This Year’s Finest 2015: Comic Convo TV

Thought that there were a fair amount of comic book based TV series last year? Well, this year there were even more. So, let’s dive right in and revisit what excelled and what was meh in home viewing in 2015  . . .

Daredevil Fisk paintingCosmo: So, I was thinking that we should start with Marvel’s pair of Netflix series as they were the most high-profile comic book TV projects of the year. As I stated in my reviews, I feel that Daredevil & Jessica Jones both really raised the bar on what a superhero series could be. They were among the best TV of any kind  I saw in 2015.

Josh:I have to agree, and not just because Game of Thrones was so-so and Fargo Season 2 has been a slow-burner.

Marvel’s Netflix is shaping up to be the dramatic counterpoint/compliment to their films.

Cosmo: True, they have definitely delved into deeper territory than the Marvel Studio films have, and I do not merely mean by showing more explicit violence. Daredevil explored issues of guilt, responsibility and excessive force — all of which I presume will be pushed further to the forefront in Season 2 with the arrival of The Punisher. Jessica Jones tackled many of those topics as while adding rape and emotional abuse/manipulation. What made Jessica Jones so especially well done was how well they handled those themes without ever being heavy-handed or trivializing . . .
Josh: By that measure, do you think that DD was lacking in its storytelling?

Cosmo: I think that Daredevil was as well-crafted as Jessica Jones. Daredevil was an origin story telling who Matt Murdock was, who his friends were while tracing the parallel rise of Wilson Fisk. As far as telling that story it succeeded splendidly. Like Jessica Jones, it took advantage of the serial, multi-episode nature of television to explore plot and character gradually. I have few complaints about it.

Jessica Jones went one step further though. While Daredevil had strong female characters, they were supporting figures. Jessica Jones was a lead surrounded by a variety of women. And that is where I feel the second shows ranks higher in importance: improving the positive representation of women on television.

Josh: I was thinking about DD the movie and DD the show. I said this when I saw the show’s trailer, but I saw some of the same elements that were in 2003’s Daredevil. Naturally there would be overlap but I think the show really retold a familiar story that fans knew by heart, but its quality made that a nonissue.

Daredevil NetflixStill, its hard to feel excited by “Daredevil” after that fact. I knew what I was getting beforehand, and I (somewhat) know what I’m getting in Season 2. The grim-n-gritty DD is a crowd pleaser but doesn’t offer much in the way of innovation the way that Mark Waid’s comic run has.

Jessica Jones and the shows that will follow it, feel new to me even though they technically are not. Which lets me be excited because I don’t know what to expect.

Cosmo: Your comment reminded me of how much I liked the childhood flashback episode early on in Daredevil. Every fan knows how this will plot with his father will play out, but I still found it quite poignant. They really hit the emotional beats and as you say that is the most important thing: making us feel the story. I would say though that I am more excited than you about the show after the fact and am looking forward to the next season. However, I do see your point about the show not really breaking new ground with the character.

Jessica Jones on the other hand is not just more recent but is not defined in the same iconic terms that Daredevil is. Yes, there is the original Alias series yet it is not taken as gospel in the same way Frank Miller’s Daredevil is held up (legitimately) as one of the greatest comic runs ever. One thing that struck me about the Jessica Jones Netflix series was how they improve on some of the weaknesses in Bendis’ original. Specifically, I found that Bendis’ Kilgrave story was the weakest part of Alias: mostly backstory with a random Jean Grey deus ex machina. The TV series really elevated the material to another level.

Jessica Jones Kilgrave

Josh: Having never read the comic, I have no way of knowing that.

My enjoyment of the show is somewhat tempered by that I’m sure, but I did see some flaws in the show itself. Episode 11 specifically, I feel doesn’t really serve any narrative purpose unless its world-building a plot point for later. It felt like a filler piece. I’m not sure its necessary, or even wise, for every Marvel show on Netflix to be 13 episodes.
In the case of minor character Hope Schlottman, I wondered after her death if that was a case of Women in Refrigerators in terms of a female character dying to motivate a hero(ine)?
Cosmo: Are you referring to the Simpson subplot? I could see how it could be argued that it was not directly relevant to the main Kilgrave plot. I think that one of the reasons that it was there was world-building, especially as they tied together his and Jessica’s origins. However I think that he was also there as a foil for Trish. I really enjoyed her character on the show and seeing her shifting reactions to Simpson was a good exploration of (though by no means the sole avenue into) who she was. I don’t think that Hope qualifies as a woman in a refrigerator because she is not the only character to suffer the same fate. Ruben is another. One contrast between the the two shows which I found intriguing is their approach to killing. Daredevil steps back from crossing that line, while Jessica Jones makes a good case for how Kilgrave is the rare example of an individual who is too dangerous to live. In that way he is more depraved of a villain than Fisk with all his twisted good intentions ever will be.

Josh: No I mean that literally Episode 11 (the culmination ofDaredevil Netflix Wislon Fisk Simpson’s subplot in the show and his fight with Jessica and Trish in the apartment) feels unnecessary to the rest of the plot. Simpson’s actions, his destruction of the lab where they held Kilgrave, his murder of that NYPD detective (another uncomfortable moment when Ben Urich’s fate in Daredevil is considered) none of that figures heavily into the plot either but episode 11 in its entirety doesn’t seem to move the story forward at all.

In regards to the final solution, Matt Murdoch didn’t “suffer” as personally as Jessica did by Kilgrave. For all his moral brooding, Matt Murdoch has his convictions while Jessica more or less is pragmatic in her mission. Wilson Fisk may escape jail in less than a year, but a jail couldn’t hold Kilgrave for more than a week. Plus with his increase in power, it was inevitable that he would have to die.
Which brings up another issue I have with these Superhero shows in general, everything has to be resolved too quickly. Why couldn’t Daredevil’s conflict with the Kingpin continue throughout the show’s run instead of finishing in Season 1? Obviously he’ll be back, but a lot of shows seem too intent on wrapping up a story that could continue longer. It works really well in other dramas, letting conflicts build up more than 12+ episodes before concluding.


Jessica Jones & TrishCosmo: Well, I think that part of this is structure. Most network shows still abide by the traditional 22,24 episode season. Streaming channels on the other hand follow the cable model of 12,13 episode seasons. Some shows are even shorter preferring the British model of 6, 8 episode seasons. Naturally the length of your season is going to effect how you parcel out the narrative. As for Fisk being defeated in the first season, I think that is partially creators being pragmatic. Going into Season 1 of Daredevil there was no assumption there would be a Season 2, or if there was it wouldn’t be until after the Defenders show. The popularity of Season 1 caused plans to change and now we’re getting Season 2 much sooner. However, you can’t predict that. What if reaction to Daredevil had been more lukewarm? Then you would have been stuck with a dangling plot without any hope of it being resolved in the near future . . .

Also, I could argue is the Fisk plot-line really resolved or is it merely on-hold for present?

Josh:This sounds like The Walking Dead Season 1 all over again. A show based off THE best-selling comic on the Diamond charts dealing with the modern zeitgeist’s favorite monster overseen by Frank Darabont, and its only given 6 episodes?

Daredevil-Episode-10-1748x984Nothing since The Incredible Hulk has been lukewarm for Marvel. Granted, Iron Man 2 isn’t fondly remembered but even lesser Marvel films make respectable bank. Its first show on Netflix, the streaming capital on the Internet, based on a hero that Frank Miller re-imagined? If they went ahead with Ant-Man sans Edgar Wright then I have to believe they were confident in Daredevil‘s success.
Moving Season 2 up bothers me, because it seems like its pushing a little too much. Do we need Season 2 so quickly after Season 1, and wouldn’t it be better to focus more energy on the next three shows that could use it?
With Kingpin, the season finale had a hint of finality to that battle that I feel was done poorly. It works in elevating Matt Murdoch and Wilson Fisk into the characters we know them as, but felt overdone and melodramatic to what came before. They’re building confrontation was one of the show’s strengths, but when Wilson returns I think it will feel somewhat cheap based on the ending we were given. I think of all this because I’m only now considering who the villain for The Defenders will be, as they will have to necessitate four heroes banding together, and be more imposing then a rich mob boss and sociopath mind-controller.

Cosmo: Well I liked Iron Man 2, but this isn’t really the place to rehash that debate . . .

While the actual face-off between Daredevil and Fisk might not have been as strong as it could have been, I did feel as though the finale worked overall. I loved that scene of him striding through the garage totally in charge of the situation and embracing who he was. I felt that moment was earned. Conversely, the last scene of him in the jail cell once again staring at the blank wall like he did as a kid was very poignant. I feel good about the character coming back at some point, even if I hope they hold off for Season 3. Let him simmer off screen for a bit.

As for The Defenders I am assuming that the threat is going to be supernatural in nature.  Maybe The Hand mixed up with demons? I do not think it a coincidence that the last series before Defenders is going to be Iron Fist. There’s also Hydra who were the villains of the Brubaker/Fraction run . . .

Agents-of-SHIELD-season-3-posterNetflix of course was not the only arena for Marvel heroes, ABC continued with Agents of SHIELD while adding Agent Carter. Did you watch either of these?

Josh: I liked “Iron Man 2” as well, but it isn’t held in high regard.

The scenes you mention are good, I wish they had focused more on those because the next ten minutes after them feel really rushed.
I watched the pilot of Agents of SHIELD and never looked back. Based on what I’ve heard it doesn’t sound like I’m missing much. Agent Carter I’ve heard mostly good things but ABC didn’t make it easy to watch the show if you weren’t there from the beginning. Its on my to-watch list though during the programming slow season.


Cosmo: Agents of SHIELD suffered in the beginning from monster of the week fatigue. Post-Winter Soldier has rectified that situation, and each of the following seasons have had greater focus. This season so far has been pretty much one extended narrative. There are subplots but they are tied back to the overarching narrative. Hence no more arbitrary “we need to respond to a disturbance in Boise” type missions. Also the characters have become better defined and less two-dimensional. It’s still not all that it could be but it is much better than it started.

Agents of SHIELD group shotI have enjoyed this season’s specific focus on the Inhumans. Yes, they are clearly mutant stand-ins, but that does not really bother me. This is still a relatively young universe so they have freedom for building up such ideas from scratch. The important part is that they have treated the theme of discrimination well. It pokes out in subtle ways at times as different characters do not always react in the way you would expect/hope that they would. At the same time you understand why this sudden surge in powered people would spark fear among the general population. It’s honestly a more grounded treatment than what is often seen in the X-Men films. Again, though, the difference between a 2 hour movie and a 24 episode season . . .

Josh: I’m not a fan of substituting the X-Men/Mutants for the Inhumans. If you don’t have the rights to those characters, do without. Granted I haven’t watched the show but I’m seeing the effects its having on the comics. It seems like the Dog chasing its Tail.

I’ll ask this out of a morbid curiosity, do you feel like discrimination, in the way that Marvel can use Mutant/Allegories, works in a modern context? In other words, is it relevant? I can guess your response based on the current political debates but I’m interested in knowing.
The X-Men films seem resigned to remain in the past when acceptance and irrational fear were the norm, and I think that’s a smart way to be separate from the MCU and make the X-Men feel important.

Agents-of-SHIELD-S02E19-SkyeCosmo: Well I think that the comics copying TV/films is a whole separate issue. Just because something works in the Cinematic Universe does not mean that it works in the comics one, or the other way around. To me, mutants have never made complete sense in a world populated by all sorts of non-mutant superheroes. Why are some beloved and others hated? That’s one of the reasons that I like how the Inhumans are being used in SHIELD. There are still very few public powered beings in the MCU. At least half the Avengers (Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, War Machine, Falcon) are non-powered individuals with superior training and/or equipment. Until Skye/Daisy unlocked her powers at the end of Season 2 there were no super-powered team members of SHIELD. So, this is still a relatively new phenomenon in the MCU. The public is trying to come to terms with it, and as often happens when assumptions about life are threatened, some people fall back on prejudice.

As for real world political overlap, I do feel that there is plenty of possibility for the template to work in a contemporary context. SHIELD has laid the groundwork in such a way that the path is available to them, if they chose to follow it. I would argue that irrational fear is no less present in our day than in the 60s or 70s of the last two X-Men films. The manner of expression may shift, but sadly not the feelings behind it.

Agents of SHILED elsewhereIn the similar way, Agent Carter touched on issues of workplace gender bias. Sex discrimination is less overt than in the 40s, but that does not mean that it has disappeared.

 Josh: Good response.

My understanding has always been that because Mutants were “born with” their powers that was the reason for the hatred. A chromosome to the left, and a teenager has the power of spontaneous combustion. Senator Kelly’s speech in X-Men makes a kind of sense, in an ultra paranoid way.
I just believe that telling those types of stories in the past makes them more honest, I guess, because we know somewhat that they were much harsher than now and there’s no changing it.
Mad Men could be an example, in regards to sexism in the workplace. 99% of the show could be fiction, but that 1% could be a really powerful moment of the episode without being hit over the head about it. Maybe I’m just more interested in the past as I’m getting older.


Cosmo: My one caution about that approach is that it can lead to false assumptions about “progress.” It is too tempting to glance at the past and say “well, obviously I would never act like that.” Society changes a lot less than we like to admit at times, and even when it does there is much work which remains to be done.

Which is why whatever we call them Inhumans or mutants the allegory is still relevant.

Josh: That’s a fair point, not to mention that when depicting the past its often less than accurate in many cases.

agent_carter_atwell_gun-e1420511795552Tell me about Agent Carter, since I know very little about her aside from her appearances in both Captain America and Ant-Man films.

Cosmo: Agent Carter picked up after the end of the first Captain America film. The war is over and the country is trying to settle back into a sense of normalcy. Peggy has followed her American colleagues across the Atlantic to continue her espionage work. Problem is just as in other fields, all of a sudden women are no longer valued in the workplace. Much of the series focused on Peggy needing to prove herself to the men in the office. There’s an ongoing plot about who stole a stash of (Howard) Stark tech, which was interesting if not quite as engaging as it could have been. But, Haley Atwell is always a pleasure as Peggy and she had a great rapport with James D’Arcy’s Edwin Jarvis. Dominic Cooper popped in and out as Stark Sr (and he’s always fun to watch). There was some world-building (the Russian Red Room, cameo by Toby Jones’ Zola). Overall a good time. Looking forward to more next month.

Josh: It’s interesting to me the response to Agent Carter versus Agents of SHIELD.

 I remember thinking at the time that doubling up on that kind of story seemed incredibly foolish but I’m glad that it worked the second time around. I don’t normally think of Marvel for “the man on the street” type stories anymore, even though that was how the Marvel Universe began. Now its all Norse gods and Super-Soldiers, stories about regular old humans feel lesser.
Rosario Dawson’s Night Nurse character being a big exception, I would be interested in seeing her role be expanded somehow into her own Netflix series.

Daredevil Rosario DawsonCosmo: I hadn’t really thought about that before. I an a big fan of Rosario’s Dawson’s character in the Netflix shows and hope that they continue building her presence.

I remember that there was a bit of skepticism when Agent Carter was first announced, though a lot of that probably had to do with disappointment regarding SHIELD‘s first season. I always thought that it was a strong premise and was glad that they followed-through with it well. One of the keys to Marvel Studio’s success is finding new ways to tweak the formula. They’re willing to explore different genres, which allows for a boarder audience. Don’t like period spy dramas? Well, try a heist comedy. It is a diversification of tone that is not as present in DC’s output.

On that note should we turn our attention to Gotham?

Josh: So Gotham‘s main headline this season was Rise of the Villains, supposedly giving more focus to the nefarious characters. It turned out to be something of a red-herring, as the focus stayed split between the GCPD, Bruce and Alfred, and the “villains”.
One of the strengths of this season was Theo Gallivan, who organizes this crazy scheme to take over Gotham for the Order of St.Dumas. This puts him in conflict with 99% of the cast of characters, and its dealt with in a poor way.


Cosmo: This puts him in conflict with 99% of the cast of characters, and its dealt with in a poor way.

That kinda sums up the problem I’ve always had with this series: way too much effort put into tying everyone and everything together. I still think that this should have been a show about a young James Gordon doing everyday police work. Sure it would have been less flashy, but could have been much more compelling than the mish-mash we ended up with.

Full disclosure by the way: having not gotten past episode 2 of Season 1, I have not seen any of Season 2.

Also Order of St Dumas? Guess that means Azreal is coming in some shape or form, right?

Gotham Theo GalavanJosh: Not unless hell FREEZES over…

Season 1 has its problems, but it has moments that are good I think. As a whole I would say its worth watching just for the ride it gives you.
I agree on the mish-mash, just having the show depict a police department populated by somewhat disturbed individuals and one lone man who plays by the rules wouldn’t be as exciting but would be a better story. Parts of it I think are smart, Edward Nygma as the forensic investigator is usually pretty entertaining, Harvey Bullock is golden with or without Gordon’s presence, oh and Robin Lord-Taylor’s Penguin could be THE definitive take replacing Danny Devito’s.
That said, the show is pretty terrible to women and people of color, women of color especially. Its especially bad in Season 2, and is just one of the many problems it has in storytelling.

Cosmo: And it would have been possible to do a grounded police drama while including elements of the city’s myths. For example, take the Order of St Dumas. You could have them lumbering around, even introduce an Azreal who preceded Jean-Paul. Give fans hints at what is bubbling below the surface without it ever spilling out.

In the end, I think that what really wrecked the show was the choice to set it in the aftermath of the Waynes’ murder. One of my biggest gripes is how weird this makes all the chronology of the villains. They could have simply set the show during the years of Bruce’s exile when he is traveling the world, honing his skills. It would have been much more realistic then to show the origins of the various villains who would soon pester Bruce upon his return.

Gotham Pengiun
 Josh: The only danger of that is Gotham could become indistinguishable from all the other police/murder/crime dramas on TV. Then again, Fox just can’t help shooting itself in the foot.
I don’t think the timeline matters really, some of the villains were weird way before they met Batman, the Riddler being a prime example. He was almost never “normal”, so there’s potential for an entertaining story outside of his question mark leotard. Same for Selina Kyle, Oswald Cobblepot, etc.
What the show should do, and has mainly failed, is show these characters before they had any inclination to dress up in costumes and commit crimes. But the show acts like these are absolute paths that the characters will always go down, instead of growing into the way Bruce Wayne gradually becomes Batman.
What’s made the Batman franchise so profitable is how endlessly it can be reinvented, but even that has limits. Season two Edward Nygma is more like Dexter Morgan than a creepy lab tech who compulsively rattles off riddles.
I still think the show will follow the Earth One graphic novel storyline, where Bruce never left Gotham to train and as a result was a more grounded and inexperienced crime-fighter. It’d be a good way to separate the show from the movies and tell its own story, which it pretty much has to since the show’s canon cannot be reconciled with the more classic plot lines.


Cosmo: Well, I would object to lumping Selina with the otherGotham Selina Kyle mentally deranged rouges. Catwoman has been many things over the years but psychotic is not one of them. She is more like Bruce in that way . . .

You know, we can debate all these conceptual approaches, but honestly, the main reason I stopped watching was that I simply did not think that it was well-written. The grizzled cop dialogue was cliche and the acting bland. There was not much to latch onto beyond the boldface character names.

Josh: I have to disagree, Catwoman’s proclivities could border on the psychotic in her early years. It got toned down in recent DC lore, probably after Crisis on Infinite Earths and Year One, but even the 60s Batman TV show dealt with a Catwoman that was deranged. Its mostly gone now, for the better, but I think everyone in Gotham is a little crazy.

Cosmo: Well having recently read a bunch of her earliest appearances, I would disagree, but we should move on . . .

MV5BMTQ5MzY5ODE5M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzU4OTM1MjE@._V1_A lot has happened on The Flash since we did last year’s Convo. Any place in particular you would like to start?

Josh: How about how Zoom is the modern day equal to Doomsday, and is just as pointless?

Cosmo: Well see, this is where I need to admit my relative inexperience with the Flash mythos. While I am aware of Zoom, I don’t have any previous experience with him. Unless he was the villain behind Flashpoint, but I think that was Reverse Flash . . .

How would you say Zoom is like Doomsday? At least based on the TV show Zoom has a bit of a personality.

Josh:  Zoom in the show has no motivation beyond wanting to be the fastest speedster in the multiverse. Other than that, we know nothing about him. That singular purpose may as well be Doomsday’s main function as just destroying everything in sight.

I mentioned this in my post on the CW’s Finest, that the show runners should avoid falling back on the Reverse-Flash dynamic. Which they ran head first into, Zoom is a lesser version of the villain we got last season, who was always 3 steps ahead of Barry’s and his closest friend at the same time, which made for a compelling mystery. There is none of that in Zoom.
Which leads to my gripe with this season, most of the opportunities feel wasted.

Flash Jay GarrickCosmo: Well, I would argue that even with the singular purpose of wanting to dominate the Speed Force that is at least an actual motivation. Doomsday was never more than a force of nature without any motivating agency besides moving forward. That said, I wonder if we have the full picture of Zoom yet? Why does he want to be the sole Speedster? Is it something which adds some grey to his character? Yes, no or sort-of, it’s still too early to tell.

While bits of the season have disappointed me, I have mostly been enjoying it. What else do you think has been a missed opportunity?

Josh: The introduction of anyone from Earth 2, Barry’s romance with Patty Spivot, killing off Ronnie Raymond yet again. None of these things feel right. If nothing else the show continues to be ambitious, in regard to how deep into the mythos it goes, but its depictions don’t always land.

A Jay Garrick without speed and an evil Atom-Smasher just feels wrong to me. I like that the writers are using these things from the comics but it all borders on taking the easy way out.
I know Jay lost his speed to Zoom, fine OK. Then shouldn’t he be dead? If not, can he be a mentor to Barry? Well not if Harry is around. Well even if he’s around because reasons.

Cosmo: I like how they’ve been juggling the Earth 2 stuff so far. Was it ever established if the Atom-Smasher was straight-up evil or being manipulated/blackmailed in a manner similar to Harrison Wells?

I shall admit to mixed feelings as far as Jay Garrick goes. I like how Terry Sears is playing him, but agree that the lack of Speed Force is disappointing. I too wish that he was around more, offering up some give and take with Wells. Then again given his deepening feelings for Caitlin perhaps he will.

I have the feeling that we’re seeing some of the same faults in the show, but I am still seeing more done right than wrong.

Flash smirking SnarkI did want to ask what you thought of the development of The Rouges this season? Miller’s Snark continues to grow on me. His gradual nudging to good might be obvious given the approaching spin-off but I do think has been well-handled. Hamill’s Trickster continues to be fun. Hopefully there is a full-out Rouges story in near future . . .

Josh: From what I remember, the extent of Atom-Smasher’s blackmail was wanting to return home to Earth 2. Poor justification for (attempted) double homicide and risking civilian causalities.

My feelings on the Rouges are “Wow, these guys are so developed I wish they would use them more instead whatever other villain they can think of.” It’s fine on Arrow, because that show brings in so much of the larger DCU so anythings on the table. But this is the Flash, he has a clearly defined Rouges Gallery. Which they’ve barely explored, and that disappoints me.
Miller’s Leonard Snart is always a joy to watch. When you compare him to the Captain Cold in the 90s show, you see a marked difference but also a hint of that joy in what he does. Its clear he enjoys playing the character too, which is nice to see.
I was really surprised to see Mark Hamill return as the Trickster. He was 1,000,000,000x better than the actor who played Axel Walker, but this close to The Force Awakens I thought he would be too busy. As far as I’m concerned, he is the Trickster and no one can come close to replacing him right now.
Flash Trickster
 The guy who plays Weather Wizard, he’s good too. It wouldn’t make sense for 3+ crazy personalities on the screen on the same time so I’m glad they made him less dramatic than in the comics.

Cosmo: Yeah, between Trickster and his Joker Hamill does a great psychopath. It’s a good reminder that as iconic as Luke Skywalker is, Hamill will be remembered for something other than a single role. I don’t remember the Captain Cold from the 90s show, but honestly, now that I think of it, I don’t remember any of the villains besides Trickster. Hamill really did just take the character and fly with it.

Maybe the Rouges will be the focus for Season 3? It would nice to see them explored more. Part of it probably depends now on how Snart’s arc on Legends of Tomorrow plays out. I’ve also enjoyed what they’ve done with Golden Glider so far.
On a related note, I thought Grodd was better used this season. Very intriguing where they left him. I suspect Barry might be facing an army of angry gorillas sometime in the near future . . . .

Josh: I was disappointed with Golden Glider to be honest. A gun that sprays molten gold? Would making her a meta human be too hard or something?

Grodd was good, that could’ve been a character that fell flat but it works for the show. Don’t forget, Grodd is on Earth 2 so if he makes a return it’ll be a helluva big one. Which if you read the old Flash comics, is just classic Grodd. Barry never got rid of him, which just makes the character so much cooler.

Cosmo: Well, one of the reasons Barry can never get rid of Grodd is that the villain had a nation to take charge of him. As neat as it was to tie Grodd and Wells’ together, I do miss the original Gorilla City origin. Probably was ruled too cheesy for modern audiences. On the other hand, perhaps that is where they’ll go with that Earth 2 gorilla reservation? Either way, lots of potential there. And the CGI for him is pretty impressive for TV. As was that King Shark cameo.

Flash King Shark
 Speaking of arch-fiends, what did you think of Vandal Savage’s debut?
Josh: His accent seemed off to me at parts, but otherwise I thought he was quite good. He was menacing, charming, creepy, sort of like a murderous, non-powered Kilgrave.
I had forgotten about Brightest Day tying him to the Hawks, and I sort of missed the caveman origin but otherwise he’s a pretty good villainous addition to the Arrowverse.

Cosmo: Yeah, my reaction was pretty much the same. Casper Crump brought a nice charisma to the role and did a pretty go job of avoiding ham. (He didn’t succeed completely, but it was difficult in those ornate flashback scenes). I never read Brightest Day so I assumed tying him to the Hawks was a TV writers’ choice. Still, like you, I prefer the idea that he’s essentially as old as humanity, dating back to prehistoric times. Regardless, I am looking forward to more of him in Legends.

Also, thought that they pulled off the Hawks pretty well. I’ve never gotten into Arrow as others have, but have to admit Oliver was more appealing as a character this time around than when I last saw him in the previous crossover . . .

Josh: The Hawks were indeed good, as good as they could adapt them for TV I think. They’re fairly hokey in concept so playing them straight takes effort. I kind of wish Carter Hall’s casting was a bit more diverse though. The actor was good, but when I saw those flashbacks it seemed really whitewashed.

Arrow Vandal Savage
Oliver’s noticeable growth is thanks to his relationship with Felicity. Being with her has definitely made him more well-rounded, and somewhat happier as a person. Out of all the CW characters, I found Oliver the most interesting because he goes through the most changes pre-Island, post-Island, Pre-Felicity, Post-Felicity, etc. He often falls back into old habits but I never find it boring.
And I as well am looking forward to Legends of Tomorrow. It’s a lot to juggle for the showrunner’s though, I’m not sure they’re up to it.

Cosmo: Yeah, those Egypt flashback scenes were a bit awkward for the reason you mentioned. Hopefully now that the backstory is out of the way, they can be avoided in the future.

I did definitely get the Oliver is more at ease because of Felicity vibe. For me watching Emily Bett Rickards play Felicity is always the highlight of any trip to Star City.
Was there anything you wanted to say about the past year of Arrow?
Josh: It’s been incredibly solid, good even. Much better than Flash at writing, pacing, drama, even romance. After last season I was ready for it to be over but I’m glad it came back.
The John Constantine guest-spot was a real crowd pleaser based on the Twitter response and I thoroughly enjoyed that too.
Just overall, Arrow has stepped up this year and surpassed The Flash. My only quibble is the death they keep teasing, I don’t think there’s any way they can win fans over on that. For more reasons than one.

Cosmo: They’re teasing the death of a major character?

Seeing Red
Josh: Sorry, forgot you weren’t watching Arrow. Its strongly being hinted that Felicity is going to die. They’ve been teasing it since the season premier.

Cosmo: Well, it would be a shame if they killed off such a great character. Though knowing how these things go, I doubt that any demise would be that permanent.

Do you think that the writers are falling into a Batman-esque “Heroes Can’t Be Happy for too Long” fallacy?

Josh: I don’t normally think of Green Arrow as a happy character, so I couldn’t say. Barry Allen himself has confessed he’s not entirely happy either a few times on The Flash.

Outside of the Silver Age, a happy hero is a tough line to walk. They can be upbeat, persevere, steadfast, but happy  isn’t always possible.
That being said, I wish writers would find a middle ground between angst and “Golly gee-wilikers!”. And I miss  “Golly gee-wilikers!”, but I don’t know how possible it is in comic adaptations now.

Cosmo: I don’t know, Oliver does have a gleeful side to him, at least in the Denny O’Neil/pre-Flashpoint version of the character.

Marvel has recently demonstrated a pretty good handle on walking that line both in comics (Ms Marvel, Squirrel Girl) and other media (Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man). DC though, not so much. Probably one of the reasons I found Bat-Mite so refreshing this year.

Shifting tones a little, shall we discuss Supergirl now?

Josh: You can do anything in comics. Anything. Adaptations are aSupergirl different beast. Don’t forget 2011 Green Lantern film and Teen Titans GO! The problem WB, Marvel, Sony, and Fox have is offering more than their most popular brand. Its about balancing your offerings.

Supergirl I’m not a fan of. I only watched the first three episodes, but I just find the writing wretched.

Cosmo: And I only watched the pilot. I did find the writing a little bumpy at times, trying too hard to announce its ideas. I think that that the overall concept of the show is solid, it could just use a more subtle touch in places. For example, the music was overbearing at times.

I do want to watch more of the series and give it a chance to develop. Plus, apparently a character I’m fond of has been added to the cast, so that’s another aspect I am curious about seeing.

Josh: I thought it was really bipolar. Every episode started out with Kara saying “I can do this”, her friends saying “No you can’t”, and when Kara gets discouraged her friends have to tell her that they were wrong and that “You can do this”. I got tired of it. Why does it matter that someone with the powers of Superman is a woman? Seriously, why does that come up in every episode?

In Agent Carter, it makes sense because she’s human and in the 1950s and that’s the era she lives in. In Supergirl, it makes no sense other than the writers trying to be clever.
Its also too much like the CW shows, with the supporting cast. 90% of the cast knows Kara’s identity, she has a support team, a science guy she doesn’t need.
I do like Cat Grant, she’s the only character that I feel makes sense in the show.
 Supergirl reflectionCosmo: Having only seen the pilot, I cannot speak to how repetitively the writers use the formula, but that was very much the gist of the first episode. Yet, that in itself is not so bad. By nature of form, serial storytelling is going to fall back on formula from time to time. The pattern you describe is actually not that different from Ms Marvel, where each arc presents a new obstacle for Kamala to muster the strength to overcome. The difference is in the quality of writing. Where Supergirl states its message bluntly, G. Willow Wilson’s scripts for Ms Marvel are much more nuanced. So often, the problem is in the execution of the idea, not the idea itself.
I would argue that this is one of the reasons that Jessica Jones was so well received. Not only did it present a strong message of female affirmation but it did so within a complex, well-told character driven narrative. That level of craft is what Supergirl lacks. Not that it needs to be as dark like Jessica Jones (see again the example of Ms Marvel), but it could refine its technique.
From Ms Marvel #2 by Takeshi Miyazawa & Ian Herring
Takeshi Miyazawa

The message is still entirely relevant. As with racial discrimination, some progress with sexism has been made over the decades, but much work remains to be done. A brief examination of gamergate, for example, reveals that pretty starkly.

And yes, what is it with CW heroes revealing their identities? When Barry did with his ex-girlfriend this season I rolled my eyes.

Josh: My view is simply this, “I’m watching this show about a female hero. I don’t need to be told why I should like this female hero despite her being female. If you have to justify her existence you’ve already lost.” Telling me that SuperGIRL is every bit the hero as SuperMAN is kind of pointless.

Now in some instances, this is necessary for the people that you mention. However, its not necessary for a heroine like Black Widow, or the female X-Men, etc. Their sex doesn’t limit their heroism (the writing does, but that is a side issue).
The issue with secret identities, from a writing perspective, is they’re passé. Some heroes have a poor misdirection between their civilian life and hero life. Showing them all try to protect their secrets could wear thin for parts of the audience. Also, having more people “in on it” means more characters to play off of and become a bigger part of the story. I dislike the approach too but see why it happens. I look forward to Ezra Miller’s Flash using high speed hijinks to protect himself though.

Cosmo: Well, that’s kinda of my point: it’s more important to show that female heroes are equal instead of telling us that they’re equal. As I said, that’s why I think that Jessica Jones is such a noteworthy show. It both tells a compelling story and conveys a strong social message without one element being sacrificed for the other.

 So far all the shows we have discussed have had success finding viewers. One show which failed to click with a large audience was Constantine which was canceled this year. I never watched the show but I believe that you did?
Josh: Every episode.
Cosmo: Do you think that there was a reason why Constantine did not catch on like the others? Or was it simply bad luck of not being discovered?

Josh: It’s tough to say, I think it was a multitude of reasons. NBC is not the most reliable network in fans minds for its poor decision making (putting Community on possible cancelation many times, then finally canceling it after their interference almost killed it), the Friday night time-slot I personally struggled to watch at the time due to my sleep schedule.

I almost want to say people couldn’t understand a charming British protagonist using magic to save the day, but then millions watch Doctor Who whose science tends to be pretty outlandish.
In the end, I have to say it was either too mainstream (monster of the week, magic devices, reluctant hero, good vs evil, not following the comics close enough) or not mainstream enough (no actual love stories to follow every week, the hero being a reprehensible cad, Voodoo/Black Magic/ Cyber Magic/ Meta-Physical magic, no real crossover/pollination of other comic properties aside from a few Easter eggs).

Cosmo: Yeah, the Friday slot probably didn’t help, though Fringe survived in a similar spot for a couple years. These days I do wonder how important scheduling a show is. With DVRs and on demand streaming, does it matter as much if a show is on a night when everyone’s out? The networks seem to still think so, piling up all their prestige shows on Sunday night, but still I do wonder.

Constantine match
 Anyway, would you say the show did a good job of capturing the spirit of the character? Did it lean more towards Vertigo or New 52 Constantine?

Josh: Actually, ratings are still the key factor in determining a show’s success. Unless its through Hulu or any other legal streaming site (that you may or may not pay for) Networks don’t care about it. DVRs don’t factor in because they can’t be tracked. Its all about making sure people watch the advertisements during commercials, which is why On Demand doesn’t let you fast forward as much now.

The Constantine in the show is more likable then in the comics, less assured of himself and his power, but by the end grows closer to the comics version.
Overall I’d say it leans towards New 52, but is done better. New 52 John is more cocky, funnier, etc which is fine in Justice League Dark but sort of goes against him being a street-level warlock.

Cosmo: I didn’t mean to imply that ratings don’t matter, because they do. However, they Nielsen does take into account DVR playback. I don’t know the logistics of how it works, but I do know that they are factored in. I do not know about streaming sites, but I assume that stations get regular reports about who is watching what. The biggest question mark is Netflix which continues to resist releasing viewing numbers. Was Jessica Jones a hit or a flop in terms of viewership? Your guess is as good as mine . . .

As for Constantine that definitely sounds like a more New 52 take on the character, which I suppose is to be expected.
Anything else you would like to say about the series?
Josh: No, I’m good. I feel like we’ve seen the last of the character for awhile unless (fingers crossed) DC keeps Matt Ryan for John Constantine in a movie role. Almost impossible but I can dream.

Cosmo: If this Justice League Dark movie does actually happen, my guess is that Warners will recast, just as Barry Allen will be recast for Justice League.  Perhaps Ryan could be an occasional guest star on Arrow, popping up once or twice a year to lend a hand with some otherworldly menace?

Speaking of the supernatural, what did you think of iZombie? This was a show I was curious about watching, but never had the time to do so.


Josh: You are missing out. As I side before, out of all the CW shows, iZombie is the best written. It has a pretty clunky pilot, but after that every episode is solid.

I’m behind on this season, but based on what I’ve seen there is no drop in quality.

Cosmo: Yeah I do want to sample it at some point, it’s just that I have so many other shows to watch already that I haven’t had a chance.

What about the series makes it so strong?

Josh: I’m not sure, exactly. The writing for one, maybe the subject matter for another? Dealing with being a zombie is a fairly novel idea, being a vampire or werewolf has been explored much more in comparison. The macabre humor is enjoyable, the right mix between clever and childish.

The concept of wanting to feel alive is the core of the show I guess. In this day and age, its easy to feel somewhat numb or “dead” to the joy of living and I think the show kinda captures that. Liv’s whole life was turned upside down when she became a zombie, and rather than try to go about her life as if nothing happened she almost completely withdrew from everyone and everything she cared about. The tragedy of being a zombie isn’t too heavily focused on, its more like something to live with.
Cosmo: Does it depict the negative side of her condition, her struggling against something, or is it more upbeat in nature?

Josh: You know Liv keeps saying how bad it is, but not a lot is shown. There’s the worry of infecting someone accidently, her ghoulish appearance (pale skin, white hair), and her craving for brains but other than that, being a zombie feels kinda like a non-issue.

Its not a somber show at all, its fairly upbeat which could be another part of its appeal.

Cosmo: Based on what I’ve read about and seen from the show, a large part of its appeal does seem to be its quirky sensibility. That would give the show a distinct tone, making it stand out from even the more lighthearted Flash or Supergirl.

Have you ever read the source comics?
Josh: No, but I’m aware that the show deviated quite a bit from the comics.

Cosmo: Yeah I haven’t read it either. Someday.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the zombie spectrum we have TheThe_Walking_Dead_title_card Walking Dead franchise. This show remains a ratings powerhouse, spinning off a second series this year. I don’t watch it, as it isn’t really my cup of tea. but I believe you still do Josh.

Josh: Yep, I dropped off and then decided to catch up for some reason. Old habits I guess. Its been pretty decent, varying in quality. TWD is a show that knows what it has to offer and mainly sticks to that.

I watch maybe the first episode of Fear the Walking Dead and that was enough for me. Zero interest in that.

Cosmo: a show that knows what it has to offer and mainly sticks to that.

And what would you say that special something is?

Josh: Human Drama in a Zombie Apocalypse. Some character has a secret, or doesn’t get along well with one of the main cast.

One of the most interesting episodes I can remember recently was about hunger. Every one in Rick’s group was literally starving. They barely had the energy to move, much less fight zombies. It got to where they were just trying to sidestep the Walkers to save energy.
I’m one of the weird fans though, I don’t really care how much time is spent fighting zombies.
I do think the show is running out of steam, while trying to catch up to Kirkman’s stories in the comics.

Cosmo: Well I’ve heard complaints that Kirkman’s comic has run out of steam as well, so I guess that makes sense.

Do you see this formula being replicated in the spin-off, or do you think they were going for something different?

Josh: The spin-off is pretty much every zombie movie we’ve seen before. Group of people in the beginning of Zombie Apocalypse, learn about zombies, try to get away. Nothing new, although the cast is somewhat more diverse than the main show without the actual acting talent.

What makes the main show different is that the humans have lost. Every day is a fight to survive, to remain human. That feeling of desperation and hopelessness is where TWD starts and it only goes deeper as it continues. Although now writing in that sensibility seems to be becoming too big a challenge.

Cosmo: Yeah, I can see how the spin-off would be less compelling, more familiar. Perhaps this was also the key to the success of 28 Days Later, which focused on the aftermath as well.

You sound a bit burnt out on the show at this point. Do you think that there remains potential in the concept? Or have they exhausted the themes and should be thinking of how to end it?

Josh: I don’t know. I stuck with Smallville for all ten seasons, only 7 of them I thought were good. Probably when an entire season has gone by without a single good episode I’ll leave it behind.

I guess it does have potential, every show does. It was a really good show before and I hope it still is one.

Cosmo: True

Finally, very briefly,  are there any non-comic book shows from the past year you would recommend our readers check out?

Josh: Fargo Season 2, while being an extremely slow burner has become very exciting to watch. Highly recommended to anyone who likes long-form dramas with tremendous acting and superb writing.

Cosmo: Ah, Fargo, that’s another series I’ve been meaning to get around to someday.

I recently finished the second season of Bojack Horseman which was just as good as, if not more brilliant than, the first. Both one of the funniest and most poignant shows on TV. I also keep recommending The Americans to anyone who’ll listen to me. Three seasons in and it hasn’t lost any steam.

And what do both of these shows have in common? Beloved character actress Margo Martindale.

Cheers Bojack Horseman Margo Martindale

17 thoughts on “This Year’s Finest 2015: Comic Convo TV”

  1. I’ve actually been enjoying Supergirl. Yeah, in the beginning, the writing is a bit clunky and they went overboard with the character shilling and anvilicious messages, but it’s gotten better. Now that Supergirl has grown more confident, the self doubt formula that you’ve mentioned has become more downplayed. The writing has improved greatly with the introduction of Maxwell Lord and nice plot twist involving the leader of the DEO. Melissa Benoist is growing to be a very charming Supergirl and I adore Cat Grant. She’s my favorite character. The series seems to have hit its stride in the past couple of episodes, especially the mid-season finale, which I won’t spoil in case anyone is interested. The show still has it’s problems, but the writers seem to be improving.

    1. Good to hear that the show finds its stride as it goes along. I do want to want to watch more of it, I just need the time. I am interested in seeing how they handle Maxwell Lord as well as that surprise character reveal you refer to . . .

  2. I think the chemistry between that actors in IZombie is what makes it great. This is probably a testament to the director. The acting is very good individually as well. The lead is very charming and gets to pull a bit of T Maslani (Orphan Black) transformation every episode because her personality changes based on the new brain she must eat in every episode. She shows a remarkable acting range with those drastic personality changes. It is very light hearted too which is a rarity in todays programing. Other than that, each episode is one and done with just a little bit of carry over.

    I actually defended Gotham earlier in the year but I just put it on the chopping block after a few episodes this season. There was some repetition going on and I don’t get Barbara Gordon as a villain.

    DD was good but it is kind of too familiar to me. Can’t wait to start J Jones!

  3. My favorite non comic shows this year (newish shows)

    Mr. Robot (hacker thriller), Impastor (comedy about a criminal who pretends to be pastor, it’s excellent), The Last Kingdom (historical medieval drama about the Viking invasion of England and the Saxon pushback in the 9th century AD, it is almost as good as the books and the books are some of the best I’ve ever read). There has to be something I’m leaving out…

      1. Show Me a Hero’s definitely on my list of year’s best TV. We just started Master of None — I really liked the second episode . . .

      2. I’ll check out Master of None. Show Me A Hero was really good but also really depressing (scary even). Is that the fate of real heroes? “Kill the Messenger” also comes to mind.

            1. Ya, older people call themselves wise but sometimes they are just bitter and bitterness can manifest itself in villainous ways.

              I was a much nicer person ten years ago… and a saint 10 years before that. What the fuck happened? I miss my innocence.

  4. My two favorite shows that I was way late to the party with… I just started orange is the new black and black sails.. Love them both.

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