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:
Last season, when “iZombie” constructed its new reality wherein the U.S. government and the Fillmore Graves corporation team up to keep zombies and humans behind a wall in Seattle, I thought “This can’t last.” As “iZombie’s” fifth and final season (8 p.m. Eastern Thursdays on The CW) opens, we’re starting to see the specifics of why it can’t last. Meanwhile, creators Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright are maintaining their delicate balance wherein Liv Moore (Rose McIver) and newly zombified Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli) behave in humorous ways depending on whose brain they most recently consumed.
Gotham” (2014-19, Fox), which aired its final episode Thursday – and will likely draw more fans on Netflix in this age when shows are perpetually “new,” so I’ll discuss it in present tense — won’t be remembered as a top-shelf superhero franchise in this decade of superheroes. But I have to give it credit for being its own thing. It’s one of very few shows where if I hear someone say it’s horrible, and if I hear someone else say it’s great, I agree with both. Sometimes the quality wavers that much within one episode, and also, a lot depends on your mindset when tuning in.
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.)
Believe it or not, there was a time when there were zero superhero shows on TV. Now there are so many that they don’t all fit on TV. Even though most of The CW’s lineup is DC Comics adaptations, there isn’t room for all of them. “Titans,” which premiered last fall, and “Doom Patrol,” which launched last month, are both on the DC Universe streaming channel. The pilot episodes are available for free through March 29.
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.
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.
Gotham” (8 p.m. Eastern Thursdays on Fox) starts its fifth and final season in bats**t-crazy fashion (pun intended). In a way, that’s par for the course with this show, but it intends to go out in an especially big way. It’s doing the same risky thing “iZombie” did last year: expanding the scope beyond the city to a national scale (even though the events are contained in the city).