This Year’s Finest 2016: TV Convo

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2016 brought an increasing number of comic based programs to television. Josh joins me in discussing a large cross-section of what both worked and did not these past twelve months.

Cosmo: This year, the DC/CW brand continued its bold expansion, launching one new series (Legends of Tomorrow) and annexing a another (Supergirl). Before we get to those, and the Arrowverse’s namesake, let’s begin with what I feel remains the most consistently successful of the CW shows: Flash.

Josh how are you feeling about the series?

Josh: I feel this season isn’t as disappointing as the last one, but I’m still not too impressed with it. Savitar is too similar to Zoom, Flashpoint seemed too short and half conceived, and I can’t really muster any excitement for Kid Flash when the show struggles finding enough just for Barry to handle. Then there’s the Rogues…

Cosmo: I do get your disinterest in Savitar; I’m pretty bored with the idea of yet another evil speedster. I would rather see a Grodd or Rogues based threat. I get that there are some limitations on the Rogues because of Legends but even if you take Heatwave and Captain Cold off the table, there are still plenty of character with which to work. Though, the idea of the Rogues without Snark does not sound quite right. Still, seeing Pied Piper take a Rogue leadership role might be interesting. Now if they could rope Mark Hamill in for multiple episodes and let him lead the Rogues — yeah, I know, too much to hope for . . .

I would have preferred Flashpoint lasting a couple more episodes, but at least it has had lasting consequences on Flash, as well as the other Arrowverse series. At the same time, I’m glad that we didn’t lose Jay Garrick as a result of Flashpoint. I do like how he has taken on a mentor role towards Barry.

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Josh: This is one of the problems with The Flash and their use of time travel, yes it has aftereffects but because of last Season Hartley is supposed to be “good”. Instead of seeing him evolve naturally over time and grow away from petty revenge and gain acceptance, it happens instantly in the Present because of the Butterfly Effect. Does Flashpoint retcon that? Isn’t that a waste of their effort in the first place?

It is funny that Earths 2 and 3 remained the same after Flashpoint, however I wasn’t satisfied with the Zoom/Jay Garrick resolution. I didn’t even understand why Jay was in the Mid Season finale other than deliver a pep talk that Barry needs EVERY episode. Also, how does he know about Savitar?  Ugh, the writing this season is somewhat better but aggravates me constantly.
Cosmo: My take on Jay is that he’s been doing this for while, so what he knows about the Sppedforce and Savitar is taken from experience. Also, if I remember correctly, his original explanation of Savitar was qualified with the comment “I thought he was a myth.” When he does see Savitar for the first time, there is a bit of “damn he’s actually real” about his expression. As I’ve stated elsewhere, my favorite take on Jay Garrick is the elder statesman version from after the Justice Society returned from Limbo. It gave him a purpose and reason for existing alongside other speedsters, and that works on the show too. The fact that he’s Barry’s father’s doppelganger (and played by the John Wesley Shipp) adds additional layers to the dynamic.

Do we know that nothing’s changed on the other Earths? All we saw of Earth 3 was the Trickster cameo and I don’t recall spending much time of Earth 2 either. So, there could be plenty of aftershocks that haven’t reached Barry yet.

On a related note, I do like how each season has reworked Harrison Wells, so that Tom Cavanagh is essentially playing a new character each time.

Josh: Yes, Harry from Earth 2 has stated that nothing’s changed on his Earth but noticed several differences post-Flashpoint. He could be wrong but that’s the working theory right now.

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The first Harrison Wells (the Thawne imposter) remains my favorite, with Harry from Earth 2 my second. By default, HR is my least favorite. I would rather he have left the show by this point but he usually does offer a good dynamic to the other characters.
Speaking of, I understand Cisco is angry at Barry because of his brother’s death but that really seems inconsistent with their interactions. I usually forget all about it until Cisco brings it up every week, because he seems entirely unchanged besides that.
Cosmo: Why would Earth 2 Wells know if anything was different? Wouldn’t his memory of past timeline iterations be wiped the same as everyone else’s?

The Earth 2 Wells is probably my favorite because he had the most depth. Thawne was a good villain but not really that complicated of a character. The Season 3 version is a fun variation, but, yeah, so far the least consequential as far as plot goes. Of course, that could change during the second half of the season. You never know what random piece of knowledge he has is suddenly going to be super-relevant. Plus, that Kid Flash training could be important.The Cisco dead brother thread worked for me. They highlighted it more during the Invasion crossover and found a nice way to resolve it, even if the execution was a little heavy handed.

Josh: It doesn’t make perfect sense, but imagine if someone enters a room and then leaves. The room gets rearranged in small ways so that people that have been there longer won’t notice it. The same person from before enters this room, and knows the difference. Most of the events of the past 2 seasons still happened, but it seems like the actual changes only affected Barry’s Earth. I’m sure there’s a better fourth dimensional Doc Brown answer, but I’m assuming because Harry’s on a different vibration frequency that’s why he and Earth 2 were unaffected by Flashpoint.
I did like how Invasion tied into Cisco’s issue with Barry and let him experience Barry’s dilemma for himself. Heavy handed, yes, but surprisingly good plotting I thought for something that always seemed to fade into the background too much.

Cosmo: It also speaks to what may be a slight quirk with the Arrowverse Multiverse going forward. Officially Supergirl is part of that Multiverse, yet, it pretty much functions independently. So, if Flashpoint rewrote all the realities, it would need to do so on Supergirl as well, which, would blur Supergirl‘s sense of separateness. Simpler to have Flashpoint effect Earth 1 alone.

While there are plotting issues with Flash (was anyone surprised by the Julian twist? Damn Malfoys), I do think that it has a strong sense of character. I enjoy watching these individuals interact even if a specific week’s narrative isn’t one of the strongest. For me that’s what sets it apart from the other CW shows . . .

Josh: Normally I would agree about The Flash‘s character interactions, if Legends of Tomorrow hadn’t come around. Flash tends to fall into ruts with the character arcs, while LoT takes all these characters that fought for screen time on the previous CW shows and allows them to shine. While their individual histories are still important, I think their overall group dynamic is more interesting to watch than Flash or Arrow.

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Cosmo: I do agree with you about Legends of Tomorrow having a strong group dynamic. Pretty much all the characters played off each other well and developed some depth as the show went on. (The exception for me was Rip, who was always pretty bland). Pretty much the only reason I stuck with the show as long as I did was for the characters. The actual narrative writing, however, I found very weak. The Vandal Savage plot-line started strong, but started lagging quickly. Where you are bothered by inconsistency on Flash, the rules of time travel on Legends never made any sense to me. I know, it’s a comic book show, don’t overthink it, but the problem was it would pull me out of the show constantly. For example, the Time Lords assassin who could kill you as a child but only attempt it once? Um, why exactly? Story convenience?

I still have the last 3 episodes of Season One to watch but just keep putting it off for shows I care about more. Which is a shame because, as I said, I enjoy the characters and would like to see more of them.

Josh: Yeah, it’s really playing loose with the rules. I assume the time assassin thing has to do with a larger domino effect that’s minimized when you kill someone as a child. Then again, The Terminator films constantly see John Connor under threats from the future.
This is a problem with Berlanti and Guggenheim show running so many programs, there’s not enough oversight. Sure, they have a crossover once a year and tie-in but I’d trade that for better writing.

Cosmo: And Berlanti’s name is on 2017’s Riverdale. Depending on what day they have it scheduled, that’s potentially one Berlanti show on the CW every night Monday-Friday. He starting to make Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy look lazy . . .

Josh: Have you seen the trailer for Riverdale? It looks like Twilight crossed over with Jennifer’s Body

LoT Season 2 is alright, the team really loses focus with Rip gone. Not to delve too heavily into spoilers, but White Canary and Ray Palmer’s writing becomes lacking. On the plus side, the JSA pop in a few times.

Cosmo: I think I’ve half-watched the Riverdale commercials when they come on during another CW show. At first glance it is a weird aesthetic choice — Archie meets Twin Peaks is how it’s being sold. Of course, when Afterlife with Archie was first announced most fans rolled their eyes at the idea and look how well that turned out.

Is there no Big Bad for Season 2 of Legends? The commercials make it look even more like “time jump of the week” than the first. How have they been handling the Justice Society so far? That is one of the main reasons I might still check out the second season at some point.

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Josh: I can’t say it endears Archie to me any more than anything could, but I may check it out. I gave Supergirl three episodes before I checked out on that.

There is a big bad in LoT, who actually makes sense and presents a new challenge to the team. I meant the team’s cohesiveness lost focus, without Rip’s leadership they’re sort of lost and the attempts to fill the gap are noticeably off to me.
I’m pretty sure every episode is a different era, with two of the most troublesome being the Civil War and Feudal Japan. By which I mean execution wise, they get cringe-worthy in approaching topics of race and changing history.
The JSA has appeared in one 2 parter and then a cameo in a later episode, and overall their portrayal is pretty faithful I think as much as the CW can do it. The lineup is nontraditional, but they don’t surpass the animated analogues in the Bruce Timm Justice League cartoon that playfully adapted what heroes of that age would be like to modern people.
Cosmo: By non-traditional do you mean a mix of old & new, similar to Johns’ run? I assume that Jay Garrick’s out due to Flash, but what about Alan Scott and Wesley Dodds?
Josh: Yes and no, I mean Vixen, Obsidian, (race bent) Dr Midnight, Star Girl, and a non-powered Commander Steel. Pretty much the easiest characters to put on a TV budget. My problem comes from the fact that this team lineup exists in the 1940s. I don’t mind alternate history, but when LoT goes to the Civil War and gets VERY heavy about Slavery there’s a disconnect. I’m supposed to believe that 2 African Americans can be a super secret Government sponsored team can exist while Segregation is ongoing, but that about 90 years earlier I’m going to see the horrors of real world racism? It just doesn’t add up. I’m sure that the 1940s were a relatively more enlightened time, but it made me question the writers understanding of history and what they were writing.
Cosmo: That is an odd selection, as very few of them date back to The Golden Age. I’m not surprised that they passed on Alan Scott (both because of the Green Lantern association and TV budgets). How are they doing Obsidian then? Did they rewrite his backstory or are they being coy about his parentage. You would think that Wildcat or Liberty Bell could have been in the mix. Also, Golden Age Sandman really would not be that difficult to do on TV. Wonder how much of this was influenced by Johns?

Diving into racial attitudes of the past is not always easy. Agent Carter stumbled a bit this year as well when they tried to tackle post-World War II racism. My hunch is that part of the problem is the perception of historical racism which exists to this day. On one hand, it is much easier for Legends to say “slavery was evil” then for them also to say “endemic racism continued after slavery and was prevalent, regardless of which region of the country being discussed, in such a way that is still quite prominent today.” So, Legends took the road of least resistance by dialing down racial boundaries in the 1940s. Or it was simply poor writing . . .

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Josh: I’d believe both were at play, but it still bothers me.
The JSA is very brief, even in the context of the 2 parter. Obsidian’s parentage is never mentioned, and his sexuality is only hinted at once. Its not an inelegant execution in the context of the scene, but compared to all the other LGBT moments in the Arrowverse it seems strikingly coy.
I doubt Johns has much input on the shows anymore, but I would’ve preferred more classic characters like Sandman on the team. Its one of those things that feels lacking about these shows; like Count Vertigo being a knockoff Scarecrow and the Top being Count Vertigo.

Cosmo: Yeah, it is strange how they rework the characters sometimes, which seems like a natural enough transition into Arrow.

This is my first season watching the show regularly (in the past I pretty much only watched the Flash crossovers). Most of it is good, though, it does have its bumpy sections. Stephen Amell’s Oliver has grown on me over time and Emily Bett Rickards’ Felicity is still one of the most fun inhabitants of the Arrowverse. I shall say that I have found the whole Prometheus thread a little underwhelming so far.

What would you say?

Josh: I’m very annoyed at how similar Alchemy and Prometheus seem (even their masks look alike), but besides that I’ve enjoyed watching Oliver become Mayor of Star City and assemble a new team of heroes.

Weak points I would say are the Wild Dog character, the Invasion episode, and Prometheus in general. Also the emphasis at how great a hero Black Canary was. It strikes me as rewriting history a bit seeing she was often reckless and her own worst enemy at times.
It does have its ups and downs, but overall I think this season of Arrow is stronger than the current season of Flash. Which seems to be the case for 2 years now. I’m enjoying the flashbacks to Russia, John Diggle’s personal crisis, and Felicity moving on from Oliver (even if the reasons for that are shaky).
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Cosmo: Besides design, what similarities do you see between Alchemy and Prometheus? The latter is a highly skilled killer, seeking out revenge, while the former is a mind controlled aristocratic archaeologist. They seem pretty distinct to me. But, yes, Prometheus has been lacking. I did like how they tied his motivation into the early phase of the Arrow’s career. Before that he was just another generic villain. So, there is potential for the character, but we need to wait and see where it goes.

The strongest part of the season has been the training of the new band of heroes. I like the Wild Dog character and actually find that he has the most defined personality out of the new recruits. I have pretty much zero first hand experience with him from comics though, so for all I know they have completely rewritten him. I like Mr Terrific overall, but think that the writers try too hard for quirky when doing his dialogue. I did like how they handled the conflict with his husband in the most recent episode.

Then there is Ragman, the reason I’m watching the season in the first place. I don’t hate how they have been handling him, but, let’s say, I am very underwhelmed. He does not really feel like Rory Regan from the comics (either the original 70s version or the post-Crisis revision). I am hoping that eventually we’ll get a Rory focused episode that will fill out his character a little. At the moment he is tad too CW pretty boy for my conception of the character. Decent design work with his costume though.

Honestly, whenever the Russian flashbacks popup, I zone out the show. Maybe it’s because I have not been following from the beginning but I just do not find them that interesting.

Josh: They seem to have the same “voice”, they orchestrate conflicts with the hero through minions. Ultimately they’re different but at the beginning they seemed nearly identical.
I’ve been looking forward to seeing Mr.Terrific on the show, but I’m always surprised at his lack of physicality. Ragman is cool because he seems the most “heroic” out of the recruits, which is probably why Oliver doesn’t have to train him as much as the others. It being the CW, there’s obviously going to be an emphasis on being young and attractive for most of the characters. I have little knowledge of Ragman other than the basics for how his costume works but so far I’ve enjoyed his portrayal.
For most of last season and maybe even the one before, the flashbacks felt pretty pointless. Oliver still seems very green in spite of all his trials in the past, and the longer he’s away from the Island just makes things even more ridiculous.However, his membership in the Bratva is a fairly significant one which came into play in earlier seasons. They’re a resource he can call upon when needed, and explain why he can speak Russian. Seeing that fully play out just appeals to me. Plus, Dolph Lundgren as a Russian mob boss is cool.
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Cosmo: It is true that Alchemy started off as a different character (active manipulator) than he turned out to be (passively manipulated). So far this season the Flash villains have been pretty unremarkable.

Rory being young is fine, but he should be more grizzled. In the comics he is a war veteran who grew up surrounded by poverty. At the same time, he has a very strong sense of compassion. They’ve made a couple token allusions to his Jewish faith, but nothing that really digs deep into it. Honestly, he is kind of a blank slate on the show.

I figured that some context would help with the flashbacks.

I am briefly going to bring up Supergirl as neither of us watch it regularly. The couple of episodes I watched last year had some promise, but were choppy writing wise. (To be honest, though, all the CW shows have trouble in this area). The one episode I watched this season showed a fair amount of improvement. I see that Mon-El is on now and I enjoyed how James Robinson used that character the Superman titles a few years back. Melissa Benoist has really come into the role and has a very charming take on the character. If I had more time, I would give the series another try. For me Kara was one of the highlights of the Invasion crossover.

Josh: I went in to Supergirl with an open mind, but I simply could not stand every episode her being told she can’t do THIS but by the climax the same person telling her she can do it. I’m curious to check back in since Mon-El, Superman, and possibly the Legion of Superheroes making appearances but those can’t fix weak writing. Plus I kind of don’t want any more shows of the CW quality from the Arrow/Flash/LoT team.

Invasion is a good example why. Its a poorly setup conflict, the stakes never seem that high, and the story seems stretched out over four episodes when really it should’ve been 2 at the most. Then there’s the yawn portrayal of the Dominators as naked, green, scheming aliens. Some neat progression came out of it to affect the Flash team, but I didn’t think it was that clear why or even how they brought in the Legends to help. Just because all four of the shows can crossover, doesn’t mean they should. I didn’t even watch the Supergirl part and I feel like I missed nothing.
Cosmo: Well, that formula was pretty much gone from the Invasion episode I watched this season. I get what you mean about not needing any more Berlanti shows. That’s one of the reasons I’m unmotivated to return to Legends.

The structuring of Invasion was a little wonky. Clearly they wanted each part to spotlight the specific series’ characters. The Arrow one worked in my opinion, while the Legends‘ time travel jaunt to the 50s seemed shoehorned in (though as we discussed above, it did provide a nice resolution to the Barry/Cisco antagonism). The design of the Dominators was fine in and of itself, but lacked connection to the comic book version. I agree that more personality on their part would have been nice. My main problem with the writing was that the conflicts were resolved way too easily (“hey their language resembles ancient Hebrew” “Barry and Kara zip around the planet defusing all the bombs”). So I understand what you’re saying about the stakes feeling low. However, as I keep coming back to with these shows, the character interactions were a lot of fun. For that reason, I wish they had jettisoned some of the side stories and concentrated more on the teams working together to fight aliens. I think it would have provided more focus and resolved some of our critiques.The Supergirl episode actually had very little to do with the crossover. Basically Barry and Cisco vibe over at the end. And they replayed that scene in Flash, so, yeah, you didn’t miss anything there.

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Josh: I thought the Arrow episode was insanely weak, and cliched. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen a Matrix homage where they break out through force of will for reasons. I know for a fact I saw it on Smallville, and it wasn’t cute then either. Back to Arrow, I felt it didn’t add anything to the conflict and was just to sideline certain characters. I want to say that the Dominators didn’t even abduct the heroes with actual powers? Which makes even less sense.

The LoT works for me for retroactively explaining the Dominator threat, but its a missed opportunity they didn’t reference Back to the Future.
This was a far cry from the crossover involving Vandal Savage and the introductions of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. I remember enjoying that overall whereas Invasion I just wanted it to be over 5 minutes in.

Cosmo: I see where you are coming from with the cliche nature of the Arrow episode. For me, though, the execution worked. Again it may be related to my not watching the previous seasons, so this was the first time I had seen many of these characters interacting. Yes, the reasoning behind abducting the non-metas was a little fuzzy. In the original comic Invasion the Dominators’ whole plan revolves around wanting to harvest Earth’s meta gene for their own devious ends. I kept waiting for that to play into the TV adaptation which, despite some teasing, never quite happened. Again, I think that if the writers had focused more on the broad conflict than worrying about these side-stories there would have been a stronger flavor to the whole endeavor. My favorite chapter was the Flash chapter because that gave me what I was most expecting/wanting from the event: a variety of characters who don’t normally share the screen together, trying to be a team and fight aliens.

I shall say that I do think that Oliver and Barry have evolved naturally into the core of the Arrowverse family of heroes. I found it fitting that the crossover ended with the two of them together unwinding at a bar.

Josh: Let’s switch gears a little and discuss Agents of SHIELD. I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter about their guest stars and possible/probable spinoffs. How has that show been?

Cosmo: SHIELD has been pretty much the same as it has the last couple years. There are good episodes, followed by OK episodes then something that grabs my attention again. They have an AI subplot this season which teases Jocasta and would be cool if that is where it ends up. The big addition, of course, has been Ghost Rider. When they first announced it at Comic Con, I rolled my eyes at the idea of how he would look on a TV budget but the execution has been pretty strong so far. I should note that I am currently a couple episodes behind, so I cannot speak to where the Mid-Season Finale left the show.

Honestly, though, if the rumors are true and this is the last season of SHIELD, I would be fine with it. It was never a great series, but it has had its moments. Wrapping it up now and finding a strong note to go out on would probably be for the best.

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Josh: I believe it’s been announced that there’s an Inhumans show spinning off from that? Which on a different network would be pretty tempting to me.

Cosmo: Well, the Inhumans show will be arriving on ABC this fall (after the pilot debuts in IMAX theaters). Don’t know how much of a spin-off it will be. There have been no hints of the Royal Family on SHIELD to date, so it could be pretty much a fresh start. Not really sure what to expect from the project. The pilot’s going need a pretty decent production level to look good in IMAX, yet, how much of that will translate to the small screen? It would be awesome if they could pull it off, but at the moment I am neutral to the chances of it succeeding. Oh well, if nothing else, maybe they can bring back Kyle MacLachlan’s character (I’m pretty sure that shooting has wrapped on the Twin Peaks revival).

More than either SHIELD or Inhumans, I wish we were getting more Agent Carter. Hayley Atwell was one of the highlights of the first Captain America film (outside the ladies of Jessica Jones, she’s possibly the MCU’s strongest female character to date). Her show was never entirely what she deserved but I found it improved in the second season. Wynn Everett’s Whitney Frost made a good antagonist for Peggy. Both women experienced the misogyny of the day, only to find different ways of confronting it. That flip sides to the same coin was intriguing. Also Atwell’s dynamic with James D’Arcy’s Jarvis was delightful. So it goes.

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Josh: I still have not tried Agent Carter yet. It still puzzles me that until the Inhumans arrives, all the network Marvel shows will have dealt primarily with SHEILD in a large capacity. Netflix on the other hand deals entirely with street level Marvel heroes who aren’t on the Avengers radar.

Cosmo: With that in mind, let’s move on to the Netflix shows, which, for me, remain the best superhero series on TV. What did you think of the second season of Daredevil?

Josh: I was mildly let down by it. The Punisher/Elektra subplots really tore focus away from what I felt was the main plot of Matt/Foggy/Karen. The idea that someone like DD brought Frank Castle into being is both ludicrous and a tired theme in comic adaptations.
The brief return of Wilson Fisk I quite enjoyed, as it seems like his story continued naturally and evenly for what space was allowed.
Overall I think it was alot of story in too small a venue, and the fact that a Punisher spinoff is imminent makes me question if this season was necessary for anything but setting up the spinoff?

Cosmo: Well, I would disagree. I thought that the Punisher and Elektra story-lines were naturally integrated into the larger narrative of Matt Murdock. In fact, Elektra helps illuminate the divide in his character by complicating his relationship with Karen. As much as Matt might want a normal life (or at least relationship) with Karen, Elektra keeps pulling him back into the darkness of the night. In the end, he cannot manage his feelings for the two women any better than his competing lifestyles of lawyer and vigilante. Meanwhile, I thought that the writers made some good decisions regarding the evolution of Foggy and Karen’s characters, especially Karen. There is the tease that she could follow in Ben Urich’s footsteps.

It helped that Frank Castle and Elektra were so well cast. Both Jon Bernthal and Elodie Yung nailed their roles. Bernthal brought the right balance of grit and unhinged to Frank, while Yung’s Elektra was charismatic without blunting any of her more vicious tendencies. The look she gives Matt when she says “of course I knew you were Daredevil, I know you too well darling” was priceless.

I don’t think Castle was introduced simply to get him a spin-off, otherwise it would have been pre-announced, like Luke Cage’s was before he premiered in Jessica Jones.

Vincent D’Onofrio’s Fisk does continue to be one of the most brilliant aspects of the series, even in his more limited capacity this time. I actually thought that the amount of screen time he received this season was perfect, just enough to make an impression but without hogging the limelight away from new characters. The scene with him and Matt in the prison was fantastic. What D’Onofrio really understands about Fisk is the exact right moment to drop the mask of cultured businessman and rage out with full force brutality. Hoping he has larger role again in Season 3.

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Josh: As much as I didn’t care for the Punisher subplot, Jon Bernthal was a good choice for Frank Castle (albeit one that wouldn’t surprise The Walking Dead fans). Yung’s Elektra was also a more faithful and engaging portrayal than Jennifer Garner’s in the 2003 DD film.
When I look at S2 as a whole, I’m just not sure what the story was there. The Punisher is setup, Elektra is established, and the Hand is slowly creeping in to NYC. It feels more like half of a 22 episode season than a complete 13 episode season. It didn’t match up to S1 to me in terms of story, but obviously we disagree on that.
I just find Jessica Jones and Luke Cage delivered more satisfying material over the course of their 13 episodes than DD‘s second go around.
Cosmo: Honestly, I’m glad that they structured the season the way in which they did. As much as I enjoyed Bernthal’s acting, Frank Castle is not an overly compelling character for me. For me he only works when placed in opposition to someone like Daredevil. Part of it is the cultural moment we live in; the last thing I need in my life right now is any more glorification of gun violence. Given Marvel/Netflix’s strong track record to date, I’ll give his solo series a try, but it is the first project from their collaboration about which I have reservations.

I could see where The Hand thread might have felt disjointed to you. Part of that comes from Stick’s continued refusal to explain exactly what is or is not happening behind the scenes. My working theory is that The Hand will be play a large role in the upcoming Defenders team-up, which would support your feeling that there is more to this story left to explore. Netflix confirmed that Yung’s returning for Defenders and I don’t think they would announce that so far ahead if it was simply for a flashback cameo. Then again for my theory to work, you would need to figure out who Sigourney Weaver’s “villain” role would be . . .

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Josh: I feel the same way about the Punisher, and honestly the more time goes on the more my feelings only get more certain. Could be good, could be great. I may not be in the mindset to see it.
If I had to guess, I would suggest Weaver would be the leader of the Hand? Or possibly a government/law enforcement person out to stop the Defenders. With the exception of Diamondback, the Netflix shows have been very good at building antagonists for their heroes. It’s almost a shame Killgrave is dead, even if it gave JJ a more poignant ending.
I’ve given my feelings on JJ and LC already, both are technically well-done. The superhero story isn’t one that suits every character though, which JJ can be an example of. As a mystery/drama/revenge story its very good, as comic book fodder though it struck me as halfhearted.

Cosmo: Yeah, my guess is that Weaver ties into The Hand somehow, but, of course, I could be completely off the mark with my theory and the threat could be entirely different. Still, it’s going to need to be something that justifies bringing all four of these characters together (plus, Misty Knight, Colleen Wing and possibly others).

I do agree that the Netflix shows have excelled at compelling antagonists. It is definitely an advantage of having much more screen time to dedicate to character development. Even Diamondback, despite lacking the complexity of Cottonmouth or Black Mariah, was an improvement over the original comic book version of the character.

I actually did not find Jessica Jones weighed down at all by “comic book” elements. It remains my favorite of the Netflix shows.

I enjoyed Luke Cage overall. As with some of the Marvel Studio movies, I think that we are starting to see some repetition of theme/plot threads, but the execution of the show was distinct enough to mostly mask those. Also, the acting was strong across the board: Mike Colter, Mahershala Ali, Simone Missick & Alfre Woodward were all excellent. And Rosario Dawson just keeps getting better . . .

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Josh: I didn’t like her becoming a love interest to Luke, but yes strong performances all around on LC. I was really surprised by the Cottonmouth turn, although Shades role in the story still puzzles me. As does him driving a tinted SUV at night while wearing sunglasses…

I want to bring up Gotham briefly on the subject of villains and surprising turns. Almost every part of the show can be somewhat entertaining to yawn inducing, but I still never get tired of Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin and Cory Michael Smith’s Edward Nigma.
Cosmo: I thought that the romance between Claire and Luke worked well and evolved naturally. Claire Temple was Luke’s first romantic partner in the comics, so, it is a pairing with precedent. Also, given Jessica Jones’ role in the death of Luke’s wife, a steady relationship between then would be pretty difficult. Claire allows Luke to build something new, whereas how could he not see his tragic past whenever he looked at Jessica?

Yeah, the early Cottonmouth demise was a shock, but it worked. What Ali did so well was play this character full of grandiose bluster, while simultaneously revealing all these emotional vulnerabilities. You were never sure how much of his speeches he actually believed himself. It is a really subtle, nuanced performance. Then that backstory they gave him, and how it bled into those present days scenes of his playing the organ in his office, was haunting.I never entirely warmed to Shades as a character, I think because it was so clearly telegraphed from his first scene that he was going betray everyone left and right. At the same time, I did like how he and Mariah Dillard slowly built a partnership of sorts. Their final scene together in the car is an intriguing tease of what might be in store for Season 2. The wearing shades indoors at night, though, did push credulity after awhile . .

Josh: I think Jessica and Luke would’ve been a chance to put their respective pasts and transgressions behind them. Especially since Luke’s deceased wife had a hand in his prison ordeal. Claire moving from Matt to Luke just doesn’t sit right with me. She’s a great character, but I don’t see the need for her to be a love interest all the time. And not seeing Luke and Jessica get together again would bother the purist in me.

luke-cage-cage

Cosmo: How would it bother the purist in you, if, as I said, they do have relationship from the comics? Jessica dated Scott Lang for a little in Brian Michael Bendis’ Alias comic. Does that mean if Paul Rudd doesn’t drop by Hell’s Kitchen, you’ll be unhappy? (Actually if they could get Rudd to cameo and recreate one of their charmingly awkward dinners from Alias that would be pretty cool).

Josh: Seeing Luke and Claire settle down would bother me because I like the idea of Luke and Jessica so much better. They compliment each other in personality and power, and I think their relationship would be a redemption of sorts. Their marriage is a constant focus in both Bendis’ DD and the current Power Man and Iron Fist.

Although getting Paul Rudd in the Netverse would be a coup, it’s unlikely as I think these shows are running quite a few years behind the movies chronologically. Unless its Scott Lang pre-Ant Man, I don’t see it happening.

Cosmo: Oh yeah, I don’t expect the Lang/Rudd thing to actually happen — just saying how cool it would be.

Meanwhile, over on Amazon, The Tick offered up a rather fun parody of the whole Neflix/Marvel aesthetic. Did you watch the pilot?

The Tick Tick & Arthur

Josh: Watched it, really enjoyed it. Hope it gets a series order. For all the comic book shows on the air, there’s not alot that differentiates them other Publisher source material. The Tick would stand far and away from other superhero shows.

Cosmo: Agreed. It was a fun show. As I pointed out in my review, it was fascinating how well it transitioned from the previous series’ use of the fads of the 90s (aping Seinfeld) to those of the 10s (the Netflix shows). At the same time, it never lost any of the essence of the source material. I suspect that Tick creator Bob Edlund’s involvement with each iteration has been rather vital.

And for the record, yes, Amazon has ordered a full season of the series.

Josh: Excellent news. Every generation needs a Tick.

Cosmo: Oh every generation has more than one tic.

Seriously, though, one element that we keep mentioning as key to the high quality of these streaming shows is the casting. This proves to be true for The Tick as well. Peter Serafinowicz is a brilliant comedian who does not disappoint as the title character, capturing all of his loopy charm. Griffin Newman was unknown to me prior to the pilot but he made an equally great Arthur. The promise of watching these two actors continue playing off each other is quite appealing.

This leads me to Preacher. I never watched any of it but will confess that my main interest in the series was to see Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga.

preacher

Josh: Preacher is phenomenal, and the casting is included in that. The only small caveat I have is Joe Gilgun, who I think is an English actor, playing an Irish character. His accent seems forced at times. However, both Preacher and the Tick share Jackie Earl Haley as an antagonist. His Odin Quincannon is amazing, and I give an edge to him over the Terror. Haley playing a bad guy is nothing new, the same way Christoph Waltz does, but in Preacher he was really given material for a layered performance.
Aside from Cassidy, Jesse Custer and Tulip O’Hare are slightly different from the comic but still feel true to the spirit of those characters. The show being set now, versus the late 80s/early 90s of the comics, was bound to enact a reexamination of the characters for today. Ruth Negga’s Tulip is a flawed, but strong willed woman who is hard not to love even when she makes bad decisions. In contrast, Cooper’s Jesse is a man in personal crisis who does good things for the wrong reasons, or vice versa.
It’s a little slow during the pilot, but after that Preacher is a steady ride through the subjects of faith,doubt, loss, love, and redemption.
Cosmo: What I liked about Haley’s take on the Terror was how it let him put a new spin on his recent slate of roles. Ever since his role in Little Children he has been stuck in a very narrow range (even more so than Waltz). So allowing him to flex some comic muscles for a change would be nice.
My understanding is that the Preacher TV adaptation has taken a rather free view of reshuffling the narrative, creating a different chronology than the comic. Is that accurate?  If so, how effective is it?

Josh: Yes, the show takes place more or less in the Now. We see things happen sort of at the beginning when Genesis merges with Jesse, and gradually get backstory on the mortal inhabitants while the celestial stuff moves forward at the end of the season.

In the comics, Odin Quincannon appeared toward the end and relatively briefly. In the show, he’s a part of Jesse and his father’s history and a long-time member of the town. What I liked about Haley as Quincannon, was that even though I had a certain expectation in my mind of who he was/going to be, Haley was able to flesh him out into a whole person. At first Quincannon is aloof and bored by almost every interaction. Then we see him and Jesse building a scale model of the Alamo and almost the only thing Quincannon cares about besides his business. By the time Jesse tries to “save” Quincannon’s soul, we see him as excited and genuinely interested in proving Jesse wrong that God and faith exist.
By seeing things happen slowly, the show is able to introduce its more outlandish elements without embarrassment because by that point the audience is invested in the characters. Its very well plotted in that way, teasing things that won’t be paid off til later, while revealing mysteries that have been there since the beginning.
It’s very much how I felt when The Walking Dead first aired, and how I had a general idea of what was going to happen I was still surprised by the twists and execution of the story.
PREACH_104-20160322-LJ_0180.dng
Cosmo: You’ve mentioned before the importance of Preacher co-creators Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon in developing the adaptation. How do you see that playing out on screen?

Josh: The overall quality of the show. I mean, it can’t be entirely due to Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg producing the show. Having Ennis and Dillion close by had to have been a positive influence in making the show as great as it turned out.

Not to knock Rogen or Goldberg, but Preacher is the best thing I’ve ever seen with their names attached.
Cosmo: Seth Rogan has given some great performances over the years but I think you’re referring specifically to his track record as a producer.
Finally, is there any new comic book show you’re particularly looking forward to seeing next year?  Any non-comic book show from this year you think more people should be watching?
Josh: Iron Fist is a show I’m very much looking forward to, although it has a tough bar to match from Marvel’s other Netflix shows.
Vice Principals premiered this year, and continues HBO’s quality of excellence not just in drama but comedy as well. Fans of Danny McBride and his previous show Eastbound and Down should check that out. Very funny and well acted.
Cosmo: Yeah, I’m looking forward to Iron Fist as well as The Defenders team-up.
Bojack Horseman continues to impress me. Three seasons in, the show keeps growing richer. Just when I assume the series cannot get any more biting, poignant and yes hilarious, I’m proven wrong. Simply one of the best shows out there by any rubric. I recommended it last year and I shall keep doing so as long as it excels in quality.The new series which impressed me the most this year was probably Atlanta. Like Bojack it mixed comedy and drama along with a healthy helping of absurdity. However, what sets Atlanta apart is a very distinct personality. Its sense of place and nuanced character work lend it an atmosphere all its own. The writing and acting stay sharp, even during the more surreal turns. Really brilliant work from all involved.Cheers

atlanta

23 thoughts on “This Year’s Finest 2016: TV Convo”

  1. Rogan and Goldberg are gods on earth. Preacher seemed flat to me though. There was something lost in translation but I can’t put my finger on it. It didn’t make anyone laugh out loud or gasp at my house. I think it has a ton of competition in this golden age of both comics and TV. It may be because I have high expectation though as Preacher is pretty much my favorite comic ever.

    Anyone watching “Good Behavior”? It’s my favorite new show of the last half of the year. I can’t think of much that is better this year besides Atlanta.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46eiLzbKWhw

    It’s on TNT which is weird but this and “animal kingdom” is pretty damn good.

            1. Watched the finale this evening and, personally, it was a let down. Big chunks of it, including the major twists did not work for me. So it goes.

              1. Ya, I knew you would HATE the last one. I would have hated the last one 10-15 years ago. I’m jaded now though… what can I say. My old self would have been like ” no way!” But my current self is like ” oh ya, that makes sense…”.

                Ha. Pity me… or whatever…

                1. Actually, no. The last twist is the one which worked partially for me. Basically, the idea was good, I simply didn’t believe that Hopkins’ character would make the choice which he did. It seemed a little too on the nose symbolism-wise. As far as the outbreak of violence goes, that was effective. Indeed, what I liked most about the finale is how naturally they blend the ending of the season with the ending of the original film.

                  Also I liked the reveal of what the maze was.

                  My major problem was with the William twist. It made no sense. I guess it could’ve worked, but the writers and actors did a very poor job of preparing us for it. William’s transformation in the last two episodes was too sudden, not organic. Also, are we to believe that he goes on to rape and murder this woman he loved multiple times? Again possible, but not really supportable with what we saw of him in the majority of the season. It played like a shock for shock’s sake, instead of a twist which served the narrative . . .

                  So, overall a good show, which didn’t entirely stick the landing.

                  1. The maze reveal was good, ya.

                    Hopkins carried himself in a sinister manner for most of the season so I wasn’t really surprised by him (much).

                    Spoiler: The first twist I was referring to was actually the Bernarnold twist.

                    Spoiler: The second one I was referring to was the William twist which I knew you would hate. That twist only makes sense if you have danced with devil in the pale moon light. I had a friend that used to always shit on my notions of pure good and relegate everything to a grey area. It really pissed me off in my early twenties but I’m beginning to see more grey lately 😦 Of course William is never really grey as we see him. This twist does fall into a manipulating the audience kind of twist as we are purposefully kept in the dark. Normally I hate being kept in the dark and then thrown for a loop but the time change and the fact that these are simulations of evil (for the most part) make it a little more plausible (while still far fetched). The other thing about William is that his goodness was presumed partially because he was quiet. We never really got inside his head until the end. His interest in Dolores could have been selfish from the beginning or even maybe influenced by a notion of what he thought he was supposed to do inside the game world.

                    1. Alrighty, spoilers going forward . . .

                      My problem with the Ford twist had nothing to do with his sinister nature, as you say that has been pretty evident from early on. My objection was that I didn’t believe his suicide. I did not feel that his character had given any indication that he was ready to die. As such it felt too symbolically neat, too much a mirror image of Arnold’s earlier action. (The cynical part of me wonders if Hopkins only signed on for a single season and the writers had to get rid of Ford somehow). Also, I’m going to miss Hopkins on the show; it was nice to actually see him act for the first time in a decade or two.

                      Regarding William, I have no problems with delving into shades of grey. In fact, I prefer complex characters over stark divisions of good/bad. We all have the potential for cruelty within us. Thus, as a concept, the William/Man in Black connection could have worked. However, I thought that it was poorly executed. William’s transformation is too sudden. There are plenty of indications besides his “quietness” which suggest his virtues in the early episodes. On the flip side, even after the reveal, Ed Harris appeared to be playing a separate character. Harris could have employed some mannerism, some turn of speech in order to demonstrate his link to his younger self. After all, if we’re discussing shades of grey, then some of the young William should have been visible in his older self and vise versa. Are we to believe that The Man in Black has wiped clean all traces of his previous personality? As I said, it felt too simplistic for the sake of shocking the audience. Small hints such as personality tics could have not only enriched the characters but also prepared the ground so that viewers would not have been “thrown for a loop” as you described. This is part of my problem with how too many shows use twists these days. Half the time actors don’t even know until the last minute (not saying that was the case here) which of course severely limits their ability to make the plot turns organic.

                      I liked the Arnold/Bernard twists. Thought those were managed well.

                    2. The World’s Fastest Indian… 2005… Hopkins… you would love it I think. He acts in that. I agree he probably wanted off the show though.. like you say … one season sign up so they had to remove the character. Frankly, maybe they were worried about him dying in real life as well.

            1. Well, we should probably not overstate Brubaker’s involvement. He’s only credited with co-writing one episode. True, we never know what he might have contributed in the writers’ room, but I’m guessing that most of the overall narrative structure should be credited to the show’s co-creators, as they have the most of the actual writing credits.

              1. Dude, he’s listed as supervising producer on each episode and he’s been talking about being one of the head writers on the show for two years before it was even announced.

                1. I missed those producer credits (as lovely as the title sequence is, the font on the credits could be a smudge larger).

                  Anyway, I stand corrected. My apologies.

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