peak superhero TV

January 13, 2020

Binged two more shows over the last couple weeks, both of them superhero deconstructions. Both of them nominally about family as well, which puts them firmly in my wheelhouse.

Umbrella Academy. A group of children is born under strange circumstances, and an eccentric billionaire adopts them in order to train them up into a superpowered team that will be able to stop a coming apocalypse. Trouble is, they grow up, and most of them leave. Now as adults, they need to come back. Oh, and there’s also a couple of cross-time assassins gunning for one of them. This started out really well, I thought. The characters are all really well drawn, the situations are intriguing. The last few episodes start to fall apart when the plot starts getting driven by people being stupid. Particularly Luther. When the whole lesson of the story is so clearly “trust your peeps” and he is so determined not to…  Anyway, it’s generally fun and stylish and I liked it, even if the last couple episodes got frustrating.

Watchmen (TV). An impressive series that manages to be a genuine and generally fulfilling sequel to the graphic novel, with the addition of a whole lot more — and more specific, and therefore I think more successful — political commentary. The backstory of Hooded Justice? That’s how you do a retcon. Take a detail that was never really developed, then look at it in a whole new light, and maybe even build the whole story on it? Yeah, I’ll take it. This is truer to the book than the movie was, while still borrowing heavily from the movie’s aesthetics which I think was a good choice. I got impatient with some of the absurdities, esp. re: Adrian Veidt, some of the contrivances re: Dr. Manhattan. But I loved Laurie, and I’m sad we didn’t at least get a scene with Dan.

Anyway, we all bitch and moan about the number of sequels and reboots and all the rest, but then something comes a long that at least does something new and interesting. I still wish some more original properties and such would get developed. (hint hint, just putting that out there, Hollywood…)

There are still a ton of superhero shows I haven’t seen yet. The Boys, Raising Dion, Titans, Doom Patrol, and a bunch of others I’m missing. Too many to keep up with. I don’t even try anymore. (Which I think is part of what contributed to me basically not watching anything for a year or more. I just peaced out of the whole thing.) People are obviously finding new things to say about superheroes, or leaning hard into the familiar superhero tropes that people like so much.

I still can’t help but think we’re headed for a bust soon. Has any other genre so dominated pop culture? Even in the great heyday of the western, were westerns this pervasive?

I’m now officially curious what the post-superhero entertainment landscape is going to look like.

 

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