A rainy New York City weekend, and general laziness on my part, helped free the time needed for me to kick back, grab a snack, and dive into Luke Cage. We live in super-sensitive spoiler culture, so I won’t dive into many details about the show. I’ll say this, however: It’s pretty entertaining, despite some of many massive beefs in regards to Cage’s motivations and “reluctant hero” shtick. Mahershala Ali, Simone Missick, and Alfre Woodard absolutely slay on screen, and keep the boat from sinking into the Sea of Mediocrity.
But Luke Cage isn’t Marvel’s only TV series. In its extremely brief period of existence, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has radically transformed how Hollywood makes movies. The big studios now seek to emulate Marvel Studios’s comic book-style, interconnected formula with Cinematic Universes of their own; there’s talk of several unified movie series, including those based on G.I. Joe, Godzilla, Universal’s monsters, and other hot, and not so hot, properties. A 21 Jump Street and Men In Black crossover, Sony? Please send that uncooked duck back to the kitchen.
The Negative Zone-sized gulf between the MCU and those hastily cobbled together universes has grown, and continues to grow, because Marvel Studios gives a damn about the small screen. Yes, DC has Arrow, Gotham, Supergirl, and other programs on the air, but those shows don’t all exist within the same universe. Here’s a bit of info that’s even more bewildering: Warner Bros, DC Comics’s parent company, has confirmed that the small screen properties won’t tie into the big screen story lines, and that the company will likely recast, say, Oliver Queen if that character movies from TV to feature film. The lack of cohesion is quite perplexing.
Marvel Studios’s “everything’s connected” game plan, however, means that a blind vigilante operates in the same universe as a gun-toting raccoon-like creature. It means that a legendary super-soldier lives in the same world where a super-strong PTSD sufferer battles her demons. The comic book-style cross-pollination ensures that geeks have some Marvel merriment in their lives between the tent pole movie releases, with the potential for big gun characters or story beats to appear on television, and vice versa. Who didn’t love Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury appearance in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. after the fallout of Captain America: The Winter Soldier?
Now that Marvel Studios has five TV properties scattered between ABC and Netflix, the time has come for me to rank these sum’bitches. As with my Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Power Rankings, this Marvel Cinematic Universe TV Power Rankings stack-ranks Marvel Studios’s properties from best to worst across three categories: Main-Eventers (the must-watch shows), Mid-Carders (flawed, but recommended, shows), and Jobbers (A.K.A., don’t waste your time).
Let’s get the party started.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
My takeaway: Marvel uses Netflix as the vehicle to deliver edgier content, and the pairing has been pretty successful overall. The Hell’s Kitchen heroes, Daredevil and Jessica Jones, are powered by multi-layered scripts, solid to excellent acting, violence, sex, and beautiful nighttime shots of New York City’s streets and back alleys. And Luke Cage is a straight ode to Harlem, with plenty of hip hop, pro-blackness, friction between the community and the cops, and some great acting on display from most of the major players.
The series stick around a bit too long (Daredevil should have been 11 episodes, and Jessica Jones and Luke Cage 10 episodes) , which is par for the course for nearly every Netflix show except for Master of None. If you ignore the mini-filler, you’ll find entertaining superhero shows at their cores.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t reach the heights of any Netflix program; it’s a safer, network TV program, after all. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is solid fun, particularly in the last two years when Marvel Studios listened to fans and turned the show into a superhero series post-Winter Soldier. Still, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really should be a tight 15 episodes instead of a sprawling 20+ episode requirement.
And Agent Carter? Unwatchable. It’s pretty much the Thor: The Dark World of Marvel’s TV output.
Still, Marvel Studios continues to roll. 2016 will see the entertainment giant release Luke Cage and Daredevil season two. Check in then for an updated MCU TV power ranking!
Image courtesy of Marvel Television and Netflix.