Rookie of the Year
Sometimes a new character arrives on a show and just brings it to another level, be it Tricia Helfer as Lucifer’s mother (still the patron saint of this category), Nick Zano bursting into the second season of Legends of Tomorrow like the ingredient we’d never known was always missing, or Katie McGrath’s Lena Luthor inspiring, for good or ill, the most passionate ‘shippers on the internet since someone on Tumblr claimed that not ‘shipping Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter was literally the holocaust, I wish I were kidding.
Who did that this year?
Honourable Mention: Okay so maybe the Shade wasn’t a transformative addition to Stargirl, maybe I just overvalue Jonathan Cake as the Shade because way back when, in James Robinson’s legendary Starman comic, the Shade was one of the best characters, and now here was a note-perfect version on Stargirl… which makes sense since James Robinson was a producer on the show… but that did happen and I loved it, so honourable mention.
Bronze: Brianna Hildebrand as Aurora “Rory” Morningstar, Lucifer
So back when the Lucifer writers thought they were wrapping up with season five, they brought in God (last year’s silver medalist in this category) to resolve the most epic daddy issues in creation. With season six, they had to figure out how you follow that. And the answer? You flip the bitch and make Lucifer the neglectful absent father! Enter Rory, Lucifer and Chloe’s daughter from the future, who effortlessly transitioned from sinister newcomer to utterly sympathetic. Her pain and anger are easily justified, she throws Lucifer completely off his game and introduces a doomsday clock, and with only nine episodes, Hildebrand convincingly brings Rory from wanting her father to suffer to willing to turn Devil herself to protect him, and every step of the journey lands, and the climax makes me tear up a little thinking about it. Lucifer was great at introducing new celestials, hence making the podium in this category four out of five eligible seasons, and they ended strong. Rory held her own in an ensemble with absolutely no weak links.
Silver: Michelle Gomez as Madame Rouge, Doom Patrol
When Doom Patrol started, Niles “Chief” Caulder was what united the team and, if only through his absence, pushed them into doing “save the world” stuff, but after the first season revealed he was the architect of the most of the main characters’ maladies, and the second season revealed his motivation for doing that, there wasn’t much left for the Chief. So how do you fill the Timothy Dalton-shaped hole in your cast? You get the always compelling, never boring, utterly singular Michelle Gomez to become the new unifying factor that keeps the Doom Patrol from wandering off into their individual dramas, which you know they like doing. Madame Rouge’s amnesia in the present, ties to the blandly evil Bureau of Normalcy in the past, and potential for redemption in the future were a highly compelling part of season three, and I’m super excited to see where they take her in season four and… maybe just that. It is… it is a rough time to stan DC projects, I tell ya. Anyway Michelle Gomez is always amazing and Madame Rouge was a fun addition, glad she’s back for a least (most?) one more season.
Gold: Jensen Ackles as Solider Boy, The Boys
For two seasons, the worst part of Vought was Homelander, our primary villain… not that Vought in general wasn’t competitive… but lest we believe that Vought’s problems somehow magically started with the Seven, season three introduces us to the previous team, Payback (yeah it’s an Avengers riff, the comics were even less subtle), and its leader, Soldier Boy. Who, Captain America style, returns to the world after being presumed dead for decades. Soldier Boy is the dark side of toxic 50s patriarchy brought into the modern day, something no Captain America adaptation has been willing to address. Solider Boy is the personification of the wrong choices we make deciding the high road doesn’t get results, like using Agent Orange to flush out the Viet Cong. Soldier Boy is what happens when strength is mistaken for righteousness, when abuse is mistaken for leadership. Soldier Boy is a man wracked with trauma, from his upbringing, from his captivity, from being betrayed by those close to him, but who has been given no tools to process it because boys aren’t supposed to cry. And Jensen Ackles nailed every part of it. He was funny when needed, scary the rest of the time, and fully captured the rage, trauma, and struggles to deal with the 2020s every step of the way. Also he nailed the fight scenes, as we discussed last time.
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