By David Seaman | Echo
According to the Chinese Zodiac, this is the Year of the Goat. But if you went to a movie theater recently or turned on the TV, you can see that it's really the Year of the Superhero.
While superhero films have dominated cinemas for the last 15 years, only recently have they begun to dominate live-action television. As a comic book fan, I've eagerly devoured all the shows willing to cash in on the superhero craze. That doesn't mean all of the shows are equally appealing, however. Here is a graded look at current superhero shows as they come to a close.
With "Marvel's Daredevil," Netflix created one of the finest superhero shows ever and once again proved to be the best thing for television. The 13-episode first season dropped April 10 on Netflix, with season two on its way sometime next year. This comic book drama has everything: excellent acting, smart scripts with realistic dialogue, high production values and more.
Charlie Cox plays Matt Murdock, a lawyer who was blinded by radioactive waste as a child but gifted with heightened senses as a result. Murdock works within the legal system to help those in need, but he also secretly prowls the streets as a black-clad bandana-wearing vigilante to deal justice when the law fails. He's no Captain America, however; this hero gets beat on as many times as he beats others up. The fight scenes are phenomenal; a 3-minute long one-take hallway brawl in episode two is incredibly well-choreographed and believable. I also appreciated its complex take on morality and Catholic justice. Leave it to a superhero show on the Internet to deal with Christianity in a refreshingly frank light.
It's not perfect; there are cases of unnecessary violence, occasional hiccups in acting and writing and a slightly rushed finale. But those are minor quibbles. As a whole, "Daredevil" is an edgy and welcome breath of gritty air for the typically light-hearted Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: B
What makes "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on ABC stand out is its connectivity to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After "Captain America: Winter Soldier," the show immediately incorporated the major plot elements of that film into "Agents," pushing the show into compelling spy vs. spy territory. The second season has continued that trend while adding in more characters and even fictional races to Marvel's huge movie/television landscape.
Like "Daredevil," "Agents" has solid writing, an entertaining cast and innovative fight scenes. I care about most of the characters, which, given the large cast, is very hard to do. Each one has his or her own unique personality and backstory, fleshing them out beyond the comic book page. With "Age of Ultron" now in theatres, the show has taken the opportunity to incorporate the outcome of that film into their series.
Fox's "Gotham" isn't necessarily a bad show. It's just not necessarily a great one. This prequel series follows a young James Gordon as he deals with rising gang wars and an ultra-corrupt police force. As the bad guys become stranger and stranger, he must also deal with the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne, whose demise will create massive ramifications for certain characters.
Some actors, such as Donal Logue as slob-cop Harvey Bullock and Robin Lord Taylor as twitchy but cunning gangster Oswald Cobblepot, steal the show. While Ben McKenzie ("The O.C.") is a good actor in other projects, he doesn't give Gordon any real personality to work with. He's all forced grins and grumbles, which isn't that interesting to watch. Bright spots include David Mazouz as young Bruce Wayne, along with his trusty military-trained butler Alfred (played by Sean Pertwee).
The show ended its season on a high note, and I'm excited to see what the next season holds. But the fact remains that while "Gotham" is a handsomely crafted show, most of the time it comes off as boring. Batman should never be boring.
The Flash: B
"The Flash" is one of the best shows on The CW, incorporating action, romance and nifty superspeed effects into a recipe for success. It's much more lighthearted and deliberately comic book-y than "Arrow," which creates some nice contrast when the shows occasionally cross over. "Flash" fully embraces the absurdity of some of the villains (such as the telepathic gorilla) while taking itself just seriously enough to make us care.
Grant Gustin plays Barry Allen, a police detective imbued with superhuman speed after a particle accelerator in fictional Central City explodes. Barry uses his speed to fight crime while also continuing to unravel his mother's mysterious death. A colorful supporting cast helps him on his quest, and the show is blessed with above-average actors to flesh out each character. Most importantly, the show is fun, and it's a lot easier to swallow and enjoy than "Arrow." I'm looking forward to the action-packed finale.
The first season of The CW's "Arrow" had some of the best fight scenes on network television. It was dark, interesting and chock-full of comic book references. The second season continued this pattern for the most part, adding new characters and plot complications to billionaire crime fighter Oliver Queen's life. It had a clear story arc and a compelling villain, just like the last season.
Then something happened. Maybe it was the head writer leaving for "The Flash." Maybe it was the shoehorning in of too many characters. Whatever the reason, "Arrow" just isn't that good anymore. The fights are sloppier, the writing blander and the storylines run in circles. A character named Felicity, once a bubbling, fun contrast to Queen's darkness, is a whining shell of who she used to be. And main lead Stephen Amell isn't a good actor. He stares blankly into space most of the time and delivers his lines as if constantly annoyed.
Recent developments have made the show more tolerable, but it needs to pick up fast. It still has the geeky references going for it, which makes the DC Comics fan in me happy. But that's not cutting it. "Arrow" needs to hit a bullseye fast, because right now it's way off target.