From the simple to the epic, from the sweet to the tragic, some shows took some big swings this year. Not all of them hit, sure, maybe halfway through the final season is way too late for supporting cast to get origin stories, but we’re not here to talk about those, are we? No, we’re here for the good stuff, so let’s get to it.
Honourable Mention: not all superhero TV fans dig the CW vibe of the Arrowverse, so I’m probably not going to be able to sell Armageddon as one of the year’s best stories… probably not even to myself, because we had some heavier hitters. But I still appreciated Flash opening with something epic for those of us that miss the annual crossovers.
Bronze: The Not-So-Secret Origin of Kate Bishop, Hawkeye
While Hawkeye was on paper the first solo project for the last founding MCU Avenger who never got one (and didn’t even warrant a phone call during Winter Soldier), it was, like nearly all of Phase Four, a launching point for a new character. Kate Bishop is introduced to us as someone who can’t help but throw herself at dangerous situations because someone has to. She has no crime-fighting experience, but takes on the Tracksuit Mafia during an auction robbery because damn it someone has to do something. She investigates the murder of a family friend because damn it someone has to. Clint tells her to walk away, she refuses, because she has information he needs. She knows she can’t actually take Black Widow Yelena Belova in a fight, but she also won’t let Clint be hurt. It all makes sense with her origin moment: in the Battle of New York* there were gods and monsters battling aliens, and in the middle of it all, one guy with a bow just doing his best. And that’s the hero Kate wants to be, someone just trying her best to do the right thing. Even if not every choice she makes along the way is the best or healthiest.
If the only thing Hawkeye had done was introduce Kate, it still would have been worth it. She’s fun and I hope she’s back soon.
*Marvel Netflix is over, we will no longer call it “the Incident,” thank you.
Silver: “Peacemaker. What a joke.”
As I’ve said in the past, we were not set up to like Christopher Smith, Peacemaker. On top of being abrasive, aggressive, and kind of a dope, he was fresh off the biggest and most tragic heel-turn of The Suicide Squad. There weren’t many good people in Task Force X, and Peacemaker killed one of them. But James Gunn didn’t ask us to forget it, he made Peacemaker wallow in this, even taking away his desperate belief that maybe he killed Rick Flag for the right reasons. Christopher Smith is haunted throughout the season by Rick Flag’s last words: “Peacemaker. What a joke.”
We see how Christopher Smith was raised, the abuse and trauma that forged him into Peacemaker, and we see all the bravado and bloodthirst begin to crumble because Rick Flag was his last straw. And from there, maybe he can find a path to being a real hero, someone we’re okay rooting for. And maybe his need to bring up demeaning rumours about the Justice League was part of that arc, Snyder Bros, learn to lighten up a little.
Gold: Meet Viktor, Umbrella Academy
There are long gaps between seasons of Umbrella Academy, and a lot can happen. In this case, star Elliot Page came out as trans-male, leading fans to wonder what the show would do with his character, Vanya. And what happened was the writers said “Okay, sure,” and wrote a sweetly simple sequence in which Vanya has a breakthrough, gets a haircut, probably some other stuff, and becomes Viktor. There are no dramatics, we don’t spend a full hour on the other Hargreeves siblings coming to terms with this, they just accept their brother for who he is.
The best reaction comes from Luther, who was a hostage of the Sparrow Academy at the time and missed the announcement, and suggests to Diego that they throw a party so that Viktor can feel loved. Enter Viktor, who asks what’s happening, and so comes this exchange:
Diego: Luther wants to throw you a big, stupid party so you feel loved. Do you feel loved?
Viktor: Yeah, I do.
Diego: Good. You are.
And he’s gone to deal with his personal subplot. The whole transition arc works just like that: it’s simple, it’s sweet, no drama, it’s a great tutorial on how to react if someone close to you comes out in a similar way, and then Viktor’s just Viktor and we’re back to the story.
Well done, Umbrella Academy.
Coming soon… best characters! Still a lot of knockout performance to choose from, some agonizing choices a-coming.