had mystery, intrigue, action, unexpected turns, plus Kyle MacLachlan, who stole every scene he was in. What initially looked like another SHIELD vs Hydra season turned out to be so much more with the addition of multiple factions and individuals within those factions with personal agendas, shifting allegiances, rogue agents, and wild cards.
One of the downsides this season, is that with all of the double crosses and team switching, only a few characters got any significant development. So while it was cool that “character x” is now on the side of “faction y”, it didn’t hit as hard as it would have had these characters been a little more fleshed out. That’s not to say they were flat characters, and to be honest, I think they did a decent job of character development given how plot driven this season was, but I do wish there had been slightly more.
Minor complaints aside (odd pacing at times and not a much character development as I personally would have liked), it was a solid season to an improving show.
The Flash’s inaugural season was nothing short of spectacular, and if I had to pick a single adjective to describe it, it would be “fun”, and trust me, I’ll be using that word a lot. (I’m about to throw out a bunch of stock phrases and expressions, all of which will sound like puns, but I assure you, that’s not the intent. And yes I know, the phrase “no pun intended” exists, but it really means the opposite, right? I mean, whenever someone says “no pun intended”, isn’t what they really mean, “hey that thing I just said was a pun and we should both take the time to acknowledge it”? That’s not what this is. Well this detour has certainly gone on long enough, so back to the topic at hand.)
The Flash is a spinoff of Arrow, the third season of which was lower on this list. Because of this, a lot of the groundwork for The Flash was done on a few episodes of Arrow last season, which helped the pilot episode be a little more interesting than your usual exposition dump premiere. It still had to introduce new characters, establish relationships, and start up some plot points, but it was still fun. Even the first few setup episodes didn’t really feel like hurdles to overcome in order to get to the good stuff, which sadly is the case for many shows. The
From start to finish, The Flash was fast paced and didn’t shy away from tackling some of the more outlandish aspects of the comic book on which it was based. Going in, I was expecting him to barely master his speed in the first season as a whole, and while there was a general focus on him getting faster over the course of the season, it didn’t prevent the show from tackling other things such as running up walls, vibrating through solid objects, and even time travel! Also, aside from the seasonal story arc, plot points were addressed and dealt with rather quickly as opposed to dragging things out just to fill time and episode count, which is a refreshing change of pace.
All this is not to say that the show was perfect, though. Yes, the show was wellcrafted enough that it always felt like it was moving along toward the conclusion, there was the occasional filler episode. This is easily forgivable though, because over a 23 episode season, a few filler episodes are to be expected, and even they were decent. I mean, let’s be real, one of the filler episodes was about Gorilla Grodd, and you’ll never hear me complain about Grodd.
Another complaint would be the very angsty, CW inspired, unrequited love/pining for the girl subplot on what was otherwise a fun, lighthearted show. Iris is the love interest of Barry/Flash, and it seems like there’s not an episode that goes by without letting us know how much he’s in love with her, but can’t do anything about it because she’s already in a relationship. It’s a concept that’s been exhaustively explored many times over, but one could make the argument that it’s a timeless concept, and that as long as people are alive and looking for love, that it’s still relevant. I can’t disagree with that, but those scenes are huge momentum killers, and to be honest, I pretty much zoned out when they came up.
One final complaint is that, in order for some things to be a challenge for the Flash, he has to be written very poorly. The problem with The Flash, and for any character with superspeed, is that with some very rare exceptions, most villains should be dealt with before they even realize that the Flash is coming for them. The best (or worst, depending on your point of view) example that comes to mind, is in one episode, the way to defeat the villain is to inject him with a serum that will suppress his powers. Instead running up to the guy and injecting him at superspeed, hauling him to jail, then chilling at the house watching Netflix the rest of the day, what Barry does is stop about 20 feet in front of him and yelling the guy’s name. What? Why?! And that’s just the first example that comes to mind, but there are many, many others.
Overall, The Flash was amazing. At its worst, it could get a little heavy with silly romantic subplots, but at its best, it was a fun, wellpaced story that didn’t shy away from the outlandish realm of comics, full of complexity and depth of character. Each week, for an hour at a time, I got to go on a wild ride, eagerly anticipating what was to come.
Daredevil was a pleasant surprise for me. As a fan of comics, I knew the general premise behind it, but I had never been a Daredevil fan, plus there was that Daredevil movie that everyone trashes, which, while it wasn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be, it really wasn’t all that good, either. So, when I heard Netflix was developing a Daredevil series, I remember just how little I cared…then I watched it.
Daredevil was incredible. The story was a masterful blend of plotdriven narrative and a healthy portion of character study. The action sequences were well choreographed, and at times bordered on the artistic. (Think along the lines of what Sam Mendes did for Skyfall.I’m not saying it’s quite that good, just comparable.) It looked authentic. It felt like Hell’s Kitchen. The casting choices were spot on, and the actors were convincing.
I loved how the show was able to take a character I, and I’m assuming a lot of other people too, was not overly familiar with, and do an origin story that was compelling. Not only did it effectively introduce Matt Murdock, but it explained him. It explored who he was as a person, and why he chose to become a vigilante. It showed him as he waged war with the underworld element in his community, and as he struggled with issues of right and wrong, good and evil, and just how far he would go in his crusade.
His counterpoint, Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin (although he’s never called this on the show), is the perfect dark mirror of Matt. He has a vision (I wanted to do a blind joke, but that would have been too easy) of how he wants to change Hell’s Kitchen too, only his is much darker and he’s willing to do much more terrible things to turn it into a reality.
I’d feel as if I were doing the show a disservice by not mentioning how well the supporting characters were also developed. Daredevil did a really good job of taking characters that could have easily been flat, stock characters, and fleshing them out. Each supporting character had a decent subplot and well conceived backstory, to the point that they were interesting in their own right.
I could go on and on, but I’ll cut it short here. Short version: I just plain loved Daredevil. If you’ve seen it and don’t agree, then you’re a terrible person and you hate everything good in the world. If you haven’t seen it yet, take the time and watch it. You won’t regret it.
Side note: it was tough (and I mean very tough) to decide between The Flash and Daredevil, but I had to give the edge to Daredevil, because even though I didn’t have many complaints about The Flash, I had even less about Daredevil. I know that one is a 23 episode season on the CW and the other is a 13 episode season on Netflix, so that will account for some of the
So there you have it, folks! The empirically provable true and definitive ranking of comic book shows from this past season. If you disagree, feel free to explain why. I’d love to hear your feedback.