Not everyone loved that all the CW shows felt the need to give their title characters a whole squad of supporting pals that, one by one, become costumed vigilantes themselves, even when one of the main characters is a god-powered Kryptonian, making it hard to see how a regular human with a fancy shield and two months’ fight training was going to tip the scales. But what would Liv Moore have been without Clive and Ravi? Who’s Superman without Lois? Without an ensemble Legends of Tomorrow would just have been Rip Hunter: Unsuccessful Time Assassin. Not to mention supporting casts save us from ham-fisted voice over narration. So let’s celebrate some supporting lads and ladies.
Look when there are enough non-binary characters in these shows to warrant a category I will add one for them, but at time of writing it’s just Desire from Sandman (not eligible this year) and Danny the Ambulance (formerly Street, Brick) from Doom Patrol. Even the sentient floating cube from Umbrella Academy was gendered.
Best Male Supporting Character
Some of my favourite characters have turned up in this category. Ray Palmer, Oswald Cobblepot, Cassidy, the wonderful Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti. Are these ones as good? Let’s see!
Honourable Mentions: Tony Dalton was hella fun as maybe-villain Jack Duquesne on Hawkeye; Nick Zano was always a joy on Legends of Tomorrow and I appreciated how low-key and undramatic his exit arc was (if ultimately unnecessary, they wrote Nate off the show in what turned out to be the series finale); F. Murray Abraham brought the right level of hostile arrogance as the voice of Khonshu on Moon Knight; and while he was perfectly adorable as the tech genius friend with a crush on Ms. Marvel, we won’t talk about Bruno.
Couldn’t resist, sorry.
Bronze: Adam Rayner as Tal-Rho, Superman and Lois
I didn’t care for Adam Rayner’s Morgan Edge when we first met him in season one. Something about him just made me annoyed I’d have to wait a whole season to see him brought down a sufficient number of pegs. And yeah… the reveal that instead of Diet Rupert Murdoch he was Superman’s half-brother Tal-Rho (from their mutual mother’s failed arranged marriage before she met Jor-El) on a mission to restore Krypton at the expense of Earth was kind of interesting, and then he became the Eradicator, and that was neat… but I was unprepared for where they’d take him in season two.
With some time alone to think, Tal-Rho goes from wanting to enslave the world to deciding that Kal-El is his only remaining family, and that Kal’s family is also his family, so he gradually turns from “enemy that cannot be trusted” to full on ally against Aly Allston’s Parasite. It was a redemption arc I didn’t know I wanted, but that I enjoyed thoroughly, and Rayner walked us through it pretty expertly. He had more of a sense of humour, he walked the line well between “Can we trust him” and “Just give him a chance,” he sold the arc of two men who had been mortal enemies learning to be family. Also Bizarro Tal-Rho was super fun, that was a plus.
Silver: Laz Alonso as MM, The Boys
We haven’t seen many The Boys cast members in the supporting categories. Maybe because it’s hard to pick a standout from an ensemble that talented. But while the whole squad was getting good material this year, there was something extra next-level about MM’s arc: the trauma of his family being collateral damage for Solider Boy when he was a child; the re-emergence of his OCD as the trauma is dragged to the surface by Soldier Boy’s entrance to the narrative; the growing feud with Butcher over his tactics against Homelander; and having to watch his ex-wife’s new boyfriend (husband?) go crazy for Homelander and attempt to Q-pill (or the Vought equivalent) MM’s daughter. And Laz Alonso plays the growing stress of MM’s existence perfectly, always torn between trying to walk the high road for his daughter (and maybe get back his ex) and being dragged down to the low road by Butcher’s crusade against Homelander. MM’s a tour de force this year and it warrants a nod.
Gold: Freddie Stroma as Vigilante, Peacemaker
An 11th hour recast, Freddie Stroma worked out perfectly. Clearly meant to be somewhere on the neurodivergent spectrum, Adrian “Vigilante” Chase bonded with Peacemaker over their shared love of extreme violence towards crime, but as Peacemaker finds he’s losing his taste for murder, Adrian isn’t that friend who’s always offering cigarettes to you while knowing you’re trying to quit smoking, he’s just trying to support Peacemaker any way he can. Even if he’s a little mad Peacemaker was willing to let him be tortured and nearly have a toe cut off.
A moment I love that really sums up everything Stroma was able to do with the character is when Peacemaker is being told to assassinate a Senator and his family, and even though something clearly and truly unsettling and inhuman is happening with them, he can’t pull the trigger… so Adrian quietly steps in, asks for the rifle, and takes over to help his friend. It’s a kind of sweet and touching moment, Vigilante coming through for his best pal… and then it immediately shifts back to hilariously disturbing as Vigilante starts humming happily to himself as he picks off the family one at a time. That’s Freddie Stroma as Vigilante; he can be sweet, he can be very moving, for a remorseless killer he’s extremely loveable, and he always manages to circle back around to hilarious. He was a real treat.
I mean if nothing else he’d have clinched the podium just for this scene, where he infiltrates the local jail specifically to dispatch Peacemaker’s dad and his white supremacist cronies, and Gunn gives us our first full look at Adrian Chase: murder savant.
I will not be accepting critiques on how this show “Disrespected the character” from anyone who a) thinks the best cinematic Batman is the one who guns down Russian mercs by the dozen but doesn’t kill the Joker, or b) wants the DCEU to keep using that stupid black Superman costume because it looks “badass.” So those choices are just fine, but you require strict adherence to classic comic portrayals for this 80s D-lister, sure pal.
Best Female Supporting Character
Honourable Mentions: Colby Minifie did a lot for Vought exec Ashley’s stress-spiral as she tried to wield power over anyone she could to cope with being stuck under the increasingly dark whims of Homelander; Amy Pemberton was a lot of fun as newly-human Gideon on Legends of Tomorrow; Rachel Skarsten remained the MVP of Batwoman as Alice, caught more than ever between madness and redemption.
Bronze: Aimee Garcia as Ella Lopez, Lucifer
I’ve never really known what made the Lucifer writers decide the first season ensemble was missing a regular human CSI to be part of the group, but I have never denied that they were 100% correct, because that choice gave us endlessly positive, chatty, hug-happy Ella Lopez, who was a treat to watch every time she was on camera. In the final season, she not only has to learn to love and trust again shortly after her last boyfriend turned out to be a serial killer, and as soon as she deals with that, she notices that the Throne of Heaven sits empty and the world seems to be ending as a result, and that all of her closest friends are probably in the loop on this and haven’t been telling her. I like that of the five human primary characters who learn the truth about angels and demons over the course of the show, only Ella pieced it together on her own; I like that she’s also one of the only ones not to freak out that her pal Lucifer is the literal Devil… instead she’s just upset that nobody trusted her enough to let her into the inner circle. Which works as a thing since they actually needed her to point out that Lucifer leaving Heaven Godless was having increasingly poor consequences.
Ella was a delight for five seasons, and I love the she went out the sweet, kind, supportive smartest person in the room.
Silver: Jennifer Holland as Emilia Harcourt, Peacemaker
Other than Peacemaker himself, who was forced into service to stay out of jail, nobody in what would become the 11th Street Kids felt more trapped by this assignment in its early days than Harcourt. She and John Economos are both pretty sure they got this assignment as punishment for aiding Task Force X in fighting Starro in The Suicide Squad, and given how that mission went, is also pretty sure there’s a knife waiting for their backs. For all she knows, this whole team is being set up to be slaughtered so some other team can do the real work, it would not be the first time Amanda Waller pulled that. And on top of everything, she has to deal with aggressive flirtations from the asshole that killed Rick Flag. But as the series progresses, she reluctantly bonds to her teammates, forms connections, begins to believe in the team and the mission, and even finds that Peacemaker has something greater to him, underneath a lot of bluster and lack of social grace. And through this, grows to become the one person everyone looks to for leadership. And Holland’s great in the role, great with a one-liner, great in the softer moments (in the “House of Pain” sequence, she manages to show a lot of sympathy to Vigilante with very few words), and crushing it in the fight scenes.
If this isn’t Jennifer Holland’s breakout role, it should be.
Gold: Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova, Hawkeye
I was honestly torn on whether to count Yelena as a Supporting Character or Guest Star. I can’t count on Marvel Studios to know the difference, not after crediting Don Cheadle as a series regular for six minutes of screen time in one episode of Falcon and the Winter Soldier. But she’s in half the season, and maybe one of those episodes she’s in one scene and we don’t know how much of that was a stunt double, but in the other two she’s absolutely vital, so here we are.
Yelena’s scenes might be the best part of the whole danged series. Every moment Pugh and Hailee Steinfeld are on screen together crackles, they play perfectly off each other. The way Yelena attempts to bond with Kate while still absolutely threatening her to stay out of Yelena’s way is just perfect, their fights are great, I want these two playing off each other over and over, they’re perfect. And then she also provides one of the most emotional parts of the finale when she finally confronts Clint about what happened to Natasha. Black Widow introduced Yelena, but Pugh’s performance Hawkeye went even further to solidifying her as a welcome part of post Endgame Marvel.
Next Page: Bring on the bad guys