The superhero genre has taken over TV in a big way, and that trend will continue in 2018. Thanks to The CW and Netflix, it seems like every DC and Marvel hero will be given their chance to shine on the small screen eventually. However, not all superhero shows are created equal. With so many caped crusaders trying to grab your attention, a few are bound to fall flat. Thankfully, just as many soar.
Before Black Lightning, Cloak and Dagger, and Titans hit the small screen, let’s take stock of TV’s current live action superhero shows — from the good to well, whatever Inhumans was supposed to be.
ABC and Marvel should have spent less time trying to make Inhumans a spectacle, and a little more time on making it a compelling series. Ultimately, the show fell flat on both counts. Thanks to its cheesy CGI and horribly stilted writing, Inhumans never had a chance.
At the end of the day, Iron Fist is discount Arrow. The character simply doesn’t translate well to the screen, and the show takes itself far too seriously given the fact that it’s about an angsty dude with a glowing fist. As a character, Danny has his moments, but there’s not enough of them to build a solid series around.
Three seasons in and Legends of Tomorrow is still trying to find itself. The cast has good chemistry, but the show loses actors at an alarming rate. Ultimately, the idea of a team of superheroes bouncing around time and space saving the world is a good one, but this CW series rarely lives up to its full potential.
The Gifted got off to a promising start. It’s a series about mutants that can actually talk about the X-Men, which is nice. And it melds family drama with intense action scenes. Unfortunately, it’s also been a bit of a slog to get through recently. That’s not to say the show is without promise, but The Gifted needs to do some course-correcting fast if it wants to be among the best superhero series.
Runaways and The Gifted are falling victim to the same problems. The show is far too concerned with its adult castmembers and their characters’ soap opera problems. Every precious moment wasted on The Pride is one that could be spent on fleshing out the bonds of the teen characters who are supposed to be forming a team.
Mike Colter is amazing as Luke Cage, but he deserves a stronger show. It’s not that Luke’s solo outing is bad, the storytelling just isn’t tight enough. As a result, watching some of the episodes feels like work and that’s never a good thing.
Gotham has been wildly uneven from the start, but when the show is good it’s riveting TV. But when it’s bad… well, it’s a total cheesefest. The variation in quality may be frustrating, but thanks to performances like Cameron Monaghan as Jerome, the series is hard to give up.
Was The Defenders the best of Netflix’s Marvel series? Nope, but it was a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Seeing Jessica, Luke, Matt, and Danny team-up made for an exciting romp, even if the big bad of the series was on the dull side.
It took Agents of SHIELD a couple of seasons to truly find its voice. Once it did, it quickly became one of the most enjoyable and inventive superhero shows around. (And the team is an absolute delight.) The series is far from perfect, but it has become a reliable stalwart of the genre.
Over the years, Arrow has had its share of uneven seasons. The show’s biggest problem is that it can pile on the misery. On the other hand, Arrow has a brooding Stephen Amell, the best superhero romance on TV, and a strong history of course-correcting its mistakes, which means the good far outweighs the bad.
Netflix gets Daredevil right. Even when the bad guys are total bores, Matt Murdock’s trauma, heroism, and inability to avoid wading into a fight defines the series.
The Tick is unlike any other superhero series on TV. It’s irreverent, weirdly touching, and always fun. Sure, The Tick is a quirky hero, but he might just be the one the world needs the most right now.
Supergirl has lost some of its momentum in Season 3, but the series remains a shining example of why superhero shows don’t have to be dark to be worth watching. Kara’s positivity and sense of hope are part of Supergirl’s DNA, and those are the qualities that make the show great.
A rumination on PTSD and grief, The Punisher packs a serious punch. It’s easily among the strongest of the Netflix Marvel series, and a fine showcase for Jon Bernthal’s talents.
If you had to hang out with a superhero, you would totally want it to be Barry Allen. The Flash has found the perfect balance between joyfulness and heartbreak. The show is a credit to its genre, proving that superhero series can be emotionally dynamic and full of wondrous set pieces at the same time.
A heady romp through the psyche of an unstable man possessing a power that could potentially destroy the world, Legion defies classification. It’s a superhero show in the loosest sense of the term, because at its core, Legion is far more concerned with the inner-workings of the mind. Still, there are few shows on television that are better (or stranger) than this one.
Jessica doesn’t want to be a hero. If she had it her way, she would spend her days drinking herself into oblivion, but the world needs her so she tries to push all of her crap aside to do what’s right. As a person, Jessica is a mess, but as a hero? There’s no one better, and the series reflects this truth with its intensity, taut storytelling, and incredible lead.