Best of Comic TV 2020: The Best Characters!

Best Ensemble

I introduced this one last year because I hadn’t thrown enough accolades at The Tick and something needed to be done, but I stand by it. Who had, pound for pound, actor for actor, the strongest ensembles this season? Casts so great playing characters so good I don’t have enough accolades for all of them?

Bronze: Stumptown

Portland’s best not-so-great people.
Image: ABC

We have some career-best work from the always-good Cobie Smulders and Jake Johnson, plus incredibly solid supporting turns from Michael Ealy as Dex’s long-suffering f*ck-buddy and police contact Detective Hoffman and Camryn Manheim as his lieutenant, Cole Sibus as Dex’s brother seeking independence, Tantoo Cardinal bringing just the right menace as Native leader and probable crime boss Sue Lynn Blackbird, and of course my oft-mentioned Adrian Martinez as Tookie, the taco chef who gets drawn into everyone’s shenanigans while plotting his own. He is a third-tier supporting character and Martinez plays him so well I’d watch a show about just him. That’s how good this cast is. Every single character could hold up their own show.

Silver: Legends of Tomorrow

If there were as many time-travelling misfit shows as doctor shows, they’d still be the best in the business.
image: CW

Last year I said this category would exist to recognize Legends of Tomorrow if it weren’t for the one weak link they devoted a third of the season to*. Well, she’s mostly gone, and what’s left is delightful. Sarah Lance (Caity Lotz) processing the end of Crisis and leading her team against actual gods; Sarah’s girlfriend Ava Sharpe (Jes Macallan) trying to find her place on the Waverider now that her former agency has collapsed; Brandon Routh’s final season as the wonderfully adorable Ray Palmer; Nick Zano finding the comedy in every single episode as the adorably wonderful Nate Heywood; Tala Ashe killing it as two very different Zaris; Courtney Ford cracking us up as Nora or Marie Antoinette; Matt Ryan’s reliably phenomenal take on John Constantine; Dominic Purcell’s comedy MVP Mick Rory stumbling into fatherhood; and Maisie Richardson-Sellers is finally given some meaty material as shapeshifter/literal Greek god Charlie.

In the words I used last year… I love these goobs. I love these goobs so much.

*Again, the actress was fine, the character was utterly unnecessary.

Gold: Watchmen

“What if we treated every role like they might win an Emmy? And then cast them that way?”
Images: HBO

I don’t even know where to start here. I don’t know how much I can say about this cast without giving something away. Regina King. Jeremy Irons. James Wolk. Aquaman’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Don Johnson slaying it in his limited screen time. Louis Gossett Jr! Tom Mison and Sara Vickers as Irons’ entire supporting cast. We discussed Timothy Blake Nelson and Jean Smart. I just… trust me on this one. Best cast, best characters, hell of a show.

Best Villain

I normally close with this one but I’m not sure why? Anyway, whose evil scheme reigned supreme?

Honourable mentions: Esai Morales was highly effective as Deathstroke on Titans; Mark Harelik was entertaining and creepy as God on Preacher; and I would love to do a couple of paragraphs on how Kevin Durand swung for the fences as Jason Woodrue on Swamp Thing… There’s an alternate world where those three were the podium. But they had the misfortune of going up against these three.

Bronze: Jon Cryer as Lex Luthor, Supergirl (and Crisis)

To quote the Bowie song they used to sum his arc up… you’re face to face with the Man Who Sold the World.
Image: CW

Jon Cryer (who knew?) remains absolutely incredible as iconic villain Lex Luthor, whether he was conning his way into helping restart the multiverse, scheming against world-ending aliens Leviathan, or just trying to ensure his sister didn’t re-friend Supergirl. Cryer is funny when he needs to be, chilling when he has to be, and when Lex’s dark side goes to a full boil, he’s terrifying. We believe that Lex could, in fact, rule the world… he could get everything he’s ever wanted, be the Man of Tomorrow… if he could just let go of his hatred of Kryptonians. His need to defeat anyone with “Super” in their name holds him back every time. But even then, he is nigh-impossible to stop. Jon Cryer is the perfect Lex Luthor.

Since his season finale duel with Supergirl got postponed to next season, I hope they do the right thing and keep him around for Superman and Lois. We need this Lex and Tyler Hoechin’s Superman to square off a few times.

He’d definitely be the gold medallist if this weren’t such an amazing year. But as it happens, he’s not even quite the best on the CW…

Silver: Rachel Skarsten as Alice, Batwoman

Lost Girl no longer.
Image: Kimberley French/The CW

Years ago, twin siblings Kate and Beth Kane were as close as could be… until a Joker-related car accident split them. Beth was presumed dead, but instead spent years upon years living in captivity, suffering abuse and torment, her only comforts being her friend she called Mouse and the book Alice in Wonderland… and so unhinged crime boss Alice was born. Rachel Skarsten is endlessly entertaining in this role, capturing the mania of the Alice persona, the trauma Beth suffered that created it, and the rage and pain she feels about being left in captivity by her family. Skarsten is riveting, and easily the best part of a solid show.

(Look you don’t care about this but if I don’t mention that Skarsten played Dinah on the short-lived Birds of Prey series in 2002, it’s gonna bug me all day. How far she’s come.)

Alice and Kate Kane had the deepest, most complex hero/villain relationship on comic TV, or any show aside from Daddy Issues Hannibal Prodigal Son, and I will miss it, since the showrunners made the utterly baffling decision to toss it out in favour of having a completely different character as Batwoman next season. Baffling.

She’d have easily walked away with Gold if not for…

Gold: Antony Starr as Homelander, The Boys

“I’m the Homelander. And I can do whatever the f*ck I want.”
Image: Amazon

Homelander is the season’s most terrifying villain, and for reasons beyond “All the powers of Superman, none of the ethics.” Superman and Captain America are how the US likes to see themselves: paragons of virtue and justice, trying to hold back the forces of darkness while standing up for the little guy. Homelander is what the US (or at least Mitch McConnell’s America) truly is… determined to push their own beliefs on the world, giving lip service to Christian values while embodying none of them, viewing the little guy as nothing but a source of cheap labour and consumer profits. Homelander is a product crafted by a cold, unfeeling corporation and slathered in patriotic messaging… so is it any surprise they forgot to give him a conscience?

And Starr is incredible in the role. He crushes every part of it, from his warm and friendly public persona to his cold and cruel true self, and the deep-rooted mommy issues that make him even slightly possible to control.

Anyone claiming they want to see Zack Snyder turn Superman evil? Just watch this guy.

Next page: Our heroes!

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