Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Geek TV Special Report: The New Fall Season's Superhero Shows!

Despite most new comic books being (in my humble opinion) impossible to really enjoy these days, we're fortunate enough to live in a time where we've got a huge variety of comics-based shows on television! We've already had three seasons of Arrow, two of Agents of SHIELD and Avengers Assemble, and one each of Flash, Gotham, and Agent Carter. This coming season, they're being joined by freshman shows Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow. Oh, yeah, there's also been Ultimate Spider-Man (although, honestly, I haven't watched it since the first season), and we had Daredevil on Netflix, although that won't come until 2016 (and all we really know for sure is that The Punisher will be appearing in that season).

Let's look at each of these shows, and what has been promised or hinted at for the coming season. Warning, there will be spoilers, so if you haven't watched all episodes of these shows, you may get some stuff spoiled!

arrowArrow: The longest-running of the current superhero shows, Arrow returns for a fourth season with a promised lighter tone compared to the previous ones. This show has really been an evolution from the beginning! It started out with Oliver Queen's alter ego being a killer, and then he would come to realize this wasn't the way to go. We've seen his team grow little by little... first adding Felicity Smoak as his tech guru (and eventual love interest) and John Diggle (introduced as Oliver's bodyguard, he became an ally, as did his then ex-wife (and future wife again), who also happens to be an agent of ARGUS (although she's since retired). We also were introduced to Roy Harper, who became Arsenal (although he's now retired from that role, thanks to a sacrifice he made near the end of the previous season), and Laurel Lance (who, as you could well imagine, has become the Black Canary). Last season, they were joined by Ray Palmer, who became the Atom (although at this point, he's more of an Iron Man type, not having managed the shrinking thing). The most recent addition to the team has been Oliver's sister, Thea, who's taken on the identity of Speedy, using a modified version of Roy's Arsenal costume (Thea, it turns out, was only Oliver's half-sister, as her father was Malcom Merlyn, who later trained her in martial arts and other forms of combat).

We've also been introduced to a number of other costumed adventurers, such as the Huntress (who didn't work out so well for the Arrow, given her homicidal tendencies regarding her father) and Wildcat (a much younger Wildcat than we've seen in the comics, this Ted Grant is retired from crimefighting, and has been training Laurel). The villains have included Malcolm Merlyn (who had an uneasy truce with Queen during the last season), Ra's Al Ghul, Count Vertigo, Deadshot, and a host of others... and we can't forget Slade Wilson!

The show helped provide a lead-in to The Flash, with Barry Allen appearing on Arrow before getting his powers. Since Barry became the Flash, he's guested in Arrow twice, once in a two-part crossover episode, and again in almost a cameo role towards the end of the season. Characters from The Flash and Arrow appear on each other's shows fairly often.

It took me a while to get into Arrow at first... it was mostly through the second season before I started watching it from the beginning. Initially, I was feeling a bit bored with the constant flashbacks (which have been telling what happened when Oliver was stranded on an island, although as we saw, he didn't stay on the island all the time during the five years he was missing). There've been a few deaths on the show that came as a surprise, such as when Oliver's mother, Moira, was killed (despite her criminal endeavors, I enjoyed seeing her on the show).

As the show progressed, we saw Oliver's relationship with the police change... in the first season, he was considered as bad as the criminals he hunted, and then in the second season he made an alliance of sorts with detective Quentin Lance (Laurel's father), but by the time the third season ended, they were back to being enemies again (at least so far as Lance was concerned). This was mostly due to efforts by Ra's Al Ghul, who got involved with things after Merlyn caused the death of Laurel's sister, Sara (the first Canary). It's kind of a complicated story there.

When the third season ended, it felt in many ways like they were ready to put the show aside... and it could've worked as a series closer. Oliver's given up on being the Arrow, and left Starling City with Felicity (who he'd finally admitted his feelings for and was ready to act upon them), but we know he'll be back, as the show was renewed.

So, what do we know about the new season, aside from the tone being a bit lighter? We know there'll be another crossover with The Flash, and that the new season's main villain will be Damien Darhk, a character I'm not familiar with. We also know that Oliver won't be wearing the Arrow outfit we've seen previously... whether this means he'll be wearing an outfit closer to the comics' Green Arrow costume or not remains to be seen. He's left Starling City in the hands of Diggle and Thea to protect, but obviously he'll be returning. We don't know if Roy Harper will be back -- near the end of the last season, when Oliver had been arrested and revealed as The Arrow, Roy rescued him dressed in a spare outfit of Oliver's, and claimed he was the Arrow! Oliver was released and Roy was imprisoned, but he faked his death and is now living under an assumed identity in another city, although he's apparently moving from one city to another.

We also know that Oliver will be appearing in the forthcoming Legends of Tomorrow show, although I can't imagine he'll be a regular on that program (more on that later).

Agents of SHIELD returnsAgents of SHIELD: This show has had its ups and downs as it's gone on. It's been nice to have Agent Coulson back, after his apparent death in The Avengers, although we knew from the beginning that something was wonky about this. The first season of the show was basically introducing us to the members of Coulson's team of agents, which included Melinda May (pilot, weapons expert and master martial artist), Grant Ward (who turned out to be a traitor working for Hydra, although these days he's operating on his own), Skye Johnson (an expert computer hacker, Skye was recruited in the first episode, and as the show has continued, we learned more about her mysterious parents, and then that she was an Inhuman, gaining powers after being exposed to the Terrigen Mist), Leo Fitz (an engineer from Australia with a crush on Jemma Simmons, Fitz has an amazing facility for dealing with advanced technology), and Jemma Simmons (British doctor, specializing in both human and alien life sciences).

Later additions to the team included Lance Hunter (a mercenary), Bobbi Morse (Hunter's ex-wife, of course she's better known as Mockingbird in the comics), and Mack MacKenzie (a mechanic who distrusts aliens and superheroes).

The show has also evolved... and much of the evolution has been sparked by events in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which it's connected to. After the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, SHIELD was in ruins, and Nick Fury turned control of SHIELD over to Coulson to rebuild. During the third season, hints had been getting dropped about the Inhumans (the Kree had already been introduced, more or less), and there were even ties to Avengers: Age of Ultron (the helicarrier that Fury comes up with was one that Coulson had secretly stashed away; also Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were referred to obliquely). Sif (from the Thor movies) has guested on the show twice so far, and Nick Fury once.

Another big development during the third season was that there were actually two versions of SHIELD operating after SHIELD's fall... the second one was being run by a group of people, and both Morse and MacKenzie were actually part of this group. While the two groups were at odds with each other initially, they seem to have come to some consensus by the end of the second season, and the combined forces have greater resources to use than Coulson's group had before.

There had been talks of spinning off Morse and Hunter into their own show, but those plans fell through. We know there'll be more involvement with the Inhumans, as a large batch of Terrigen Crystals ended up in the ocean, where they released the mist, which was consumed or absorbed by fish that were later caught by commercial fishermen, processed, and packaged into cans. We know that to non-Inhumans, this mist is deadly, but those of Inhuman ancestry gain powers from exposure.

We do know that the plan is to have a time jump between seasons two and three, so undoubtedly the first episode or two will be a lot of setting up the new status quo. We know all the main characters are coming back, and given this, we'll see what happened to Simmons (who was absorbed by a Kree rock that SHIELD had kept under wraps).

There is a lot about this show that I haven't even gone into... if you haven't watched it, it's worth checking out from the beginning! I'm looking forward to its return.

Agent Carter: Debuted as a mini-series during Agents of SHIELD's break, this show was even more fun than SHIELD, and I can't wait for its return! It's stylish, fun, and should definitely get a full season, not just a short season, if you ask me!

avengers assembleAvengers Assemble: Despite my initial misgivings about this show replacing the previous Avengers cartoon (this show was supposed to be more in line with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, although I don't see that it's really all that much closer, aside from Avengers Mansion being replaced by Avengers Tower). This last season we've seen Thanos attempting to assemble the Infinity Gauntlet (something they kind of jumped the gun on, given that it won't be until the next Avengers movies that this happens in the MCU), as well as several episodes with Ultron (closer to his comic book look than Age of Ultron was, which was nice). The lineup for the Avengers in this series has had Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and the Hulk from the movies, joined by the Falcon from the start (who just got recruited for the MCU Avengers) and, more recently, Ant-Man (I haven't heard if he'll be in the MCU lineup for the team by the time Infinity Gauntlet Part 1 comes out). It's been a pretty fun show, and the characterizations have pretty much stayed the same as they were in the previous cartoon.

The new season sees a name change to Avengers Assemble: Ultron Revolution, and obviously, Ultron will be returning. While that will be a constant thread in the season, we'll also be seeing Baron Zemo, the Masters of Evil, and Kang the Conqueror for the Avengers to deal with, as well as appearances by The Black Panther (rumored to be joining the team), Captain Marvel (I'm presuming this is the Carol Danvers version), and the Inhumans. The overall plot of the season is also supposed to be adapting the Civil War storyline from the comics.

The-Flash-key-art-16x9-1The Flash: This show has become my favorite of all the superhero shows out there, and probably because it isn't as dark as the other live-action shows. It did take me a little while to warm up to the much younger Barry Allen (who isn't blonde like his comics counterpart), but they earned points at the start by casting former TV Flash John Wesley Shipp as Barry's father. There's been an overall plot during this season concerning Barry's search for the Reverse Flash, who killed his mother when Barry was a boy, and there's been a number of surprising developments as the season went on, including discovering who the Reverse Flash was!

We've also seen a lot of characters from the comics show up. The regular cast includes Dr. Caitlin Snow (who, in the comics, is Killer Frost) and Cisco Ramon (Vibe in the comics). Caitlin hasn't demonstrated any powers as yet, but the last episode hinted strongly at Cisco's powers. A recurring character has been Firestorm! There have been a number of villains from the Flash's rogues gallery showing up as well, including Captain Cold, Mirror Master, and Gorilla Grodd, among others, all realized very nicely. Extra points were scored with me when they brought Mark Hamill to reprise his role as the Trickster (who he played in the CBS Flash series).

The last episode was full of coolness, with Barry traveling back in time to try to prevent his mother's murder, and the wormhole he used to travel back in time spitting out the Golden Age Flash's helmet! There's been hints that the second season will possibly involve an adaptation of "Flash of Two Worlds," which would be cool (it'd be really cool if John Wesley Shipp played Jay Garrick in that, but I'm guessing they'll go somewhere else).

Also talked about for the second season will be the debut of Wally West, aka Kid Flash, as well as more speedsters. They're also talking about bringing in the Mirror Master, and I would imagine other Rogues Gallery members will be returning -- I'm especially hoping that Grodd returns!

Gotham2Gotham: I'm not sure how I feel about "The Batman Show Without The Batman." I've been watching it faithfully, and enjoying some aspects of it (Edward Nygma and the Penguin have been especially interesting). They did spot-on casting for the young Selina Kyle, and the kid playing Bruce Wayne does a good job as well. I don't know why Alfred is being portrayed as Australian, but I can deal with that.

This season felt padded in a lot of ways... and I've read that the season had been extended partway through production, so they had to add something in there to keep things going to the end goal for the season (I suspect the "Fish Mooney in Exile" plot was all added at the last minute).

Jim Gordon is the real lead character on this series, and everything eventually revolves around him. He acts more or less in character from the comics (but when will he grow his mustache?). We can definitely see the early signs of Batman in young Bruce Wayne.

The second season promises more appearances by Harvey Dent, and we've been promised the Joker and Mr. Freeze will appear. Leslie Thompkins will be getting added as a regular cast member (she was a recurring character in the last part of the first season). As much as I enjoy the hints about the futures of the villains, I do have to wonder... in the comics, these villains came out of the woodwork after Batman donned his cowl, leading some characters in the comics to blame Batman for the costumed villains... in Gotham, the villains are coming out first, years before Batman. Apparently Batman won't even be involved in the Joker's origin, which is definitely different from the comics!

daredevilDaredevil: I liked this more than I expected, given that I'm not much of a Daredevil fan from the comics. The first season basically was a big origin story for DD, and in many ways, Wilson Fisk was as much a main character in this first season as Matt Murdock was! There's been a number of fun easter eggs plugged in that comic book geeks like myself will pick up on. We do know that the Marvel Netflix shows will be tying in to each other, with the characters eventually forming the Defenders, so I wouldn't be surprised if there were hints about other characters who will be getting their own Netflix shows making some sort of appearance in the second season.

supergirlSupergirl: I was looking forward to this series from the first teaser that I saw, despite the Devil Wears Prada vibe to some of it, and now that I've seen the leaked pilot episode, I have to say it looks like it'll be a fun show... providing they can get away from the whole "not mentioning Superman by name" thing the pilot was full of (they mentioned Kal-El, the Daily Planet, and Metropolis, but Superman was always obliquely mentioned... there were a lot of "him" and "my friend in blue" and stuff like that). It's too early to really tell if Supergirl will be connected at all with the Arrow/Flash universe.

DC\'s Legends of Tomorrow
Legends of Tomorrow: This show is definitely in the Arrow/Flash universe, and we'll be seeing lots of time travel happening here. Rip Hunter will be the lead character (he was mentioned in the Flash season finale), and he will be assembling a team of heroes and villains to save the universe and time itself from Vandal Savage. Caity Lotz, who played Sara Lance in Arrow (and was the first Black Canary until her death) will be returning, calling herself White Canary, and she'll be joined by the Atom, Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Hawkgirl, and Firestorm, with guest appearances by the Flash and the Arrow. This show will premiere in January 2016.

So that's my look at superheroes on TV. It'll be interesting to see what the new seasons bring to these shows!

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