TV Superlatives are a pain in the ass. I love coming up with them–I kind of love superlatives in general–but it’s hard to keep up when there are, at any given time, 87 different TV shows to watch, and they can start any month and be any episode length, and available all at once or only week-to-week. I tried for a couple of years and eventually gave up.
Now, I’m going to try something new, and we’ll see if it works or not, but here it is: Quarterly TV Superlatives! Or, who knows, maybe Occasional TV Superlatives! Look, it’s a work in progress. But the idea is to discuss whatever TV I’ve been watching recently (whether it’s currently airing or not) and come up with fun awards like Best Musical Number, Worst Death, or Best Reaction to a Supposedly Dead Parent Coming Back to Life.
For today’s post, we’ll be focusing on the television I’ve been watching during, say, the past two months or so. Any spoilers, as always, will be clearly marked in the very hard-to-miss Spoiler Section.
With that all said, let’s get started, shall we?
FAVORITE MUSICAL NUMBER
Larry singing Kelly Clarkson’s “People Like Us” – Doom Patrol
People. If you have not been watching Doom Patrol, you’ve been missing some of the wildest, weirdest shit on TV right now, and I know what a big statement that is these days.
This episode features a sentient, teleporting, genderqueer street named Danny, and I know that sounds like some asshole making a parody out of SJWs, but it’s actually really uplifting and funny without ever punching down. This scene in particular, where Matt Bomer sings his heart out on stage at the Peeping Tom’s Perpetual Cabaret, hit me right in the Feels. It’s a great character moment, joyful and moving and ultimately kind of heartbreaking, and really wasn’t at all what I expected when I started this show.
FAVORITE NEW PLAYER
Anson Mount – Star Trek: Discovery
When CBS initially announced that Christopher Pike would be taking command of Discovery, I was pretty disappointed. For one, I’d been looking forward to seeing what Saru would be like as captain. For another, I watched TOS’s unaired pilot, and Pike was kind of a dick. Besides, the only thing I knew Anson Mount from was Inhumans, and while I didn’t actually watch the show myself, it looked . . . pretty bad. Its swift cancellation was no surprise to anyone.
But as Pike, Anson Mount is kind of a revelation. His performance is really imbued with this sort of low-key swagger, an optimistic pioneering spirit that’s reminiscent of TOS without being a parody of it. Also, he’s not an asshole this time! Honestly, Pike is charismatic and likable as hell, so much so that by the end of the season, I would happily have watched him captain the Discovery for another few years.
Honorable Mentions: Ramona Young (Legends of Tomorrow); Ethan Suplee (Santa Clarita Diet); Zehra Fazal (Young Justice); Tig Notaro (Star Trek: Discovery)
Mr. Nobody – Doom Patrol
Oh, man. There isn’t anyone on this Earth who makes me happier than Alan Tudyk on Doom Patrol. Mr. Nobody is the sarcastic, hilarious, meta supervillain I didn’t know I needed in my life. He narrates. It’s beautiful.
Honorable Mentions: Cersei (Game of Thrones); Dobrivoje Poplovic (Santa Clarita Diet); Catra (She-Ra); Entrapta (She-Ra); Scorpia (She-Ra); Tabitha (Legends of Tomorrow)
CHARACTERS WHO MOST DESERVE A BETTER SHOW
Starfire + Beast Boy – Titans
I’m definitely tempted to go with Magnus and Alec here, since I would’ve watched a Shadowhunters spinoff starring them in a heartbeat. Also, half the characters on Game of Thrones, who deserved a better final season than they got. But instead I’m picking Starfire and Beast Boy, mostly because they’re the biggest reasons this tonally inconsistent show works at all. It sure isn’t because of Dick Grayson, who is easily the weakest character in the whole thing–it’s like 11 episodes of Murder Excuses Volleyball with him, all “I’m gonna kill this dude” one episode, then “you can’t kill people!’ the next, with a heavy side of “Really, it’s fucking Batman’s fault!” ALL. THE. TIME.
Starfire and Beast Boy are pretty great, though. Starfire is absolutely nothing like her Teen Titans counterpart, of course, but she’s still a lot of fun: mysterious, badass, funny. And as the lighthearted comic relief of the show, Beast Boy is sorely needed. I really enjoy the dynamic he brings to Titans. (He also introduces us to the Doom Patrol, which I’m incredibly grateful for, because who knows if I would’ve checked the show out otherwise.)
Titans is watchable enough, like, there are definitely scenes and song selections I did enjoy . . . but in the long run, it’s also pretty forgettable, considering that DC is still trying to manage the precarious balance between “dark” and “actually entertaining.” Anna Diop and Ryan Potter are the primary reasons to check this one out, but honestly, I’d probably be happier if Starfire and Beast Boy just jumped ship and landed over on Doom Patrol in Season 2.
Honorable Mentions: Magnus & Alec (Shadowhunters); Daenerys (Game of Thrones); Cersei (Game of Thrones)
BEST SPARRING SCENE
Alec vs. Magnus – Shadowhunters
All the best fight scenes, I think, get to explore the characters involved–what weapons they pick says something about them, just like how they improvise and if they prefer flirty banter or ominous silence, etc. I have recently begun to wonder if maybe sparring scenes get the best opportunity to really dive into character simply because the stakes are actually lower, like, you don’t have to worry about the fate of the world here. It’s just Person A, Person B, and whatever they’re bringing to the mat between them. I think this might be why some of my favorite fight scenes are sparring scenes, and why I love this particular one so much. That, and I’m totally Malec obsessed, of course.
The choreography on this, while fun, definitely isn’t going to beat out anything on, say, Netflix or HBO because Shadowhunters is a Freeform show with a Freeform shooting schedule and budget. But this is a fun, flirty scene–Magnus, clearly, is not the ominous, silent type–that really plays up those tiny character beats. My own personal favorite moments are a) Magnus playfully dance-spinning away from Alec, and b) Matthew Daddario’s low, gritted-teeth delivery of the word “competition.”
I am not going to tell you how many times I’ve rewatched this scene, but whatever number you’re guessing, it’s probably higher.
Honorable Mention: Jace vs. Simon – Shadowhunters
MOST PAINFUL CANCELLATION
Santa Clarita Diet
Shadowhunters is my ridiculous jam, but I’ve been aware of its doom for a while now, and at least it got the chance to have some kind of conclusion, hurried though it was. Meanwhile, I’m so annoyed with Game of Thrones that I’m frankly just happy it’s over at this point. But Santa Clarita Diet, man. That one still hurts.
What might have initially started out as a one-joke premise really grew into something else: sure, it’s silly, gory fun with a lot of suburbia, barf, and real estate jokes, but it’s also got this really great family dynamic, a surprisingly healthy marriage to ship, and I swear to God, some of the funniest dialogue on television. Drew Barrymore really grows into her character, Liv Hewson is consistently awesome as Abby, Skylar Gisondo is equally funny as Eric, and you just haven’t truly experienced joy until you’ve watched Timothy Olyphant teetering on the edge of a never-ending series of hysterical meltdowns. He is so damn good in this show. It kills me.
Losing Santa Clarita Diet absolutely sucks. Losing it after the third season’s massive cliffhanger is a mallet to the goddamn funny bone. We will never know what happens now, and I am filled with rage.
MOST WELCOME RETURN
Bringing back old shows has been the thing to do these last few years, but often they’re shows I don’t care about (say, Fuller House, 24, Will & Grace, etc.) or else they’re ones that come back and stumble HARD (say, Gilmore Girls or The X-Files). Young Justice, however, finally got its third season on DC Universe after its untimely cancellation back in 2013, and I think it’s just as good as it ever was.
Initially, I was a bit disappointed with the big time jump (though not surprised, considering the time jump between Seasons 1 and 2) and a little amused they didn’t just end up calling this Justice (aka, the Titans method), considering our original heroes are very much adults now. Still, we’ve got some fresh young blood, as it were, to make the title semi-accurate. More importantly, this show is still a lot of fun. Definitely a bit darker than the first two seasons: more blood, yes, and more gory–if generally temporary–deaths. But there’s also a lot of small moments of humor and funny asides throughout the season to balance that out. I also really like how the show successfully builds stuff over time: Beast Boy’s TV show, for instance, or the Goode Goggles. And oh man, that Beast Boy episode. Like, that was both funnier and hit harder than I ever expected it to. Shit, Young Justice has been so on point this season that I didn’t even mind the Vandal Savage History Lesson episode.
My only real disappointment with the show is that I wish there was a little more focus on the original members. We still get them, but not quite as much as I’d like. (Miss Martian, I think, gets the absolute least to do.) Hopefully we’ll see more of them when the show returns in July.
Malec – Shadowhunters
I mean, seriously. They are the literal reason I started watching this show. Out of mild curiosity, I checked out this fanvid (oh, and this one, too), became even more curious about these characters, and watched enough scenes on Youtube that I realized, fuck it, I’m gonna have to watch this whole show now. A romantic ship is occasionally, though very rarely, my favorite aspect of a show, but I think this might the first time any ship has actually enticed me to watch anything.
It helps that this season in particular is so jam-packed with spectacular Malec moments–and not just the scene I already mentioned above. I’d talk more about them, but then I’d have to move this whole entry into the Spoiler Section, and I’d rather not do that. But I will say for the zero people out there who are worried: after much, much angst, Magnus and Alec get a happy ending. I honestly think there might have been a small-scale revolution if they hadn’t. I’m definitely not the only one crazy about these two.
Honorable Mentions: Jake and Amy (Brooklyn Nine-Nine); Joel and Sheila (Santa Clarita Diet)
All right, that’s it for the Non-Spoiler Awards. Continue at your own peril.
Okay? Good. Onward with the peril!
BEST REACTION TO A SUPPOSEDLY DEAD PARENT COMING BACK TO LIFE
Michael – Star Trek Discovery
If there’s one thing I’ve discovered from my many years of watching SF/F/H TV, it’s that dead parents are always coming back to life. But Michael’s reaction–where she wakes up and naturally assumes that Dead Mom was a near-death hallucination, only to instinctually deny the truth when she’s told otherwise, almost assuring the others (and herself) that her mother died–is such a nice bit of acting. You watch it and just want to give her a really big hug. I have so many ups-and-downs with Discovery, but I really enjoy Sonequa Martin-Green’s performance, especially in this second season.
MOST “I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING” SCENE
Bow’s parents accept he’s not a historian – She-Ra and The Princesses of Power
Ugh. Bow’s dads are the worst, and by the worst, I mean they’re fucking adorable and totally made me tear up, even though I’m supposed to be a cold-hearted bastard who, like Loki, is unmoved by sentiment, much less a damn children’s cartoon. But when Bow confesses that he can’t keep lying to them anymore, and George tells him, “What’s breaking our hearts is the fact that you thought you had to lie about who you are,” followed by a tearful Lance, all, “We thought we were being supportive, but really we were being terrible!” Just, blarg, with the emotions.
Stupid show. Stupid feelings.
BEST BADASS MOMENT
Arya kills The Night King – Game of Thrones
Season 8 of GoT is a hot fucking mess, but there were a few good things about it, and Arya taking out the Night King is one of them. This scene was AWESOME, and seriously, anyone calling Arya a Mary Sue at this point, after she’s spent literal seasons becoming a face-changing killing machine, is just so . . . ugh. They are not worthy of my articulation.
If we could just pretend Season 8 only consisted of Episode 2 and Episode 3, I feel like we’d all be a lot happier.
Honorable Mentions: Sansa telling Edmure to sit down (Game of Thrones); Starfire kicks some assholes’ asses in a diner (Titans); Magnus faces off with Lilith (Shadowhunters)
BEST WTF MOMENT
The Revenge of Admiral Whiskers – Doom Patrol
(Fair warning: clip includes the sudden, bloody demise of Mommy Mouse. Also, profanity.)
I mean, Doom Patrol itself is one long, continuous series of WTF moments, so it’s really hard to pick just one. Do you go with any of the various times Mr. Nobody breaks the fourth wall, up to and including wearing a ton of Doom Patrol merchandise? Do you go with the guy who accidentally flexes the wrong psychic muscle and makes everyone orgasm? Do you go with Cliff getting swallowed by a giant rat, climbing back up the rat’s throat, and jumping into a giant cockroach’s mouth as said rat and cockroach begin making out? (I mean, do I even really need to explain why Doom Patrol is winning for both FAVORITE NEW SHOW and FAVORITE SUPERHERO SHOW?)
Obviously, you could go with any of these. I, however, am choosing to pick The Revenge of Admiral Whiskers, because Mr. Nobody also does some impressive fourth-wall breaking here, and more importantly, I don’t think anything has made me laugh harder all year. “But I’m a woodland creature!” HA! This moment alone was worth the DC Universe subscription.
Honorable Mentions for Best WTF Moment: Literally everything I mentioned in the first paragraph, plus whatever else happened that I’m currently forgetting (Doom Patrol); Mr. Ball Legs crawls into Joel’s ear (Santa Clarita Diet); The Legends + Ghost Hank resurrect Nate by singing “Sweet Baby James” (Legends of Tomorrow)
Honorable Mentions for Favorite Superhero Show: Legends of Tomorrow; Young Justice
FAVORITE RETURN GUEST STAR
Tim Meadows – Brooklyn Nine-Nine
I don’t know, man. There’s just something about Caleb, the super friendly cannibal killer, that cracks me up, particularly his and Jake’s easy rapport and, of course, Boyle’s obvious jealousy. (“Charles, he’s serving three life sentences. No need to flex.” HA.) Dude’s just so delightful. I would happily watch Jake come down for serial killer insight at least once a season.
Also, yes, of course, the “chatroom for people who like to talk about eating human beings but definitely won’t act on it” is hosted on Reddit.
Honorable Mentions: Kyra Sedgwick (Brooklyn Nine-Nine); Ken Marino (Brooklyn Nine-Nine); Dean Winters (Brooklyn Nine-Nine); Maggie Lawson (Santa Clarita Diet); Casper Crump (Legends of Tomorrow)
Bran becomes King – Game of Thrones
Honest to God. No disrespect intended to Peter Dinklage, but almost everything Tyrion says in this episode is such a prime example of Shut Up, Writers, and seriously, SHUT UP, WRITERS. Bran’s story could have been epic; instead, he has one of the weakest narratives in the entire show. It is absurdly easy to write Bran out of the story without anything being impacted. Bran reveals that Jon is the true heir? Who gives a shit, Sam and Gilly figured that out, too. The Night King wants to kill Bran because he knows everything in the past, present, and future? Cool, but Bran never really uses that knowledge against the Night King in any meaningful way. Bran has been more plot device than character for seasons, and he’s not even a particularly good plot device. Besides, I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’d want my king to be some spooky ass dude who occasionally says something weird and vague before going away to, I don’t know, stare blankly in a corner. Like, meh? Maybe not leadership material?
Also, come on. Bran the Broken? Jesus, you all are assholes.
Lyanna Mormont – Game of Thrones
I mean, I hated it because goddamn it, I wanted Lyanna to LIVE. That being said, she went out like a BOSS, killing a goddamn giant. It was a death worthy of her character and didn’t feel cheap or rushed, unlike almost literally everyone else in this fucking show.
Honorable Mentions: Nora (The Flash)
Cersei – Game of Thrones
It’s not just the rocks. Admittedly, the rocks are lame and I hate them, but it’s mostly that Cersei, one of the most badass, manipulative TV villains I have ever seen, didn’t do anything prior to her death other than stare out a window and cry. And like, look, I’m all on board with the idea that Cersei would be in denial about her defeat, that she’d be almost deliriously overconfident until the last possible minute. But that Cersei wouldn’t have any other backup plans, even if they didn’t work, that she wouldn’t try to use the wildfire to her advantage somehow or surrender herself in a botched assassination attempt or pretty much do anything but stand around like the World’s Biggest Target, like, dudes, no. Cersei deserved better than this. Her and Daenerys both, really. As has already been mentioned on Twitter, “The Bells” is supposed to be a battle between two powerful goddamn queens, and one barely gets dialogue, while the other is reduced to a powerless, weepy mess. Fuck that shit. (If you were wondering, “The Bells” also wins for WORST EPISODE because damn, it’s been a minute since I’ve hated something so much.)
There are so many character deaths that frustrated me this season, deaths that might have worked on paper if the show had spent, you know, the next two years building to them, but I don’t know if anything disappointed me quite so much as watching Cersei stand around, crying, before almost literally getting a bridge dropped on her.
Honorable Mentions: Daenerys (Game of Thrones); Missandei (Game of Thrones); Varys (Game of Thrones); Jaime (Game of Thrones); Melisandre (Game of Thrones); Admiral Cornwell (Star Trek: Discovery)
THE ULTIMATE DOWNWARD SPIRAL CHARACTER
Daenerys – Game of Thrones
Yes, as I wrap up these TV Superlatives, it’s perhaps becoming clear to you that I was one of the many people who hated how Game of Thrones ended. I did consider characters from other shows–Cisco from The Flash was a possibility here, considering how forced I found his character exit to be–but really, despite Emilia Clarke’s impressive commitment to the material, no one’s arc got more demolished than Daenerys’ this season.
There are, I’m sure, at least a hundred pieces on the internet complaining why Dany’s “Mad Queen” turn didn’t work and a hundred more complaining that everything was foreshadowed and anyone who didn’t see it coming is a loser. I’m a little too burnt out at this point to write my own 5,000-word essay, so let me just say this: I came into Season 8 hoping Daenerys would become a villain. I wanted her to discover either Jon or Gendry’s true parentage (or both) and try to kill either (or both) characters. Actually, I was hoping she’d succeed in doing so; I definitely wanted her to murder Jon, not unlike the way he murdered her–and not because she was a Mad Queen, indiscriminately murdering hundreds of thousands of civilians under the self-deluded guise of liberation–but because she felt entitled to the throne, had spent too many years working and sacrificing and killing to be pushed out of the way for some random dude.
Over several seasons, Dany has proven to be capable of brutal acts of violence; those acts, however, have always had a pretty clear reason behind them, if not necessarily just cause. Turning her into some bad-in-the-blood Mad Queen in a mere couple of episodes, one who unnecessarily murdered everyone in King’s Landing even though she had clearly already won, just because the people didn’t love her enough and, like, cause her nephew refused to make out with her, just . . . ugh. I can’t. I can’t. I know you’re gonna come at me with Missandei, but no. Her death was totally cheap. Basically everything that happened to Daenerys this season was cheap. I do not buy any of this.
Because–as plenty of people have already said–there is a difference between foreshadow and character development. And just because I could see this coming doesn’t mean I buy how we got here.
Honorable Mentions: Jaime (Game of Thrones); Cisco (The Flash)
Okay, that’s it for today! Comment to agree! Comment to argue! Comment and give me some of your own Best Of/Worst Of recent TV moments! (Preferably marking spoilers, please!) Hopefully I’ll see you back here in a few months for some more TV superlatives.