Saturday, June 10, 2017

2016-17 TV Season Recap, Part Two

Previous TV Season Recaps – (2013-14 | 2014-15 | 2015-16
2016-17 TV Season Recap, Part 1 (Gotham, Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow))

2016-17 TV Season Recap, Part 1 (Gotham, Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow)
2016-17 TV Season Recap, Part 3 (24: Legacy, South Park, Horace & Pete, Stranger Things)
2016-17 TV Season Recap, Part 4 (Glow, Defenders, American Grit, Ballers, Leftovers, Game of Thrones)

For part two of my annual year in review of TV I will be focusing on three Marvel TV properties, in addition to another show based off another comic book publisher.

Luke Cage – I am a big fan of the Luke Cage character portrayed by Mike Colter when he debuted in a supporting role in Jessica Jones last season. Suffice it to say, I was thrilled to see him get his own show. This is not a by-the-numbers, lighthearted villain-of-the-week superhero show. It is a darker take on the genre taking place in the gang-ruled streets of Harlem that has Cage trying to hide his powers and make an everyday living working multiple jobs. Life changes for Cage when a drive-by at his workplace barbershop spells the demise of his mentor. The rest of the season plays out more in a grand crime mystery caper than a superhero show. There are still plenty of enticing scuffles and brawls throughout the season, but the focus is on Cage tracking down several suspects while being on the run from an investigator hot on his tail in the form of Misty Knight (Simone Missick).

Watching the mystery unfold was fun to follow as I got to learn more facets about the cast such as Harlem’s lead gangster Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali) and his right hand man Shades (Theo Rossi). Those two villains in particular were the most captivating antagonists among a slew of bigger players introduced this season. My only drawback with the debut season of Luke Cage is that it felt a few episodes too long and were hitting a few predictable clichés throughout the season that would have made for a tighter season if a couple episodes were cut out altogether. Regardless, this was a breath of fresh air from the Marvel Netflix formula, and I hope it sticks with it for future seasons. Grade: B+

Iron Fist – I was surprised to hear so much negativity about Iron Fist shortly after it debuted. Up until this series, the Marvel Netflix shows had a strong batting average. There is so much wrong with Iron Fist. The first couple of episodes are a slog to get through as star Danny Rand (Finn Jones) escapes back home to New York after training with monks for over a decade in a monastery to become the legendary ‘Iron Fist.’ He tries to reconnect with his siblings Joy (Jessica Stroup) and Ward (Tom Pelphrey) but the show spends the first couple episodes with the family dismissing him and casting him off in a rehab facility that was just a slog to get through and made for near-unwatchable television.

Eventually Danny gets out of the mental hospital and the show kind of gets on track for a couple episodes. Danny tags along with local martial arts teacher Colleen (Jessica Henwick). Unfortunately, Colleen gives Wally West a run for his money as ‘dopiest character’ of the year because her arc is written so terrible. She starts off the show as trying to help kids stay off the streets by joining her dojo, but learn later that she has an uncontrollable rage she likes to unleash in underground MMA fights. However, that arc magically disappears for the second half of the season without reason. The worst part for both Danny and Colleen is they both commit one of the worst comic book tropes of getting irked and declaring they are going to kill off their enemies only when it comes time to deliver on their promise like all good heroes they get reluctant and preach about not committing a crime. I can maybe let that slide once, but the duo repeatedly commit this awful comic book stereotype multiple times in the last several episode to the point that it is beyond a joke, and just blasphemous.

Speaking of villains, I was pretty high on the second season of Daredevil until they introduced the mystical Japanese ninjas known as ‘The Hand’ into the mix. For the unaware, they are the equivalent of the TMNT’s foot clan soldiers and Daredevil treated them as meaningless cannon fodder. Apparently, Marvel loved them so much they decided to double down on The Hand as the primary villains for Iron Fist. The bulk of the season is spent contradicting Daredevil by making The Hand appear as the ultimate threat, because…ninjas, but it is impossible to take them serious at all, and eventually they again become worthless cannon fodder. Most characters are written poorly that it is impossible to get behind anyone. The only couple of saving graces from this show being a straight up failure are Jessica Stroup and Rosario Dawson’s performances as Joy and Claire, respectively. I was a big fan of Stroup in The Following and she and Dawson are the only two that shine in this mess of a show. Grade: D

Legion – This show is officially part of the X-Men universe, but I would not blame you if you did not make the connection because as only a casual X-Men fan myself I did not notice any of the popular mutants from the acclaimed Marvel series here. It only seemed the term ‘mutants’ was only referenced a handful of times throughout the first season’s eight episodes. Legion is incredibly hard to follow. Mix X-Men, Split and Inception together and that is essentially Legion. Dan Stevens (David Haller) is the star of the show who gets locked in a mental facility as he learns he has split personalities and the ability to jump into other character’s dreams, and like Inception those dreams have layers and you can jump into multiple dimensions of dreams.

It all got extremely difficult to follow, but like Gotham I eventually turned my mind off and accepted whatever they threw my way. Being a FX show, Legion pushes the envelope with its content and there are some extra graphic scenes with the powers doing some lethal damage. For better or worse, the show evolved into ‘shock TV’ so I could see whatever jaw-dropping moment would transpire next. I had a very loose idea of what was going on by the end of the series, and I would benefit greatly from rewatching the Legion, but I have so many other shows to grind through. I will give this an unorthodox recommendation if you are into seeing a bunch of weird and crazy scenes for shock value alone with a mildly cohesive plot on top of it. Grade: B

Riverdale - I am only two episodes into this and cannot give a conclusive grade to the show based off the hit light-hearted high school comedy line of Archie comics I grew up with. This show is so not that, they bring over nearly the entire cast from the comics, but with a hard TVMA rating. Once it took me an episode to get over the fact that the cast is in their sophomore year of high school and everyone looks AT LEAST 10 years older, I instantly got hooked on the show. Riverdale takes the approach of Twin Peaks and Veronica Mars with a murder happening at the beginning of the season and the show spending the season trying to discover what really happened. The show stays topical by having new twists on characters that were not the case in the comics like certain sophomores being homosexual, having ADD or engaging in flings with teachers. I imagine there will be a few more to come once I get further along into the series. There is still a lot of the teeny-bop high school drama in here, but the show easily masks that underneath the big murder mystery at play and a cast that is well over high school age. I am intrigued and look forward to seeing how the rest of the season plays out. Grade: n/a

Past TV/Web Series Blogs

2013-14 TV Season Recap
2014-15 TV Season Recap
2015-16 TV Season Recap
Adventures of Briscoe County Jr: The Complete Series
Angry Videogame Nerd Volumes 7-9
Mortal Kombat: Legacy - Season 1
OJ: Made in America: 30 for 30
RedvsBlue - Seasons 1-13
Roseanne – Seasons 1-9
Seinfeld Final Season
Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle
Superheroes: Pioneers of Television

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