Marvel’s Luke Cage (Friday, Sept. 30, Netflix), series debut: No, I don’t know what the Netflix/Marvel release schedule is anymore, either, but here are Luke Cage; Iron Fist, The Punisher, more Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and the long-teased Defenders will show up eventually. Luke “Power Man” Cage (Mike Colter) is now a few months removed from the events of Jessica Jones, relocated to Harlem and trying to lead as normal of a life as a mega-strong, bullet-proof, street-level superhero can. He’s soon drawn into a soul-of-the-neighborhood battle with a charismatic gangster (Mahershala Ali, House of Cards), which only sounds like Daredevil’s debut season. Luke Cage was Marvel’s first-ever black headliner in the ’70s; appropriately, this series is the most ’70s, the most New York, and the most straight-up black entry into the modern Marvel cinematic universe yet. It’s also a worthy follow-up to Daredevil and Jessica Jones—you’re three-for-three, Netflix. Now don’t ruin Iron Fist, or whatever’s next.
Westworld (Sunday, Oct. 2, HBO), series debut: HBO is spending a hell of a lot of money on what the network hopes—really, really hopes—is its next Game of Thrones, while anyone who actually remembers the original 1973 sci-fi cheeseball Westworld (and the lame 1976 sequel Futureworld, and the lamer 1980 TV series Beyond Westworld) is thinking “Uh, why?” This new Westworld is smarter, sleeker and more terrifying than its origin flick, setting up a near-future resort wherein tourists pay $40,000 a day to play frontier cowboy, knocking back whiskey at the saloon and riding horses on the range, as well as shooting up cyber-townsfolk in gunfights and generally abusing them for kicks. (In case you needed a reminder, humans are just the worst.) As Jurassic Park, Ex-Machina and countless robot-uprising tales have taught us, this won’t end well. Westworld is also as thoughtful as it is frightful, portraying the welling “humanity” and consciousness within the synth-slaves even better than AMC’s Humans did last year. Once you get past the pilot episode (which is somewhat long and slow; patience), you may not care about dragons anymore.
Conviction (Monday, Oct. 3, ABC), series debut: Glam lawyer and ex-first daughter Hayes Morrison (Hayley Atwell, Marvel’s Agent Carter), to avoid jail time for a cocaine bust, casually takes a job turning over possible wrongful-conviction cases for the less-glam … because that’s totally how the legal system works. Will sparks fly with her sexy new boss (Eddie Cahill), her former courtroom nemesis? Will Hayes begin to—gasp!—care about people other than herself? Will Atwell ever master an American accent? Shaky dialect aside, Atwell offers a strong presence, and she is surrounded by solid players (including The Walking Dead’s Emily Kinney and The Following’s Shawn Ashmore), but Conviction is just another pretty legal drama that’s waaay beneath Peggy Carter.
Timeless (Monday, Oct. 3, NBC), series debut: A scientist (Malcolm Barrett), a soldier (Matt Lanter) and a history professor (Abigail Spencer) chase a time-terrorist (Goran Visnjic) through the ages to stop him from altering the past and destroying present-day America. (As for the rest of the world, who cares?) Timeless is really just a dumb-fun Syfy-style action-adventure series trying to pass itself off as a gravitas-laden drama delivering Important Historical Lessons (this country used to be even more racist, sexist, etc.); it works as long as you don’t take it too seriously. No, the big event of the pilot episode isn’t a Led Zeppelin album-cover shoot—it’s the crash of the Hindenburg! See? You’re learning already.
No Tomorrow (Tuesday, Oct. 4, The CW), series debut: Uptight Evie (Tori Anderson) falls for a free spirit, Xavier (Joshua Sasse), who believes the world is ending in eight months. Is he as crazy as he is dreamy? Does it really matter if Xavier can help Evie get her YOLO on through his … “apocolyst” … of stuff he wants to do before his maybe-imagined asteroid wipes out the planet? Sasse and Anderson are charming enough, and it’s nice to see that The CW hasn’t totally forgotten about the portion of its audience who don’t care about DC superheroes, but No Tomorrow doesn’t seem built for the long haul. If a final episode wherein the asteroid does destroy the earth has already been written, however, I’m absolutely on board. (Did I mention that humans are just the worst?)