Two years ago, the only comic-book show on our screens was The CW’s Arrow adaptation. While it was fun to watch, the show hadn’t quite hit its stride yet, halfway through its freshman season. Flash forward two years and there are now no less than 5 shows on air, across a broad range of networks – with several more in the development stage.
Competition between the shows has been surprisingly tight – in stark contrast to last year, when Arrow walked all over the lacklustre debut season of Agents Of SHIELD. The arrivals of The Flash, Gotham and Constantine have helped to shake things up, and put pressure on the old favourites. Naturally, some have been performing better than others – both in the ratings and with regards to overall quality But which show is on top?
Keep reading to discover the best and worst CBTV shows of the season so far!
5) Gotham, FOX
There were not a lot of expectations going into Gotham’s premiere this September, but many viewers found themselves pleasantly surprised by the opening episode. The writers really nailed the city’s dark and corrupt atmosphere, while Robin Lord Taylor was widely commended for his performance as The Penguin. Sadly, while the ratings stayed strong, the quality did not, and the show quickly slipped into a monotonous procedural-like tone.
Many have criticised Gotham’s lack of subtlety when regarding Batman’s famous rogues gallery. The desperate attempts to sneak in as many references as possible on a weekly basis have become more than a little jarring. Furthermore, there appears to be very little plan going forward. Only the gang-war sub-plots have truly intrigued, buoyed by interesting characters such as Falcone, Maroni and, indeed, The Penguin himself.
Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney is incredibly grating to watch, but she’s also a fun character to love to hate. Ben McKenzie, and in particular, Donal Logue have grown into their roles as Gordon and Bullock over time. It’s the lack of direction with the young Bruce Wayne that has me concerned. What more can the writers do with him, to make his storyline interesting? There’s a strong case that characters like Bruce, Selina, Ivy and Ed should never have been included in the first place.
Best Episodes: “Selina Kyle”, “The Penguin’s Umbrella”
4) Constantine, NBC
This is the left-of-field choice – the ‘underdog’ of comic book shows if you like. While its fellow freshman comic-book counterparts (Gotham & The Flash) are doing wonders with the ratings this year, Constantine has struggled – thanks, largely, to the handicap of the Friday night ‘death-slot’. It’s a real shame, as Constantine, for the most part, has been a fun, fresh and unique little show to follow and enjoy so far.
While not strictly a ‘superhero’ show, the character of John Constantine is deeply rooted in comic-lore, most famously appearing in his own Hellblazer run. The show has largely stuck to the tone of the acclaimed source material – casting the energetic yet cunning Matt Ryan as the lead, and embracing some of the more supernatural elements of the comics (including The Spectre). Hell, they even allowed him to smoke!
Aside from being faithful to the character, Constantine has managed to be genuinely quite scary. The visual effects are excellent, helping to craft a spooky atmosphere for a show reliant on monsters as villains. Where it’s lacking is in its overarching story. The characters themselves are likeable, they aren’t developed enough to truly love them, while the threat of the “Rising Darkness” has so far felt very generic.
Best Episodes: “A Feast Of Friends”, “The Devil’s Vinyl”
3) The Flash, The CW
2014’s best and brightest freshman show has raced to an excellent start this fall. As well as topping fellow CW counterpart Arrow on the ratings front, some fans have suggested it’s also trumped its sister show for quality too – especially with that magnificent mid-season finale, which ranks as my personal favourite from this year. Story-wise, it’s not quite there yet, but the future is looking very bright indeed.
Grant Gustin’s casting as Barry Allen was met with some trepidation when it was announced over a year ago. I think we can now officially say we were wrong. Gustin is the heart and soul of this show, and his likeable performances elevate every scene he’s in. But he’s not the only big performer. Jesse L. Martin and Tom Cavanagh in particular have shone in their roles as Joe West and Harrison Wells, while it’s been great to see John Wesley Shipp back involved with the character he once portrayed.
The other element fans have embraced about The Flash is the abundance of comic-book characters on the show. Following in the footsteps of Arrow, the writers have never hesitated to introduce some of DC Comics’ weird and wonderful heroes and villains – portraying them with great guest stars and fantastic visual effects. Finally, the recent crossover with Arrow has proven the possibilities are endless with these shows.
Best Episodes: “City Of Heroes”, “Flash Vs Arrow”, “The Man In The Yellow Suit”
2) Arrow, The CW
Last year, Arrow became not only the best comic-book show, but also one of the most exciting shows on TV – period. It was fun, fast-paced and packed with recognisable super-heroes and villains – from Deathstroke, to the Suicide Squad, to the League Of Assassins. While the show’s third season has struggled to top the lofty heights of Season 2, it remains a fantastic example of how to make great comic book TV.
Following Slade Wilson’s imprisonment at the end of Season 2, and the loss of Manu Bennett, Arrow needed someone to take the mantle of fan-fovourite character. While new options like Katana and Ra’s Al Ghul have been presented, no character has impressed more than Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer. Charismatic and relatable, Routh has proven his Superman Returns critics wrong this year. I can’t wait to see The Atom.
Plot-wise, the show seems less certain, although this has largely helped increase the mystery and excitement. The increased influence of the League has upped the stakes (particularly during that shocking mid-season finale), while new opportunities for both Laurel and Thea have also helped straighten out some of the weaker characters. Meanwhile, Oliver, Diggle, Roy and Felicity are functioning like a well-oiled machine. Well… they were anyway…
Best Episodes: “The Magician”, “Corto Maltese”, “The Brave And The Bold”
1) Agents Of SHIELD, ABC
What a comeback it has been. No longer the butt of every comic book fans jokes (just Josh Wilding’s…), Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD has matured into an exciting, fast-paced and gloriously entertaining TV Show. Gone are the pointless filler episodes of Season 1, with grating Avengers references and lacklustre plotting (Gotham, take note…). Instead, we have a fully-fledged show that is actually contributing to the MCU – rather than just basking in its success.
Arguably the most important move the showrunners made was expanding the cast. In adding new characters, the show not only freshened things up, it also helped take the pressure of the original six, and widened the universe as a whole. Ward has since transformed into one of the best villains on TV, while Skye, Simmons and Fitz have all undergone some excellent character development. This is the show I signed on for in the first place!
This time last year, I was debating dropping this show. I now find myself so pleased that I stuck with it. Unfortunately, many other viewers did not – and I can’t blame them back then. While it’s not in any real danger of cancellation this year, the show needs to somehow win back the viewers it disillusioned – especially if it seeks to contribute anymore to the universe as a whole.
Best Episodes: “Making Friends And Influencing People”, “The Writing On The Wall”, “The Things We Bury”
Well, those were my thoughts. Agents Of SHIELD takes the top-spot for the moment, closely flanked by The CW duo of Arrow and Flash. What do you guys think? I know The Flash is very popular, does it deserve to be number 1? Also, what about Constantine? D’you think it’s going to get cancelled? Let me know below!
And if you’re interested in some of the other works I’ve written for comicbookmovie.com, check out my list of articles below…