In our ongoing efforts to bring you the best television coverage we can here at GOO Reviews, we decided to take a different approach to our weekly television coverage this year. Every Monday, we’ll be releasing our roundup of the week’s shows in something we’re calling “Superhero Showdown”. Because they’re all comicbook-based shows. And they’ll all be competing with each other. We’ll be recapping episodes, providing our commentaries for each, and letting you know which show reigns supreme over the course of the season. We can’t cover every different comicbook-based show, however, nor should we because a bunch of them are pretty intolerable.
So, the shows that made the cut:
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was actually the show that got us started on our weekly TV recapping here at GOO Reviews. And it took all of 10 episodes before we dropped it. Now, we’ve dropped a few shows here at GOO Reviews, sometimes based on staff availability, but usually based on show quality, and at that time, still relatively early in its first season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. exposed itself as a very bad TV show.
But one of the deep, dark secrets of our TV viewing here at GOO Reviews is that… well, we never stopped watching it. And it did get better. Not much better, not actually good, but good enough to not stop watching. So we’ll be covering it this year because, in the absence of having anything better to do, it’s precisely, almost exactly good enough, and besides that, it’s the only Marvel network TV show left.
The Greg-Berlanti-led DC TV universe has grown from one TV show to four since the debut of Arrow in 2012, but make no mistake, it’s 2014’s The Flash that really broke through and has become the flagship of the “Arrowverse”. And of all those shows — Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow — it’s also The Flash that’s… the least bad. Because make no mistake, none of these shows are really that good.
No, the Berlanti universe of TV shows aren’t about things like being good or consistent or well plotted or even tolerable sometimes. They’re about earnestness, a palpable and genuine feeling that these are heroes, that these things do matter, that we owe it to ourselves and each other to be just a little bit better, good storytelling be damned. And of all four shows, The Flash is the best at that. And that’s endearing. Make no mistake of that.
Legends of Tomorrow
Having said that, Legends of Tomorrow is the show made for the real DC comicbook nerds, the ones whose hairs stand up on the back of their neck when they hear the name Connor Hawke and squee when they find out who series protagonist Rip Hunter’s father might be. For instance, when we last saw the Legends team, they had just defeated the eternal, time-spanning menace of Vandal Savage and said their farewells to the Hawks when, seemingly out of nowhere, another, heretofore unknown time ship appeared in the sky, revealing a costumed man (he had a mini-cape and everything!) calling himself Rex Tyler and claiming to be from the Justice Society of America. And right then, right there, us nerds — the real nerds at least — we just about all creamed our pants. Collectively. And hopefully metaphorically. If that’s not you, if those names mean nothing to you, if those things don’t sound great… then I really wouldn’t recommend this show. Like reeaaally wouldn’t recommend it. But we like it. Kind… kind of.
Legends of Tomorrow season two premieres October 13 (this week!).
The Walking Dead
At first glance, a show like The Walking Dead might not seem like it belongs on this list. There are no people with powers, not even many with very specialized training, no one on the show is even claiming to be a hero, and the only supernatural elements of the show lie purely on the horror side of the equation. That’s all correct, those are all reasons why The Walking Dead isn’t a superhero show. But we’re covering it here anyways.
It’s well known even among casual of fans of The Walking Dead that the property began life as a comicbook series, and a pretty small and unheralded one at that as an independent book published by Image Comics in the early 2000’s (remember those/then?), and the combination of its comicbook roots and the fact that we just really like the show was enough for us to continue recapping it and put it here. In case we have to remind you, Rick, running through the forest in an attempt to evade the Saviours (many of whom The Walking Dead crew had brutally slaughtered in their sleep only episdoes earlier), just got someone in his group killed by Negan, Saviour leader, and we’ve been waiting all summer to find out who died. But I’m sure we didn’t have to remind you.
The Walking Dead season seven premieres October 23.
As for those superhero TV shows we’re not covering? We’ll be monitoring Supergirl to see if it gets any better (or at least gets better enough) and I don’t think any of us here have the time to catch up on Arrow. And if you’re wondering about Gotham? Our firm recommendation is that no one should ever watch Gotham. Especially not you. And espeeecially not us.
So after all of that… uh, rigmarole (is that the right word [is that a word?]?), what did we think of the two shows that have debuted so far?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
This year, having mostly concluded its various Hydra and Inhumans and Agent Ward storylines, the new focus of our wayward agents has shifted inwards, with a new director of S.H.I.E.L.D. (hint: he’s some guy with Inhuman superstrength that we’ve never met), Daisy “Quake” Johnson on the run and hunting Watchdogs after the death of her electricity-shooting boyfriend, Coulson re-instated to field duty alongside Mack, Agent May training new S.H.I.E.L.D. officers, Simmons has become a trusted advisor to the new director, effectively separating her from the O.G. gang, and Fitz messing around with artificial intelligence alongside the formerly villain(ous[-ish]) Dr Radcliffe. That’s a lot of changes and yet the showrunners still thought that also introducing Ghost Rider to the MCU was a good idea.
For those of you not in the know, like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and Affleck’s Daredevil, the Nicolas Cage version of Ghost Rider doesn’t count as those movies were made by Fox before the rights to the Ghost Rider property reverted back to Marvel. Also, fun fact, Nicolas Cage’s (nee Coppola) stage name was derived from Luke Cage, currently the star of the much-celebrated Netflix series (our review of that show will be up this weekend). With the Robbie Reyes version of the character, we have a younger, cooler, and (most importantly) more diverse version of the Spirit of Vengeance, one who’s much more comfortable in v8 muscle than a Harley Davidson, and… I don’t like Ghost Rider. Never have. For me, even though they’ve done alright by the character so far (to the extent I care), he’s a distraction from everything else going on, a do-over of sorts to attract audiences so (SO!) turned off by Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in its previous incarnation(s), and maybe that’s appropriate given that he’s an on-fire, leather-wrapped skeleton yelling about vengeance. For me at least, Ghost Rider’s not moving the needle, Daisy’s story seems almost absolutely without surprise, the new boss reveal was underwhelming, and there’s a really dumb ghost story going on around the edges of the main story and boy is it uninspiring.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “The Ghost” and “Meet the New Boss”(blended) episode score
Last season ended on a significant cliffhanger, possibly the biggest one yet as Barry’s interventions in the timestream led to a whole new universe when he finally saved his mother from the clutches of the Reverse Flash all those years ago, and with speculation running rampant in the intervening months from last season to this one and the promise of “Flashpoint” on everybody’s minds, excitement for The Flash was possibly at an all-time high.
And then we got one episode of Flashpoint and everything went back to normal. Almost.
I think we were all looking forward to exploring an alternate universe, even if we’ve already been down that path with season two’s “Earth-2” two-parter. Many of us were even wondering about the broader implications of this new timeline (such as how it would affect Arrow or Legends of Tomorrow), but as disappointing as it was to see the timeline more or less restored so soon into season three’s run, what’s coming might be interesting too. They really didn’t put that much thought into the Flashpoint world anyway (and I don’t like how thick the neck on that Kid Flash costume looked).
One great thing we did get in “Flashpoint” (and it’s something we’ve seen before in similarly alternate-universe circumstances) was how great Candice Patton’s Iris can be when she’s not encumbered by… well, everything the writers have given the prime version of the character so far, and now that everything but Iris’ close involvement with the Flash family has gone back to normal, it could be fun to see how the Flash manages to put things back one step at a time rather than with one giant leap. Rather than spending an extended period in a universe that probably won’t count for much anyway, I can see season three of The Flash almost becoming the superhero version of Quantum Leap as Barry runs from one weird universe to another, making small changes here and there as he continues to hope that the next run will be the run home.
The Flash “Flashpoint” episode score
So for the first week of the All-New, All-Different Superhero Showdown, The Flash takes a tentative, non-bold step forward as the best superhero show on TV right now. Come back next week, after a new Flash, after a new Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and after the new season of Legends of Tomorrow kicks off to see which show will reign supreme (or maybe we’ll just drop the whole “Showdown” gimmick, who knows)!!!!
Oh, and hey — Happy Thanksgiving everybody [in Canada].