This one really only applies to shows that have Big Bad style nemeses, which isn’t all of them. It’s these two, yes, but not, like, Scrubs or ER or Boston Legal, by way of a for instance. But let’s talk shows with villains, and how they’re used in final seasons.
If they’re going to be a major part of the final season, they should have been a significant part of the show long-term. Think Wolfram and Hart in Angel, Tobias Whale in Black Lightning, God in Preacher, the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica. I imagine that the final season of The Flash will involve the Reverse Flash showing back up at least part-time.
(No I didn’t forget Kingpin in Daredevil. Daredevil didn’t know they were ending, they luckily drifted to a natural stopping point before the plug got pulled.)
If you don’t have that sort of series-long nemesis, then, well, the final season’s villain doesn’t really matter. The villain’s only job in this final season is to inform the end of the protagonist’s journey. On Arrow, the only Big Bad was the inevitability of Oliver’s foretold death in Crisis. You could argue the Big Bad was the Anti-Monitor, architect of the Crisis, but he’s in one whole episode, so no, it’s inevitability. Gotham’s final season brought in Bane and Nyssa Al Ghul for a weird knock-off of Dark Knight Rises, but they didn’t really matter. We didn’t spend a lot of time on them, certainly not at the expense of Penguin or Riddler or even Barbara. They were just there to help facilitate the biggest ever push to save Gotham and give Bruce that final nudge towards leaving to be Batman.
One show knew this about villains. One did not.
Lucifer: Inevitability and Inherited Trauma
For most of its run, Lucifer had a pattern of the Celestial of the Season. Someone from Heaven or the Bible would come to town, cause conflict, often but not always become sympathetic with an understandable motivation, then something would go wrong and hey the drama’s back. Amenadiel* wanted Lucifer back in Hell, Goddess wanted to get her home and family back, Cain was tired of his immortal life, Eve wanted to truly live again by reuniting with Lucifer, Michael… okay Michael was just a dick.
(*Look there’s an argument to be made that corrupt cop Malcolm Graham was the real Big Bad of season one but I say no, much as we all love him now, Amenadiel was the antagonist for the bulk of season one, Malcolm was just a problem he caused.)
Which brings us to how the seasons usually ended: either the Celestial of the Season accidentally unleashed something horrible (Amenadiel brings Malcolm back to life and it goes wrong, Eve accidentally causes a demon uprising) or they cross too many lines chasing their goal and slip back into villainy (ie the Goddess and Cain), or they’re Michael and, again, are just a complete dick. (He wasn’t a bad villain, just the least redeemable, possibly including Malcolm.)
Season six couldn’t be bothered with any of that. Our Celestial of the Season was Rory, who is not a villain. Sure she hates her father, sure she came to the past to kill him, but she drops the intended murder pretty quick, and she sure loves her extended family. There is an end-boss, yes, a particularly scummy mercenary who’d worked for Michael in season five (amusingly played by the same actor as God from Supernatural), but he doesn’t matter. He’s in two episodes. He’s just a means to an end, that end being a badass battle sequence and high stakes for the finale. He just adds some “Maybe it’s not a choice” possibilities to the big question of what could be worth Lucifer repeating the sins of his father?
It works. The puzzle pieces to Lucifer’s true purpose fall into place so subtly it’s like a magic trick, and having some French mercenary bring us home doesn’t feel forced or tacked on. It’s just enough Villain to get us where we need to be.
Okay. Nyxly. Man we spent a lot of time on Nyxly.
While trapped in the Phantom Zone, Kara befriends 5th dimensional imp Nyxly (I’m not typing her full name a second time) who was banished there by her father after attempting a coup with her brother, who sold her out when they lost. She’s very mad at men in power. And when it becomes clear she intends to scorch Earth on her way home for revenge, Kara foils her attempt to leave the Zone, so now Nyxly also hates Supergirl. But when the SuperFriends save Kara, Nyxly slips out along with them, then begins searching for the seven magic totems that when assembled form the Allstone which– okay yeah I feel myself losing you, you’re not wrong, it’s basically the Infinity Stones. So a standard “find the magic things to assemble the powerful whatnot and either save or rule the world” scenario, aided by a sidekick she picks up who, in an earlier episode, had worked with an alien douchebag trying to build one of those menageries of sentient aliens you’ve heard about, and that’s all just… just terrible.
She’s called “the most dangerous villain we’ve ever faced,” which, no, that is Reign erasure, and the bulk of Nyxly’s menace is that her henchman has a super stealth ship nobody can find with a transporter beam nobody can stop. She just teleports to wherever she wants to be, then vanishes the second it’s convenient. That’s not an interesting threat, that’s plot armour. That’s not a compelling villain, that’s Euron fucking Grayjoy and his magical teleporting Iron Fleet.
She is one of the worst villains this show has done. Nyxly doesn’t have a deep connection to Kara like her aunt Alura and uncle Non; she isn’t connected to a major character arc like Queen Rhea of Daxam; she doesn’t have a deep character arc of her own like Reign and her human half; she isn’t a philosophical threat to Supergirl like Agent Liberty and his hate mob. The best I can say is that she makes more sense than last season’s villains, Leviathan.
At one point, having destroyed a low-income apartment building out of spite, threatened a peace summit, and caused riots and chaos throughout National City, Nyxly explains to her hostage, reporter William Day, that she opposes people who think they’re righteous but only use their power to abuse people. William says “All the chaos you’ve sown, and you still think you serve justice?” She just casually shrugs and says “Yes.” From there, every attempt at complexity, nuance, and sympathy for Nyxly fell utterly flat. They just spelled out her narcissistic flaw then refused to have her acknowledge it, and she hadn’t been a good time up until then, but now nothing was going to make me like her even a little.
And what’s worse, for the last four episodes they have her team up with the show’s best villain, Jon Cryer’s Lex Luthor, and they kind of ruin Lex in the process. Lex is teaming up with Nyxly because he met her in the future (they were in the 31st century together, apparently?), they fell in love, but she died because she made the Allstone wrong and the Legion of Superheroes took her out. (Had they ruled the universe for 1000 years? Why was this so far in the future? This damned season…) Lex claims that Nyxly is the love of his life, but it’s a pure strain of “tell, not show.” They have no chemistry, the Nyxly we know barely tolerates him, but we’re told she means the world to him, and yes, we have now spent more time telling us there’s a relationship here we just have to trust them about than we have on giving Kara an arc.
There aren’t even decent action beats. From there, every fight basically boils down to the good and bad guys firing different coloured magic beams at each other until someone is knocked back. It’s dull and repetitive like most of Nyxly’s “I’m right despite all of my actions, give me the magic rocks” storyline.
Plus she had this smug little giggle whenever she thought she was right or someone tried to threaten her and I did not care for it. Which is another issue with pairing her and Lex: now they’re two different flavours of unbreakably smug. It’s like that time I tried mixing cake flavoured vodka with whipped cream flavoured vodka. The flavours cancelled each other out and it just tasted like bad vodka.
Nyxly was not a good villain, by any standard, and she didn’t inform Kara’s arc at all because she didn’t have one. She really made getting to the big finale a slog.
Next Page: Pals and Gals