Things are pretty quiet around my personal television schedule throughout this summer, which currently we’re only recognising as summer because the rain’s warmer than it is in December. I’m still bingeing on Person of Interest (twenty episodes left) and there’s the weekly Deep Space Nine (five and a bit seasons left) and now that the Council’s motor-mower has left us in peace again, I will shortly be taking in the next episode of Horace and Pete (blog coming up shortly).
The only regularly scheduled series I’m currently watching is Preacher (three episodes left), about which I’m harbouring increasingly mixed feelings that I’ll probably unload in a post-season blog. Apart from that, it’s wheel-spinning time until September/October, when the new roster will start to coalesce.
In the meantime, there’s bits of news about my selection of series’, most of which I don’t pursue because, as you are aware, I try to go spoiler-free, which makes the actually watching that bit more fun when you’re not sitting there checking your watch and thinking, ‘only seven minutes left, they’re really pushing it about fitting in that super-secret, stunning, shock revelation I read about last Monday’.
But I have been aware, at regular intervals, of news about Supergirl‘s secondseason, and especially the changes being made in the form of new characters being added.
Of my autumn-to-spring schedule, it’s pretty much evens between this series and Arrow for most-likely-to-fall-off-the-ledge as did Gotham two episodes into last year. With Arrow, it’s down to the series having become too repetitive, predictable and dour, on top of which the producers have decided to smear a generous level of desperate manipulation of characters (I’m looking at the last Oliver/Felicity break-up here, which was the moment I was so disgusted at the lengths the show would go to not to have anyone marginally happy or secure).
Supergirl is the exact opposite. It’s scraped through a patchy first series primarily on Melissa Benoist’s perfect capture of both Supergirl and Kara Danvers (the micro-skirt and boots haven’t hurt either) and Callista Flockhart’s equally perfect portrayal of Cat Grant.
But it didn’t pull in the audiences CBS wanted, so it’s been ‘demoted’ to where it should have been all along, the CW Network, and been given over fully into the hands of Greg Berlanti and his crew, who will now have four DC shows to meld (a four-way crossover has already been planned: I plan to blog each episode). Filming of the show has been transferred to Vancouver (also known as both Starling/Star City and Central City and every city Legends of Tomorrow visited: those Canadians have really got their feet in the trough, haven’t they?).
And it’s getting a real makeover. Quite early on, it was announced that the show was looking to cast five new characters, two regulars, three recurring. And that was before the announcements that the Big Blue Boy Scout, Superman himself would be appearing in the flesh AND that Lynda Carter, the erstwhile Wonder Woman, will be appearing as the President (so not Donald Trump, then).
With that number of new characters, a seismic change in the dynamics of the show is inevitable. It’s failure to wholly convince in its first season would have demanded some steps in that direction but this amount of change is of a much more serious degree.
Three of the newbies are established DC characters. Or at least their names are. Probably the closest to the original is Lena Luthor, an incoming regular. Lena, as even the most comics-uncomfortable of you might guess, is related to Lex of that name: in both series and original, she is his younger sister (I am ignoring the version active between Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis during which she was his daughter).
Lena has always been an innocent, with none of Lex’s villainy, and the initial write-up of her intended role is that of an escapee from Big Bro’s villainy, but I’m rather suspecting that on Supergirl she’s going end up turning into a proto-Lex, which in turn suggests to me less/no more Max Lord. There is precedent: in the early Seventies, when Supergirl first went out into the working world, one of her recurring characters was Luthor’s niece, Nastalthia (aka ‘Nasty’).
The other two carry-overs from the comics have both been cast this week, which is what has prompted me to write this piece. Floriana Lima has been cast as Detective Maggie Sawyer, a lesbian police officer with a special interest in cases involving aliens. This is a variation on the original character, a tough-talking and action lesbian detective who’s played prominent roles in Superman and Batman.
But the casting of Ian Gomez as Snapper Carr is one heck of a dislocation, given that the only common ground between Gomez’s character – the new editor-in-chief of Cat Grant’s newspaper and Kara’s new, challenging boss – and the comic book original is the name.
Snapper Carr (first name much belatedly given as Lucas) was introduced in the first Justice League of America story and became their mascot until issue 77. He was a teenager, a hep cat, swinging, jive-talking, hot-rodding teenager, whose nickname came from his habit of snapping his fingers whenever he was happy, and boy was this cat happy, to the point where any normal, responsible adult superhero would have broken his fingers. Just imagine the kind of hip teen character a badly out of touch middle-aged writer could have come up with in 1960, and you still won’t get near enough to him.
(After Snapper was written out in 1970, DC tried on many occasions to reinvent him, without the least shred of luck. The only decent handling of him was in Mark Waid’s Justice League of America – Year One maxi-series, where he’s reinvented as a technical wizard.)
So you can see that all we’re taking here is a completely unrelated name. But don’t worry, the tv Snapper is known as Snapper because, you guessed it, he snaps his fingers when he’s excited. It was a nickname as dumb as a mud-post in 1960 so you can guess how stupid it is fifty-six years later.
The other two, as yet uncast newbies, have no comics background to them, although don’t count on that persisting in the case of the Doctor (no, that crossover is not on anyone’s horizon). She’s a scientist who likes experimenting on humans by sewing bits of aliens into them, but she works for the Cadmus Project, another long-standing bit of Superman lore, so don’t be surprised if she gets a DC female scientist name hung on her. Cadmus may have been a pretty chauvinist environment, but nobody’s using Jennet Klyburn or Kitty Faulkner right now and so what if they both worked for S.T.A.R. Labs? Is Snapper Carr still a quasi-beatnik?
The last is to be brash, leading man type reporter Nick Farrow, the other regular. I have a premonition that he’s going to be an utter disaster, as he sounds like the kind of character designed to cut completely against the sweet but stumbling proto-feminism of the series. I fair dreads it.
Five new characters, eh? Plus Supes himself and the President. And just where does this leave the existing crew? So far, there’s no word on anybody leaving, though we already know there’s going to be a big change in dynamics in one of the show’s most important aspects. Callista Flockheart is not relocating to Vancouver, which means that her role in the show is going to have to be diminished (as we would already guess from the introduction of Sn*pper). It’s being suggested that she’ll fly to Canada once a month to record all her scenes in a block, but if she’s absent from the daily run of production, I can’t help but think that this distance will seep into the acting somehow and be noticeable.
As for the rest, I also suspect that this Nick Farrow guy will also force Jeremy Jordan’s Win Schott even further into the background. Once his crush on Kara had been revealed and rejected, his character was half-crippled last season, with no viable way forward, and his contributions became much more mechanical and perfunctory as a result. Something new needs to be found for him, but with so many others jostling for attention, and being given it in order to establish them, what price the Toymaker Jr?
And we’re not that far off the same position with Master James Bartholomew Olsen, who never entirely convinced me. This version is just too far removed from the canonical Jimmy to ever be truly convincing and Mehcad Brooks is simply far too laid-back. Maybe he should just go back to Metropolis?
Oh me, oh my. Whatever will happen to Supergirl next? Will there be a quantum leap in standard as it slips into more practiced hands? Or will it simply cough, shuffle its feet and pretend not to know what you’re talking about if you try to remind it about season 1?
At least we know that this time round, even the kitchen sink is being thrown in…