It has been a few weeks since I last did one of these, so I may run a bit longer than some of my previous round ups. Why so long between postings? Well, Daredevil dropped, and Batman V Superman, plus I had some health issues. It was hard to keep up. Also, I didn’t want to talk about Daredevil till I watched the whole run.
Let’s start with the ones I watch all the time.
Lucifer….Well, this show is still balancing on the edge of being great, but it is handicapped by writers pulling on overused formulas for scripts. The last few weeks have had some solid bits. There is one standout is the episode, “A Priest Walks into a Bar.” In this episode, we get Lucifer, and his traditional antagonism towards a man of faith. He distrusts anyone who claims to be really good, because he is given the job of seeing man at his worst.
Also, daddy issues.
Enter in a man of faith, who is not simple, or slow witted, or naive. The pastor doesn’t fit into Lucifer’s own narrative. Men of faith are fools and/or frauds, in Lucifer’s view. How can they not be? If they were true, what would that say about Lucifer? Wouldn’t that make him wrong, the actual bad guy, rather than the misunderstood abused son he paints himself as?
I am not a believer. I am mainly agnostic, at this point in my life. That said, I find a story of faith pretty damn compelling. I always have. Not the sappy, syrupy stories of Touched by an Angel, but the explorations of actual faith. The devil doesn’t need faith, because he has proof. Faith requires some level of uncertainty, or rather, a certainty in the lack of actual evidence. If you could prove god, you don’t need to believe in him/her, anymore than I have to believe in gravity or sunlight. I could go on, but as a philosophical subject, and a storytelling theme, it can make a story interesting to me. A Priest Walk into a Bar does that very well.
Beyond that, I can also enjoy some of the side stories beginning to develop. I like the psychiatrist. She started out as an excuse for Lucifer to have an external voice, but the character has become more interesting as time goes on. I am also pleased with the bad cop storyline and how it is weaving in more of the supernatural to the show. I am anxious to see how it plays out.
iZombie…This is kind of the opposite end of the spectrum from Lucifer. The formula here is what is keeping things interesting. This show is structured, in both episodes, and season arc, very much like Veronica Mars. The murder mysteries are things that the characters do, but they are also a vehicle to drive character development. Instead of hardboiled detective tropes, we end up with the bizarre reality Liv has going on. Max Rager is a fun bit of sociopathic evil in the background, and its ceo is just a little on the edge of being comedic. Each character has their own arc, their own secrets and no one is simple. They find humor in the horror, without making the terrible things a joke. iZombie is so much fun, and well written. My one complaint, and this is minor gripe, is that I wish they would return to Liv’s family some. They placed her brother in peril at the end of the last season, created conflict with the mother, and just left that hanging. They had a lot of stuff to handle this season, so it would have been hard to work it in, but I hope they do return to that next season.
Supergirl…Supergirl is a fun, upbeat show. It also feels like it was made in the 90’s. The storytelling is very simple and straightforward. They embrace the cheesy nature of four color superheroes whole heartedly. The crossover with the Flash was pretty much everything you would expect. Two light-hearted heroes meet, they are presented with two villains they need to work together to beat, ice cream was eaten, and geeking out occurred. You get to see heroes that inspire the people they protect to act, to become their own heroes. It is pretty much everything Superman should be, and wasn’t.
The fact it came out around the same time as Batman v Superman cannot go unmentioned. Where BvS was forced conflict, spectacle, and very unheroic superheroes, Supergirl and the Flash were the exact opposite. At this point, I am okay with the fact that the movies for DC and the tv shows for DC exist in very different worlds. I prefer the TV shows.
On to the CW..
Flash, was solid, but it doesn’t feel like it will have a as strong an ending as last season. Barry, while tremendously likable, can be a real idiot sometimes. He keeps poking at things he shouldn’t, specifically time travel, no matter how many times he sees it blow up in his face. The story arc and the reveals so far have left a feel like they don’t have a plan for how things end this season. It is still a light hearted and fun show. Even when the Flash misses a beat, it is compelling television.
Arrow is interesting this season. Here is a season where the point is not a tortured hero, but a maturing one. He started as the tortured avenger back in season one. The character has actually changed and evolved as time has gone on. This season started with him retiring to live happily ever after. Despite that, he reenters a world which is just bad for him. Because he is his own worst enemy, his life has began to fall apart. The later part of the season is definitely showing that. His relationship with Felicity is falling apart due to keeping secrets. He believed he had to fix things with the League of Assassins, and, in doing so, turned Malcolm from a sometime ally to a hardened enemy. The theme seems to show that superheroes can’t have functional lives. This is not new territory for the Green Arrow in the comics, so they are actually sticking to source material. Also, we have the slow rise of Mr. Terrific. I look forward to even more of him.
As to the death in the last episode, I am not buying it. It was too abrupt, so it feels like a feint. I fully believe it will be revealed as a tactic to put this seasons villain off.
Legends of Tomorrow is getting better. The first few episodes were rough. The dynamic was not fully formed. The actor they got to play Vandal Savage is not a bad actor, but as much as he looks the part, he lacks that compelling charisma I would expect from the character. He was more interesting this last episode, but still feels underused. That said, the characters are getting a little more life in them. The stories are getting to be a little more interesting. The 1950’s story was great, returning to the League of Assassins felt like a very character driven tale, and most recent jump to the future was solid “time travel story” material. I can’t wait for next week’s Jonah Hex episode. I do hope they include some of the other classic DC cowboy heroes, but Jonah Hex does have a history of getting into time travel stories.
All of the CW DC shows are good fun. They are building a shared universe I enjoy returning to like the comics they are based on.They are highlights to my week.
Gotham is being weird. That seems to be its prefered state, so I can’t complain too much. The Jim Gordon goes to prison story was oddly placed, and poorly supported. It feels like it should have been more than a single episode. Bruce living on the street seems very right for the character. I enjoyed the scene where he gets criminal to beat him, as much as anything, to have the experience. It was dark and messed up in the way a young Batman should be. Penguin has long been one of the most interesting characters on the show, and his recent story is pretty interesting. I do love the fact that they got Paul Ruebens to play his father. There is something about Ruebens that just works. He is creepy, but nice. He very much gave the air of a tragic character in a Hammer Horror film. When Penguin inevitably goes evil again, I see the mark of his father on him going forward. The Riddler is not hitting the right note for me to buy in, but it is interesting. Hugo Strange is just chewing up the scenery, and I love every moment they let him do that. He can stay.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is still riding it’s formula. It is my hope that it will hit a turn point, like it did when Winter Soldier came out. I am not sure it will, but it was riding a formula last time, so it might. The Inhumans stories are effectively just X-Men mutant stories.
Rabid groups of high tech lynch mobs? Check.
Governments debating what to do with “the problem?” Check.
Oppressed minority subtext? Check.
I am actually glad they brought in the new big bad. He is scary enough, and in the face of the Grant Ward to make heroes hate him even more. The most recent episode is one of the best of the season. Powers Boothe as Malik is very entertaining. Having him wear a power suit and beat the crap out of super powered Daisy was strangely entertaining. The oracle showing an unavoidable future has been done a lot. That said, they execute it pretty well here.
Okay, what to say about Daredevil. I will try to avoid spoilers here, but there is no secret that Punisher and Elektra show up this season. I went into this season a little nervous of how they would handle the Punisher. He is a bit like Deadpool, in some ways. I don’t often like the character by himself, but find him interesting when he is presented in contrast to another character. On his own, he is just a power fantasy for people who wish they were god, deciding who was worthy of life or death. He is interesting in contrast to Daredevil, or most other superheroes.
Punisher is a counter argument to the standard limits of superheroes. He is not a hero, he is a soldier fighting a war. He does whatever he feels he must to win that war. Most superheroes hold their illusions of nobility to be more important than expediency. Sure, Daredevil could have killed Kingpin last season, but he didn’t, because he wanted to feel like he was a better man than that. That sense of self worth will likely bite him the ass before it is done. Punisher, doesn’t really see himself as much better, just on the right side. As a result, his restraint is a criminals restraint. He may not be a petty killer, who does it for money, or the enjoyment, but he is undoubtedly a killer.
Enter Elektra, she is further contrasted to Daredevil. She is unremorseful, rich, perfectly capable of not doing what she does, but enjoys it too much to quit. There have been a number of versions of her history, but almost all of them agree on her being a very accomplished assassin, and death is something she has a close relationship with. She is not a soldier fighting a war, nor does she have any pretensions of noble virtue. She kills people, and in a manner which is almost intimate. A sharp blade at close range is not an impersonal way to kill people.
So, going into this season I had expectations. I think they do a better job with contrasting Punisher with Daredevil than they did with Elektra. For Punisher and Matt, it is pretty much down to a philosophical disagreement. They both have other people on both sides of the argument. Elektra develops as a story, but it didn’t feel as well developed. I will leave it at that to avoid spoilers.
This season does involve more legal action, which delights me. Foggy Nelson is amazing. He was always kind of cool in the comics, but the actor playing in the show is one of my favorite things. Foggy is unsure of his own self worth, but clear in who he is. When he decides to act, he rightfully impresses everyone around. He is an Atticus Finch sort of hero. He is heroic because he will speak up, use reason and law to do the right thing. He will do the right thing when he is at risk. He will do it even if he doesn’t like the people he is helping. He is what I wish all lawyers were. I would watch a show of just him practicing law, maybe with Jennifer Walters, aka She Hulk.
Karen Page is no longer a damsel in distress. She is damaged, to be sure, and only part of her past has been revealed. She is a perfect fit with Matt and Foggy. They are a room full of idealists, and believers. This season does feature her coming into her own. She steps into an investigatory role, and believes that the truth should come out, even when it might put her in danger. Again, her heroism is not the action heroics you usually see in superhero shows. She is heroic by being someone who looks in the mirror.
So, the season as a whole? Daredevil season one was doing things that hadn’t really been done well in a superhero series before. It was not perfect, but it was breaking some solid ground. It set a tone and kept it. Season two keeps that tone, but it does lack that sense of newness. It was solidly done. The performances were there, the right moments were had, but it wasn’t as compelling. This is not to say it was bad. It was very well executed overall. What it does reflect is the quality of what has gone before. After Season one, and Jessica Jones, it is hard for even a well executed show to measure up in comparison. I did not love the Elektra bits, but they were fine. I liked the Punisher story, though I will admit to liking Thomas Jane’s performance as the character better than Jon Bernthal. The second season of Daredevil is fine. I enjoyed it, that said, I am ready for them to move on to the other characters we were promised. I am ready for Luke Cage. I am ready for Iron Fist. I am ready for the Defenders to form, preferably with Foggy Nelson as their legal counsel and Claire Temple as their nurse.