When the NSA agent behind my webcam and I curl up for a night in, Marvel TV is usually on the menu. Maybe not first on the menu—I’m not a philistine—but presently there all the same. The (ahem, superior) comic giant’s foray into live–action, prime–time television has been lauded and condemned with equal fervor since the 2013 launch of their earliest show, Marvel’s Agents of Shield on ABC. On one hand the franchise celebrates weirdos, perhaps a few degrees more attractive and cooler than you and me, but essentially just like us. On the other hand, given Marvel’s inescapable grip on cinematic superhero narratives, maybe viewers have stopped critically engaging and have simply come to accept their cape–seized fates. Luckily so far Marvel’s four–year TV run, following its even longer animated series runs, has not yet fully saturated its market. There will always be space for stories, many including ensemble casts, who spotlight their characters’ inherent variety and difference. With this weighted bag in mind, let’s rank Marvel’s ‘new–to–TV’ endeavors of 2017.
FX takes a bright stand with Legion. Despite the early bout of Inception–esque pre–release marketing, the show has not relied on huge marketing campaigns or its Marvel sticker to rope viewers into coming back. The show also does a healthy meander, if not a full–on sprint, into pseudoscience which is a hallmark of Marvel and welcome on my Friday night if you’ve got room in the cuckoo’s nest. With most of the show lived inside the head of a mutant paranoid schizophrenic, it has no qualms engaging with the absurd. Ignoring references like “You’re the key,” and “We have to stop the secret race war!” tropes Legion is more than a win in my book. Government conspiracies and mental incontinence? Sign us up.
On a very different note, Inhumans is the strongest reach for relevancy Marvel has debuted in years, and that’s considering their executive team is slated to launch a Squirrel Girl show for 2018. Sure, there are fans devoted to the Inhumans comic, but their nostalgia and the Marvel seal are not nearly enough to cover the program’s gaping lacks in acting ability, in superhero wig construction, or in engaging plot–lines though I can’t imagine a similar lack in funding so what gives? Don’t get me wrong, an escape plot to Hawaii and the ensuing chaos of a family feud gets…interesting, but I didn’t stick around to find out how much.
In my short lifetime, I’ve never seen this many teen people of color celebrated for their difference and diversity. The Runaways’ cast was enough to draw me in, but I will admit I stayed for the creative teenage spin on an age–old trope that parents are actually the literal worst. This show quickly finds its legs in a backstory riddled with cult fidelity, murder, lies, and deception and from that moment it’s off running and will not stop. Here’s hoping they don’t lose steam in 2018.
The Gifted, like Marvel’s Runaways, leans toward teen and young adult targeting, but it’s the first of its kind to have so much to say. The show’s Strucker family takes center stage as a catalyst to discuss oppressors, again in the form of mean parents and purposefully obtuse and misunderstanding adults, as well as the oppressed, usually in the form of their kids. But like onions, in The Gifted even the villains have layers and viewers can look forward to peeling them back with tears.
Strong pass. I see your white, male savior and raise you one protagonist of moderate acting quality and a native culture Hollywood has yet to butcher. Don’t bet your luck on this one, kiddos.
Iron Fist is one of four members of titular dream team The Defenders. That being said the show is still mostly good, though it seems to get into incredible troubles that are bigger than its small–screen display. In season one, when deities older than time itself set to wreck New York from the ground up, the show would have you believe that our snazzy Defenders, previously relegated to their own New York neighborhoods like mob bosses with consciences, are a match for the task. More importantly, however, for three–fourths of the main cast I’m willing to believe it.
Trigger warning admitted; enter at your own risk. This show is heavy, so for those who found Jessica Jones "too dark," I hope you’ll grit your teeth because this one’s worth it. Saying the violence can be gratuitous is an understatement and it’s notably very different than the lighter, similarly irreverent Deadpool, but Frank Castle is the first of those strong, titular characters in the new Marvel Cinematic Universe who, more than Jessica Jones or Deadpool, begs us to redefine our definition of "hero" minute by painful minute. (It may be 2018 instead of 2000, but I’m here for the Gore.)