Why Superhero Television is Dominating My Screen Time

I cannot get enough of the major live-action superhero shows on television right now.

It started with Arrow, which I initially believed would end up being a steaming pile of crap.  One of the lesser known superhero’s was coming to the CW – shudder – and was trying to be cool and gritty and dark, a film style a certain caped Crusader had recently made popular.  I remember my dad calling me and asking me over and over again whether or not I had watched Arrow, and I rebuked him time and time again.  No, I had not watched Arrow.  No, I had not seen the new imagining of a guy named Oliver Queen *snicker* who the creators had decided to turn into a badass.  No, I had not yet taken my first bump of DC Comics’ newest drug that would soon dictate my schedule.

And then Arrow hit Netflix.  And in order to stop my father from asking me again and again and again (I started to worry he might have Alzheimer’s during all this), after work on a Friday I turned on the first episode. And then the next one.  And the next.  Two days and 23 episodes later, Season 1 was over.  In a cruel twist of fate, I was once again faced with the fact that my father, whose mind appeared to be slowly sailing away into the great white fog of lost memories, was in fact extremely lucid and knew amazing television when he saw it. I had been as wrong as every single decision made during the filming of Spider-Man 3.

“That’s right. Just one episode. Just try it.”

Luckily for me, the second season was on its way, and half-way through it, The Flash (another lesser known superhero when compared to the Big 4 of Batman, Superman, Spiderman and a little group called The Avengers) was unveiled during an episode of Arrow.  Barry Allen was coming to the small screen and Grant Gustin looked to be a perfect casting of the character, and he was.  Season 1 of The Flash aired alongside Season 3 of Arrow, and I couldn’t get enough of either.  I’ll admit, the first season of Flash had to deal with some campy acting and the third season of Arrow was like getting hit in the face with a batarang made of dog shit, but the potential was there for both shows.  Now that we’re all the way in Seasons 2 and 4 of The Flash and Arrow, both shows have found their pace and, in the case of Arrow, has regained the charm of the first season.  And the crossover episodes? Fuckin’ amazing, man.

See what I'm aiming at, Flash? That's all the cool shit that's going to happen because of us.
See what I’m aiming at, Flash? That’s all the cool shit that’s going to happen because of us.

One thing I would like to note however: I really enjoyed when Oliver Queen was filling bad guys full of arrowheads in the heart, and was disappointed when he stopped in the second season.  I know that superheroes aren’t “supposed” to be killing people, but when they’re drug dealers and killers and people who take up two parking spaces at Target, I give it a pass.

So far, I’ve managed to enjoy these shows, but I still had time for other shows like Castle, The Walking Dead, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and my now yearly re-watching of both Breaking Bad and Firefly (come on Netflix, you brought back Arrested Development and made an entire series out of Wet Hot American Summer, get off your ass and bring back Firefly!).  And then, just when I thought life was good, Netflix and Marvel released their original series Daredevil.

Ben Aff-who?
Ben Aff-who?

Daredevil was a turning point.  I had no hope for a character that Ben Affleck had already ruined for me.  I enjoyed the movie when I was 16 and couldn’t get enough Jennifer Garner, but watching it over 10 years later is like closing my eyes and choosing to walk into walls for two hours.  But the TV show… wow.  Just wow.  Marvel had taken off the leash and wasn’t pulling punches anymore.  The trifecta of Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, and and Karen Page (played to almost perfection by Charlie Cox, Elden Henson, and Deborah Ann Holl, respectively) created a cohesive, believable team of people who I really felt worried and cared about what was happening in Hell’s Kitchen.  Vincent D’Onofrio worked his magic as Wilson Fisk and created one of the most memorable villains I’ve seen, both on the small and big screen.

Special mention has to go to the absolutely incredible fight scene in the second episode of Daredevil.  Not only was it wonderfully shot in one single take, but the combination of on- and off-screen action while the camera remained in what amounted to a tight, 15-yard hallway, but the portrayal by Charlie Cox of just how tiring it must be for a normal guy with nothing more than enhanced hearing and martial arts training to kick the asses of 10 men.  If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch it.  Or, if you’re lazy, watch in the player below.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B66feInucFY]

I know.  It’s amazing.

At this point, I had watching everything through their season finales, and was in a no-man’s land of superhero television and coming dangerously close to withdrawals.  It was at this point Netflix decided to push me a little bit further and suggested Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  I had heard about the show before and was aware it involved the non-superhero side of the agency so prominently shown in both The Avengers and Captain America, but until this point, had written it off as a novelty that was probably, if anything, barely scratching at “just okay”.

I don’t even know where to start with AOS.  I have never watched a show start off so vanilla, and turn itself into something that I constantly refresh my Hulu feed for each week over the course of two seasons.  The first season is mainly your standard villain of the week, oh look Coulson’s back from the dead mystery storyline, hey look a kickass Asian chick beats the hell out of guys action television.  Except for the part about Coulson, it’s all been done before.  Pretty funny, as is the case with Marvel, but otherwise unexceptional.  Then, Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out and the entire style of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D changed.  The show follows the movies so closely that it’s like watching a continuation of the movies, a “behind-the-scenes” if you will.  And it’s incredible.  Seeing a television show get directly affected by the events of the movies (S.H.I.E.L.D falling apart, Ultron trying to destroy humankind, HYDRA being the big bads) really brings the immersion factor to a 10.  I dig it.

Surprise, surprise, we don't suck!
Surprise, surprise, we don’t suck!

Additionally, it’s awesome to know that AOS is working the Inhumans storyline from the comics for three goddamn years just so that the base can be set for when the Inhumans movie comes out in 2019, if it does.  Again, the collaboration just makes for a much more fun viewing experience.

And to think, this is only the start.  Both Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are coming to Netflix within a year, and laying the foundation with Daredevil for a Defenders series.  Supergirl just hit CBS this week, and had the largest viewing of any comic book series premiere (over 14 million viewers tuned in) of all time.  Arrow and The Flash are both setting up characters for Legends of Tomorrow because the CW decided one day that they wanted to be king of superhero mountain.

I’d like to include Gotham, but have a hard time because for the most part, it’s ass.  Constantine tried but couldn’t hold my attention, which is probably why it got canceled, but is getting another day in the limelight this week when Constantine shows up on Arrow. 

In my opinion, superhero stories were built for television, not for movies.  The movies, while amazing, are forced to shoehorn content into, at the most, 2.5 hours.  Most superhero television shows get 24 episodes and dozens of hours to tell the same stories.  The serialized nature just works better, and that’s why I love it.  I haven’t been this excited by superhero shows since Smallville was on TV, and now that I have a growing number of options, I couldn’t be more excited.

And for reals, Netflix, it’s time to get the crew of Serenity back together and travel the ‘verse.  Bring back Firefly!


2 thoughts on “Why Superhero Television is Dominating My Screen Time”

  1. Daredevil may, in fact, be the best Marvel property on screen – movie, TV, or otherwise. I love how truly dramatic they made it, and at no point did I ever feel like what was happening wasn’t plausible, or likely to happen in the real world. Vinny D. as Kingpin is Marvel’s best villain next to Loki without question. I am looking forward to Season 2 so much! http://go2l.ink/cantwait

  2. Also, you are on point about Gotham: nobody gives a hot shit about it. That show blows dogs for quarters. I was expecting a slightly more hyper-realistic version of Law and Order (which would have been amazing) and instead, I got a shitty cop drama where they tried to shoe-horn Batman villains erroneously into a incoherent timeline that shows that the show runner’s truly don’t understand Batman, the villains, or the mythology.

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