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.
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).
These are the movies and TV shows I’m looking forward to in the new year:
In the tradition of legendary matchups such as “The Cape” vs. “No Ordinary Family,” “Almost Human” vs. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Riverdale” vs. “Supergirl,” I ask the question on the mind of every fan of middle-of-the-road superhero television: Which is the less bad show – The CW’s “Black Lightning” or Fox’s “The Gifted?” Rather than go by gut feeling, let’s break down these sophomore sci-fi series by category.
Maybe it’s because I got more accustomed to the show’s rhythms, but I liked “Jessica Jones” Season 2 (March 2018, Netflix) more than the first. Everyone is established in their roles, and things like Jessica (Krysten Ritter) being perpetually drunk, or someone making reference to that fact, flow in a natural noir-detective-drama way. Even though the overall plot leans more superpowered than hardboiled, Melissa Rosenberg’s series is as comfortable in its genre trappings as Jessica is in her favorite pair of jeans.
After his memorable introduction in “Daredevil” Season 2 (2016) – which could’ve been called “Daredevil and Punisher” – Frank Castle/Punisher (Jon Bernthal) gets the spotlight in his own 13-episode season. The revelation of who killed Frank’s wife and two children at the merry-go-round leads to a conspiracy that goes to the highest levels of the U.S. government and military. One approach for showrunner Steve Lightfoot’s “Punisher” Season 1 (2017) might’ve been 13 mini-“John Wick” movies. That would’ve been viscerally satisfying, but I appreciate the meaty roster of characters. The season is not faced-paced, but nor is it boring.
It’s been a strange year for the “X-Men” Universe. “Legion” Season 2 and the excellent “Deadpool 2” came out, but those are peripheral stories. Two films – “Dark Phoenix” and “The New Mutants” – were pushed back to 2019, so no stories on the main timeline had been told since “The Gifted’s” (8 p.m. Eastern Tuesdays on Fox) first season ended in January. For me, this week’s Season 2 premiere, “eMergence,” is an exercise in “Wait, what happened again at the end of last season?” and “Oh yeah, I remember that guy.”
The MCU’s first crossover TV series, “The Defenders” Season 1 (2017, Netflix), has all the fun of a superhero team-up, along with all the clunkiness. Despite being written by four veterans of “Daredevil” – Douglas Petrie, Marco Ramirez, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and Drew Goddard — it is a notable step down from that bar-setting series.