Much as I love zombies solving murders-of-the-week or kooky time-travelling superheroes taking out different evil undead historical figures on a rampage, a great story separates a really good show from “Who does Hawaii Five-0 arrest this week.”
Maybe it’s over a season, or just several episodes, or even just one. But if it’s the latter, it had better be really good.
On that note…
Honourable mention: Bringing Up Sid, Legion
In “Chapter 24” of Legion, a fight goes wrong, and troubled series co-lead Sid Barrett gets her mind erased. The following episode, we find ourselves taking a sudden left turn, arriving in a fairy tale countryside, where a young baby girl is found by former series regulars Oliver and Melanie Bird, who last season left the physical world behind to enjoy retirement in the astral plane. That’s where we are, and what’s left of Sid’s mind has essentially washed up here. Oliver and Melanie raise Sid from scratch, giving her a more nurturing childhood than her first one, while trying to protect her from the Big Bad Wolf (a hilarious-as-always Jason Mantzoukis). Sid’s second childhood prepares her for the final showdown with David and the Shadow King, and the fairy tale way it all happens, with the return of old friends and a brilliant one-off nemesis, makes this possibly the best episode Legion ever did, and that my friends is saying something.
Bronze: Crisis on Infinite Earths
It was sweeping, it was epic, it was emotional, it would take an entire page to describe every way the biggest ever Arrowverse crossover, which was also the most ambitious crossover event in TV history, based on the grand mac daddy biggest comic crossover of all time, managed to delight me in each of its five parts. Just off the top of my head: Brandon Routh reprising Superman; the way the John Williams Superman theme and the Blake Neely Superman theme intermingled as Routh’s Superman met Tyler Hoechlin’s; the final run of the 1990 Flash; John Constantine tracking down Tom Ellis’ Lucifer Morningstar; Batwoman staring down Supergirl; starting the whole thing with Burt Ward yelling “Holy crimson skies of death!” and ending it with the Superfriends theme playing over a shot of the Hall of Justice… and I have barely scratched the surface. Sure they were held back by their CW budget… the producers didn’t care for comparisons to Avengers: Endgame, saying they “shot the whole thing with Marvel’s catering budget…” but still they were in a vibrational tower, fighting off shadow demons, and I was like “I have been waiting for this my entire life.”
Best. Crossover. Ever.
Silver: The Emancipation of One Annie January, The Boys
As The Boys kicks off, Annie January, aka Starlight, has gotten the call of a lifetime… she’s been asked to join the world’s greatest heroes, The Seven. But the gig is not all she hoped. The crimes seem choreographed, PR is being prioritized over good works, and her first meeting with fellow member The Deep is… deeply unpleasant. But as the season progresses, Annie finds her courage, stands up to her corporate bosses, and takes on the corruption of Vought American.
It certainly helps having emotional support from her new boyfriend Hughie. It’s not just because of Hughie or anything, but his honest support of her true self helps. So wow would it would suck if he were part of a black ops team targeting the Seven. Hoo golly would that be awkward.
Anyhoo, Annie’s journey becomes perhaps the best part of a strong season.
Gold: The Secret History of Will Reeves, Watchmen
Detective Angela Abar’s chief suspect in the season’s central murder is a very old man named Will Reeves (Louis Gossett Jr.), that a quick genealogy check (something a local museum offers) claims is her grandfather. Her only clue as to who he is and if he did what he claims is a pill called Nostalgia, which stores and replays memories. So in a moment of panic, Angela swallows a fistful and becomes lost in Will’s memories. While the real world tries to pull her out, Angela relives Will’s life, his difficult time as a cop, his marriage, a surprising connection to original Watchmen superteam the Minutemen (with Limitless’ Jake McDorman as Captain Metropolis!)… and his repeated run-ins with an extra-sinister branch of the KKK called Cyclops. And each part of the journey is haunted by Will’s earliest memories: barely surviving the mass-lynching that was the Tulsa Race Massacre.
They teach that in Oklahoma schools now because Watchmen brought it to our attention in horrible, visceral detail. I loved Crisis on Infinite Earths as much as anyone but you can’t top that.