For fans of TV shows based on comic books and superheroes, this is the Golden Age of television. Nearly every night of the week there is a costumed hero saving the world from evil. When you factor in streaming services, there is no limit to how much of the genre is available. The success of its Marvel Cinematic Universe films led Marvel to establish a TV offshoot of the franchise. Beginning with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the company built upon its big screen characters and has given fans 11 different series all taking place in the same world, and with Disney’s upcoming streaming service, that number looks to increase. It has evolved its X-Men world to tell stories in other parts of the universe on Legion and The Gifted.
DC countered with its popular Arrowverse quartet on The CW. Arrow actually premiered before S.H.I.E.L.D., but established itself as a formidable franchise when The Flash hit airwaves two years later. Now DC’s TV slate also includes Black Lightning, Gotham and the newly established DC Universe, which features Titans alongside the upcoming Young Justice, Doom Patrol and Swamp Thing. Of course, the genre is more than DC and Marvel, so it’s continually expanding to include new heroes like The Doctor and The Tick. However, quantity doesn’t always mean quality and as time has progressed some of our favorites have reached a natural conclusion. With that in mind, we’re discussing 10 superhero shows everyone should be watching and 10 you should probably quit.
20 WATCHING: SUPERGIRL
Supergirl is a bit of a curious case in the superhero TV world. It often gives into preachy cliches and predictable story payoffs, but it also is the most optimistic series in the genre, and we’re not ready to give up on it yet.
Kara and Alex are two of television’s best female leads and we love their sisterly bond. We can’t help being inspired by Kara’s willingness to always do what’s right, even in the face of massive negativity. The show’s renewed focus on her heroics and not her love life has strengthened the character, giving Melissa Benoist much more to do. Plus, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t waiting to see where the Red Daughter plot goes.
19 QUIT: THE PUNISHER
Season one of The Punisher was a bloody, fascinating look at Frank Castle’s quest for revenge. We simultaneously couldn’t watch and couldn’t look away. However, by the end of the season Frank had discovered the betrayal of his closest friend, helped Micro find his way back to his family and embraced his vigilante identity. We’re left wondering what his next move is?
Though we may be done with his solo adventure, we’re not done with the character, so we’d love to see him continue in the MCU. His best fit would be to join Daredevil obviously, but we wouldn’t be opposed to seeing him appear in the movies.
18 WATCHING: DOCTOR WHO
The modern revival of Doctor Who has always been unpredictable. With a character like The Doctor writers can feel free to make any crazy story a reality. That doesn’t mean the show can’t find itself in the occasional rut. When that happens the series regenerates with a new Doctor and starts fresh.
Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor has blended the best of The Doctor’s qualities with her own personality, creating a hero that you have to root for. Every episode of the new season has given fans something new to love about her, while introducing new aliens and delving into areas the show hasn’t gone before. There’s not a world where we would ever give up on Doctor Who.
17 QUIT: JESSICA JONES
We’re not sure what happens to Marvel’s Netflix shows in season two, but they all seem to suffer from a sophomore slump. Unfortunately for Luke Cage and Iron Fist that slump proved fatal to the series. Despite the flaws of its second season, Jessica Jones was able to avoid a similar fate and is scheduled to return for a season three. Though, without some serious character overhauls, we’re not sure we’re returning.
Season 2 saw the disintegration of Jessica’s relationships with Trish and Malcolm, which leaves her without any close confidants, something a person like her desperately needs. After all the upheaval and change, we’re just not sure how much we care anymore.
16 WATCHING: RUNAWAYS
The first season of any good superhero show is about telling the hero’s origin story and taking us on a journey to them becoming who we know they’re meant to be. Runaways took its entire first season to have the characters discover the true depths of their parents’ evil deeds, which made the reveal even more emotional.
Spending all that time with the kids, getting to know their strengths and fears made us more invested when they confronted their parents. On the other side, making their parents real people who made hard choices and are now dealing with the consequences made us more invested in the overall story, and has us not so patiently waiting for the second season to premiere.
15 QUIT: CLOAK AND DAGGER
We’re all for a good slow burn story -- not every show has to come out of the gate guns blazing. However, at some point there has to be some sort of revelation to keep viewers interested. As great as Cloak and Dagger was at introducing Tandy and Tyrone’s lives and their powers, it was lacking in plot development.
This is the only reason we’re a little hesitant about Season 2. We’re not sure what the next step in the story is. Other than Tandy, Tyrone and O’Reilly, who we do want to see become Mayhem, there’s not much else interesting about the show.
14 WATCHING: PREACHER
The compelling thing about Preacher that keeps viewers coming back is that you never know what to expect from lead character Jesse Custer. Star Dominic Cooper draws audiences in to every moment. Sometimes he's the hero, sometimes he's his own worst enemy, but he's never boring.
Season 3 saw Jesse return to the home of his twisted grandmother. He is occasionally accompanied by his best friend Cassidy the vampire and his on again/off again girlfriend Tulip. Together the three characters make up one of the most interesting ensembles on TV, and there's no end to the surprises they deliver. It's completely unpredictable, a rarity for the genre.
13 QUIT: THE GIFTED
What we love about the X-Men universe is that there is no shortage of stories to tell. Fox’s The Gifted follows a future where mutants are on the run, and the X-Men have disappeared. A few young mutants have established an Underground to protect one another and help others get free.
Season 2 has seen the rise of the Inner Circle, a mutant group with a more proactive, violent agenda, while the Underground struggles with finding them and protecting mutants from retribution caused by the Inner Circle. It’s not that we want the show to end, we just need it to pick a lane. Right now, it feels like there’s too many stories happening at once and we need a better focus on what’s important.
12 WATCHING: LUCIFER
Fans of Lucifer got their wishes granted when Netflix swooped in and made a surprise save of the canceled Fox drama. Honestly, a racy drama about the devil living in Los Angeles and helping the police solve crimes never really belonged on network TV.
The series ended with Detective Chloe Decker finally seeing Lucifer’s true form, setting up a world where she really believes her friend and partner is the devil. The show always felt like it was holding something back before, and we can’t wait to see how Tom Ellis’ Lucifer takes advantage of the freedom the comes with being on Netflix.
11 QUIT: KRYPTON
For the most part, there are no uninteresting Superman stories. Of course, those generally focus on the Man of Steel himself, not his grandfather. Krypton follows Seg-El as he tries to prevent the planet from being destroyed before it is supposed to be, thus removing Superman from existence.
While this sounds like a cool plot on paper, it’s execution left something to be desired. About halfway through the season, it veered from the threat of Brainiac, to Zod to Doomsday, It was like they just wanted to through in as many villains as possible to see which one stuck. The best part of this show is its strong female characters, but sadly even they can’t save the day.
10 WATCHING: BLACK LIGHTNING
From the very beginning, the draw of comic books has been that they can tell the stories that need to be told in a fictional world. The best books have tackled race, equality, addiction, abuse and other important experiences. No show translates this to TV better than Black Lightning.
In the very first episode we saw Jefferson hold himself back as he was harassed by police officers. Anissa used her powers to tear down a racist monument and the government was once again outed for experimenting on young black kids, just because they could. It’s not just that the show isn’t afraid to tackle these issues, it’s that it does it in a smart, caring, fearless way.
9 QUIT: LEGION
When it premiered, Legion was the most unique, out-there show on TV and, yes, it’s definitely still that. However, the non-linear, constant jumping of the story and the persistent guessing of what’s in David’s head and what’s real, became exhausting to keep up with.
As the show decided to stretch itself in season two, the style overpowered the story to the point that it was nearly impossible to keep up with. In a landscape with endless choices, it’s admirable to stand out. However, Legion needs to make sure it’s standing out for the right reasons. We still love Dan Stevens though -- that will never change, no matter what craziness David is mixed up in.
8 WATCHING: DAREDEVIL
What makes Daredevil one of the best shows on TV is its willingness to make things hard for its main character. From the moment we met him, nothing has ever been easy for Matt Murdock, and we’re not just talking about his blindness. It’s true that his secrets have brought many of his problems on himself, but at the end of the day, we still want the best for him.
Unfortunately, the writers saw things differently, and had him sacrifice himself to save the city. He then fought his way back to his friends, but was now changed forever. The unsettled nature of his life makes watching it fascinating, and keeps even the most experienced TV viewers guessing.
7 QUIT: THE FLASH
When it premiered, The Flash had a lighter tone that instantly set it apart from its counterpart Arrow. Barry and friends were able to have a laugh while saving the day. They made fighting crime so much fun.
Unfortunately, the last few seasons have seen the show become a serious downer that can't quite find its way back to its former glory. We don't expect the show to be non-stop laughs, but we also don't want to watch a superhero show where members of the team keep making stupid decisions with fatal consequences. It's also become exhausting keeping up with all the changes to the timeline and the multiverse. Frankly, we've just lost interest in the trials of the Fastest Man Alive.
6 WATCHING: THE TICK
As one of the few comedies of the genre, The Tick is unique in that while it’s certainly hilarious, the characters aren’t really trying to be, like Legends of Tomorrow. Peter Serafinowicz’s Tick is just legitimately being a hero. The nonsense around him has nothing to do with him, and his straight face makes everything funnier.
Frankly, it’s the whole cast that somehow keeps the shenanigans from getting in the way of character and story. It’s a complete superhero series, with all the hallmarks the audience expects, but it also pokes fun at the genre and its fans in an endearing way. The fact that it’s on Amazon is the only reason more people haven’t heard of it, and that’s an absolute shame.
5 QUIT: THE WALKING DEAD
Nine seasons is a good run for any series, let alone a sci-fi/fantasy drama. Early on The Walking Dead established itself as a show where no one was safe. Main characters, fan-favorites could be lost at a moment’s notice and the world would keep turning. Of course, losing its leading man does make fans wonder where exactly the show is going?
With the most recent mid-season finale ending on a time jump, it’s time to seriously begin wrapping up this story. It’s come so far from where it started that it’s practically unrecognizable. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it does signal that the end is near, and better to leave on your own terms than be kicked out.
4 WATCHING: TITANS
It's never easy launching a new streaming service, but DC Universe has found the perfect starting point in Titans. It follows a team of misfits as they are drawn together by the mystery of powerful teenager Rachel.
Though Dick Grayson was billed as the headliner, Anna Diop’s Kory/Starfire has been a revelation. The darker take on familiar characters, coupled with the brilliant pacing of the story has made Titans an instant favorite among fans, and allowed it to break out amidst the competition. The episode “Doom Patrol” introduced the characters that will feature in that series, and signaled that this is just the beginning of a fascinating world.
3 QUIT: ARROW
As the OG series of the modern superhero TV era, Arrow laid the groundwork for many of the shows on this list. The juxtaposition between Oliver's return and the flashbacks to his time on the island was game changing. It launched The CW's DCTV franchise, which led to other networks creating their own worlds.
Season 7 began with Oliver in prison after confessing to being the Green Arrow. The team has been disbanded and flash forwards have revealed a destroyed Star City. This all signals that this journey is reaching a conclusion and perhaps we are done with regular adventures with Team Arrow. If the show does end we could still see the characters pop up on the rest of the Arrowverse.
2 WATCHING: LEGENDS OF TOMORROW
This season Legends of Tomorrow opened with a unicorn attacking hippies at Woodstock, and that was like the ninth craziest thing to happen on the show. The way it has embraced its ridiculous style has made it the can’t miss series of the Arrowverse.
From encounters with young versions of Barack Obama and J.R.R. Tolkien to uncomfortable visits to future dystopian societies to Earth altering fights between a demon and a giant stuffed animal, the balance Legends has in its storytelling is why it's become the MVP of the superhero TV world. Also, we can't imagine a world without Beebo in it, and we have the Legends to thank for that.
1 QUIT: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
Don’t get us wrong, we love Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but after five seasons it may be time for the adventures of our favorite agents to come to an end. As the MCU heads into Phase Four, it looks as though the after effects of Thanos’ snap will change everything, and we’re not quite sure where the show fits in.
After five seasons, we’ve seen the team go through almost everything including inhumans, a HYDRA takeover, fighting aliens on other planets and saving the Earth from an awful future. Perhaps it’s time to let them have a break and focus our attention on the future of MCU TV. Besides, we want to see Coulson hang out with his Avengers friends again.