Tale of Three TV Shows

I was concerned that three of the television shows that I watch regularly—Gotham, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Blacklist—would get canceled after this season. According to the TV by the Numbers website, and Cancel Bear, these shows are most likely safe for another season.

On one hand, this is great news, because I think all three still have stories to tell.

Where is it? Oh yeah, there it is: the other hand. I have considered bailing on all three shows this season. Let me tell you why.

First, Gotham. I have always defended this show. I loved the premise: what was going on in Gotham in the years before it had Batman as its self-appointed guardian. Bruce Wayne is around, but he’s a kid. So is Selena Kyle, who will be known as Catwoman. So is Poison Ivy, or whatever her name is (Ivy, I think), at least until she’s suddenly no longer a kid because of—well, reasons.

But, at the heart of this show, it’s always been about Jim Gordon, destined to become Police Commissioner, as all true Batman-o-Philes know. Honestly, he and Alfred Pennyworth, and—surprisingly, considering he was never a favorite character in any other medium—Harvey Bullock, have always been the most interesting characters on the show, along with Oswald Cobblepot. This season, however, has seemed to lose some focus.

Jim Gordon was a pathetic version of himself for at least the first half of the season, a bounty hunter going after escaped Arkham Asylum inmates, a drunk mourning the loss of the love-of-his-life who was off shooting Deadpool or was out pregnant or something. He eventually, and expectedly, became a detective again, but it was, like, so what?

Alfred seemed to act with less agency this season and seemed more butler-y than he has since the show began.

Harvey, always a side character and, to a large degree, comic relief, seemed to become less relevant even as he became acting chief; he was much more interesting as the semi-dirty cop.

And Oswald—well, the Penguin fell in love with Edward Nygma, murdered another of Ed’s lookalike lady loves and pushed him into becoming the Riddler. But, even the homosexual infatuation and murderous love triangle seemed to lack teeth.

The entire season, and it’s not over yet, has seemed a little scattershot, and the supposed throughline of the Court of Owls has so far had little substance. Recent developments make me believe that little Bruce Wayne is getting closer to becoming Batman, or at least Batboy. If, as expected, the show gets picked up, the first few episodes of next season will prompt my decision to stick or to bail. I want it to get good again, but a part of me believes it’s too late.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. got off to a great start with the introduction of Ghost Rider, even though it wasn’t the Ghost Rider of my youth (and, let’s be honest, if he’s in a car he should be called Ghost Driver, at the very least). Then, it faltered a bit in the middle with it’s LMD story line, that flowed—more awkwardly than seamlessly—into its current Framework arc, which also ties back into the Ghost Rider story through the Darkhold magic book. There are still moments of greatness here, but I find myself not really being as concerned about the characters at times. The stories often seem to be less character-driven than event-driven. There’s a fine line there, because I want both, but not one at the expense of the other. This whole Framework/Matrix plot seems a whole lot like one of those “everything was just a dream” plots. And the showrunners are revisiting earlier season characters and plots as if the series is winding down to its conclusion. The part of me that thinks the writers have lost sight of what made this show work thinks maybe it’s time.

Similarly, this season of The Blacklist has felt like a final drive to the goal line. For me, this show is always best when it’s addressing series mythology points. Agent Keen’s past, Reddington’s past, that sort of thing. The in-between shows, this series’ version of monster-of-the-week, are less than engaging. There seemed to be a lot of filler this season. Keen has Agnes now. Then, Red tried to execute Mr. Kaplan for betraying him. This startled me and made me not like Red much anymore. In fact, it made me begin to see him like the villain that he’s apparently supposed to be in the world of this show. If Mr. Kaplan hadn’t survived the attempt and then turned on Reddington himself, I would have stopped watching. But, she did survive, and that has revived the series in my opinion.

Still, it feels like a last season. It seems like the season can only end in one of two ways: the death of Red, or the real death of Mr. Kaplan. Either would signify an end to the series for me. I can only imagine that there is another conclusion I haven’t counted on, and that’s what we will get to make another season possible. But, it still feels like the end for me.

Of course, I’m a completist.  If the shows do indeed return for another season, I’ll watch them. I can’t help myself. A part of me still feels like the shows may have run their course, however, and that my time might be better spent watching other things.

We’ll see what happens.

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