The 8 Things I Want To See Most In Season Two Of ‘The Gifted’

The Gifted is everything to me. It may not have the production value of shows like Gotham, Legion, or Krypton, or the lighthearted fun of Legends of Tomorrow, but it’s a rare example of a comic adaptation that, as unlikely as it is, manages to be well executed and faithful enough to the spirit of the source material to please the fans. Here is a non-exhaustive list of things I’m hoping to see in season two.

8. Rachel Summers

Rachel_Summers_(Earth-811)_from_Civil_War_II_X-Men_Vol_1_3_001.png

Before the first episode with Esme came out, all we knew about Skyler Samuels’s character was that she was a telepath, and that, combined with the fact that the Hound program had already been introduced, made me think something along the lines of, oh my God, Rachel-Rachel-Rachel, yeeesssss, remember how to breathe. Guys…It wasn’t Rachel.

I was talking to someone a while ago about both The Gifted and the X-Men movies, and we bemoaned the lack of Rachel and the disrespect for the Summers family. She didn’t appear in Days of Future Past, despite the fact that was her first appearance in the comics and she had a central role. Here, they actually went with a Roderick Campbell and the Hound program plot without bringing up Rachel, the most famous Hound. If Rachel doesn’t show up later, it’ll be a travesty of justice.

7. Utopia

Yes, I recognize that I’m demonstrating a trend in what I want here. Shut up.

Supposedly, the Struckers spent the season trying to get to Mexico, where the anti-mutant laws are looser. You know where else those laws would be looser? The country Cyclops founded to give all mutants a safe place to go when he got sick of waiting and asking nicely for baseline humans to stop persecuting them. Polaris bringing down the plane could be a catalyst for broader mutant persecution, prompting the need for a country for mutants.

Matt Nix said in an interview that season two will focus more on mutants out in the world and the idea of the mutant underground as a network, rather than a place. This makes it unlikely that the lead characters would actually go to Utopia, but doesn’t rule out the possibility of a running plot of the characters hearing rumours about the X-Men still being alive and getting ready to actually stand their ground. I know this one is unlikely, especially because Cyclops will probably be considered “movie territory”, but I think they ruled out any possibility of cleanly dividing who got what once they made Polaris – Magneto’s daughter, who’s also the woman that nearly became Scott’s sister in law, – a main character.

6. Dreamer Back

dreamer and thunderbird the gifted

I loved Sonya and thought she had a lot more potential, but her death was very poorly handled. We were told about her backstory, rather than had it shown through flashbacks the way we learned about every other character. It was pointless, because Andy and Lauren did what she told them not to thirty seconds later anyway. We saw her funeral, but not how her death actually affected any of her friends. No one mentioned her when trying to get through to Lorna, and nor did Lorna bring her up as part of her justification for killing Campbell.

Even before her death, she was treated more as a tool than a character, pushed into situations that didn’t actually make sense but were for the sake of moving the story along to where the writers wanted. There was no reason for her to not take away her memory from Clarice once Clarice regained control of her powers or tell Clarice what she’d done, but she didn’t do either of those things because the writers wanted to cause conflict between the two of them, introduce the love triangle between them and John, and provide justification for Clarice to take off later. She was an awesome character, Elena Satine is a great actress, and she deserved way better than to be pointlessly killed off. Bring her back.

5. Fewer dropped plotlines

Remember how when Caitlin went to her brother for help, the episode ended with Agent Turner ordering the shut down of every mutant sympathizer and safe house? I’d understand if you don’t, because it was never followed up on. I kept anticipating that coming up again, but it never did.

4. Deeper exploration of mutants as a metaphor for persecuted minorities

To be fair, The Gifted started off really well in that regard. In the beginning, it was as if every episode explored a different aspect of how that was true. The later episodes veered away from that in favour of more action scenes, which I find sad – there’s plenty of that in other X-Men related media. The Gifted was unique because of its focus on the “lesser” mutants, on characters without the resources that go along with being one of the X-Men.

People tuned into the show for different reasons. Maybe some did it because of how it was promoted as being family story, others because it was X-Men related, and so on. I did it for a variety of reasons. One of them was Polaris, who in the comics, has been the victim of frequent terrible writing. But the primary reason I watched that first episode was because it was in its own universe and promised to dive into how mutants are an analogy for marginalized people in a way that the movies didn’t, focusing on the characters as people more than just a way to show off cool powers and fight scenes. I was delighted by the first few episodes. Later? Not so much. I’m hoping season two remembers what mutants are supposed to represent.

3. The Morlocks

The literal mutant underground. This one is unlikely, I know, what with the whole the next season is going to focus on mutants interacting with the broader world thing. To be clear, I am very excited about that. One thing about the movies, not so much a flaw as a different focus, is how insular they are. They focus on the same few characters over and over again in the context of the school. We don’t see much of regular, non-politician humans or mutants that, for whatever reason, don’t join the X-Men or the Brotherhood. It’ll be awesome to get to see that. But the Morlocks could add a new level to the range of perspectives on how mutants should act that we’re seeing.

The mutant underground is, in a way, the reincarnation of the Xavier Institute. There are differences, of course – fewer resources, generally less impressive powers, the fact that they’re not actually a school – but they’re the spiritual successor in that they were founded by the X-Men to have the same values. The Hellfire Club has been and will continue to be more militant and goal oriented. The Morlocks have traditionally been the visible mutants that can’t fit in with human society and mostly just want to be left alone.

Sonya’s comics counterpart, Beautiful Dreamer, was a Morlock before she was killed by Purifiers. She was such a minor character, I don’t think anyone expected her to appear here. The Gifted‘s version of Sonya isn’t a visible mutant, but the fact that she appeared suggests to me that the writers have at least considered bringing in the Morlocks. I’d get why they might decide against it – adding a faction of visible mutants could mean overstuffing the cast and being forced to spend a significant chunk of the budget on makeup – but I think alluding to their existence would help flesh out the world in which the show takes place.

2. LGBT characters

Mutants aren’t a metaphor for any specific type of marginalized person – they have aspects of many. This includes people of colour, the disabled, and LGBT people. Several of the characters in the mutant underground aren’t white. Lorna is, but also mentally ill and living without access to health care and medicine (it was also implied that she’s bi through the whole “Tinder is full of girls that are into mutants thing”, but that probably wasn’t intended like that). The Gifted has done a much better job in regards to diversity than the films, which are almost absurdly white, but it’d be nice to have that extend to LGBT characters.

1. For God’s sake, let the Struckers actually learn the lesson

the gifted poster

  1. The Struckers complain about how the leaders of the mutant underground are handling things.
  2. They learn that they’re being naive to the point of stupidity and that they don’t have any idea what it’s like to be a mutant.
  3. They resolve to start pulling their weight more.
  4. Rinse, repeat.

The Struckers may be the focus of the show, but it really doesn’t work. I’d love them getting reduced screentime, but I’m smart enough to know that probably won’t happen. So I’d at least like them to not have the same yo-yo plot for another season. The show has been pushing the idea of the Struckers as leaders in the mutant underground which I find a fundamentally gross concept. Even setting aside the fact that they’re not mutants, ninety percent of the issues the mutant underground faced throughout the season were their fault, but their response to Fade and Sage pointing out how much harm they’d caused was to completely deny all responsibility, like it was absurd and petty to even suggest it.

Here’s the issue with the Struckers: they’re fundamentally selfish. You could make a case that it’s just them coming to terms with not having the privilege they’re used to anymore and struggling to get used to what the mutants have always known, but that doesn’t excuse their frequent oh, it’s okay for you to risk your lives for us, but it’s asking too much to ask us to help out. Caitlin complained about Lorna teaching her kids how to survive.  They see the world as all about them. Reed had no qualms about prosecuting mutants until it turned out his kids also had active X-genes. We were supposed to consider him not calling the police on a girl that couldn’t control her powers while being taunted and instead just telling her and her father to leave an example of him being a ~good guy. Caitlin didn’t have any issue with her husband’s job finding out about their kids’ powers and considered Lauren and Andy’s argument over the use of the word “mutie” as them having an argument over social studies class. Marcos called them out on that in the second episode, and they still didn’t seem to get it by the end.

Lauren is seventeen. She’s not some child that needs her mother to make all her decisions about her life for her. I think someone mentioned that the first season took place over about three weeks, and if that’s the case, then Lauren definitely needs her parents to stop speaking for her, because she mentioned that before Andy’s powers manifested and they went on the run, she’d planned to move somewhere far away once she turned eighteen. She spent years hiding her powers, genuinely afraid of how her parents would react, but is somehow content with letting them tell her how to use them. It’s not logical. Season one had the kids mostly used as a way to keep the parents involved with the plot. The finale changed the status quo a bit by tearing down the HQ and having Andy decide to leave, so I’m hoping that season two will involve the characters actually progressing.

As much as I adore the show, I think the Struckers are the weakest link. They have potential to improve, but they’re really going to have to be less static as characters for me to care about them as much as I do the others.


Anyone else have anything they hope to see? Let me know!

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Every Insane Thing That’s Happened On ‘Gotham’: Bruce Wayne

Gotham was promoted as the story of city before Batman, and yes, I suppose it’s mostly been that. It’s not a prequel to the usual canon, more of a, “Make it up as we go along, throw in everything we can think of and blend it together” type thing. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. One of the times it does is with Bruce. He’s arguably the third most important character. If the show is primarily about Gordon and his rise to prominence (to the point that some random kid that Tetch once threatened to hit with a truck knew who he was – what was with that?), and secondarily about Penguin and everything that goes down in the underworld (why the hell is everyone so obsessed with controlling the underworld, anyway?), it’s tertiarily  (is that a word?) about Bruce and how he got to the point where he felt the need to become Batman.

Somehow, season one Bruce whose parents just died was a happier, more emotionally stable person than season four Bruce. This show has not been very nice to him.

  • Watched his parents be murdered. Duh, he’s Bruce Wayne, that was a foregone conclusion.
  • Decided that he needed to teach himself to conquer fear. This involved jumping into the pool and seeing how long he could hold his breath, holding his hand to fire and burning himself, and learning how to fight. Alfred, you’re a terrible guardian. Get this kid some therapy, damn.
  • Beat up Tommy Elliot for making fun of his mother.
  • Demonstrated his terrible aim by throwing things at the hired killers that came after Selina.
  • Invited Selina to a fundraiser and got her to steal Bunderslaw’s key. It managed to be both super awkward and really cute.
  • In a spectacular shot, found out that the fireplace in his father’s study slides back to reveal the Batcave. Very Flashpoint, Thomas Wayne Batman, I like it.

Season one Bruce didn’t get all that much to do, mainly because his storyline revolved around looking into the murder of his parents, which got tossed aside somewhere midseason. It got picked up again in season two, and he got much more involved in the show and all the nonsense that happens in it.

  • Freaked out Alfred by building a bomb when he couldn’t figure out the password Thomas had set. Spoiler alert: it was his name.
  • Met Silver St Cloud, Theo and Tabitha Galavan’s niece, who I don’t think ever came back after Tabitha shoved her out a window with a parachute that one time.
  • Turned down Theo’s offer to buy his shares in Wayne Enterprises and give him information as to who killed his parents.
  • Tried to con Silver into giving him the information Theo claimed to have on his parents’ killer.
  • Successfully pulled off the trope named after his future self for the first time, along with Selina, and gets Silver to tell them that it was an M Malone that killed Thomas and Martha.
  • Galavan attempts to sacrifice him.
  • Claimed he had everything under control when he got rescued. Wow, Bruce, way to  be ungrateful.
  • Tracked down Matches Malone and held him at gunpoint, intending to kill him, but realized Malone wanted him to do that, so didn’t. Malone ended up killing himself.
  • Left to live with Selina on the streets because apparently, that’s the way to better understand Gotham. Eh, seems reasonable.
  • Decided he doesn’t have a problem with stealing from criminals, and helped Selina rob some people.
  • Went home because he was worried the whole investigation into who ordered the hit on his parents would be dangerous for Selina.
  • Fought crime with money – provided a bag of cash to distract a prisoner transport driver.
  • Started investigating Hugo Strange’s experiments.
  • Recruited Selina to sneak into Arkham and figure out  what was going on.
  • Hit Azrael with a car. Not as amazing as Butch blowing him up a few minutes later, but still, pretty good!
  • Went off with Gordon and Lucius Fox to rescue Selina.
  • Wound up locked in a room with Lucius with Nygma taunting them with riddles over a loudspeaker.

…Look, I love Gotham, and seasons three and four have a lot of weird, fun stuff happening, but let’s be real – season two? That might well be my favourite.

  • Got stalked by, and eventually met, his clone.
  • Agreed to stop his investigation into the Court of Owls, provided they leave him and his loved ones alone.
  • Got jealous that Selina kissed his clone, irritated Alfred by obsessing over it, then concluded she must have thought it was him.
  • After however many episodes of being present at an absurd number of the weird events that happen in the city, managed to miss all the chaos Nygma and Butch were wreaking by hanging out on the roof with Selina. He confessed his feelings for her and got a kiss out of it, so that’s probably better than being around for all the people shooting at each other.
  • Made Selina dinner, then spent hours waiting for her.
  • Helps Ivy who got in way over her head when she stole a necklace containing a key.
  • Went  on a heist with Selina, demonstrating that he’s progressed enough that he can hold a rope tightly enough for Selina to walk across and break into a safe belonging to the Court of Owls. Well done, Bruce.
  • Met Selina’s mom!
  • Lied to Selina by avoiding telling her that her mother didn’t actually want to get to know her, resulting in Selina getting mad and storming out. Ouch.
  • Beat in Jerome’s stapled on face (Jim got the final punch). On the one hand, gross. On the other, he really had it coming.
  • Gets stabbed with a syringe by his clone, after which the clone takes his place while he’s kidnapped and taken…somewhere with mountains.
  • Trained with the Shaman who told him he’s been manipulating the Court to control Gotham. So…we’re talking the man behind the man behind the man? I don’t even remember how many layers to the whole “person giving orders to the other person” this thing has. And this is before the reveal that Ra’s al Ghul is the one behind the Shaman.
  • Met Ra’s! Stabbed Alfred! Brainwashed Bruce does not have a nice time.
  • Got offered the position as head of the League of Shadows. Hey, Barbara, how does it feel to be second choice when the first one is a sixteen year old?
  • Saved a family from being mugged in a proto-Batsuit for his first attempt at crime fighting. Have I said before that season three’s finale could have been a series finale? Yeah? Good. (It really could have been, while I love getting more episodes, I have to admit that the fact that it wasn’t meant season four had to do some backtracking.)

Season three could be where I started losing track of the plots that lasted more than an episode…

  • Went to an auction to buy the knife Ra’s wanted, and outbid Barbara – who is, just as a reminder, a known killer – twice by a dollar and once by a penny. Apparently, annoying villains is a lifelong trait.
  • Refused to give Ra’s said knife, resulting in Ra’s killing Alex.
  • Killed Ra’s, making him half disintegrate. Huh? That can’t be right.
  • Decided to embrace life as a billionaire brat. Can’t blame him for that. Gotham is a cesspool, bad things happen every time he tries to do something constructive, and  he has a lot of money – might as well enjoy his life.
  • Abandoned Alfred in the woods and threw a party.
  • Fired Alfred. Well, that wasn’t very nice.
  • Spent an episode not actually doing anything plot relevant, but hanging around at the Sirens club, leaning into the spoiled brat thing, and making mildly annoying comments everyone ignores because they’re actually doing stuff.
  • Hallucinated meeting Batman while wandering around without a face after being poisoned by Ivy. So…this universe’s Bruce Wayne decides he needs to become Batman because he was majorly tripping? You do you, Bruce.
  • Had Selina break into an office in the police station to steal Jerome’s file and burst into fake tears to keep Detective what’s her name from catching her. Buddy, if you want to be Batman, you’re going to have to become a better actor than that.
  • Stopped both Jerome’s uncle and Selina from killing Jerome. Uh, Bruce, you know I appreciate your code and sense of honour and all, but damn, you dumb.

David Mazouz started off good and has only gotten better throughout the seasons. Colour me impressed. And Bruce’s character arc? A+. Gotham may be a mess that’s filled with villains and people that are kind of unlikable, and it may treat its female characters really poorly, but the way they handle Bruce is so good, I’m sticking around.

What ‘Scrubs’ Can Teach Us About Storytelling and Humour

Remember Scrubs? That hospital show that ran for eight seasons? (I know. Don’t say it.) I loved that show. It was ridiculous and silly and it blended comedy and drama better than just about anything else I’ve ever seen, and the reason for that is how they let their moments breathe. The writers didn’t feel the need to immediately lighten the mood whenever they got serious. There were no hasty retreats away from the emotional topics.

The show is genuinely funny, in ways ranging from imagine spots to funny rants. It did genre and homage episodes long before Community built an entire show off of doing just that. It weaves humour within seriousness, or starts light, then gets more serious, but whichever way a given episode goes, the impact of a serious episode is never diminished by a misplaced joke at the end.

One of the characters that only showed up in one episode was Nick, a fellow intern and the golden boy. Smart, skilled, charming, all of that. And the episode was dedicated to breaking him down. Not in the kind of soap opera melodrama where there’s an endless parade of bad luck way, not in the “we have to get this guy out of the way so our lead character can be the best” way, but in the more understated, “life is hard and the medical field is brutal and sometimes there’s not going to be anything you can do to save that seven year old”. And that was the end of the episode – it didn’t end on a joke, it ended on Nick walking away from years of work and a job he was great at because he couldn’t keep going through that.

The episode that introduced Kevin Casey played his OCD for laughs, through gags like showing him needing to touch every object in a room when he entered or repeatedly signing his name, up until the very end of the episode, where we see him, hours after his last surgery, still scrubbing his hands raw. The other characters realize they can’t blame him for all their problems because he has more than his share of them and go home, leaving him alone, flicking the lights on and off all night.

Characters die or move away. The lead character is defined by how emotional he is and the intensity of his relationships with the people around him. It handles issues like industry sexism and doctors performing outdated medical procedures and thus endangering their patients. People have to try to figure out if a patient is genuinely in pain, or just trying to score drugs.

 

Even during the parts intended to be funny, Scrubs did something that I really wish more works did: made characters funny in different ways, rather than everyone just snarking at each other without much of a unique voice. Cox goes on long rants, JD has his imagine spots and weird thought process, and so on. They acknowledged it, too – it one episode, none of Carla’s jokes were landing, and Cox told her that everyone is funny in different ways in a long snarky rant:

The show had plenty of flaws. Some of the jokes have not aged well – there was a lot of  homophobia and transphobia, as well as some very uncomfortable race comments – and the flanderization of characters got exhausting after a while. The female characters weren’t handled nearly as well as they should have been. But Scrubs deserves to be remembered, because it’s not only one of the goofiest shows out there, it’s one of the most profoundly emotional comedies you’ll find. It shows that there are no limits on the types of comedy you can use, so long as you’re sincere when you go serious. Characters can use humour to avoid the serious, but the work itself shouldn’t. Yes, Scrubs had its share of jokes that just aren’t funny, like most comedies. Yes, there were a couple seasons in there that felt tedious. And yes, some of it is just over the top goofy, including occasional jokes made during serious scenes. But if you look past those issues, you’ll find a show that manages to seamlessly blend comedy and drama in a way that few other shows have managed.

DC’s Weird Joker Obsession

It’s no secret that I love Batman. I mean, of course I do, who doesn’t? Batman v Superman is my favourite movie ever made. Batman: The Animated Series is one of my favourite cartoons. And Gotham is absolutely delightful in its over the top black comedy brilliance. Where I differ from many Batman fans, and it seems DC itself, is that I don’t give a damn about the Joker.

It’s not about him being abusive to Harley or killing a lot of people or anything like that, because there’s a difference between being a bad person and being a bad character. The Joker is a bad person, which would be fine, except I just don’t find him interesting. In a world with criminals like the Riddler, Two Face, and Mr. Freeze, I find his “crazy” schtick played out and tiresome (Not to mention ableist in a way that the other villains simply aren’t).

In the last episode of Gotham, once the villains broke out of Arkham, Jim said that something “this big, this insane” had to be the work of Jerome Valeska, and I don’t get that at all. It seems to me like a sign of DC buying into their own idea that the Joker is the scariest Batman villain and not going to the effort to actually show us how that’s true. The evidence doesn’t support it, because their versions of Penguin, Professor Pyg, the Riddler, and Mad Hatter have all had many more moments of being absolutely terrifying than Jerome h as. With Jerome, it feels like they’re doing something you can’t often accuse Gotham of doing, and that’s relying on the comics to make us care.

What’s the worst thing Jerome has done? Shot up a few places? Killed someone with a bomb? Sure, whatever. That would be scary in our world, but this is Gotham City! That’s what they call Tuesday! He’s been defeated by a teenage Bruce, and the only reason he didn’t die again is that Bruce stopped two people from killing him – three if we count  Bruce himself. He once came back to life and stapled his face back on, which was both a mythology gag and gruesome, but even that pales in comparison to what other characters have done. And yet he’s still pushed as soooooo scary, as if Penguin hasn’t spent four seasons doing way worse things.

Fish Mooney has gouged out her own eye out of sheer spite. The Riddler dismembered his girlfriend’s corpse and hid the parts all over the police station. Penguin’s revenge scheme culminated in him freezing Nygma, putting him on display, and claiming that he was doing it because his dear friend had a deadly disease and he’d unfreeze him once there was a cure. Jervis hypnotizes people into killing themselves. If I was a Gothamite, I’d rather not meet Jerome, but if I had a choice between him and just about any other villain in the city? I’d take my chances with him, because most of what he has going for him is hype and informed scariness.

Arrow writers have complained about Green Arrow’s lack of iconic villains. Their solution to that wasn’t to work really hard to make new or existing villains interesting and intimidating, it was to instead use other characters’ enemies. Deathstroke, traditionally a Nightwing villain. Ra’s al Ghul, traditionally a Batman villain, coupled with the storyline that’s traditionally Batman’s. Gotham has demonstrated that they don’t need that, and not just because Batman’s Rogues Gallery is iconic. Some of their best work occurs when they take a comic villain – one that’s easy to laugh at when in print – and make them much, much scarier. Mad Hatter isn’t intimidating or iconic in the comics, but in the show? He’s downright terrifying.

I, like a lot of people, was skeptical in the early days of the show because I didn’t know how they were going to handle the villains. Season one was a pretty straightforward mob drama/police procedural with a lot of call forwards. But season two turned up the intensity on everything – more subplots, more camp, characters going full on themed supervillain – and demonstrated that this is basically an Elseworlds tale with its own continuity where they’ll do whatever they feel like doing, proving that, for all the show is absurd and filled with characters that have weird gimmicks, the show itself doesn’t rely upon the gimmick of being “Gotham before Batman” with constant winks and nudges to where the characters will be in fifteen years.

But when it comes to Jerome, what they do is similar to what Arrow does: take a character from elsewhere in DC and rely upon the source material. It’s less blatant with Gotham because the Joker belongs to the Batman universe and the actor does a good job with what he’s given, but so far, we’ve mostly been told why we should be scared of him while every other villain has shown us. It’s a similar issue to Barbara – he’s the centre of a lot of storylines, and he’s entertaining enough to watch, but there’s not much substance in those stories and they’re only there because the writers are attached to him.

This extends far beyond Gotham. I’ve seen a lot of people say that the Joker should have been the main villain in Suicide Squad, and I’m pretty sure I remember David Ayer agreeing. I disagree completely. Enchantress wasn’t a great villain, and there would have been ways to make her better, but the Joker wasn’t the answer. An expanded role to aid in Harley’s development? Sure, I’d have been here for that. But I think the reason why the character works in relation to Batman is that he is representative of what Batman’s no-kill rule really means. It’s not because he’s interesting on his own, it’s because of how he impacts Bruce. Bruce can justify his vigilantism to himself and see it as morally right if he doesn’t kill. He can’t appoint himself judge, jury, and executioner – he’s supposed to stop crime, not mete out punishment. And that means the Joker will continue to do bad things, because he can’t kill him for what he did to Jason or to Barbara or to any number of civilians.

None of that applies to the squad, because they’re all killers. None of them would have any qualms about (or any difficulty) killing the Joker, save for El Diablo, so he wouldn’t have made a good antagonist. Not unless the entire concept of the movie was changed from a Suicide Squad action film to a character piece centred around the members of the squad while they’re not going on a mission that Waller doesn’t want to risk other people on.

The Joker is a fine character. But I don’t think he’s as versatile as a lot of others. He has a specific purpose, and trying to make him fit in other stories is more likely to fail than it is to succeed.

The Art of the Sitcom: How ‘Powerless’ Could Have Been Great

I’ve said before that I love Powerless, and that’s true. I really wish it had gotten a second season. But I think part of the reason it didn’t was the same reason so many other DC properties are polarizing: executive meddling.

Powerless got screwed hard, to the point where Ben Queen, the original showrunner, left due to creative differences. He was replaced by Patrick Schumacker and Justin Halpern, the premise of the show was completely changed from what it was initially sold as, and the already filmed pilot was reworked practically from scratch. The point was supposed to be a city without a major hero, focusing on regular people that try to do good without spandex. The show we got wasn’t about trying to do good so much as just a decent person living her life and doing her job.

Schumacker and Halpern claimed they didn’t want to stick with the insurance company setting because the characters winning would mean someone getting screwed out of money, which could be a fair point, except I don’t think that it’s true – from the original trailer and what I’ve heard about the pilot, it was about Emily fighting back against a boss that wanted to them to screw over their clients and trying to actually help people. In the trailer, she pointed out that Wonder Woman is technically a demigod, so denying the claim as an act of god would be a grey area. It would have been a great plot.

Here’s the thing about sitcoms: they’re usually not plotted nearly as well as dramas. Sure, there are exceptions (The Good Place!) that hit the ground running and have a planned arc and don’t have much early installment weirdness, but most of the time? That’s not true. Sitcoms are, by nature, episodic. Most of them strictly obey the idea of the status quo being God, because if they change it, the premise completely changes. Because of this, it leaves room to change elements that don’t resonate with people. That doesn’t work when a plot element or characterization is necessary for the overall arc of the show.

Parks and Recreation was frequently at risk of cancellation in its early years, and you know what? I totally get it. It didn’t find its stride until season two. It took me months to actually get through that first, very short season, because as much as people promised me it got better, as much as I laughed at the quotes I’d seen, it started off painfully cringy. The rest of it isn’t! It has so much heart, so many genuinely funny jokes, that only emerged once the writers decided Leslie should be a less cringy, more competent worker that’s endearing because of her earnestness and hard work. It would have been such a loss for those seasons to have never been made.

Powerless deserved more time to find itself. Sadly, I think it would have got a second season…had it stuck to the original premise. What Powerless ended up being was something similar that crossed Better Off Ted with some aspects of certain Community episodes – and not the best parts of either. We’re talking a tech company filled with characters that rarely seem to actually like each other. We see in the trailer that the unaired pilot had characters that actually liked each other, which is hugely refreshing compared to the “the cynical characters hate the enthusiastic, optimistic newcomer and make lots of meanspirited jokes at her expense” in the version that aired.

I liked it. I thought it was enjoyable. But in stripping away the “woman that wants to help people working at an insurance company in a world with superheroes” angle, a lot of the sincerity and uniqueness was pulled away, leaving it just a series of jokes and nudges to the to more well known elements of the DC universe. It stopped being its own, self sustaining story in favour of being a gimmick. In a weird way, that’s the part that most reminded me of Community.

Community used to be very, very good. It was clever and enjoyable, but somewhere along the line, it got kind of self congratulatory. A weird thing to call a sitcom, right? But that’s what it felt like. It got caught up in how smart it considered itself, and started getting annoyingly meta. Where it used to involve a lot of loving homages to different genres with occasional lampshading of tropes, as the show progressed, practically nothing could happen without a wink-wink-nudge-nudge-see-what-we-did-there. It was still pretty good by the end. But more sincerity – and episodes of characters being nice to each other, rather than fighting – wouldn’t have hurt, just like with Powerless.

It’s not likely, but I’d love to see them try again with this. A comedy about the regular people in a world with superheros could be awesome. But I think they’d have to focus more on making it funny on its own merits than by continuing to rely upon Bruce Wayne jokes.

Every Insane Thing That’s Happened On ‘Gotham’: Jim Gordon

Oh, Jim. Jim Gordon, Gotham’s protagonist, is one of the most recognizable characters in the Batman mythos – supposedly, he’s the one good man in the GCPD that will go on to become the famed Commissioner Gordon, but Gotham being what it is…well, no one really has the protection of canon. Here is a partial list of the stuff he’s done and that’s happened around him:

  • Pretended to kill Penguin, launching an arc of a pair of detectives from the Major Crimes Unit (Including Renee Montoya!) thinking he’s a murderer and trying to find the evidence.
  • Jumped on a rising balloon with the Balloonman to force Bullock to shoot it down.
  • Got arrested for killing Penguin. When he insisted he didn’t do it, Bullock backed him up, only to be surprised and angry when a very much alive Penguin walks in.
  • Bullock threatened to shoot him.
  • Found Butch holding Barbara hostage, rescued Barbara, and told her to get out of Gotham for a while. That’s just common sense, Gotham is a horror movie, no one should live there.
  • Tried to get an arrest warrant for Falcone and the mayor (Mayor James, the first mayor, Gotham goes through mayors disturbingly quickly.)
  • Had a shootout with Victor Zsasz right in the middle of the police station. In a city like this, is it really any wonder that someone decides, ah, yes, I should make this better by dressing up as a giant bat and fighting crime?
  • Got rescued by Allen and Montoya! I miss those guys, remember when they were actually around? And their department  did stuff?
  • Used Major James as a hostage to get into Falcone’s estate, but Falcone had Barbara. Nobody dies!
  • Got reassigned to guard duty at Arkham Asylum, where he met Leslie Thompkins. That only lasted a couple episodes before he wound up back at the GCPD.
  • Broke up a fight between Dick Grayson’s future parents when he went to the circus with Lee.
  • Blah, blah, solved some crimes, did some stuff, dated Lee, found out his former fiancée had started killing people, the season ended.

Okay, here’s the thing about season two: an absurd amount happened. What may be considered either a strength or a flaw about Gotham is the number of subplots. That’s been the case in all the seasons. There’s always a huge amount going on, which can make the show feel overstuffed, but also means that there’ll probably be at least one storyline that interests you. Season two…well, it’s a ride. To keep this a reasonable length, I limited this list to t he weirdest events.

  • Started the season as a patrol officer and not a detective, does a favour for Penguin to get his old job back.
  • A bunch of Arkham escapees killed a bunch of people in the police station. I’m starting to think this is the least safe place in the worst city in the world.
  • Complained about Lee saying yes when Ed asks them to go on a double date with him and Kristen.
  • Decided to support Theo Galavan’s mayoral candidacy, demonstrating why he’s a terrible judge of character.
  • Got taken hostage by Barbara, along with a bunch of other people, a priest, and Lee. Oh, a wedding! And a further demonstration of how Jim is a terrible judge of character. He nearly married this woman.
  • Got arrested once or twice for the whole Galavan subplot, I don’t even know.
  • Got framed by Nygma for killing what’s-his-face the police officer and sent to Blackgate.
  • Shot Galavan-resurrected-as-Azrael a couple of times. Didn’t work.
  • Got replaced by Clayface impersonating him.
  • Bullock accepted it when he said he was acting strange because he had the flu. It took Barbara realizing he wasn’t Jim and hitting him in the face, causing it to deform, that made it register for everyone else. The GCPD, everyone: the most incompetent group of people imaginable. No wonder this city needs Batman.
  • Interpreted Ethyl Peabody’s plea for water as her suggesting he use water to defuse a bomb. He’s not that bright, but he does his best.
  • Quits his job and uses Bullock’s car to leave town and find Lee, who had a miscarriage and left Gotham a few episodes before.

Yeah. This show is weird.

  • Spent some time as a bounty hunter.
  • Started dating Valerie Vale.
  • Jervis Tetch tried to hypnotize him into killing himself.
  • Got Valerie shot. Wow, Jim. That’s a dick move.
  • Got infected by some kind of hallucinogen, and guided through all his guilts and fears by Barbara.
  • Got punched by Mario.
  • Shot Mario, who was infected with the Alice Tetch virus. Just to reiterate, that’s his ex-fiancée’s new husband. (The ex-fiancée being Lee, not Barbara.)
  • Zsasz warned him that Carmine was going to order him to kill him, but that it wasn’t personal. After all, he didn’t even like Mario.
  • Carmine called off the hit that he himself had ordered. Make up your damn mind, dude.
  • Saved Alfred from Jerome’s goons, then later punched off Jerome’s face.
  • Joined the Court of Owls for the brief period of about two days.
  • Lee thought he killed his uncle and made it look like a suicide. It was the other way around.
  • Got buried alive and injected himself with the Tetch virus to get  out.
  • Shoots off Barnes’s hand when Barnes gets sent to kill him. Stabbed Fish while under the influence. Jeez, Jim.
  • Ends the series determined to be a good cop.

Okay, so season three could well have been a series finale. It wasn’t, but it left everyone in a place where we could see them getting to where we know they’ll be in the future, including Jim. Season four? It kind of threw that out the window and got weirder.

  • Went to Carmine Falcone for help dealing with Penguin and his licensed crime. You know, Jim, it’s really not that smart to ask the father of the guy you shot for help.
  • Met Ra’s al Ghul, and later arrests, Ra’s al Ghul. Wait, what?
  • Slept with Sofia Falcone, his ex-fiancée’s sister in law. You know, the sister of the guy he shot. Jim. Jim, please. Make better choices.
  • Warned Alfred that Ra’s is going to be released because he has diplomatic immunity.
  • Didn’t report Bruce for killing Ra’s, which, fair enough, Ra’s is an assassin, but you know, that’s probably taking Gordon a step further away from being the token good guy he’s supposed to be.
  • Started investigating a serial killer that’s hunting down corrupt cops. Hi, Professor Pyg!
  • Found out Bullock is on Penguin’s payroll. Oh, come on! Wasn’t his “become a better person and start caring about helping people again” arc way back in season one?
  • Got offered the captain job.
  • Got framed by Sofia for shooting Pyg, which apparently forced him to lie about it to prevent Gotham from descending into chaos, but I don’t exactly buy that as plausible – Gotham is always in chaos.
  • Shot a masked Bruce. Well, that’s just rude.
  • Got shot repeatedly by Sofia before Lee showed up and shot her. So dramatic.

I’m starting to think this series of posts was a terrible idea. There’s too much nonsense that happens in this show.

Canon Foreigners in Comics Adaptations

There are plenty of reasons to create a new character in a comic book related work – to add diversity, to tell a story set in the universe but separated from the main characters, to flesh out the cast, to make a distant prequel or sequel, and so on. But opinion on these original characters tends to be polarized. While there are plenty of people that like them without hesitation – usually non-comics fans – there are many that cling to their source material so much that they hate them for existing.

We need new characters, but therein lies the rub – oftentimes, the audience doesn’t like said new characters. And they continue to dislike said characters for not being canonical. With time, these characters could get redeemed in the eyes of the audience, especially if they were introduced into the comics and became a canon immigrant, but why introduce a character in the comics when they weren’t liked? We need new characters to appear in comics and their adaptations, because how boring would it be if the only characters we ever encountered were the original casts? Without new characters in adaptations, we wouldn’t have Harley Quinn. We wouldn’t have X-23. We wouldn’t have Kaldur’ahm. Hell, we wouldn’t even have Jimmy Olsen or Barbara Gordon. Not all new characters are as immediately liked like these were. But they can be redeemed, and it’s better to have the conviction to try to make that happen than to just cram already canon characters in roles they don’t fit.

kaldur.jpg

Sometimes, writing a new character is just easier. That’s not bad. It just is. In The Dark Knight trilogy, Bruce’s love interest for the first two movies was an original character. Rachel Dawes. She was okay. I personally found her a little bland and forgettable, as well as being bothered that her primary role was to die, but that’s fine. My opinion. What I found more interesting than her as a character, though, is that she existed at all.

rachel dawes

Batman’s iconic love interest is Catwoman. She’s the one most people think of when asked to name Bruce Wayne’s love interest. She appears consistently throughout Batman related media, because like Superman and Lois Lane, there’s Batman and Catwoman. And yet she doesn’t appear until the third film in the trilogy. Rachel was introduced because the writers wanted a romantic subplot in the first two movies, but didn’t want the complications that would arise as a result of using Selina or Talia or any of Bruce’s canonical love interests. She was new and therefore malleable. She could be anything. She could be anyone.

I fully support the creation of new characters. Comics and their adaptations are a unique medium/form of storytelling. It’s just as valid to introduce a new character in an adaptation as it is to do so in a comic. Comics aren’t static, and new characters and new interpretations of old ones are how they evolve. It even makes sense to do it for a specific purpose. Marcos Diaz from The Gifted; Laura Kinney from X-Men: Evolution; Harley Quinn from Batman: The Animated Series; everyone from Powerless, that gorgeous comedy that was cancelled far too soon. All likeable original characters, created to serve a purpose in the plot, but more than just plot devices.

But when the creation of new characters is handled poorly, you get Sara Lance, who could be a good character, except for how much she embodies white feminism. I want to like Sara much more than I do, to the point where she pushed me away from a show I used to enjoy. You get Felicity Smoak, who started off well and with potential, but then had everything good and interesting stripped away from her when the writers turned her into a love interest at the expense of her character. While I can’t say Felicity is the reason I stopped watching Arrow, she was definitely one of them. You get characters that are boring and forgettable – like the previously mentioned Rachel Dawes, more plot device than person.

What I hate more than the creation of new characters, though, is when an already canonical character is completely changed in a new medium. I take issue with the changing of random aspects of a character to fit them into a premade box. Call me crazy, but Arrow turning Dinah Lance into a lawyer felt like a terrible move to me. It was fine when we were just talking about her working for a nonprofit. That was fine. That was good. We were talking about a woman using the legal system to fight for the marginalized. But then she became a prosecutor, and while she was a prosecutor, she was also breaking the law through the pursuit of vigilante justice. I didn’t like that change. I could accept it, though, because her personality was identifiable as Black Canary.

There are changes that I get and accept, even if I don’t necessarily like them – take Laurel instead of Dinah. Yes, it’s weird to have a name change for such an iconic character. But it also makes some amount of sense. Dinah is quite an old fashioned name, Laurel is a gorgeous one, and you’re much more likely to encounter a Laurel today than a Dinah. But Arrow‘s version of Oliver Queen shares a name with his comics self and little else. Zari Tomaz from Legends of Tomorrow has absolutely nothing to do with her comics counterpart. Scott Summers from Apocalypse has none of comic Scott’s backstory or personality. It’s lazy. It’s a clear sign that someone isn’t actually interested in writing the character they were given. If that’s what a writer does, it seems like they want to have it both ways – they want the freedom to write a character however they feel like doing it, but they want to take the already paved road to get there by using one that’s already canon and thus has a fanbase/name recognition.

New characters aren’t fundamentally good or bad, they just are. But they’re much easier to accept in original properties than adaptations, where viewers go in with a set of preexisting expectations and opinions. And the visceral dislike for them that so many people have results in writers altering canon characters to avoid it, which may end up being even worse. I’ll admit that I’m not always quick to embrace the original characters myself. But I think we all need to work on getting better at it, because I’d rather see any number of poorly written new characters that could get better eventually than an already established character twisted beyond recognition to fit a role that they shouldn’t be in.