Best of Comic TV 2021: The Characters!

Best Ensemble

We talk a lot about great individual performances, sometimes pairs if it’s appropriate, but who had the best overall casts, from regulars to recurrings?

Honourable Mentions: You know I love each and every one of the primary weirdos on Doom Patrol; and there surely were a lot of quality actors on WandaVision.

Bronze: The Umbrella Academy

The cause of, and solution to, multiple apocalypses
Image: Netflix

Every one of the core cast of The Umbrella Academy is doing superb work, from Elliot Page’s tormented turn as Vanya to Aidan Gallagher’s superbly sardonic Number Five to Emmy Raver-Lampman joining the civil rights movement (and using her power for some much needed payback on one particular racist) and beyond. Plus Kate Walsh’s deliciously sinister performance as The Handler, we discussed Ritu Arya as Lila, and so many more… there’s an excellent cast on this show, and it deserves a shout-out.

Silver: Lucifer

The celestials, the humans, and the sexy results
Image: Fox

Lucifer has taken four awards on this entry so far, this can’t be a surprise.

I talk a lot in these award blogs about Tom Ellis’ amazing performance as Lucifer, and I might not be done, but the whole cast is amazing. Lauren German grounding Lucifer as Chloe Decker, Rachel Harris’ eternally patient Dr. Linda, DB Woodside bringing archangel Amenadiel from aloof antagonist to human-loving friend of Lucifer’s co-workers, Lesley-Ann Brandt’s entertainingly unhinged and badass performance as demonic bounty hunter Mazikeen, Aimee Garcia’s endlessly adorable Ella Lopez, Kevin Alejandro’s long-suffering “Detective Douche” Espinosa… plus the almost-final-actually-penultimate season brought us return appearances by Tricia Helfer’s Charlotte and Inbar Lavi’s Eve, the incredibly entertaining Kimia Behpoornia as Gabriel, and Debbie Gibson singing “Every Breath You Take” as a helicopter parent murder suspect. An amazing cast determined to go out doing their best work… only to bless us with one more season.

Gold: The Boys

The good guys are bad, the “bad” guys are good, everyone’s fascinating.
Image: Amazon Prime

There are no weak links in the cast of The Boys. You’d think they could try less hard on smaller characters like The Deep or A-Train or even Frenchie and Kimiko but they utterly refuse to, every member of the Seven or Billy Butcher’s black ops team is incredible. And then on top of them we have Giancarlo Esposito (personification of “the heroes are screwed”) as Vought CEO Stan Edgar, Shantel VanSanten as Billy’s assumed-dead wife living in diffiuclt conditions, and the weirdly prominently credited but delightful Colby Minifie as long-suffering Vought executive Ashley Barrett, trying to keep Homelander marketable while he swings hard in the wrong directions.

Again, no weak links.

Best Villains

They’re living the dream through evil schemes, they’re the thing the heroes have to up their game to stop, bring on the bad guys.

Honourable Mentions: Kate Walsh brought some campy fun to The Handler’s attempts to rule time in The Umbrella Academy; Mandell Maughan perfectly walked the line between “fun to watch” and “super satisfying to see taken down a peg” as off-books government agent Lisa Casper on Resident Alien; Black Lightning’s Tobias Whale and Lucifer’s Michael were very well performed, but I’m still kinda over all-knowing masterminds. I mean, how can I miss them if they won’t go away. Still, props to Tobias for going out with a Captain Ahab speech to prove no pointy thing through the torso can make him stop hating and fighting to kill Black Lightning, that was a quality death scene.

Bronze: A Buncha People as the Injustice Society of America, Stargirl

Pictured in their hero-murdering prime
Image: CW

There are a lot of squads this season that didn’t make the shortlist, like the TVA or Last Men or the Flagsmashers, but a few things set the ISA apart. First, the members all have distinct roles and skillsets: the planner, the mad scientist, the combat specialists, the tech guy, the guy whose telepathic powers make the whole plan possible. They all have personalities: the family man out for revenge on a corrupt world; the cold, calculating, abusive father; the gym rats a little too fond of violence; the hulking CG monster they break out for the premiere and the finale and maybe one more episode*. Their plan has some surprise twists, boiling down to “Good goals, way too evil execution.” And they made this highly effective team out of villains that feel like they got rejected for a gig in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. The Gambler? The Fiddler? Freaking Sportsmaster is a live action villain now and he works, I did not see that coming.

And as a plus, they all pose a legit threat to the heroes. Meta powers and a fancy supersuit don’t quite make Hourman and Wildcat a match for Sportsmaster and Huntress; having help from an AI doesn’t necessarily mean Dr. Mid-Nite can out-hack the Gambler; Icicle’s powers can shut down both Stargirl and S.T.R.I.P.E. the giant robot if they’re not careful. Each time Stargirl and allies fight one or two of the ISA, they either barely win or barely survive. So when the two teams go head to head in the finale, the stakes are good and high, and led to the aforementioned silver medallist fight sequence.

Solid batch of villains, alone or in a pack. But our next entrant didn’t need any backup villains. (She had backup villains, in a sense, other villains were there, but there were very boring, no need to go into them.)

*DC TV shows have now had three different live-action Solomon Grundys, and they put more effort into him each time, not sure when he became so popular but I ain’t mad at it.

Silver: Kathryn Hahn as Agnes/Agatha Harkness, WandaVision

Who was clearly on this podium?
It was Agatha all along.
Image: Marvel Studios

The wacky neighbour who turned out to be the rival witch unravelling the sitcom from within, Agatha Harkness, and Kathryn Hahn was here to slay every second of it. As nosy neighbour Agnes, she’s consistently hilarious. Once we hit the “Agatha All Along Reveal…” she’s still funny, but absolutely sells the menace of the character. Agatha takes power from witches she thinks don’t deserve it, and she is positive Wanda doesn’t deserve it, so she’s gonna find out where Wanda got it… but she’s gonna have some fun along the way, and so are we.

Glad she’s not dead. Like Zemo, she’s a good add for this franchise.

But “Rival witch jealous of our reality-warping abilities” doesn’t have nearly the real-world commentary as…

Gold: Aya Cash and Antony Starr as Stormfront and Homelander, The Boys

‘Murica.
Image: Amazon Prime

I don’t have a lot of new insights for you here. I talked last year about how terrifyingly well Homelander works as a satire of the darkness that’s always been hidden under America’s Steve Rogers/Superman self-image, and how great Starr is in the role, and that’s still very true. I talked earlier in this very post about how frighteningly well Stormfront works as a dissection of how white supremacy creeps its way into online discourse to get their target audience riled up enough to, say, shoot a convenience store clerk they think is a super-terrorist, or attempt a violent insurrection to prevent Biden from being confirmed as President, and how great Aya Cash is in that role. And in the last post we covered how Stormfront converting Homelander to her cause, which is a walkthrough on how Nazis are trying to take over America from within only with lighting and laser vision, was the season’s best story based on how spine-chillingly real it is despite the super satire.

The only way these two could be more relevant to real-world brewing crises is if one of them owned an oil company and was willing to burn the world to ashes to live in luxury through the fire.

(I’m sure the Last Men, brutally ruling Sweet Tooth’s plague-ravaged ruins of a fallen society, will be entirely spot on in, like, four years, maybe five, but for now it’s these two.)

Next Page: Holding out for some heroes

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