Best of Comic TV 2020: The Best Characters!

Best Female Supporting Character

Honourable Mentions: Danielle Panabaker brought a lot of fun to The Flash this season, as Caitlin Snow’s icy second personality Frost began to build a life of her own; Dominique McElligott brought a lot of pathos to The Seven’s Queen Maeve on The Boys; Julie Anne Emery was a delight as Featherstone on Preacher; and Nicole Maines and Katie McGrath are still killing it on Supergirl, when the writers managed to squeeze them in.

But these three ladies had just that extra spark to them.

Bronze: Courtney Ford as Nora Darhk/Marie Antoinette, Legends of Tomorrow

“So you’ll be DJing the prom and dancing at your station.”
“Does that mean I can put the wand down?”
“You cannot put the wand down.”
Image: CW

Courtney Ford was already a lot of fun when Nora Darhk was an evil sorceress raised by a death cult, and still fun last season as a reformed evil sorceress, but she’s somehow even more fun as a reluctant fairy godmother, helping children in need by day and complaining to her boyfriend Ray Palmer about everyone wanting a damned pony by night. She tried to prevent the rise of a Voorhees-style serial killer by turning around his teen years; tried to get her freed-from-Hell father Damien Darhk on board with her relationship with his former nemesis Ray; and grew into her new role as a helper to children in need everywhere. And if that wasn’t enough (it kinda was), Ford did double duty as an unhinged, undead Marie Antoinette for a few episodes, and she was hilarious.

She’d probably have been higher but ever since Nora stopped being evil, the writers have… not been great at using her as often as they could.

Silver: Aubrey Plaza as Lenny, Legion

If she’s invited you to a tea party, it’s not gonna go great for you, but might be worth it?
Image: FX

After spending season one as the primary mask of the Shadow King, Lenny’s back out in the real world, alive again, and serving as David’s right hand in his growing commune… fine, cult, his cult. But Plaza brings the same spark of weirdly compelling madness to Human Lenny that she brought to Psychic Parasite Lenny. And when David’s meddling with time results in her suffering a major loss, it’s heartbreaking, and she sells the crap out of Lenny’s grief and anger at her best pal.

Would this show have needed Lenny past season one? Strictly speaking no, but they knew what kind of a weapon they had in Aubrey, so they kept her in the mix and we were all better for it.

Gold: Jean Smart as Laurie Blake, Watchmen

If this shot didn’t clue you in on who she was, you’re not trying.
Image: HBO

She might or might not be the first character from the Watchmen comics to turn up, but Laurie Blake (formerly Juspeczyk, and comics fans will see the significance of the name change) is certainly the first to be openly stated as such. According to the supplemental materials, the former Silk Spectre got arrested for fighting crime as the Comedienne alongside her boyfriend Nite Owl, but took a deal, becoming the FBI’s top costume-chaser. And Jean Smart brought not only a toughness to the character but also a very compelling world-weariness. She’s absolutely over costumes and code-names and is wonderfully acerbic about coming to Oklahoma, where all the cops have at least a mask if not a full costumed identity. Her attempt to use one of the “call Mars” booths, set up to let people send prayers to Dr. Manhattan, in order to tell her ex a joke was a great introduction to the tough as hell but kinda broken Laurie Blake. She renamed herself after the Comedian because she saw the punchline of society, and it ruined the joke.

Best Male Supporting Character

Honourable mentions: If I had to watch a semi-imaginary blue cartoon unicorn lose his virginity to an Imaginary Friend Bo Peep, and thanks to Happy! I did and it’s even weirder than it sounds, I’m certainly glad said unicorn was voiced by Patton Oswalt; I wish this entire category could be about how good Rahul Kohli was on iZombie; Pip Torrens and Joseph Gilgun remained great on Preacher.

But as great as each of these performances were, they were edged out by these guys.

Bronze: Brandon Routh and Nick Zano as Ray Palmer and Nate Heyworth, Legends of Tomorrow

Oh, the Time Bros.
Image: CW

Brandon Routh has been one of Legends of Tomorrow’s MVPs since season one, and this has long been a show loaded with contenders for MVP. Ray Palmer’s endless positivity brought a lot to the show, and this season was no exception, despite him being written out halfway through. (Also he got to reprise Superman during Crisis and it was great.) But the one small upside to Ray leaving the Waverider? It allowed Nick Zano’s Nate Heyworth, an absolute asset to the show since his first scene, to take Ray’s place, bringing goofy fun to nearly every episode. From taking geeky joy in tutoring shipmate Mick “Heat Wave” Rory’s daughter in history, to getting sucked into Dionysus’ eternal fraternity, to the funniest reaction to being mind-controlled into killing his friends, to listening to Ava’s podcast about serial killers while she’s giving a briefing on one of them (and ending the briefing with “And Gideon, order me one of these mattresses with the promo code ‘lacerations'”), to making sure to hit play on a recording of “Thong Song” before fighting history’s greatest villains, Nate is an endless joy on this show. Enough that I almost don’t miss Ray. Almost.

And, as we covered last time, their parting was such sweet sorrow.

Silver: Timothy Blake Nelson as Looking Glass, Watchmen

Your reflection is staring back.
Image: HBO

In an Oklahoma where all uniformed cops wear masks and all detectives take on super-hero personae, Looking Glass (aka Detective Wade Tillman) is the Tulsa PD’s resident human lie detector. And it’s a skill he’s spent three decades perfecting, ever since an awkward incident turned truly horrifying, and it cost him not just his trust in people, but in the very fabric of the world. Beneath his moments of perfectly deadpan humour and keen insight into human behaviour is a great deal of pain and fear that he hides from the world behind a reflective mask. In a show filled with perfect performances and compelling characters old and new, Nelson makes Looking Glass a standout.

I want to talk about how brilliantly they use variations on the song “Careless Whisper” as the Official Theme of Wade’s Trust Issues but I don’t want to spoil that episode and that’s less about Timothy Blake Nelson so anyway who’s next

Gold: Jake Johnson as Grey McConnell, Stumptown

Neither lawful nor criminal, neither black nor white… I’d say the name “Grey” is a bit on the nose but a zombie named “Liv Moore” is a contestant in another category, so…
Image: ABC

Sure the heart of Stumptown is Cobie Smulders as Dex Parios, but a key to the show (and to Dex managing an even barely functional existence) is Grey, the ex-con proprietor of the Bad Alibi, the hub of Dex’s PI business and Tookie’s taco-based entrepreneurial shenanigans. Grey is friend, confidant, and unwilling undercover operative, and Jake Johnson has a perfectly low-key delivery that makes Grey a standout in a show filled with standouts. It’s both a big departure from New Girl’s Nick, and perfectly suited to him all the same. Of all the characters who could anchor this show if the presence of Cobie Smulders didn’t make additional core leads utterly unnecessary, Grey’s at the top.

Next page: teams and evil-doers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *