Thursday, June 16, 2022

Power Rankings: Superhero TV [Updated 6/30/22]

You love lists, and Look to the Cookie doesn't do enough of them. So here are the rankings and reasons for the 34 modern comic-based super-powered television series (Marvel and DC). The list is updated as seasons conclude and series premiere.

34. (33) Batwoman 4.0/10  So far, no good. She's flawed; that's good. The villain is her sister--ummm--okay. The diversity is nice. And I really mean that. But the show's just not very interesting . . . yet? And then an antagonist was gay, and somehow that diminished her extreme villainy . . . . Ruby Rose is out; Javicia Leslie is in. Black bat also bores.

33. (32) Inhumans 5/10 Years of optimism, anxiety, and backtracking resulted in this, universally agreed upon, worst part of the MCU. Scott Buck may be MCU's kryptonite. Please, Marvel, don't let him ruin another series (e.g., Iron Fist). 

32. (31) Agent Carter 6/10 Yes, I hosted the show about the show, but it always felt like a lukewarm Marvel offering. The pieces fit snugly, and Hayley Atwell shined, but did anyone even watch the second season?

31. (30) Iron Fist 6/10 No one likes this show. And no one fears the surfer dude-voiced, Ramen noodle-haired, prince of privilege no matter how many times he says he beat a dragon or calls himself "immortal." Colleen Wing and Bakuto almost saved this atrocity. And I almost worked at Fox Sports. Cue that Brandy song. And then he improved slightly in Defenders and season two of "Cage." And the second season of Iron Fist was almost fire because they decided to focus on all of the amazing women while diminishing the lead. Ultimately, it got the ax anyway.  

30. (29) Swamp Thing 6/10 Alec Holland > Swamp Thing. So far it's shaping up to be baddie of the week; that format sucks like when there's no flavor left in the blue Icee. The swamp-Cajun feel is cool. That beautiful doctor drives the show. And it only got worse and is canceled . . . .

29. (28) Gotham 6.1/10 Gotham will probably be really good once it's all on Netflix, and we all finally decide to watch it. The first season got everything wrong--especially allowing Jada Pinkett to perform like an amateur starring in a Spelman College production of Wicked

28. (27) Legion 6.5/10 Is this a period piece? Style over substance? Maybe, but beautiful still, plus ambitious. It's not a great show yet, but it's better than almost all of the X-men movies.

27. (26) Krypton 6.6/10 So far, so good. They did it. They borrowed from the beautiful Man of Steel opening, and made their own Krypton. The black Zods are awesome and their story has stolen the show. Plus, it sets up Zods better than any previous source. Seg-El is that dude. -.1 for that wack-ass Lobo.

26. (25) The Gifted 6.5/10 This is the best way to realistically represent, on television, the best team of heroes in the history of comics. No, they're not the X-men. But if the X-men X-isted they'd be a lot more like The Gifted than that awesome Saturday morning cartoon. It's inconsistent at best, but there's definitely something there.  And now it's better, but, still somehow, exactly the same. And at the end of season two it found its stride as a show that's not good enough to finish or care for.

25. (24) Black Lightning 6.5/10 It's only the most important show in the history of television in the United States (in season one). They deal with everything, better than most shows deal with anything--race, violence, cops, sex, LGBT matters, relationships, schools . . . and superpowers. "This one's for the streets." So far season two has not matched season one, but they remain "the people's champ." And season two continues to disappoint, but the "racist hicks" story-line was somewhat refreshing. AND season three continues the misses of season two. BUT the story is a powerful and important one. CRISIS. It has an audience, and that's a good thing?

24. (23) Doom Patrol 6.5/10 People love this show if they watch it at all. I'm now with the latter. They're not heroes, like at all. It's hard to call their unique qualities "abilities" or "powers." And whatever they are, they aren't super. But as wacky as this series is, it feels real. It's unique and not for uniqueness's sake. Titans isn't a fluke; DC Universe is coming for Marvel's head. The season one ending was meta af, but ultimately meh. Season two is season one, but somehow more so.  

23. (22) Supergirl 6.9/1When woke goes wrong. Finally, the series finale. But, the ending made up for a questionable final two seasons. It still . . . exists. She got pants now bitchessss! Every week entertains. Each episode plays out like an updated, less whiny, less soap opera-y version of Smallville. The weird episode where she was "kid" Supergirl was weird. Pro tip: Superman is your problem, not your solution. [Each] season [goes] deep on race, LGBT matters, relationships, and it remained a top comic book-based show. Kudos. CRISIS. Post-crisis, this floundered--they all floundered.

22. (14) The Flash 6.9/10 Now, is it over? What is going on? Iris. Still force. Diggle?!? Just bring in King Shark and jump him. Armageddon took Flash back to its super roots. So far, Despero does not disappoint. But why are these people (the characters) so stupid? Why don't they remember the previous seasons? The fans do. This current season could have stayed in the vault. Someone decided that the best path forward was to heal and love each villain. Pass. So maybe skip the second season. And maybe they do the same arc each season. But this is the most pleasant series on the list. It's like a '90s Saturday morning cartoon for grown-ups. This is the team that every Millennial would join if given the opportunity. And I'm in love with little Flash-et junior - sue me. CRISIS. And in season 6? it's more of the same. The Flash may be the new Arrow.

21. Arrow 6.9/10 Arrow has quickly become the can-miss DCTV CW show of the week. But we keep watching. I look forward to its ending, followed by frequent character cameos on the other shows. It started too fast and left little room to grow. Team Arrow was Justice League lite before we got the Legends, Team Flash, or Supergirl. Pacing. And now they may be taking the street justice a little too far OR maybe just far enough. And in its EIGHTH?!?! season, (which may be its last) they're really going for it while staying true to its origins. CRISIS. Thank you to the cast, crew, and especially Stephen Amell. 

20. Legends of Tomorrow 7/10 It's still zany fun, with just a touch of heart. What happened? Maybe, the budget was sliced. The Avengers-esque fight scenes are gone, along with most of the characters you know and love. If you don't like this show, you don't like smiles, fun, or good times. Remember when The Avengers was the best thing to happen to the '10s? DC decided to do that with 200th of the budget, but weekly. And now, maybe it's a little too much fun. I'll still ride the wave, but this could fizzle fast. CRISIS. Post-crisis, I don't recognize what was once my favorite DCTV show.

19. Moon Knight 7/10 Not a fan of two people sharing a body, is [he] crazy is [he] not stories. So, never a fan of crazy Marvel Batman. He wears white . . . . But the MCU is a cheat code. Of course, this production is better than almost anything you're watching.

18. Stargirl 7/10 They did not maintain the excellence of the first season. "Summer School" sucked. If they maintain this level of writing, action, effects, and performances over multiple seasons it will be the top superhero show of all time. The cast is legit: Amy Smart, Luke Wilson, and Brec Bassinger as the perfect Stargirl. The diversity gets a chef's kiss. And the gray-area politics presented have us questioning everything.

Jace Downs/CW

17. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 7/10 Its debut was a meandering mess. But for the fans that stuck around, Agents of Hydra/Agents of Nothing got good fast. And more recently, we've been gifted the best live-action Ghostrider, top-notch action, intelligent political commentary, and the best possible "what if"-styled virtual world story. Now, Agents is a secret gem. And for this final? season, cue that Huey Lewis track:

16. Ms. Marvel 7/10 Really, really well done. Who's the audience? Couldn't tell you. The color. The art direction. The performances. The direction. All A+. The weird powerset? So far, C-. Overall, an excellent entry into the MCU.

15. (16) Runaways 7.1/10 At the episode three mark, this show is far better than anything on this list. Performances, cinematography, drama, use of powers, relationships, representation--perfection. The problem with being on top . . . is that long tumble down. How will they handle powers or the discovery of the teens' discovery? How will they handle the budding and realistic romances? And is this really the MCU? Did it need to be? (3 months later . . . show was dope) And in the second season so much happened . . . on the way down. Season one was too good. The worst thing about being at the top? There's only one way to go. The sexy non-aging Spanish-speaking dude was super cool though.

14. (15) The Defenders 7.1/10 The first four episodes were the highlight of my year. The Defenders are to the Avengers what the X-men are to the Justice League. They are the heroes we might be, not the gods that save us. They blended four distinct tales better than I imagined possible--style and mythos. To enjoy: 1) ignore the villains' plot; 2) remember that we witnessed an even more annoying Iron Fist earlier.

13. Jessica Jones 7.5/10 Two Js is da realest! She single-handedly saved The Defenders (literally and also from us critics). In her debut, she overcame the #1 true villain in the MCU (twice). She also laid out Luke Cage. And maybe she can fly. And then the second season sucked hard. The former #1 has dropped like the best beat. And the third season redeemed in a way most shows never can. #podcastcomingsoon

12.  Luke Cage 7.5/10 Cage, one of the strongest characters on the list, started weakly and ended weakly. But that midsection does work. Ummmm. Cottonmouth is the King. And if you're black, this should feel like a moment . . . for us . . . because it is. And in the second season, a strong show got stronger. It's a shame this moment is partially wasted on Mike Colter. Bushmaster saved the series and washed the diamond-backed taste from our mouths. Annnnnnnd it's canceled. A record-breaking black-ass show that did impossible numbers for Netflix is gone.

11. Titans 7.5/10 For two seasons, so much went so right. And then they decided to ruin one of the more popular DC storylines--Jason Todd as Red Hood. We saw that corny-ass trailer and scoffed. The first episode wasn't much better. But Titans has become my #1 must-see-TV each week. If this dropped Netflix style, I wouldn't have left the seat. It would've been my first "diaper show." Starting with the Hawk and Dove episode, this is the grittiest, most realistic, non-fantastical fantasy show (read: best) of all time. This is not our Teen Titans (coming soon). It's not like the Titans as seen anywhere before. That black Starfire that you hate is one of the best characters on TV this year. DC should stop making movies. They really get television. And season two is even better.

10. Cloak & Dagger  7.9/10 I want to love the show, in the way that I love its young stars. And I might, if I could stay awake. I think they realize they have superpowers in episode five . . . I think. Who's this show for?--moody-artsy-poetic-horny-virgin 13-year-olds? I'm guessing. They get bonus points for flipping the most common racial stereotypes. And like all of the best things, once it ended, I begged for more. Cloak & Dagger may have something just yet. The second season began like the first, and then something happened--something good. Ish got real, real cultural, real racial, real domestic . . . real. Now, this show matters. CANCELED.

9. Wandavision 8/10 Perfect production, but inconsistent. The modern "real world" scenes often felt dumber than the hex-world. Everything outside of the hex felt like MCU-light. The hex broadcasts were hit and miss. The whole thing was a bit contrived--not good, but damn impressive. 

8. Loki 8/10 One episode in. But still, it's Marvel. They have perfected making a TV show feel exactly like their best movies, if those movies were a TV show. And in the end, the Kang who was king, but not Kang, still slayed.

7.  The Punisher 8/10 It's nothing like other shows on this list. They chose to ignore the superhero world setting. It works, but may have worked better as a standalone. Ultimately, it was more predictable than most comic book-based shows because it was a lot like every gritty revenge, PTSD flick we've ever seen. And then in season two, they created one of the most beautiful pieces of art in the history of time. It was not like anything anyone has every seen. There were TWO antagonists, and they both had unconventional, unpredictable, realistic endings.

6.  Daredevil 8/10 Hallway scenes started here. It's a shame they didn't end here. Foggy is as whack as Charlie Cox's accent (both improved by season 3). If you are anti-shadowy fight scenes, then Kingpin kept your interest. This series was redeemed by the Punisher's arrival. Ssssooo many ninjas. And then season three was maybe the best thing I've seen "on TV." Yes, Daredevil season three is "Wire," "Sopranos," "Lost," Breaking Bad"-good.

5. (4) Peacemaker 8.4/10 So far, so much better than all of that live-action "Suicide Squad" garbage. Awesome dude, but Cena is the worst part of this. Again, awesome dude, but leading an ensemble of super-talented actual actors . . . his limitations sparkle.


4. (3) Hawkeye 8.4/10 And as the season wraps, it was predictable, and yet still mindblowing. What If? the next great basketball docuseries was about Chicago Bulls legend Stacey King?  See what I did there? So far, Hawkeye, so good. Marvel can't miss. All other studios take note.

4. (5) Superman & Lois 8.7/10 👀 It's still amazing and universally loved. Out of nowhere, this has become CW's can't-miss-show. The drama. The action. The mythology. The heart. This may one day be the best live-action Superman. White Black Lightning, so you'll actually watch this one. Too soon to tell. But so far, so super.

2. Watchmen 9.6/10 It's the best show on television. And like many of our best shows, it deals with race (and in the best way), so you didn't watch it. Go watch it--NOW. And . . . canceled.

1. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier 9.6/10 This isn't fair. This is an MCU movie and sequel, cut into bite-sized TV portions. OF COURSE, it's better than everything else. But do come back after a few episodes (seasons?) have aired. 



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