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We’re in a superhero renaissance, to say the least. Each summer, superhero blockbusters soar into theatres to make us feel like little kids again. With Marvel’s highly successful intertwined franchise inspiring DC to create their own interconnected cinematic world, we’re in for a solid 5 superhero movies a year beginning with next year’s much anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

But don’t think the small screen isn’t capitalizing on the caped popularity of these properties – in fact, superhero programming is arguably in its golden age on TV. It was just a few short years ago that Smallville was on the air and wouldn’t dare to mention the S-word or place its title character into costume until the end of its 10-season run. And yet this week, CBS is preparing to launch Supergirl, and they aren’t pulling any punches. Supergirl will have its title character in costume from the get-go, flying around National City saving falling airplanes and fighting interstellar villains with all her powers intact. Beating around the bush is so five years ago when it comes to superhero shows – today, more is more.


It’s too soon to tell how Supergirl will measure up to other superhero programs on TV currently, but early reviews have been mostly positive. If you’re looking to dip your feet into TV’s current crop of superhero fare, you can find my unofficial official ranking of these tight wearing protagonists and their episodic adventures below. Note that this list only includes superhero properties, not all comic based properties like AMC’s The Walking Dead or CW’s iZombie. (We gotta draw the line somewhere, otherwise this list would be a mile long).

  1. NBC’s Heroes Reborn

Sometimes shows should just stay dead. While there was a lot of cautious optimism about the Heroes reboot, it turns out that after being off the air for five years, the creators and writers were completely unable to resuscitate the franchise or reverse the decline in quality that befell the original after its stellar first season. Heroes Reborn suffers from many of the same problems the original did during the end of its life, namely a complete disconnect among its various plots.

By revamping and focusing almost exclusively on a new cast of characters, Heroes Reborn’s attempt to reinvigorate the franchise has backfired with boring, one-dimensional characters and subpar special effects guiding their abilities. Seriously, I couldn’t name half of the new characters if you held a gun to my head, and we’re approaching the halfway mark of the season. As a 13-episode miniseries, you’d think Heroes Reborn would create a compelling arc that zipped along, but again, we’re at the halfway point and barely a thing has happened. That droll pace coupled with a lack of characterization and intrigue has added up to a dull adventure that’s pretty hard to care about.

  1. FOX’s Gotham

As a diehard Batman fan, this one pains me. Though as a prequel series that chronicles the trials and tribulations of Gotham City before Bruce Wayne dons his infamous cape and cowl, this one isn’t so much a failed story about Batman himself as it is a failed attempt to enliven the Batman mythos. Gotham was one of last season’s most anticipated new series, but that buzz quickly wore off when we saw what we were in for: a routine police procedural series that followed Detective Jim Gordon who would go on to become the commissioner and ally of Batman.

Plagued by formulaic storytelling, a wildly fluctuating tone that goes for gritty surrealism one episode and cartoonishly over the top in another, not to mention dropping countless teases to the fates of many villains and characters who can’t possibly obtain their manifest destinies in a prequel series before Batman shows up, Gotham really struggled in its first season. The highlights, such as Jada Pinkett Smith’s mob boss Fish Mooney, the rise of the Penguin from servant to crime lord and the beginning journey of a young Bruce Wayne couldn’t save Gotham from feeling like a disappointment. This season got off to a surprisingly solid start, but has dovetailed back into its nasty habits recently, sidelining the Penguin, complicating Bruce Wayne’s storytelling and killing off Smith’s character last season. I want this show to be so much better than it is, but alas, it’s still having a painful identity crisis.

  1. ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

A continuation of the Marvel cinematic universe on television, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. follows Clark Gregg’s Agent Phil Coulson from the movies and his rag-tag team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents as they deal with the growing threats of superpowered beings. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. also got off to quite a rocky start in its first season, without a real sense of narrative. That all changed when, in the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier, S.H.I.E.L.D. was destroyed and disbanded after it was revealed that it had been infiltrated by terrorist organization HYDRA.

That twist breathed fresh air into the show and gave it a great narrative push towards the end of its first season and into season 2, leading to a show that provided an entertaining mix of conspiracy, counterterrorism and superheroic antics. Having resolved the internal problems within S.H.I.E.L.D. and revamping the organization with Coulson at the helm, the show turned its attention to its version of superpowered mutants called Inhumans. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been as compelling of an arc for season 3, contributing to the show’s overall inconsistency. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s saving grace is its focus on mostly likeable characters, from Gregg’s Coulson to Ming-Na Wen’s badass Agent May, to the lovably dorky science team of Fitz and Simmons. Adding Adrienne Palicki as Bobbi “Mockingbird” Morse in season 2 was a coup for the series, but too often Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can feel like a rote, generic procedural disguised as a Marvel superhero property.

  1. Netflix’s Daredevil

If you like your superheroes dark and gritty, than Daredevil is the show for you. The first superhero show of its kind to have its entire season debut all at once thanks to the Netflix model, Daredevil isn’t a bad show at all to binge through in a weekend. Matt Murdock is a lawyer fighting crime by day and the superhero vigilante Daredevil fighting crime at night in the seedy underbelly of New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. Murdock was blinded as a boy and uses his heightened senses to aid him in his quest for vigilante justice.

Daredevil does a much better job at adhering to the source material than the much maligned Ben Affleck movie, offering mature storylines coupled with some bone-crunching action sequences, all backed by the high production quality one comes to expect from a Netflix series. However, Daredevil is a bleak show to watch, always dialed up to 11 in terms of seriousness and drama, leaving little time for viewers to catch their breath in any sort of lighter or slightly humorous moment. Its attempt to too often try for film noir status backfires, creating a vibe that’s too self-serious at times. It’s a solid program, but it lacks any semblance of fun that a superhero property should have, especially from Marvel.

  1. ABC’s Agent Carter

Surprisingly, the best show Marvel currently has on-air started out as a midseason replacement to fill the void during Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s hiatus. And yet, with its 8 episode first season, Agent Carter, starring the magnetic Hayley Atwell reprising her role from various Marvel movies, did something no other Marvel show has done yet: presented a cohesive, compelling narrative arc while having fun doing it. Taking place shortly after her paramour Steve Rogers aka Captain America stops Hydra’s forces and plunges to a watery grave in the Captain America movie, Peggy Carter is dealing with the loss of her true love while trying to navigate the misogynistic office politics of the SSR, which would later become known as S.H.I.E.L.D.

What’s so affirming about Agent Carter is its unapologetic feminist stance to a superhero property, a world that could desperately use more representation for women characters. Peggy Carter isn’t just the best agent the SSR has, she knows it too, and is constantly outperforming her male counterparts. Wisely, the show doesn’t shy away from the hardship Peggy faces as being the lone woman in a man’s world. Season 1 finds her secretly working with Howard Stark (Iron Man’s daddy) to clear his name after he’s been framed for selling high-tech weapons to terrorist organizations, and Agent Carter takes Peggy and her affable partner Jarvis on a tight journey of espionage and adventure, while relishing as a lowkey 1940s period piece. With a season 2 move to LA premiering in early 2016, let’s hope Agent Carter can keep up its feminist, fun, ass-kicking ways.

  1. CW’s The Flash

The Flash premiered as the other superhero series opposite Gotham last season and to a lot more skepticism and nose turning than Gotham received. But, from its stellar pilot, it was clear that The Flash possessed something that Gotham still attempts to find: a clear sense of purpose and a narrative game plan. The Flash felt like a fully realized show from the get-go, one that wasn’t afraid to delve into the more outlandish and absurd elements of the superhero’s backstory, and one that dared to tell a compelling drama while having a blast doing so.

Throughout its first season, The Flash portrayed the rise of the adorkable Barry Allen utilizing his newfound ability to become the fastest man alive, a superhero who wanted to harness his ability to help people and who embraced his gift for what it was, without all that angsty Spiderman nonsense. Played by the utterly charismatic Grant Gustin, Flash is a superhero you’d want to grab a beer with, but definitely wouldn’t want to cross. With a crackerjack team of supporting characters and storylines that dealt with family, loss and love, not to mention a daring, yet satisfying dip into time travel, The Flash raced to the finish line with a stellar first season and appears to only be growing narratively richer and more irresistible as it speeds through its second season.

  1. CW’s Arrow

Arrow has been a lot of things since it premiered in 2012, evolving season by season and not shying away from massive growth and revamps in storyline or structure that many other dramas wouldn’t dare attempt for at least a few years into their run. And yet, despite its notable missteps, Arrow has always remained utterly engaging and sure of itself, not to mention addictively entertaining. Arrow chronicles the return of Oliver Queen who was thought dead, but was actually marooned on an island for 5 years. Upon his return, and to honor his dying father’s request and legacy, Queen adopts a hood and arrows and becomes a vigilante looking to clean up his corrupt city. That storyline mostly played out during the first season, when Arrow closely resembled the gritty realism of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.

But then, two things happened. One, the show introduced Emily Bett Rickard’s fantastic Felicity Smoak, acting as Oliver’s His Girl Friday and developing one of the best will-they-or-won’t-they couples on TV today. Second, the show started to embrace the weird and the pulpy, leading to narrative arcs that could only be described as a comic lovers wet dream, with villains and characters including everyone from Ra’s Al Ghul, Deathstroke, The Atom, Deadshot, Huntress and many more. Arrow’s supporting cast includes the Black Canary, Arsenal and the Red Arrow, forming a makeshift superhero team whose adventures have heart, soul and thoughtfulness, all anchored by a commanding performance from Stephen Amell and some of the best action sequences on TV. Boasting great storytelling, undeniable characters and some truly Shonda Rhimes type twists, Arrow continually goes for broke. While it may not always land on two feet, it’s hard to resist or deny a superhero show that shoots and aims for a bullseye every single time.

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