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.
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