Okay, the leads, the head honchos, the big tomatos, and ending on these categories will definitely go better than when the Oscars ended on Best Actor because they wanted to cash in on the sentiment of Chadwick Boseman winning posthumously and then he didn’t.
I will never be done mocking what a spectacular own-goal the ending of the 2021 Oscars were, never. There are so many layers. But anyway…
Best Male Lead
Not an easy category to win, because if there’s one thing comic book adaptions don’t lack it’s male leads. But just because there’s a glut doesn’t mean there’s none worth celebrating. Many, in fact. Enough that narrowing it to three was a challenge. My honourable mentions would all have Gold Medalled when these Comic TV Award Show blogs started.
Honourable Mentions: Jeremy Renner really sold the world weariness of a Clint Barton 12 years past Avengers in Hawkeye; Karl Urban and Jack Quaid did great as Butcher and Hughie made their various bad choices in an attempt to bring down Homelander on The Boys; Brendan Fraser and Matt Bomer keep doing excellent work on Doom Patrol, as voices or otherwise; Elliot Page really did great, subtle, not over-played work on Victor Hargreaves’ transition on Umbrella Academy.
So if that murderer’s row of talent are honourable mentions, the podium must be impressive. Well, clearly I think it is, this isn’t the Oscars, we take our short lists seriously around here.
Bronze: John Cena as Christopher Smith, Peacemaker
What didn’t John Cena pull off in Peacemaker. When it was time to be funny, he’s very funny. When it was time to tug on the heartstrings? He was gutting. And a lot of the time he was both! He found the funny in episode seven, when Peacemaker was obviously spiralling into despair, and more than that he managed to make that episode’s triumphant moment still be sad. Peacemaker hugging a CG eagle was Father Chuck levels of heartwarming. Also, to nobody’s surprise, he is brilliant in the fight scenes. Even, nay, especially when Peacemaker is getting worked over. John Cena is not a man afraid of losing a fight scene. Look, Peacemaker’s redemption arc wouldn’t have made the podium for Best Story if Cena weren’t selling every stage of it.
Silver: Tom Ellis as Lucifer Morningstar, Lucifer
I mean come on. You knew this was coming, right? Tom Ellis has never not made the podium for this role, even back in season one, when Lucifer was my guilty pleasure and not appointment viewing. Even in the one year there wasn’t a Lucifer season to rank, he only didn’t make the podium for Best Guest Star because he got rolled in with the rest of the Crisis cameos. He has simply always been that good in this role, there was no chance he didn’t show up for his final ten episodes to play it. His determination to prove he wasn’t an absentee father, his emotional farewells to the entire supporting cast, his desperate plea to Rory to not end up a Devil like him… it’s tour de force farewell to this character that hits hard on every level, and reminds us why we were so determined to see more of this guy that we convinced Netflix to save it from cancellation.
Gold: Oscar Isaac as Steven Grant/Marc Spector, Moon Knight
Oscar Isaac is doing double duty for the first season of Moon Knight, and he’s killing it as both characters. The well-meaning naiveté of Steven Grant, the hard edge of Marc Spector, the two characters are very different, and it is never less than crystal clear which he’s playing (even without the accent). As much as they try to sell us on Layla, the core of this show is the relationship between Marc and Steven, two very different men sharing one body, and they couldn’t have asked for a better performance to pull it off. Isaac was so good at this that when it looked like Steven might be lost, people worried for a minute that the actor was being written out of the show, before remembering that he and Marc were played by the same guy. Lots of people can play different characters on one show (two of whom have made the podium here for doing so); few can make people forget it’s the same actor.
Here’s hoping Marvel is convincing Oscar Isaac to do more Moon Knight stuff in the near future. And that it leads to this.
Best Female Lead
If two decades and a bit of community theatre have taught me anything, it’s that there are oceans of talented actresses out there not getting to flex on the level they deserve due to western media’s obsession with while, cishet, male leads. Okay I’m coming at the patriarchy a lot on this page, but I’m not wrong.
Honourable Mentions: I’d have loved to have Caity Lotz as Sarah Lance in Legends of Tomorrow on the podium one last time, as it’s not like she ever stopped putting her all into that role; given how Melissa Benoist lived on this podium for most of Supergirl’s run I’d hoped that she’d be back here for her final season, sadly they forgot to write her a story arc; May Calamawy was a worthy second lead on Moon Knight; Brec Bassinger is always a solid lead and extra impressive for her age on Stargirl.
Bronze: Danielle Brooks as Leota Adebayo, Peacemaker
While the best character arc on Peacemaker is Christopher Smith’s redemption arc, a very close second is Leota Adebayo. A rookie to black ops, but dragged into the family business by her mother, Amanda Waller, she’s the most caring soul on the squad, first to reach out and connect with people, first to see there might be an okay guy under Peacemaker’s forced macho bluster, but also forced into the greatest act of betrayal. Unconvinced she’s made for this job, afraid of what being great at this job could mean, trying to cling to the one good thing in her life (her wife and dogs) when the dark nature of the assignment becomes a wedge between them. Forced to confront the fact that her mother might not be the best person, and maybe her mother’s approach isn’t the best. A great arc that led to a great conclusion, and Brooks was perfect at it all the way along. She had me hooked right from “I know in my mind I’m not supposed to be giving a speech right now…” a moment that mostly exists, from what I can tell, because James Gunn kept throwing additional lines at her and she kept knocking them out of the park.
Silver: Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel
Man what a find Iman Vellani was. It’s her first role and she strutted into it with the confidence of a seasoned movie star. Vellani brought a seemingly endless supply of infectious charm to Kamala Khan, a teen girl just trying to do right by her community, family, and if there’s time the world, even though all of those things seem to be allied against her at times. Kamala gets her family and community and basically everyone but the racist cops allied behind her just by being unrelentedly good and kind and decent, and watching Vellani in the role, I thought “No, yeah, I get it, makes sense.”
She’s everything I always loved about Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl only moreso, I hope we see a lot more of her.
There was just one debut hero who I feel is a nose ahead.
Gold: Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop, Hawkeye
Remember back in 2010, when the Coens remade True Grit, and put Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin, and Matt Damon in it, then this 12-year girl stole the whole movie from them? Well,
Pepperidge Farms remembers I sure remember it, that was Hailee Steinfeld, and it wasn’t a one-time thing. She’s perfect on this show, a thoroughly loveable screw-up who doesn’t just hold her own against fellow Oscar nominees Jeremy Renner, Florence Pugh, and Vera Farmiga, plus fan-favourite Marvel villain Vincent D’Onofrio, she shines in every scene. Florence Pugh is great as Yelena, yes, but she’s better as Yelena because Steinfeld is such a great scene partner and they play off each other perfectly.
Why haven’t they announced five more Kate Bishop projects yet? I need at least five more Kate Bishop projects.
Next time… let’s rank some shows, y’all!