Okay so here’s some other things these two shows did in their final seasons that don’t have some thematic similarity.
Something something final season of Chuck something something
Lucifer: “What else can we do?”
So for what they thought was going to be their final season, the Lucifer writers took a look at their cast, thought “They sure love to sing and dance,” and decided to do a musical episode. And sure it was a jukebox musical, but it was still fun as hell and Debbie Gibson was in it. So how to follow that up?
How about Lucifer and Chloe get turned into cartoons?
They managed a fun bit of self-parody when the gang finds out about Dr. Linda’s book, and the actors get to live out her interpretation of how the team works. Particular high points were Maze and Dan’s differing views of an old incident, and Ella running up to say “Science gak, science gak, science gak!” as Linda was clearly going to fill that part in later.
And, since this was a show starring cops released in 2021, we needed ACAB content. That’s not a complaint. I’m not dragging them for doing an arc on entrenched racism in law enforcement. Even
Daddy Issues Hannibal Prodigal Son knew that you can’t do a show about cops right now without addressing the racist elephant in the room, so Lucifer took that head on as Amenadiel, having joined the LAPD to help make a difference, came face-to-face with race-based prejudice, and had to make his white (or Latina) cop friends see the ugly side of the LAPD they’d been ignoring.
Which actually does make a bit of a segue to–
Supergirl: Half-assed attempts
Supergirl didn’t go full ACAB, but did attempt to do a “defund the police” narrative of sorts… in this, the first and only season where none of the SuperFriends work for a government agency in charge of monitoring and investigating aliens. Weird timing. So instead, it’s superheroing itself that gets the critique. Which… well… how does that go…
The first big moment is, of course, “Blindspots,” where Kelly Olsen takes the team to task for ignoring the plight of a low-income, majority-black neighbourhood in favour of chasing Nyxly before she blows up another building out of spite… you remember Nyxly, she’s the one they tell us is “the greatest threat they’ve ever faced,” that Nyxly… the one Kara blows off journalistic appointments meant to help stop a war over, that Nyxly… Anyway I don’t have a problem with this story in principle. Kelly deciding to become Guardian because neglected portions of society need a street-level hero who looks like them, with a nudging from Arrow’s John Diggle, works well. I can even roll with her snapping at the entire team over being unheard and overlooked, because sometimes white allies need a reminder that saying “I’m not racist, I’m one of the good ones” then going back to writing your silly blog overthinking superhero shows isn’t accomplishing anything. It just, with eight episodes and change left in the entire series, felt a little late in the game for a second-tier supporting cast member to get a superhero origin. And given that Supergirl herself still didn’t have a storyline, definitely late in the game for her to just be a prop, standing with the group and observing Alex’s Girlfriend have more of a story than the title character.
From there, they sometimes built in a recurring theme where the SuperFriends took a drastic step to stop Nyxly or some side-effect of Nyxly’s rampage, but then authorities and civilians both protested. To keep a nightmare monster (I’m not explaining, no time) from destroying a nearby nuclear plant, Brainiac Five seals the city and monster in a dome. The governor objects, people protest, because they hate a day or two of dome life more than being Chernobyled. Later, their plan to stop Nyxly involves super-charging Kara’s powers in a way that will darken the sun for six months, and okay, yes, that one’s a little extreme, maybe asking Batwoman or Flash or even goddamned Wild Dog for backup would have been easier, or telling Alex “We’re not screwing over the entire universe so you can get the adopted daughter you’ve known for a cup of coffee back for thirty seconds.” Anyway when Supergirl’s improved hearing picks up the quiet begging of the people to please not do this, she abandons the plan.
Which means no consequences for the sun. Apparently six minutes of solar flare, sun goes dim for six months and Supergirl’s super-charged; five minutes and the sun is fine and her powers immediately go back to normal. Like so many late-season plot moves, it makes no sense, was clearly not thought through, and just felt like wasted time. See also Lex arranging the magic-rocks-for-alien-kid hostage exchange on a bridge in a location where apparently neither magic not superpowers nor tech works… then betrays the SuperFriends by blowing up the bridge with remote-triggered bombs. Pretty sure that all counts as tech.
Shortly thereafter, the Allstone is split into three shards, and Lex, Nyxly, and Supergirl all race to grab them, and I’m thinking “If only one of you had superspeed, Kara.” Just… dumb and lazy.
In the end, when things are at their lowest, Kara sees Orlando, an ex-con single father from Kelly’s plotline, doing one of the inspirational speeches Kara normally does, and sees that it’s helping save people from Lex and Nyxly’s magical shenanigans (also not explaining, no time), and realizes that the key isn’t punching villains, the key, the true purpose of the SuperFriends, is uplifting people to save themselves. They’ve been crossing too many ethically questionable lines to have the power to fight Nyxly, when what they need to do is return power to the people. Which they do via a big speech and crossing an ethically questionable line, mind-controlling people into being receptive to it.
Nice idea, but… Kara saved humanity from her uncle Non’s mind-control satellite Myriad through a big speech. She saved Earth from Reign the World-Killer through an emotional speech to Reign’s human side, Sam Arias. She stopped Agent Liberty and his secret benefactor Lex Luthor through a CatCo article, which is basically a big speech written down and with citable sources. She saved humanity from Leviathan with a big speech. The only time saving the world came down to just violence was season two. And then she still needs to punch villains afterwards. This whole “Uplift the people” plotline, with its montage of everyone opening a foundation or outreach group… I don’t see how anything has changed. They’re doing what they always did, but now they all have to attend board meetings. The whole idea is like a chocolate Easter rabbit. Sweet, but hollow.
They tried to make a meaningful statement, but fell short, because they were too busy with side-characters having Big Moments and a failed effort to make Nyxly sympathetic to do the work to sell it.
In a similar vein, we have Brainiac Five’s 11th hour storyline, in which he learns that when Nyxly is stopped, he has to return to the 31st century in order to save his species by merging with their planetary supercomputer, sacrificing both his relationship with Nia and his corporeal existence. Nia and Brainy try to make the best of what time they have left before he needs to leave the 21st with Mon-El… then he comes back for the wedding, and says he’s back to stay. Did he find another solution? Another way to save his people? No, he just said “shine it” and came back, figuring that the future’s not written and he can figure that out later. Why, I say why, I’m asking why they even bothered to include this plot if they were just going to undo it without explanation? It’s drama for the sake of drama with zero payoff and it just left a bad aftertaste because we were now way past having any amount of time to burn on go-nowhere meaningless side-character subplots.
Next page: Okay wrapping up.