It’s time to take a look back at the past 12 months within the world of television and streaming. As with our list of the best movies of the year, Superhero Hype’s Top 10 TV series of 2022 is dedicated only to the shows that fall within the realm of superheroes, comics, sci-fi, and fantasy. So while Better Call Saul was a great series, don’t expect to see shows like that on this list.
Unlike the early parts of this century, there are so many genre options to choose from that it can be overwhelming. That’s a major issue in the streaming age. Regardless, it’s hard to get too upset with that when it gave us another unforgettable year of shows to enjoy.
Honorable Mention: The Mandalorian 2.5
The Book of Boba Fett fell short in part because fans wanted more of the badass Boba Fett from The Mandalorian season 2. And for the most part, that’s not what we got. Also, the Vespa Gang is pretty widely regarded as a major misstep in the series. However, episodes five and six largely pushed Boba out of his own show and put the spotlight back on Mando. Those two episodes were by far the best installments of the season, and on par with The Mandalorian.
Episode six even delivered some surprising cameos and a long-awaited return. But the biggest shock was that Bryce Dallas Howard and Dave Filoni out-directed Robert Rodriguez on the series that was meant to be Rodriguez’s showcase. If the rest of Book of Boba Fett had been as good as these two episodes, it would have placed in our top five.
Honorable Mention: Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi
Filoni wrote all but one of the animated anthologies in Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi, and it was also a welcome return to the peak of Star Wars animation. Through six shorts, the series followed the rise of Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) and the fall of Count Dooku (Corey Burton). It felt like missing chapters from The Clone Wars rather than a true standalone. But we can’t argue with quality like this. It just wasn’t long enough to count as a true TV series.
Honorable Mention: Marvel Special Presentations
Some of the best Marvel stories of the year were told in under an hour. The Marvel Special Presentations, Werewolf by Night and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, were a welcome change of pace. Composer-turned-director Michael Giacchino made Werewolf by Night a compelling throwback to classic horror flicks while exploring some previously unseen supernatural corners of the MCU. And James Gunn’s Guardians special was a fantastic homage to The Star Wars Holiday Special and a great reminder of why we love this team of misfits.
10. The Legend of Vox Machina
The best fantasy series on Amazon Prime Video isn’t The Rings of Power, and it sure as hell isn’t The Wheel of Time. Instead, it’s The Legend of Vox Machina, an animated series based on some of the adventures from Critical Role‘s first campaign. Laura Bailey, Taliesin Jaffe, Ashley Johnson, Liam O’Brien, Marisha Ray, and Sam Riegel reprise their roles, with Matthew Mercer in various parts as well. All of them were voice actors when they started Critical Role, and their collective talent remains their greatest strengthen in this series.
You don’t need to know anything about Critical Role to enjoy this show, which follows the journey of a mercenary group called the Vox Machina. The series does lean heavily towards adult humor, but it also carries its drama well. For example, season 1 gave Percy (Jaffe) some very personal stakes as he attempted to avenge his family while battling his literal inner-demon. That’s why the comedy doesn’t overpower the narrative. And this ensemble cast makes every episode worth watching.
9. Ms. Marvel
This year’s batch of Marvel Studios shows weren’t as impressive as the series from 2021. In one case, there was too much Steven Grant, and not enough Moon Knight. As for She-Hulk: Attorney At Law, it just wasn’t funny enough to be a good comedy. That’s why the lone bright spot for the year was Ms. Marvel.
Granted, the show does have some drawbacks as well. The Clandestines were poorly conceived and badly defined villains who never came off as a true threat. However, the show absolutely nailed Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) and her world. Like her comic book counterpart, Kamala is a refreshingly ordinary girl who loves superheroes a little bit too much. That’s also why she embraces her powers once she discovers them.
This show wouldn’t work without Kamala’s family and friends, and the series spent its time fleshing them out and making them seem more real. Ms. Marvel also explored Pakistani-American and Muslim culture, while revealing that the partition of India left deep scars on Kamala’s family.
The best part of this series is Vellani herself. She was an unknown before she was cast as Kamala, but you wouldn’t know it from the way she plays the part. Vellani so thoroughly inhabits the role that the lines between her and Kamala seem to blur. On a side note, it was absolutely hilarious to see Vellani out-geek Kevin Feige on the Ms. Marvel red carpet.
8. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
There are a lot of Star Trek shows right now, and not all of them hit the same way. However, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is the one that really recaptures that classic Trek feel. Self-contained episodes are now a novelty, but it’s a great change of pace.
Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn reprise their respective roles of Christopher Pike, Spock, and Una Chin-Riley from Star Trek: Discovery season 2. And since that show now takes place even further in the future, Strange New World has the prequel era to itself. These are the adventures of the starship Enterprise crew before Captain Kirk, with some new and familiar faces. So far, it’s been everything that we’ve hoped to see.
7. His Dark Materials
When The Golden Compass failed to light up the box office in 2007, it seemed like Philip Pullman’s fantasy epic would not be fully adapted. HBO and BBC’s His Dark Materials gave Pullman’s story a second chance, with Logan standout Dafne Keen headlining the series as Lyra Silvertongue.
The third and final season puts Lyra and her friend, Will Parry (Amir Wilson), at the center of a conflict that spans across multiple Earths and into the Heavens above. It’s literally the battle for creation itself. And Lyra finds herself at odds with both of her parents, Marisa Coulter (Ruth Wilson) and Lord Asriel Belacqua (James McAvoy). This show has largely flown under the radar, but it’s remarkably consistent and always entertaining.
6. Harley Quinn
Harley Quinn remains the best version of DC’s bad girl, and easily one of the funniest shows of the year. Season three added some new complications to Harley’s romance with Poison Ivy (Lake Bell). It also developed an unexpected friendship between Harley (Kaley Cuoco) and Batman (Diedrich Bader). In the season’s best episode, “Batman Begins Forever,” Harley got a first-hand look at what makes Bruce Wayne tick. A lot of it was really messed up. However, Harley was also genuinely moved and even inspired by his crusade as Batman. So much so that Harley can’t go back to being a villain.
This may be the only series that could pull off Joker (Alan Tudyk) becoming the new mayor of Gotham City. Establishing the Joker as a family man has given Tudyk a lot of new material to play with. Joker genuinely loves his wife and step-kids, but he’s still a homicidal maniac. He’s also the best choice to lead Gotham into a strange new era. DC and comedy haven’t always mixed well. Regardless, Harley Quinn makes it look easy.
5. The Boys
We really missed The Boys during its off-year, but season 3 was worth the wait. Amazon Prime Video’s show has veered wildly off from Garth Ennis and Darrick Robertson’s comic book series. But it still managed to do a very scaled back adaptation of “Herogasam.” Season three also gave Butcher (Karl Urban) and Hughie (Jack Quaid) the chance to face The Seven with powers of their own, even though those abilities came with a very high price.
Antony Starr remains hilariously unhinged as Homelander, but the real star of season 3 was Jensen Ackles. His performance as the first Supe, Soldier Boy, stole every scene that Ackles was in. Think of Captain America if he was amoral, racist, sexist, and even tragic in his own way. There’s always a lot going on in The Boys, and it remains the best superhero satire series in years.
It’s easy to forget that Peacemaker came out this year, since it arrived so early in 2022. But it earned its place on this list because James Gunn pulled off a magic trick. He made John Cena’s one-dimensional antihero from The Suicide Squad into a real leading character. Against the backdrop of a truly dangerous threat, the series revealed why Christopher Smith (Cena) was so screwed up.
Peacemaker is still a jerk at times, but that’s why it was really effective when he actually made emotional connections with his team. He really had a lot of character development over the course of the season. The season finale had some genuinely surprising moments that were completely ignored by Black Adam. But even if there’s a big DC reboot coming, this was still a great season of television.
3. Stranger Things
Three years between seasons didn’t hurt Stranger Things. Season 4 may be the best one to date, and it gave the show its first truly memorable villain: Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower). More surprisingly, Sadie Sink’s Max Mayfield came to the forefront, and she was arguably one of the primary stars of the season. As proof of Sink’s newfound prominence, this year’s most memorable moment, Max fleeing Vecna, made Kate Bush chart with a 38-year-old song!
The events in Russia stretched credibility at times, but it was worth it to have Hopper (David Harbour) back. It was also fun to watch Joseph Quinn’s star-making turn as Eddie Munson, especially as he put on perhaps the most-metal concert of all-time. However, the lingering threads of the finale are why we’re excited for the fifth and final season. No matter how long it takes to get there.
2. House of the Dragon
So, tell us again that no one cares about the world of Game of Thrones. The eighth season of that show may have bungled the ending, but House of the Dragon has reestablished the franchise as a powerhouse. George R.R. Martin’s prequel series follows the growing conflict within the Targaryen family as events skip ahead towards an inevitable civil war.
It’s primarily a contest of wills between Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and her former best friend turned step-mother, Queen Alicent Hightower. To be honest, I preferred the young Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) and Alicent (Emily Carey) to their older counterparts, Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke. But all of the actresses have done well with their roles.
While Matt Smith’s Prince Daemon Targaryen gets a lot of attention, Paddy Considine ruled season 1 with his powerful and haunting turn as King Viserys Targaryen. Unlike the novel, the show makes Viserys a truly tragic character. The series also adds dimension to Alicent that makes her more than a Cersei Lannister clone. Rhaenyra and Alicent both believe they are righteous. But regardless of their wishes, the Dance of the Dragons may destroy their family.
I really thought that House of the Dragon had the number 1 slot lined up this year. At least right up until the tenth episode of Andor. That was one of the best episodes in all of television this year. It also solidified Andor as some of the best Star Wars we’ve seen in years. The prequel to the prequel flick, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, has found its way by bringing the Empire down to Earth. Within this series, it’s not some faceless space threat. It’s a truly oppressive regime.
Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor may be the star of the show, but he does get overshadowed by the incredible performances of Stellan Skarsgård as Luthen Rael and guest star Andy Serkis as Kino Loy. Regardless, that only made the series stronger. Additionally, Genevieve O’Reilly’s Rebel leader, Mon Mothma, has had more development in this series than at any time in the four decades since her debut.
The show allows us to care about these characters, including the droid B2EMO (Dave Chapman), whose grief for Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw) was very affecting. And Maarava’s posthumous call to action was also one of the most thrilling moments in Star Wars. Maarava was literally the brick that started a revolution.
Sharp writing and a great cast really does make the difference. The series has also restored a lot of wonder to the world of Star Wars by providing scale to go along with the dazzling visuals. It’s even made the fight against the Empire feel more culturally relevant than ever. As our review of Andor said, this is Star Wars for adults. And it’s the best series on TV this year.
Now, it’s your turn to tell us your picks for the best TV series of 2022!
Recommended Reading: Catalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One Novel
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