It can be challenging for fans to stick with a show if it has a terrible first season, but sometimes the rewards come later, in season 2.
The road to success for a TV series can be a crapshoot, and a Superhero show is no exception. These programs have seemingly infinite obstacles to overcome in what has quickly become a market flooded with similar materials.
Sometimes, a series' weak debut season is not indicative of its future. To be unique while telling similar stories is challenging; often, it's not until the second season that a show can figure out its specific charm. These series are often adaptations of comic books, and it can take trial and error to transfer a story to a new medium.
Season 1 of Ben 10: Alien Force picks up around five years after its predecessor, Ben 10. Ben, now 15, is compelled by his grandfather's disappearance to redon the Omnitrix. Ben uses the bracelet's abilities to transform into multiple aliens, re-earning his title of hero.
Initially, Alien Force has trouble finding its voice after aging up its characters. Ben's childishness, though amusing, clashes with the graveness of the alien apocalypse unfolding around him. The show's second season has more direct dealings with the genocidal Highbreed. Ben battles against the Highbreed in their pursuit of genetic purity, bringing his character to a tolerable level while maintaining his trademark positivity.
When Arrow introduces its protagonist, Oliver Queen is antisocial and intensely focused with a lethal edge. The first season features many solo adventures for the master archer, but over its course, he is forced to include others in his plots.
Oliver can only grow as a vigilante because the people around him encourage his more positive instincts. He spends the second season of Arrow learning to trust his allies and solidifies the template for most of the Arrowverse teams. "Team Arrow," a group aware of Oliver's secret identity, provides a believable context for the vigilante to have honest emotional reveals.
The first season of Titans, a gritty Teen Titans adaptation, is a confusing mess that leans too hard into mystery. One fact of this iteration of the Teen Titans made clear is that everyone in this universe is obsessed with Batman. The first season seems terribly small for a plot line that reaches across galaxies.
The second season of Titans succeeds by filling in many gaps in the team's backstories. The season's big bad, Deathstroke, is a more manageable villain than the first season's Trigon. This iteration plays into his role as a father more than others have. It also does a great job of expanding the Titan's roster, adding Superboy and the often-overlooked Krypto.
Smallville attempts to take the Superman story, building a new continuity from his origins. The show focuses on Clark Kent's early years before he donned his cape. It emphasizes the Clark Kent persona as its main character, though it hasn't settled on the distinction.
Superman is a character so powerful that most opponents seem silly. Unfortunately, early Smallville tends to overuse the Kryptonite plot device while failing to establish compelling villains. It isn't until its second season that Lex Luthor, Superman's arch-villain starts to come into his own. It's this relationship that ends up defining Clark and, eventually, claiming his place as the most powerful superhero.
The Flash starts as a spinoff of Arrow though it approaches its protagonist from a vastly different direction. While Arrow's Oliver Queen is a man stuck between his responsibilities and lethality, The Flash's Barry Allen is defined by his sense of loss and the feeling of being overwhelmed.
In season 1, Barry spends his free time obsessively investigating his mother's murderer, the Reverse Flash. In the second season, Barry is similarly dealing with an evil speedster, Zoom, though this season shifts the tension. Barry is no longer investigating someone else's crimes. Instead, "Team Flash" spends its sophomore season dealing with the consequences of its actions, bringing the tension to a whole new level.
Gotham, like many shows of its era, is an origin story. While Bruce Wayne, the future Batman, is the series' focus in many ways, he can't fill the protagonist role. Because the series specifically deals with Gotham City before Batman begins his crusade, the show's focus falls on future police Commissioner Gordon, then a detective.
Gotham's true value is in its villains. To tell the story of how Batman came to Gotham, it's necessary to show why the city needed a vigilante. So Gotham's second season moves the attention to its villains and the worsening corruption of the city, setting up a more substantial basis for Batman's eventual crusade.
Like any other property in the Superman family, Supergirl faces the problem of being an overpowered hero. No matter how interesting the villain of the week is, the tension is tempered by the knowledge of Supergirl's superiority. This issue plagues the first season, which primarily deals with Supergirl, or Kara Zor-El, establishing herself in her new home of National City.
By Season 2, Kara has gained the confidence to be her own hero, outside of her more famous cousin's shadow. This confidence allows her to face even greater foes that threaten even nigh-invulnerable Kryptonians. In Supergirl's second season, Supergirl faces her most significant threat to date; an invasion by Daxamites, a race with similar powers to the Superman family. This battle is her first true test as a hero.
My Hero Academia is a look at the western superhero genre from a Manga/Anime perspective. One of the main differences between these types of storytelling is how long it takes for an anime story to get going. For My Hero, the first season introduces the world, and protagonist, Izuku Midoriya, then covers how he gains his powers.
During its second season, My Hero is able to show its true strength, the variety of unique characters that populate its world. Most notable is the show's Sports Festival Arc, which goes in-depth into its main cast, class 1A. The festival is My Hero's version of a tournament arc, a true classic of Anime.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D was envisioned as an experiment in how to take the success of the early MCU and stretch it into television. Its basic mission statement was to investigate alien activity while working in as many cameos and references to the films as possible. Unfortunately, this left the series with little latitude to make its own stories. As a result, nothing could make large waves and impact a later film.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D's second season brings in the Inhumans in Marvel's first attempt to adapt the super-powered subspecies. This storyline gives its cast room to grow. Its events are allowed to have consequences, and most importantly, super-powered individuals became regular cast members, not random cameos.
Among the Arrowverse, DC's Legends of Tomorrow is the most high-concept. Its cast's moral ambiguity, combined with the storyline's time travel-based chronology, leads to a first season too complex for its own good. The random characters cherry-picked from other Arrowverse shows were not equipped to support the spinoff's concept.
Beginning with its second season, Legends of Tomorrow begins to heighten its humor. The Legends morph from a self-serious team trying to work through a confusing plot to a deeply silly and fun team. This trend continues through the rest of the series' seasons, carving out a unique spot for the series among the more solemn Arrowverse series.
NEXT: 10 Cartoon Superheroes Who Broke Our Hearts
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