Superhero round-up: The Gifted S1, Inhumans S1, Supergirl S3, The Flash S4, Legends of Tomorrow S3, Arrow S6
Who’d have thought that with so many superhero films and TV series around, there would be room for two more on this autumn’s TV schedule? Well, as it turns out – there really wasn’t.
The Gifted S1
The Gifted is an attempt to do a TV spin-off of the X-Men film franchise, without using any of the X-Men themselves. It’s set in the same universe, which is not the same as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because of how the film rights are shared out. The pilot episode is even directed by Bryan Singer. However, the set-up here is that the X-Men have gone missing and the remaining mutants are being hunted and imprisoned by an increasingly fascist US government.
Frankly I found little original here that hasn’t been done many times before. It starts with two teenagers ‘breaking out’ and displaying superpowers, and their parents (genre favourites Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker) contacting the mutant underground to get them to safety in Mexico. The parallels with discrimination and intolerance down the ages is loud and clear but said nothing new, and even the superpowers on display seemed like more of the same old thing.
It’s had good reviews in the US but if I’m honest, I was completely disinterested by it. After two episodes I decided I’d let The Gifted carry on without me.
The best thing to say about Inhumans is that it tries to do something different. Unfortunately, what it tries simply doesn’t work.
The titular stars are a group of super-powered aliens from Attilan, a cloaked city on the surface of the moon. The ruling royal family is deposed and takes refuge on Earth – in Hawaii, for reasons that I suspect are related to tax breaks given to the production company.
Credit is due to Anson Mount who goes to great lengths as Black Bolt to convey his thoughts and feelings through sign language and facial expressions, given that any sound he makes becomes a lethal sonic blast. Sadly, Medusa (Serinda Swan) is shorn of her locks of writhing sentient hair – perhaps to keep the CGI budget under control – which squanders her character. Meanwhile bad guy Maximus is left on the moon talking to himself which is a criminal waste of Iwan Rheon’s talents.
Ultimately the set-up is just too weird to engage a mainstream audience. Even though I enjoyed them as a kid reading the Marvel comic books, the Inhumans were never more than third rate characters good only for a one- or two-issue guest appearance alongside the Fantastic Four. They certainly don’t have the substance to justify a stand-alone series and it’s no surprise to see this apparently sinking without trace in the US.
Supergirl had a difficult birth but then improved hugely in its second series. But its third year has got off to a very odd start, and it currently feels more like a soap than a superhero action show.
The main plot lines so far have included Kara (Melissa Benoit) trying to get over the apparent death of her boyfriend Mon-El (Chris Wood); her sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) breaking up with her girlfriend over a disagreement about having children; DEO boss J’onn (David Harewood) finding his long-lost Martian father and deciding to move them into an apartment together; and professional single mother Samantha (Odette Annable) finding out a complicated secret about her past and adoption as a child.
While this sort of emotional drama is all well and good in support of the main action, it’s ended up swallowing the show whole of late. There’s been a flashback to Kara and Alex’s high school years in Midvale, and this week an episode in which there was no antagonist in sight whatsoever. Presumably all this is building to something more substantial down the line but for now it’s starting to feel more like the Gilmore Girls than Supergirl.
The Flash S4
After a quite heavy and angst-ridden third season, it seems that The Flash has decided to cheer up and get back to doing what it does best – having fun.
It’s a welcome return to the style of the show that made it such a welcome presence on the schedules in 2014. Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) is enjoying his superpowers again, and odd couple Sisco (Carlos Valdes) and Wells (Tom Cavanagh) continue to inject humour and nerd references into every story.
It’s a shame that the show has decided to drop the character of Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) after all the time they spent developing him. However in exchange we get Ralph Dibney as the Elongated Man, DC’s answer to Marvel’s Mister Fantastic. He’s played purely for laughs but there’s enough else going on with this season’s ‘big bad’ character The Thinker (Neil Sandilands) to stop it all becoming too silly.
Legends of Tomorrow S3
But if it’s silly you want then I give you Legends of Tomorrow which has become the DC Universe’s sit com entry. There’s plenty to enjoy as a result – recent japes have included Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) revisiting his 80s childhood and ending up as Elliott from ET – The Extreterrestrial, and a Freaky Friday situation in which Jax (Franz Drameh) and Stein (Victor Garber) swap personalities.
A recent episode saw Helen of Troy transplanted to 1930s Hollywood, bewitching all the males into gibbering wrecks while the women on the team have to pick up the pieces and get the job done. It’s really massively stupid, but it’s also quite enjoyable and diverting – albeit totally dispensable.
And then we have Arrow, which was the original DC television success. Despite attempts to inject humour here and there, and to shake the formula up by having Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) step away from the team of vigilante duties and over the hand arrow-wielding duties over to his lieutenant Diggle (David Ramsey), the same old problems persist.
As a dark and brooding Batman-wannabe, Arrow lacks the lightness of its younger siblings. It’s simply not all that much fun to watch unless you like endless fight sequences. It finally did away with the annoying flashbacks at the start of season 6 only to start letting them creep back again; and old characters who weren’t very interesting first time around have similarly started to crowd back in again.
It feels like the show knows it needs to move on and do something different; but every time it thinks it’s out, something pulls it back in again.
Supergirl, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Inhumans and Arrow all air on Sky One during the week. The Gifted airs on Fox on Sundays at 9pm.