Welcome to the 2015 OPZ Comic Book TV Show Draft. This first of a kind event is actually a second of a kind event since we already did it on our podcast.
For those of you who didn’t listen to that episode: First, listen to our podcast, it’s literally not the worst podcast ever. Second, after spending literally hundreds of hours of our lives watching every episode of the comic book TV show’s during the 2014 to 2015 fall TV season, we decided to rank those shows based on where they are right now in terms of current quality and potential going forward.
The takeaway: it’s a great time to be a comic book fan and watch TV. So many new shows premiered and they were almost all universally great. But they all can’t be the “greatest” and because this is the internet we had to rank them!
Much like a real sports draft, the rankings are meaningless and there are probably a lot of mistakes made that you can make fun of in hindsight. That said, like a real sports draft, let’s treat this all really seriously and pretend like it matters.
(In case you can’t infer things on your own, this article does contain spoilers)
With the first pick in the Draft:
Out of nowhere like a bolt of lightning this season (Get ready. There will be puns, and they will be bad), The Flash basically destroyed all expectations and flew into the first spot of our Comic Book TV Show Draft (CBTVD?) this season. After a quick tie-in last season on CW’s other DC darling, Arrow, The Flash sprinted to the top of The CW’s ratings and ran circles around the rest of their shows, even Arrow (despite Arrow’s far-superior situational awareness and training).
The storyline in season one of The Flash has been moving at an absolutely breakneck speed, hinting at, starting, and resolving entire plotlines that other shows would spend (and have spent) ten seasons dancing around. For example: the practically-ubiquitous but-you’re-practically-my-adopted-brother-we’re-such-good-friends unrequited love interest is introduced in episode one, and then gets admitted and brought right out into the open in episode nine. EPISODE NINE, PEOPLE. This is a storyline that crappy writers would milk for five seasons of awkwardness and moping, but The Flash tackles it head-on, and (for the most part) the characters deal with it like grownups.
A sign of a great show (or, at least, a great season of a show) is when every (or almost every) episode, you find yourself going “Wow! How are they going to top THAT?!” … until the next episode, when they do. This happened to me over and over this season of Flash. Not every episode was amazing, and I think that the people writing CW’s comic book shows could be better at writing female characters (women on both Arrow and Flash tend to fall back to “shrill and unreasonable” when the writers can’t figure out how an adult would actually behave in a difficult situation) but episode after episode had me just thinking “WOW! I can’t believe they’re doing that on a TV budget/in the first season/etc.”
My only real concern is whether they’ll be able to keep up the pace going forward, especially with one of the best characters/actors on the show becoming more of a “guest star” at best next season, and the possibility of losing writers to CW’s new DC universe spin-off show, Legends of Tomorrow. The writing quality of Arrow dropped a bit when writers left the show to focus on Arrow, and I’m a bit worried the same thing will happen to Flash. We’ll see!
With the second pick in the Draft:
Despite coming out of Marvel University, Daredevil was quite frankly not a show many expected to get drafted so highly. Sure, Marvel has dominated in the movie field, but their TV shows to date had not exactly been their strong suit (as we will get to later). Furthermore, it almost seemed like Marvel was demoting the young superhero. In a world where even Inhumans are getting their own movie, only giving a Netflix show to Daredevil seemed almost like a vote of no-confidence from the Marvel brass.
And to be fair, a vote of no-confidence wouldn’t have been entirely misplaced. While not in the “golden age” of comic book movies, the 2003 movie Daredevil was done by Fox (the same studio that showed they knew how to make a good comic book movie three-years earlier with X-Men). If Fox couldn’t translate Daredevil into a good on screen character maybe he just wasn’t a good character for the big screen?
All those concerns evaporated immediately the first time we saw Marvel & Netflix’s Daredevil step out into Hell’s Kitchen in episode one. As the show progressed it was clear we weren’t in 2003 Daredevil land anymore but given a shockingly brutal show, that was beautifully filmed, and very well written. But what was most surprising was the surprises never ended. Episode Two shocked viewers with an Oldboy like ending sequence. Then the show shocked viewers with a surprising twist on The Kingpin. And the hits kept coming, literally and figuratively.
Along the way every actor in the show knocked it out of the park with their performances. Sure Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onfrio are perfect in their roles, but the great thing about the show was that the scenes they weren’t in were just as compelling. Elden Henson pours his heart out as Foggy. Debroah Ann Woll perfectly nails her role as Page. Bob Guton basically steals every scene he’s in as Leland. Ayelet Zurer comes out of nowhere with an amazingly great and strong performance as Vanessa Marianna.
Sure it’s not the perfect show. The brutality feels jarring at times and almost out of place in comparison to Marvel Cinematic Universe, which will undoubtedly lead to issues if Daredevil does cross-over. For example, if he gets concussions from street thugs what happens when Thanos punches him in the face?
There are, like with any show not named The Flash, lulls, issues, and not every episode is a home run. Matt Murdoch gets beat up almost to the point of comedy at times and apparently everyone he gets into a fight with is a trained ninja. At this point season two’s story arch should solely be on the long term effects of all the concussions Murdoch has gotten.
But overall it’s far and away Marvel’s best TV attempt. Its legacy was almost immediate, not only in getting a early second season announcement, but in raising interest for Netflix’s other Marvel series. And it’s pretty amazing to think it was all accomplished in just its first season. An accomplishment that would have been even more amazing if not for fact Flash’s season one happened at the same time.
With the third pick in the Draft:
The freshman class continues to impress. Maybe, like a young Mel Kiper Jr., we’re too enamored with “potential” and “upside” here at OPZombies. But the freshman class of comic book shows, as shown by these rankings, has been outstanding (plus there’s only 2 shows on this list that weren’t in their first season).
You either like Gotham or you hate Gotham, there is no middle ground. You either love Jada Pinket Smith turning the acting dial to 11 with her portrayal of Fish Mooney, or you despise her and think that if you wanted that much ham you’d eat it for breakfast. You either can get over the constant reminders by the writers that Edward E. Nygma is going to one day be the Riddler, or you can’t. You either like that there are super-villains pre-Batman, or you don’t. Gotham is the figurative version of Two-Face, you either see the good side or the bad side.
That said, we’re fans and we think there’s a lot to like. First off the show quickly recognized its flaws early on and made adjustments that some shows would have been scared to make mid-way through season one. It was pretty cleer Ben McKenzie and Erin Richards had a lack of chemistry normally only reserved for Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman. So the show adjusted, putting Barbara Keen on the back burner adding Morena Baccarin to fill the role of Jim Gordon’s love interest.
Camren Bicondova’s Selina Kyle is charming and a believable version of the character. Robin Lord Taylor’s Oswald Cobblepot actually grows on you to the point where I totally buy his Penguin where there may have been doubts early on. Sean Pertwee gives a really great Alfred performance that may actually be one of my favorites. Donal Logue might not be the Harvey Bullock from the comics, but he makes every scene he’s in more entertaining. Furthermore the show has a great season of style and is visually interesting, even when the episode’s plot may not be. Finally, it’s nice to have a cop show on TV where the cops are competent and don’t need the help of an outsider (although we may be headed that way with young Master Bruce).
However, unlike The Flash and Daredevil, Gotham’s first season effort actually felt much like a typical first season effort: good but uneven. Where Gotham’s early episodes shined, a late season extension, adding 4 extra episode, really seemed to hurt the show. Deviating from what was an excellent mob drama to take a three-episode detour with Milo Ventimiglia as serial-killer Jason Lennon was a huge misstep. A misstep made even worse when the last episode went back to the mob drama, but without the storyline momentum, felt rushed with more than one questionable choice in terms of character motivations and plot developments.
With that said, no show is perfect and Gotham showed enough flashes to get drafted early. With one season under their belt there’s a lot of hope the show can build off its season one high-points and become a really fun and enjoyable staple of our week. Or it could remind us every episode of season two that Nygma is the Riddler. Anything is possible.
With the fourth pick in the Draft:
If you listen to our podcast, you know how shocked I was to get this show at number four. Agent Carter’s first season was nothing but spectacular and it was probably the second best show on this list. However, when we did our podcast we weren’t sure Agent Carter was going to be renewed, which is probably why it dropped below Gotham and Daredevil.
Let’s start out with the obvious: Agent Carter had an easier path to being great than any other freshman comic book show on TV. Agent Carter only had to fill 8 hours of television, allowing it time to craft a singular focused narrative without having to come up with filler. Compare that to a Gotham that had to fill 22 hours (4 more than planned when the season started).
Furthermore, Agent Carter had characters who were already established in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Howard Stark & Peggy Carter, allowing them more time to tell a story with less time devoted to introducing them to the audience. And speaking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, if you don’t think there’s a built in advantage to that, then you didn’t smile at all when Howard Stark introduced his butler, Jarvis.
But Agent Carter didn’t just rest on the MCU. It introduced a whole new cast of charismatic characters from a pre-SHIELD team of agents. Enver Gjokaj as Daniel Sosua, perhaps the man to replace Captain America in Peggy’s heart; James D’Arcy made Edwin Jarvis more than just a funny reference; Shea Whigham made us like an almost unlikable Roger Dooley enough to give us one of the most emotional moments of the year.
Perhaps most importantly, Agent Carter showed audiences just how much fun women kicking ass can be. The great thing about the show was it never hid from the obvious truth: Peggy Carter was not going to be treated as a hero in post-WWII America no matter what her efforts during the war were. She had to earn her place. Coincidentally, the “female superhero” seems to still have to earn her place with audiences today, a theme the show seemed to play with all the way through. In the end Haley Atwell showed us that not only can the “female superhero” be just as fun, but she can be more fun.
Speaking of which, Lyndsy Fonseca’s performance as Angie Martinelli was ridiculously charming. And Bridget Regan’s performance as Dottie Underwood, with a surprise introduction to the Black Widow program, was an immensely satisfying edition. The way the show weaved what ultimately could have been two or three seasons worth of storylines into one, and left the viewer feeling satisfied with all their resolutions was impressive.
The fact that the show was “on the bubble” is a travesty of epic proportions. This was one of the best shows on TV this season. However, in the end ABC made the right call and we’ll get to spend another season with Haley Atwell, and that’s fantastic.
With the fifth pick in the Draft:
Anyone that didn’t expect Justin to pick up both Flash and Arrow must not really listen to our podcast. Mostly because John doesn’t watch either of them, but also because Justin is completely obsessed with both, and with good reason. (So, ah, guess who’s writing this part).
This season, Arrow took things a bit darker with the (spoilers!) early death of one of the show’s main-ish characters, Sara Lance. It was abrupt and brutal (more to the fans than the character), and it completely set the tone for the rest of the season. Sara’s death was the catalyst for basically everything that happened in season three, and while the season had its missteps, it worked out preeeetty well, having set up a purported massive change in style for the show going forward.
Before I get into why I liked season three (and Arrow’s prospects for season four), let’s address the fans’ biggest complaint with this season: Olicity and the god damn ‘shippers. For anyone that doesn’t know, “‘shipping” is when fans become oddly-invested in the romantic relationships between characters of the shows they watch, often rooting for specific couplings with cutesy names attached. The relationship this season between Oliver and Felicity (so, “Olicity”) has been a recurring thread all season, to the dismay of just about everyone. This relationship was slightly hinted-at last season during a cunning plan by Oliver to catch Slade Wilson, and Felicity has always enjoyed drooling over shirtless Oliver Queen on his salmon ladder, but otherwise, it seemed like an entirely novel development in season three.
This brings us back to a point made earlier regarding The Flash; the Olicity storyline this season very quickly turned Felicity from a bright, goofy, awkward-but-still-strong-and-intelligent character into a whiny jumble of conflicting actions and outbursts. If I never have to hear Emily Bett Rickards’ cry-voice again, it will be too soon (not that it’s her fault at all). Felicity has long been one of the best parts of the show, managing to be solid comic relief without ever playing the part of the fool. This season, though, she was turned into a disposable plot mechanic, and the show suffered for it. (Besides, anybody that has even the slightest bit of familiarity with comic-book Green Arrow knows who he ends up with, and it sure ain’t Felicity Smoak).
The real reason Arrow is such a valuable choice in this season’s draft, though, is that its writers have learned some valuable lessons from The Flash, I think. Showrunner Marc Guggenheim has already stated several times that the end of Season 3 was a “series finale” of sorts (and it sure felt like it), starting a very new show in Season 4; one that’s lighter, with more humor. Arrow doesn’t need to be as “light” as The Flash, but it needs to step back and take itself just a little less seriously. Green Arrow is pretty well-known as one of DC Comics’ resident smart-asses, and Arrow could stand to incorporate that version of Oliver Queen into the mix, if only just a little bit.
With the sixth pick in the 2015 OPZ TV Show Draft:
Anyone who listens to our podcast knows that there’s a certain “love/hate” relationship with Agents of SHIELD that tends to fall on the hate side more often than not. So before we get into the Oreo cookie of criticism, let’s just start with what rich gooey white center of goodness there is.
Season two was better than season one. Maybe not at its peaks (the post Winter Soldier story-line of season one still being the show’s high) but overall season two was much more consistent. The additions of Adrianna Palicki (Bobbi Morse), Henry Simmons (Mack), and Nick Blood (Lance Hunter) we’re a much needed injection of personality and fun that the show was sorely lacking. The show seemingly knew what it wanted to be from the start of season two and did an excellent job avoiding the “threat of the week” type story-lines that bored fans in early season one. Reed Diamond made an excellent villain for the first half of the season as former Nazi Daniel Whitehall.
Now that we’ve exhausted the white center let’s go to the criticism cookies. For starters, let’s talk about Reed Diamond. When I said he made an excellent villain for the first half of the season, I failed to point out that’s because he was unceremoniously shot in the back at the end of the first half of season two, killing half a season’s worth of plot solely to fast-track an Inhumans story-line that ultimately led to some of the worst episodes of the season. But that was a running theme with SHIELD season two: story-lines picked up and dropped over and over. Over the 20-something episodes, the main plot of the show shifted from:
- Nazis, to
- Hydra, to
- Skye’s mom being dead and Skye’s dad wanting revenge on Whitehall, to
- Kree Temples, to
- Skye’s Dad wanting to kill Coulson for killing Whitehall
- SHIELD 2 out of nowhere, to
- Skye’s Dad forming a team of supers, to
- Skye’s mom being alive, to
- Coulson possibly being evil, to
- Skye’s mom being good, to
- Skye’s mom being evil and starting a war with Shield, to
- Coulson clearly not being evil, to
- The end of season two.
Slowing down and allowing some of these stories to build and have more impactful resolutions would have been great. After season one and Winter Soldier, a full season of just SHIELD vs. Hydra would have been amazing, especially with the great performance of Whitehall. However, a seeming race to make sure season three of SHIELD was built in a Inhumans world resulted in none of the stories having anything close to an emotionally satisfying conclusion. Hydra took 60 years to infiltrate SHIELD and was ultimately destroyed in ten episodes.
For the SHIELD defenders, of which there are many on the internet and boy are they vocal, who are screaming at this article right now and saying I’m wrong/stupid/dumb/stupid/and stupid, let’s recap the Skye’s Dad’s character arc for this season.
Skye’s Dad (Calvin Zabo) is introduced as a villain, a man with a seeming rage problem and perhaps super-strength, working with Raina in an effort to find Skye. He immediately sets his eyes on Colson for “stealing” his daughter away from him. But he also wants to kill Whitehall because Whitehall murdered his wife (Skye’s mother) for her powers. When Coulson and Whitehall collide, Coulson kills Whitehall, infuriating Cal even more. Cal pledges to kill Coulson for taking away the two things he wanted most in life, his daughter Skye and the opportunity for revenge against Whitehall. So far so good? Some silliness, but overall not a horrible story, and Cal’s motivations are explained relatively well.
Before we continue, let me just point out that Cal is played by Kyle MacLachlan who without question was the star of this season. His performance was over the top but perfect and it only got better as the season progressed. By the finale, his version of Cal was probably the main reason the show was likeable. Scenes without him were below average but scenes with him were what babies’ dreams are made of.
So back to the story: In an effort to kill time while they are trying to get Skye to Inhumans Island, Skye’s dad breaks out a team of “supers” that SHIELD has locked away, consisting of a girl with razor blades attached to her nails and a guy whose screams can incapacitate people. In one episode his entire super team is defeated but continues to seek his revenge against all things Coulson until… he doesn’t.
See once Skye gets to Inhuman Village, so does Cal. And guess who else is there, Skye’s mom. You know the one whose Cal’s entire motivations for revenge against Whitehall, and then Coulson, we’re built on. Sure there’s an argument to be made that she was technically murdered (and then reassembled piece by piece by Cal because apparently you can do that and apparently the Nazis were like Native Americans in that they wasted nothing) but it was also made very clear that Cal’s motivations the entire first half of the season were based on the belief Cal’s wife was dead (which we now know that he knew she wasn’t, but the viewers didn’t, because plot twists are all that’s needed for good tv right?). And then from that point on the whole Cal wants to kill Coulson thing is dropped and really never mentioned again.
Which is where SHIELD ultimately fails. Plots and story-lines on SHIELD aren’t created and advanced because they’re good, they’re advanced either because Marvel says they need to be or because the show loves to do twists and other tv tropes that aren’t entertaining by themselves. And story-lines you become invested in are dropped seemingly at random or without satisfying conclusions.
For example, in the second season of The Office, the writers realized “wait, having Pam and Jim do a will they/won’t they thing for seven seasons won’t be fun, let’s just be fun.” And you know what, it lead an amazing three season run where the Office was maybe the best show on TV. SHIELD on the other hand went the completely opposite route going at amazing lengths to keep FitzSimmons from happening. First by turning Fitz into a handicapped person to start the season (not an exaggeration), then turning Simmons into a unlikable “let’s kill Skye” person (slightly an exaggeration), to finally by the end having Fitz ask Simmons out… and promptly having Simmons eaten by a rock (not an exaggeration).
I didn’t make that part up. To avoid doing what made The Office the best show on TV, SHIELD literally had Simmons eaten by a rock rather than give a payoff to the FitzSimmons story-line, which is a pure sign of bad storytelling (avoiding giving the audience what they want just so you hope that if you drag it out they will keep watching for the eventual payoff).
And again, I want to be clear: In the last scene of season two of Agents of SHIELD, a character was eaten by a rock. And I will still get yelled at by SHIELD fans that the show isn’t high enough on this list.
With the seventh pick in the 2015 OPZ TV Show Draft:
Okay, iZombie fans, listen… we love you. Before you get mad, let us be clear, we LIKE iZombie. There’s two reasons iZombie got drafted last:
- It started late in the season and took a few episodes to start to figure out what it wants to be.
- Comic book TV shows are actually really damn good right now and being last isn’t necessarily an indictment of the quality of show on this list.
When we did our draft on the podcast we were only five episodes into iZombie. And at that point in time iZombie hadn’t given us a ton to love. Yes Rose McIver is amazing. Yes Rahul Kohli is fantastic. Yes David Anders does David Anders things and I would literally watch an entire show called “David Anders does David Anders things.”
But the show, five episodes in, was toeing way to dangerously close to the a-non-cop-helps-the-cops-solve-a-different-crime-every-week-procedural that we at OPZombies are kind of exhausted with. Nothing against iZombie, because it does it well, but so does the five to ten other random person helps the cops every week show on TV at any given time like:
- The Mentalist
- The Blacklist
- Dog With A Blog
- Two and a Half Men
- Shark Tank
We needed more. And to iZombie’s credit, they have started to deliver. While keeping the format they started with, the show has slowly but surely veered more towards mythology, world building, and things happening to Liv over police find body, Liv eats brain, Liv solves crime stuff.
Which is why it’s such a shame this show came out so late in the season, at least in terms of our draft. There’s no doubt, as the show has been renewed for a second season, that iZombie will not be the last pick in the 2016 OPZombies TV Show Draft, if only because it’s unlikely that we’ll type out such a ridiculously long article again next year.
I can’t lie… I never watched an episode of Constantine. Although, it wasn’t in any way an indictment of the show. When I heard NBC was doing Constantine, my first reaction was “Oh, they’ll screw that up, probably bury it in a bad time-slot and then eventually cancel it cause it’s NBC.” Which is exactly what happened.
If Constantine does get saved by another network, which seems unlikely, we’ll watch it and review it. However, we’re not going to keep getting fooled by NBC and Comcast. We’re on to you guys. We get that you have no idea what you’re doing, but that doesn’t mean you can continually rope us into TV shows that we like and then pull the rug out from under us and expect us never to catch on.
So we’re at a stalemate NBC. Until you produce one likable show under Comcast (which you’ve failed to do) and get that show to season two we will never review anything you do again.
Except for Heroes Reborn. We’re totally reviewing that.