Here are my 10 favorite characters from the last 12 months of television, from networks to cable to streaming, counting down from 10 to 1:
The grand experiment is over, and it’s a success. The first 22 films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe comprise a saga similar to a TV serial, but with way more characters, way more side journeys and way more money. And most remarkably for a movie series, it has an ending for the initial batch of six Avengers, with “Avengers: Endgame.” We knew all this going into the film, which itself raises one final question: Does it stick the landing? The answer is a qualified yes.
Iwatched the trailers of some notable summer movies so you don’t have to (but they are embedded here if you want to). Here are my thoughts on each, along with a “Go Bananas” Level (on a 10-point scale) of how excited I am for the picture:
Who will live? Who will die? Who will be resurrected? How will our heroes defeat Thanos? Big questions are on the minds of Marvel Cinematic Universe fans heading into the 22nd outing, “Avengers: Endgame,” which will hit theaters Friday, April 26. It’s not the end of the saga by any means (trailers for July’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” are already out, so I have a good feeling about Spidey’s fortunes), but it’s definitely the end of an era as some of the original Avengers – such as Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America – might be calling it quits with this film, one way or another.
The Punisher” Season 2 (January, Netflix) might be the most violent season of TV I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t be surprised if the budget listed fake blood and wound makeup as the biggest expense. Some episodes are bleak enough to affect my overall mood for the next day. Still, while the usual Netflix Marvel Cinematic Universe problem of slow pacing is present in the middle episodes, this is overall solid serial storytelling.
I’m glad “Cloak & Dagger” Season 2 (8 p.m. Eastern Thursdays on Freeform) started with a “previously on,” because the plot specifics of this show don’t stick in my head – even though I enjoy the experience of watching it. Last season, as I was reminded, found Tyrone/Cloak (Aubrey Joseph) and Tandy/Dagger (Olivia Holt) exposing the evil corporatists at Roxxon. So it’s good that Season 2 has a new plot, and that the duo is comfortable using their primary powers now. (Their secondary powers promise more weirdness, though.)
There’s something to be said about keeping good villains around, and “Daredevil” Season 3 (October 2018, Netflix) is a case in point. Although Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) was the Big Bad of Season 1, he again fits that bill here, in 13 episodes that explore how one ingenious sociopath can take control of the very systems – the FBI, the justice department – that should theoretically protect society from him.
It’s been a cliché for more than four decades now that spectacle can’t overcome a bad screenplay, but it’s still remarkable how many films can nail everything except communicating to a viewer what the heck is going on. With “Captain Marvel,” the fun and technically amazing 21st Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, I can’t discount that I may have spaced out on important details, but I do suspect I was spending too much time trying to figure out the nature of Carol Danvers’ (Brie Larson) superpowers rather than kicking back for the ride.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is known for valuing fan feedback, and “Iron Fist” Season 2 (September 2018, Netflix) might be the prime example. After a first season that was rushed through production, moved at a snail’s pace, and had fight scenes that were cobbled together in the editing room, Season 2 is a notable improvement. It’s still slow-paced, but the fights are much better, the locations are magnificent, the score boasts a tasty Far East flavor, and several actors give standout performances. Plus, it’s a tidy 10 episodes, rather than the Netflix norm of 13.
Burning slowly like a 1970s urban street thriller, “Luke Cage” feels more comfortable in its suits and shades and bullet-riddled sweatshirts than it did in its first season. Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir) and his Jamaican cohorts – all of the actors doing a wonderful job with the dialect – are entertaining antagonists, but we slowly realize the uber-villain of Season 2 (2018, Netflix) is slick Harlem councilwoman Mariah Stokes Dillard (Alfre Woodard). Cheo Hodari Coker’s series – after many examples illustrating what powerful people can get away with – morphs into a smart meditation on the cost of holding on to power, and how a few bad decisions can see that power spiral away.