There is so much genre television right now that it’s hard to remember how sparse the landscape once was not all that long ago. And how it seemed like you could only really have one subgenre at a time, horror or science fiction for example, but not usually both. Now there’s plenty to chose from, ranging in style, flavor, and quality. No longer do we have to sit through a craptastic hour of television just because it’s the only thing on the air with superheroes or vampires or whatever your favorite is.
Which is a roundabout was of saying I’ve been watching a fair bit of Netflix lately.
Person of Interest is my current obsession, basically taking the spot in my heart previously occupied by Fringe. The two series are very different in a lot of ways but both fill that action-thriller spot, have interesting explorations of ethics and morality, and manage to build a strong ensemble cast with excellent female characters. They also both share a clever approach to ideas that are not entirely novel but haven’t been explored quite so well previously on television. I do hope POI stays on target better than the latter seasons of Fringe did, though.
In superheroics Arrow has built from a workmanlike action hero series to a pretty decent comic book series, allowing itself to relax into the inherent absurdity of its genre. It’s still serious and angsty and often soapy as hell, but they seem to be having more fun with it and expanding into a shared universe both internally with more heroes and villains and externally with crossovers.
The Flash needed no long build up, maybe because of the groundwork already laid down by Arrow, and has more great comic book stuff per episode than you can count. The other thing it has going for it is a much lighter tone and a solid sense of humor, which is appropriate to the title anyway but has also always felt more like DC’s strength anyway. I loved the Mark Waid era of the comic back in the nineties and am enjoying the fuck out of the series so far.
Gotham is a bit more frustrating. I loved the first half dozen episodes; a little grotesque and a little weird but mainly focused on the story of the struggle to control Gotham by criminal syndicates, the corrosive effect of that struggle on the city’s public servants and citizenry, and the start of a crusade to clean it up by Gordon. It’s not quite in the superhero genre as we now know it more in that pulp era masked crime fighter sensibility of The Shadow or Dick Tracy. But towards the end the season there seemed to be a loss of focus, some clumsy writing in regards to several female characters, and just a general loss of focus. Hope they get back on track next season.