The expansion of the Marvel filmed universe into television began slowly but steadily, and as of 2017 it’s a complex and rich (maybe even richer) palette of super-stories than even the movies of the MCU…
This year alone, Marvel’s small-screen offerings across numerous platforms and networks included a long-awaited Netflix team-up (the faves of which we celebrated in our Marvel Gear & Goods “Marvel Knights” crate!); a Daredevil spinoff featuring everyone’s favorite no-holds-barred PTSD warrior; the best season ever of ABC’s flagship show; a brand-new series with a fan-favorite teen twist; and one of the most artistically daring comic-book adaptations ever seen in film or television. For today’s Friday Five, we’re saluting our favorite moments brought to you by the boob tube wing of the House of Ideas this year…
The Punisher: Castle/Madani car chase
The one thing The Punisher delivered that virtually everyone was expecting was a whole lot of gut-wrenching, brutal revenge. At times, it came wrapped in a unique plot tangent or deeper dive into Frank Castle’s psyche (Bernthal was on top of his game), but other times there were developments that seemed to meander away from the emotional core of the show to explore issues maybe best kept closer to its center (i.e. protagonist.) And honestly, sometimes the brutality was a lot to handle – so one of the nicest surprises was this utterly thrilling car chase between Frank and no-bullshit DHS agent Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah), which injected an early episode with an unforgettable, classic, Steve McQueen-worthy adrenaline rush.
The Defenders: The entire Chinese restaurant sequence
We were lucky enough to see the first (excellent) episode of The Defenders at San Diego Comic-Con before the show’s Netflix premiere; ultimately, some of the excitement fueled by that initial chapter paid off. Where a shorter season than the usual 13 seemed like a great plan at first, The Defenders ended up feeling like it could have used more than eight; they tried to do so much, and it lost momentum in the back half a bit. There’s no denying, however, that the mid-season Royal Dragon restaurant sequence – the sassing, the griping, the bit where Stick shows up and schools everybody, and so many dumplings – is great. Here’s a favorite piece, when Jessica puts Matt on the spot about coming clean with his identity. (Krysten Ritter and Charlie Cox’s snark-mates chemistry was the best part of the season.)
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: That. Season 4. Cliffhanger.
Even its most passionate fans will likely admit that, on some level (they might not always agree which one), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is show that experimented quite a bit before it decided what show it wanted to be. Team members have come and gone, though the main Coulson/May/Daisy trinity remains intact; the trajectory of each season’s big bad has been wildly divergent, too. This fourth season, though? The almost unfeasible pairing of Gabriel Luna’s Ghost Rider and the A.I.D.A./LMD artificial intelligence arc not only delighted over the course of 22 episodes, but culminated in an incredibly solid finale… and then they pulled the rug out from under us. Look, our agents having a nice meal together, how nice… no, wait. Wait… what? SPAAAAAAAACE! It was both the best cliffhanger, and a direct hint as to the direction of Season 5 they could have done. Bravo.
Runaways: The Group Unites to Save Alex
Yep, one of the best Marvel moments of the year to date is from a show that’s just gotten its start; Runaways is an exceptional adaptation of Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona’s beloved series about a group of teens who band together – and discover their powers – just as they uncover the truth about their sinister super-villain parents. This past week’s episode finally gave us the team uniting with their new gifts on full display, in an effort to save Alex (Rhenzy Feliz) from kidnapping at the hands of a gangster from his father’s past. So far the show has a ways to go toward full-blown Runaways action – we’ve spent a lot of time with parental units The Pride learning their plans and back stories – but this moment is so promising. Nico (Lyrica Okano) going full witchy to put a force field around her friends is the fist-pumping moment we’ve been waiting for.
Legion: Lennie Dances. And she’s “Feeling Good.”
I don’t usually rank these Friday Fives, but I’m gonna come right out and say this is #1. It’s no exaggeration to say that FX’s Legion is the most creatively inspired comic-book adaptation on TV right now; maybe ever. Creator Noah Hawley has been afforded a pretty blank slate with which to craft his vision of this show, given that David Haller aka Legion in the X-Men comics is a secondary character who doesn’t bring with him a ton of baggage about what his story should be. Which has allowed Hawley and a terrific cast, lead by Dan Stevens as Haller, to craft a season so out there, so totally capitalizing on the mental mine field that is its protagonist’s struggle – and the seat of his powers.
The nightmare sequences as David is tormented by the Shadow King, the excursions to the Astral Plane where Oliver Bird has been trapped for 20 years – it’s all a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a gorgeously trippy box. And this is a period piece, so it’s been a joy to see them experiment with a pronounced musical element. Legion has given us incredible set pieces to everything from Ravel’s “Bolero” to French pop pioneer Serge Gainsbourg. And none was as memorable as Lennie (Aubrey Plaza)’s one-woman Nina Simone tribute, in an episode where David’s entire reality is turned upside down and we discover that his memory of his dead former psych ward friend is far more sinister than just a ghost in his psyche. Plaza’s performance as well as the audacious design of this whole sequence; it’s the moment where you really sit up straight and think, man this show’s got guts to spare.