Two TV series I’ve loved both ended recently. Both were based (to varying degrees) on comics from DC. Both ran for six seasons of differing lengths. Both were saved from premature cancellation. Both have been near the top of my annual comic TV rankings at various points. Both have had lead actors so great that their title characters have regularly appeared on the Best Lead podiums, with supporting characters often doing likewise. Both knew they were heading into their last season. Both had a role to play in Crisis on Infinite Earths okay I’m stretching these parallels too far now I see it too.
It’s Lucifer and Supergirl. We’re talking Lucifer and Supergirl.
One ended with a tight ten episodes, a steady string of comedic highs and powerful emotional punches that were so moving towards the end they’ve lived rent-free in my head ever since, compelling me to start a series rewatch from the pilot. The other… went a different way.
Lucifer started on Fox, seeming to be just another murder-of-the-week procedural, only the straight-laced cop’s quirky partner was the literal Devil instead of a mystery writer or guy who’s good with math or fake psychic or less fun fake psychic or fake psychic who’s actually a zombie, then stealth-transformed into an incredibly watchable deconstruction of biblical figures, and a compelling examination of family, love, justice, how we build our own Hells, and what it means to be human. Also sex jokes and musical numbers. It got cancelled after three seasons, and seemed doomed enough that I wrote a eulogy for it, but was saved by Netflix and came back to do three admittedly shorter seasons that enjoyed some freedoms from network standards (less than you might expect but far from none) and turned out to be possibly their best work.
(I say “possibly” because it’s hard to declare any season lacking regular appearances by Tricia Helfer as either Lucifer’s scheming divine mother or her slightly unhinged host body Charlotte Richards to be their best.)
Then it looked like season five would be it… but Netflix said “No, hang on, one more. We want one more.” So we got two consecutive seasons of series-endgame high stakes, and it was delightful.
Supergirl started on CBS, the third entry from the Greg Berlanti Superhero-Based Action Fun Factory, known better as the Arrowverse, though was not yet part of said Arrowverse. It was in the same mold as The Flash but tried to stand alone… until ratings slid and they had Flash drop by for a crossover bump. CBS was willing to call it a day after one year, but kid sibling network the CW picked it up, bringing Supergirl into the Arrowverse proper. The move to Vancouver and reduced budget meant some lost cast members, new sets, streamlined story elements, and dropping a Supergirl/Jimmy Olsen romance that lacked spark. They became the most unabashedly political superhero show, taking stands for immigrants and refugees, striving for quality LGBTQ+ representation (if never enough for the Supercorp ‘shippers, we’ll circle back to that), crusading for hope over fear, compassion over hatred, lifting each other up instead of yielding to cynicism.
I’ve talked in the past about how a show in its final season that knows it’s in its final season can be a sight to see. They have the chance to pull some big moves, to look back at how they get here and build to a conclusion that pays off how far we’ve come. Or you can go the Game of Thrones route and screw the pooch so hard you wipe out any affection your viewership ever had.
So let’s look at these two shows, how they approached their last season, and through comparisons to other final seasons of note, perhaps I can show how one show’s final season soared, and one kinda tripped on their own cape.
Let’s start with the title characters, because hoo boy is that the elephant in the room for one of them.
A trip down memory lane to the Warner Bros. Studio results in a moment of pure joy.
In the summers of 1995-1997, I spent three amazing, magical, life-changing long weekends in Los Angeles. In October of 2018, once my memories of LA were old enough to get drunk there, I returned.
These are the stories of my return to the City of Angels.
And the moment of pure joy.
But First, a Prologue
There are moments. Simple, perfect, magical moments, moments you know are fleeting but will live on as treasured memories. Sometimes they sneak up on you, like the moment when Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher stepped through the doors of the Daily Planet to greet us back in ’95. Some you get to see coming. In the Heracles tour of 2004, when we reached Edmonton we started playing to full houses, which meant that the curtain call would involve about 100 people cheering for something I wrote, directed, and had just starred in, and man I devoured that rush each time.
That’s all you can do, really. Live in that moment as hard as you can. Drink in every detail. Savour every second of this perfect moment you’re given, for time’s arrow moves ever forward.
No I’m not done with BoJack Horseman references. No I’m not going to explain my BoJack Horseman references. It’s all on Netflix, you only think you have better things to do.
The Tour Begins
When we last left off, I was on my way to the Warner Bros. Studio, home of great memories from LAFF ’95 and ’96.
There was no chance this tour was going to live up to my previous tours. I knew that. Obviously I knew that. I wasn’t here with dozens of like-minded fans, something that was made clear to me when our guide polled our group as to what WB shows we enjoyed. “Who here likesFriends?” he asked us, receiving a round of applause and cheers. “Gilmore Girls?” Less applause but not none. “Big Bang Theory?” enough applause my eyes rolled. And then the one I’d been waiting for.
“WOO!” I reply. Alone. I look around at the silent tourists surrounding me. “Just… just me, then?” I ask. “Okay, but y’all are missing out…”
So no dozens of fellow fans. No camaraderie, as I don’t exactly excel at bonding with strangers. But more to the point, no pop-ins by the cast like in ’95, no producers doing Q&As like… all three years. (Even in ’97, the summer after Lois and Clarkwas cancelled, writer/producer Tim Minear, who you might know as the co-creator of Firefly, came to hang out with us at LAFF.)
But I could hope. Hey, I follow Lucifer’s Aimee Garcia on Instagram, they run into tours sometimes, and season four was mid-filming when I was there.
It did not, however, take us long to reach what was once known as Stars Hollow, home of the Gilmore Girls.
We saw the strip of grass, about ten or fifteen feet long, backed by trees, that doubled for Central Park anytime the Friends headed that way. Visiting Central Park itself a couple of weeks later, I did not spot much similarity, but hey, the illsion works.
Catering to My Interests
Another thing our guide asked about was who liked Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and I think we know my answer was “I do!”
Back in the 90s, I was on a very famous as the tour kicked off, the costumes for Batman Forever were proudly displayed. And I remember thinking “Wow but Robin’s codpiece looks bigger than it could possibly need to be.” This style of costume showcase has only expanded since then, as our tour stopped by a two-story reliquary, which I thought of as The Hall of Franchises Warner Bros is Choosing to Remain Proud Of, Despite Some Diminishing Returns on Recent Entries.
In other words, the DCEU and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts.
Yes, fine, Justice League underperformed, and 2 Fantastic 2 Beasts was a pile of world-building in search of a plot, but it was still super (sorry) neat to see all of the costumes and props from the DC and Wizarding World movies… also two costumes from an upcoming entry that might… MIGHT… not let me down.
I did not bother getting a photo of Cyborg’s “costume” from Justice League. That was not anybody’s costume. Ray Fisher wore a motion capture bodysuit and we all know it.
We also saw the Hall of Batmobiles, where I got to switch on the Bat-Signal.
All of this was fun and cool and put a smile on my face.
But it wasn’t The Moment.
In between Franchise Hall and the Batmobile Garage, we pulled over. Our guide was going to try to get us into a sound stage. Not just any sound stage, but Stage 16, the tallest on the lot, one of the tallest in the world. So that’s neat. He made no mention of what was in it.
A chant began in the back of my head. A focus of will, of hope, a plea to a universe that normally turns a deaf ear to my requests.
“Lux. Lux. Lux,” the chant went. Lux is, of course, Lucifer Morningstar’s nightclub on my beloved Lucifer. “Lux. Lux. Lux.”
As our guide confirmed that Stage 16 was good for a visit, I tried to brace myself for disappointment. It could be anything. Not Mom or… whichever reality show films at the WB, we passed those stages earlier. But it could be something from The Big Bang Theory, or All American, the only CW show I can think of that doesn’t film in Vancouver. That one certainly came up a lot. In fact the only cast member we saw on the tour was from All American, or so I assume, because even with the Halloween event taking over chunks of the lot there can’t be that many reasons someone would walk from a sound stage to a trailer dressed as a cheerleader.
I don’t know who it was. Don’t ask me. I don’t watch All American, I couldn’t pick the non-Taye Diggs cast members out of a lineup.
Anyway. While the guide explained the rules… absolutely positively no photography of any kind, if we’re caught taking pictures they’ll all but factory reset the phone to delete the photo… I kept telling myself not to get excited, and just appreciate wherever we end up. As much as possible. I do not care about All American.
But even as I did that, the chant continued, trying to will hope into reality… “Lux. Lux. Lux. Lux. Lux. Lux.”
We stepped through the door. My eyes adjusted to the light.
Didn’t even need to see the sign at first. I’d know that bartop anywhere. And those couches. And that balcony. The sign just confirmed everything, erased all doubt.
“So,” asked the guide, “Where’s my Lucifer fan?”
I responded with all of the calm and poise of Buddy from Elf being told Santa was coming out.
“Lux. This is Lux. We’re in Lux.” I was beaming as I surveyed the room, drinking in every detail. The guide described the filming process, how each scene is shot repeatedly from each angle, but I was just… being here. Being present. Savouring every second that I was in Lucifer’s nightclub, the room where Lucifer met Chloe, the very spot where Cain and Amenadiel fought, right near the spot where Lucifer caught his mother dancing on a table.
You live in the moment as hard as you can, for as long as it lasts.
The guide felt that the filming process would be best explained with two volunteers representing the actors, so he could describe how the lights and camera would be perfectly positioned for one of them, then they’d reset and film, say, the Chloe close-ups. I was volunteer number one, being the group’s Lucifer fan, and a girl there with her dad was volunteer number two. After explaining the lighting set-up, the guide turned to me expectantly and said “Action.”
I did the only thing that made sense.
I slipped into my best Tom Ellis impression, saying “Well, Detective, I hardly see how that’s relevant to the case. May as well relax and have a drink!”
I am… very grateful no cast member was anywhere nearby, because we shouldn’t be assuming that my “best” Tom Ellis impression was, you know… good in some way.
After that was the Batmobiles, and then the lot museum, with displays on how green screens work, clay models from Corpse Bride, costumes and props from Beetlejuice, Jack Warner’s phone book, all sorts of stuff from all sorts of WB projects…
But it was hard to top those few minutes in Lux.
Good day. Great day. Not even those mixtape pushers or the long drive back to Anaheim could compromise it.
And then I ended up watching Netflix or something instead of using the hotel pool. Look, in my defense, I’d been waiting since the previous June to finish off The People Vs. OJ Simpson. Given how little I cared about that trial when it was happening, I got weirdly into the TV show based on it…
I came for the nostalgia, but I received a gift.
Of course, this wouldn’t be the only thing I did that week inspired by a TV show I watched. We’ll discuss the other two next time.