Superhero TV has always been a mixed bag affair. Whilst I will never hear bad things said about Lois and Clark (H.G. Wells builds a time machine to get Superman to help him catch Jack the Ripper.....brilliant!) or the old 90's Flash (oddly enough, the Trickster in that is one of Mark Hamill's best moments, including The Joker), I will agree that in live action, Superhero TV often has trouble taking the stranger concepts of comic's unlimited visual budget and realising them onto the big screen.
However, such a concept in animation is one thing, in live action, and on a TV budget, it becomes difficult quickly to be able to create such a concept. Shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Babylon 5 and the like pushed the boat out on what can be done on a TV budget, but usually such forms are relegated to small make up pieces on a ace to make a “alien” or a “monster”. (See Charmed, Star Trek etc..). In no way is this a dig at those shows, but merely the reality of making genre TV. Budgets are just that. Budgeted.
Game of Thrones is not a cheap series to make. Far from it, with each episode being shot on locations and, even stranger, it has a huge CGI budget. And Dragons. Spoilers. Game of Thrones was HBO taking a chance, and boy were they rewarded for it, between that, and The Walking Dead, genre TV was given a chance with more money and a hell of a lot more risks. Now, you are more than likely wondering what happened to the Justice League mention earlier.
Enter The CW's Arrow.
I'll not mince words here, I'm not a fan of The Arrow. Season 1 I found dull and far to reminiscent of shows like The O.C., where characters kep doing annoying things in order to service the plot, rather than get development. Season 2 was an improvement, but Arrow keeps circling greatness, but more often than not throws it away again in order to have “drama”.
And seriously, if I have to hear anyone say “what don't I know?” in any show every again, I may actually immolate something. (I hear that season 4 has improved, so I'll give it a try at some point).
However, what Arrow did was introduce a spin off how in The Flash. And boy, do I love The Flash. The Flash takes the concepts I mentioned earlier, and repackages them in a way that straddles the silliness of Lois and Clarke and the more gritty style that Arrow favours. As Season One went it's merry way, it became obvious that the showrunners were up to something, as certain references were dropped time and time again.
“Nooooo” Thinks I. “That can't be”. I was incorrect.
“Wait” I say out loud. “ They can't....” I was incorrect.
Slowly and surely, inch by inch, building the reveal over multiple episodes, The Flash shows its true colours, and in doing so, maps out a path that every other Superhero show needs to pay attention to.
The Flash brings out a fully CGI , telepathic, villainous Gorilla.
Gorilla Grodd appears and he is a utter monster.
Who would have thought it? On a TV budget, with TV sensibilities, The CW managed to get concept that could have been utterly ridiculed, and managed to make him a credible, honest threat. And he looked good! Smart choices were made to keep him credible, such as making his voice telepathic, which removed the uncanny valley moments that a giant talking ape would have created. The Flash was pulling no punches here, nothing is off limits.
Even so, what came next is amazing for it's sheer brass balls. Time passes and we flash (pun intended) forward to season 2 of The Flash. An episode called “The Fury of Firestorm”. It's a good episode, but in it's final 0 seconds, the unthinkable happens. Throughout the ep, they reference sightings of a “Man-Shark”, but y'know. It's The Flash. References are abound everywhere, so I'm still waiting for the moment they see that Gotham City has had a earthquake on the news. In the final 30 seconds of the ep, they pay off the reference beautifully.
An actual, live action King Shark.
I was alone and I shouted my praise to the heavens.
I am in no way under the impression that this will lead into a full blown King Shark episode, as while TV budgets have increased, they havn't increased THAT much.... But even so, seeing a character who lacks the main stream penetration of even a character like Grodd, on screen, in a live action tv series, looking that damn good, and having that much character....
Well played Flash. The gloves are off, and I have no idea what the future holds for this genre.
I hear that Agents of SH.I.E.L.D. Is beginning to bring in the Inhumans proper, and that Arrow is becoming more “comic-book” in the new season, but none of these things can bring the joy that seeing King Shark, and how this is a game changer. The general reaction has been incredibly positive, and this means nothing but good things for us who are fans of the genre. Hell, this has made me want to retry both S.H.I.E.L.D. and Arrow, and boy, does it make me excited for the future.