The end of a year is always a good time to look back at what happened. There will always be various lists of top whatever, what’s in or out, best or worsts. Hero geek that I am, given all the reviews I write, I’m taking a different approach. While in many ways it is the era of hero tv (and movies), 2019 carved a bloody swath through the shows that were around. This is my look back at the series that didn’t make it to 2020. Some shows ran their course, some were cancelled for various reasons.
Despite the DC Universe platform launching in late 2018, DC had a troubled year for show cancellations. Some of this will, in theory, allow some of their shows to work more closely together, but there were some that hurt to say good bye to. In no particular order, 2019 saw the end of:
Gotham– an outsider among DC shows, it was the only one over on Fox, which is tied more closely to Marvel. It was a very non-canon retelling of some of Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon’s years leading up the eventual emergence of the Batman. The show had some great moments, and I was a fan of the Gordon/Bullock scenes. Those two had a great rhythm. But, young men grow up, some of the cast was aging, and the story was about done. The show ended with a leap in time, Bruce donning the cape and cowl, and Gordon making it to Commissioner. It ended well, and it was arguably time, but I admit, I’ll miss some of it.
Swamp Thing– The first cancellation of the new DC Universe platform, the show went away through no fault of its own. Gradually, the story emerged of problems with the tax credits from parts of the North Carolina state government, and the budget suffering horribly. It was cut from 13 episodes to 10, then a cancellation notice went out after the first episode ended. It’s really a shame. This was a good quality show, and gave us a new take on Swamp Thing (and a nod to the past movie), but also the first live action versions of Blue Devil, Madame Xanadu, and the Phantom Stranger. It was a great hero/gothic horror series, and it clearly ended with more story to tell. I’m hoping they find a way to bring it back.
iZombie– I had my doubts when I first heard about this show, but I tuned in out of curiosity and because I review as many comic book based shows as I can. I was hooked from the first episode. They had a cast of very talented actors, a flair for the comedically absurd, but didn’t let that overshadow some seriously dramatic moments. The show unapologetically radically changed its status quo several times, and the final season was almost unrecognizable from the first one. Rose McIver did a stellar job as Liv, the zombie that eats brains to survive but uses the visions she gained to solve murders. That said, none of the cast was bad, and they all worked together really, really well. I think they partially wrote themselves out of existence, with a final season storyline I don’t know how you could have followed up on. But we got a good happy ending, and the surviving cast (the show was rough on recurring characters) had their stories wrapped up well. I’ll miss the name puns, the tag-line returns from commercial breaks, and all the characters. Even the bad guys were engagingly entertaining.
Krypton– Continuing the theme of “Batman before Batman,” this focused on Superman’s grandfather and Krypton, decades before the big blast. It wasn’t the highest quality of the shows airing, and was also off on its own, over on SyFy. While some of the characterizations left a bit to be desired, it did give us the first live action Adam Strange (sort of) and Lobo. I had a lot of questions that were never answered, and didn’t understand a lot of their choices. But it certainly had its moments. I’ll miss Nyssa-Vex the most: a smart, tough, bisexual woman when we don’t get to see a lot of that. I wasn’t heartbroken to see the show go, but I enjoyed a lot of it. This one didn’t seem to know they were on the way out, and ended with new storylines starting or at least hinted at in the final episode.
I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a comic fan who won’t admit, however grudgingly, that Marvel owns the movies at this point. The Avengers/Marvel Studios films dominated the box office whenever they came out, and made billions. But Marvel had some tv shows, too, and while they seem to be in the process of ending them all, possibly to make room for new projects on the entertainment juggernaut that is Disney+, I’ll go over some of what went away this year.
Marvel/Netflix: To me, this was the height of what hero tv can be. Four, later five, shows, in a shared world that supported each other and created a world every bit as deep and detailed as the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe it was supposedly a part of. Why the shows went away depends on who you ask: rising production costs, licensing fees, Marvel clearing the decks for their forthcoming Disney+ shows. What I do know we lost some great shows, all of which I’ll miss, and four out of five of which ended with clearly more story planned. The Marvel/Netflix world was:
Jessica Jones: A friend of mine dubbed the show “The Adventures of PTSD Woman,” and I can’t really argue with him. Jessica wasn’t your standard hero at all. No cape, no costume, a serious drinking problem, and a lot of psychological trauma. Despite all this, and sometimes despite herself, we saw her rise from a troubled mess to a real hero over the course of three great seasons. She had several love interests, but stood on her own booted feet, and didn’t need anyone to save her (and probably wouldn’t have let them anyway). Her final season showed even more loss, an intriguing new man in her life, and some serious moral issues. It ended on what clearly could have been the building point for something new.
Luke Cage: The night Cage premiered, it crashed Netflix. That should tell you something. One of the first superhero shows led by a nearly all African American cast, Cage featured great music, a reluctant hero, and the desire to make a difference for his neighborhood. Cage went from a dishwasher to the “Hero of Harlem,” gradually forced to confront his painful past to move forward with his life. Misty Knight was a great presence on the series. The second season ended with a fascinating moral dilemma, and I really wanted to see what became of it. Sadly, as things stand, we never will.
Daredevil: The closest to a “normal” superhero show of the lot, Matt Murdock was a blind lawyer by day, masked vigilante by night. The show had amazing fight choreography and a very troubled main character. His world was complex, and even his fight scenes didn’t overshadow the two supporting characters from the comics, Karen Page and Foggy Nelson. The show had great representations of characters like Kingpin, Stick, Bullseye, Elektra, and a Punisher so good he got his own show. Daredevil went from his “Dread Pirate Roberts” costume that most people could throw together on their own (and did at many cons) to a great approximation of his comic book costume, and back again. This, too, ended with what seemed like a setup for stories to come, but not as much of a direct cliffhanger as Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.
Iron Fist: I say this as a long-time fan of the character, and it hurts me to do it, but this was the weakest of the shows. The first season was erratic, and a lot of people didn’t care for this portrayal of Danny Rand, the Iron Fist. The fight scenes were pretty damn good, but not as good as some of Daredevil, which isn’t great when your main character is supposed to be one of the best fighters on Earth. I still enjoyed the show, particularly Colleen Wing, and thought the second season showed a lot of improvement. Sadly, it seems we’ll never learn what was going to happen with Colleen’s new-found ability, and Danny’s weapons that hinted of Iron Fists past in the final scene.
Punisher: There had been movies of varying qualities about Frank Castle, the vigilante with no problem using lethal force on the criminal element. When Jon Bernthal was announced as the new incarnation of the character, there was a mixed reaction. Then, he debuted on Daredevil’s second season, and blew everyone away, audience and bad guys both. He got two seasons of his own show, and it was spectacular. If I could only bring one show back, it might be this one. His finale was more “..and the story continues,” than “Here’s what was supposed to come next,” but there was a lot more they could do with the character.
Elsewhere, other shows also bowed out:
Legion: Certainly the trippiest bit of comic book live action adventure I’d ever seen, this focused on a relatively unknown character (What do you mean, Professor X has a son? said many), and did really weird things. There was a 60’s psychedelic vibe through the whole series, and it got weirder as it went. Finally, the show ended with time travel, Professor X finally showing up (sadly, not the rumored return of Patrick Stewart in the role), and changing history so that the entire show never actually happened. I was never quite sure what was going on with this one, and I have to say I won’t miss it much. It was certainly interesting, in the “Not sure what else to say” meaning of the word. The show arguably ended both because it weirded everyone out, and as part of the shuffle with the X-Men properties returning to Marvel’s direct control.
The Gifted: This took several lesser-known X-Men related characters, set them up in a dark world that mirrored much of today’s trouble times, and never let the heroes actually have a clear victory. Personally, I thought it was nice to see some actual Native representation without it being some weird mystic thing (although they did give him some weird tracking power). The show had some ups and downs, but did a lot of good things and gave an interesting twist to one of the Marvel villain families. This show, too, was probably a casualty of Marvel getting the X-Men books back. They ended on a major cliffhanger, but it sort of worked as a series finale.
Cloak and Dagger: This was actually one of my favorite shows, and I’ll miss it a lot. While they made some big changes from the comics, they did them well. Watching the development of the characters, their powers, and the various relationships was a lot of fun. They set the show in New Orleans, and managed to include locales aside from the stereotypical ones. They didn’t end on a cliffhanger, exactly, but definitely with the hint of more story to come. They didn’t get a third season, but made a final appearance on…
Runaways: This was always an interesting concept: a bunch of kids find out their parents are actually supervillains, and they’ve inherited powers and gifts. What do you do when the ones who are supposed to teach you about the world are the bad guys? This show had some interesting dynamics, and ended its run on Hulu as part of Marvel consolidating all their projects for Disney+.
Gone Before They Got Here:
Marvel announced a lot of new projects in the time leading up to Disney + launching. One of the announced plans was to keep the main channel PG-13, and send more adult projects to Hulu. Unfortunately, not all the newly announced ones made it to screen.
Ghost Rider: The Johnny Blaze character was in the movies, before Marvel Studios launched. In the comics, the most recent iteration of the character is Robbie Reyes who had a Dodge Charger instead of the usual motorcycle. This character showed up on Agents of SHIELD, and a lot of us were excited to hear Gabriel Luna would be back as the star of the show. Apparently, there was a “creative impasse” and the show won’t move forward.