Iron Fist – Season 1

Iron Fist

There was a good story somewhere in here, but Netflix really dropped the ball this time. Iron Fist is pretty disappointing. And I’m not even holding the Netflix/Marvel shows to very high standards, anymore. They’ve all tended to start out great and then turn into a slog near the halfway point. Iron Fist, however, is consistently bland. Our hero, Danny, has so little personality, and it was never very clear who the villain was supposed to be. Sure, Danny spends plenty of time chasing after “The Hand,” but there’s really no single, formidable opponent. You don’t get to see Danny struggle and lose in the same ways that Daredevil and Luke Cage suffered (and ultimately grew).

I liked the potential of Danny Rand as a naive businessman, sort of like a mix between Iron Man and Spider-Man. But he’s really the worst thing about his own show. The supporting characters were much better, particularly the Meachum family. Ward Meachum wavered so much between being a good guy and a bad guy but in a believable way. It’s a shame, then, that the story didn’t revolve more around them. Instead, we get hours of Danny whining about Ye Olde Hand. At least the Hand’s mysticism fits better here than it did in Daredevil Season 2, but the Hand as a whole just comes across as an even sillier organization now. Seriously, this doesn’t give me much hope for The Defenders, but maybe an ensemble is what will really boost Danny to his true potential.

Luke Cage – Season 1

Luke Cage

At first, it seemed like Luke Cage was going to be nothing more than a mash-up of Jessica Jones (reluctant hero, super strong, doesn’t hide his/her identity) and Daredevil (up against a local mob boss). A few episodes in, however, it does start to differentiate itself, to the point where it had the makings to be the best Marvel/Netflix show yet. The cast and characters felt a lot stronger, especially the initial villains. I liked the mob boss here a lot more than Wilson Fisk, and I really liked how said mob boss didn’t always have the upper hand. It was nice to see some back and forth instead of always watching the hero fail until the very end.

But Luke Cage makes the same mistake that Season 2 of Daredevil did by introducing a much more cartoonish threat halfway through. When Diamondback arrived, grinning ear to ear and spouting Biblical nonsense, the show lost a lot of its heart and soul. And with no complex villain to hold things together, the cheesy dialogue and contrived situations started sticking out more. For instance, there’s a moment where the cops beat up a kid, so the corrupt politician holds a rally to convince the community that they need to arm the police with more powerful weapons to stop Luke Cage. Uh… what? Why would anyone in this universe buy that?

Unfortunately, there are many instances like that where something ridiculous happens for no other reason than to move the story forward. After a while, you get sick of seeing characters simply walk away from situations where they should have gotten caught. By the end of the season, I was no longer sure on how I would rank this among the other Marvel shows. Again, it’s very similar to Daredevil Season 2 in that it gets off to a great start and then squanders most of it, whether that’s because they tried to stay too close to the comic or they shot themselves in the foot by sticking with the long-winded 13-episode format. Even Luke Cage isn’t bulletproof to that.

Bojack Horseman – Season 3

Bojack Horseman

Every season of Bojack Horseman leaves me feeling… different. They seem to always end on a dour note, and for the next several days, I have brooding Bojack quotes running through my head. This show gets a little too real at times. But that’s also why it’s so intriguing. It goes from silly animal puns to existential crises at the drop of a hat. While the humor doesn’t always land (though to be fair, much of the humor is in the background details, anyway), the “serious” scenes will punch you in the gut every damn time. Honestly, Bojack Horseman has more of an effect on me than most other shows billed as outright dramas.

A lot of Season 3 felt like retread, though. Bojack still hates himself and still messes up good opportunities when they come around. We’ve kind of seen that already many times before, only now he’s digging a deeper hole and pushing his friends farther away. But speaking of which, the supporting cast felt more important and less cartoony this time around. That’s especially true of Todd. I never cared for Todd before, but I thought he was used well, and by the end of the season, we learn something about him that really humanizes him. Plus, I think Aaron Paul’s voice acting finally grew on me.

The voice acting in general has always been a little hit or miss. The show does bring in some pretty big stars, but, as I’ve said before, great actors aren’t necessarily great voice actors. I still absolutely love Will Arnett as Bojack, though. This is the best thing Arnett has done since Arrested Development. Surprisingly, however, the most memorable episode of the season had very little voice acting at all. The dream-like underwater episode was such a joy to watch, and without any dialogue, they still managed to convey the same heart and soul. I already can’t wait to see where this series goes and what boundaries it pushes next year.

Veep – Season 5

Veep

Veep has one of the best ensembles of any TV show, and the cast just keeps getting better with every season. I have no idea how they’re going to keep them all together next season, though, considering how this one ended. Season 5 was already starting to feel a little disjointed with so many of the characters taking on roles outside of the White House. Please don’t tell me Season 6 is going to be a “where are they now” type of thing. I will certainly miss watching political power slip out of Selina’s grasp. It did take me a while, however, to warm up to her being president. When the stakes are higher, her team’s fumbling isn’t quite as amusing. But since I had all of last season to come to terms with that, Season 5 wasn’t nearly as disconcerting.

And at the end of the day, this was a pretty funny season. Normally low-key characters like Mike, Gary, and Catherine got a lot more time to shine, and the insults were as sharp and memorable as always. This season did feel a little off, though; it felt more “sitcommy.” I usually don’t get caught up in behind-the-scenes drama, but I was aware that the showrunner had changed, and the repercussions of that were obvious. Yes, the characters remained faithful, and the jokes were still great, but the situations veered on the cliché side. A scene where two characters argue until they start making out? An episode where a character tries to juggle two groups of people without them seeing each other? Come on, Veep, you can do (and have done) better than that.

The Last Man on Earth – Season 2

Last Man on Earth

The Last Man on Earth is like the Walking Dead of comedies: a post-apocalyptic story with a lot of promise that it only occasionally reaches. I was hesitant to even give Season 2 a chance, considering how quickly Season 1 devolved into a generic sitcom. I’m glad Season 2 remolded Phil’s personality, though. He’s no longer the huge jerk bent on having sex with every woman in town. In fact, the best parts of Season 2 were the episodes that didn’t feature “the group.” When the season started out with just Phil and Carol together, I was really hoping it would stay like that. It would have been a great way to reboot the series and make up for last season’s shortcomings. But then they went crawling back to Tuscon/Miami, and the sitcom material started right up again.

Fortunately, Season 2 got a great sub-plot in the form of Phil’s brother, Mike, trapped in space. Every shot of him alone in the space station was so sad and so well executed. It was like watching an entirely different movie. The episode where he finally fell to Earth was just as fantastic and really took advantage of the whole “last man” theme. It was worth sticking through the season just for that. And I’d like to think that’s the show the creators want to make, but it’s the studio executives who keep dragging it down. Not surprisingly, then, once Mike shows up in Miami, we get a stupid prank war and a ridiculous Will Forte haircut that drags on for way too long. And, in the end, Jason Sudeikis’s guest star role went to waste, and The Last Man on Earth continues to squander its potential.

The Walking Dead – Season 6

The Walking Dead

Yep, I’m done. This formula just isn’t working for me anymore. The Walking Dead has always been the occasional burst of awesomeness followed by a lot of feet-dragging, but the ratio of good-to-bad moments has gotten pretty intolerable. The numerous extended runtime episodes aren’t doing it any favors, either. This show really needs to cut back; a shorter season would do wonders. But AMC clearly loves to milk it, and the writers must have finally gotten onboard the studio’s train of thought, because Season 6 was obnoxiously manipulative. It’s like they’re more concerned with generating buzz than telling a good story anymore. The fake-out death near the beginning of the season was already bad enough, but then we got several more cliffhangers along the way and a major “screw you” at the end.

Maybe this was the season where the comic actually hurt the TV show. There was a lot of anticipation towards Negan’s arrival. I did like what little we finally got to see of the character, though. The Saviors were pretty terrifying in the finale, but they would have come across as even more dangerous if Rick’s group hadn’t steamrolled over them in every other confrontation. Rick & Co. have been reaching levels of invincibility—no major deaths this season—so watching Negan take one of them out would have really helped to raise the stakes again. But that godawful cop-out just makes me think the writers haven’t even decided who to off yet and are waiting to cull through the fans’ responses. It’s like when The Simpsons left the fate of Flanders and Krabappel up to a vote. That’s about when I quit that show. I think it’s time I did the same for this one.