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Superheroes on TV: Predictability 

Superheroes on TV: Predictability
Photo Credit: Diyah Pera/The CW

I have the utmost respect for characters who mean what they say and follow through on their promises. While predictability may be frowned upon in the traditional sense, few things are more rewarding than someone who can pull the trigger when the moment calls for it. This week’s Superheros on TV takes a look at where predictability works well and when it falls short.

Legends-of-Tomorrow-River-of-Time
Photo Credit: Diyah Pera/The CW

No matter how much I enjoy cheering for the hero, there’s always a point in time where I find myself rooting for the bad guy. Chances are, the more dastardly the villain, the more likely I am to want to see them succeed. Despite the progress in recent weeks of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, I constantly find myself leaning toward Vandal Savage. He’s smart, persistent, and always two steps ahead of Rip’s team. But best of all, he’s a man of his word.

But predictability works both ways. Savage is consistent and predictable in his ability to always come out on top just as the team is predictable in their quest to try and stop him. Try is about all they’ve managed to do so far; and it doesn’t seem to be working so well for them. In “River of Time,” when they had Savage locked up in a cell, he was able to use Ray’s machismo against him to break free. Because a love triangle isn’t quite enough for this show, Kendra has to be pulled between three love interests. (Yes, three. Savage counts no matter how unrequited that relationship has been.) To have seen her with the power to end this trek in “Leviathan,” and choosing not to deal the death blow was maddening. Did it upset me? Absolutely! But was Kendra being predictable in choosing Carter over killing Savage? Definitely. That is the kind of predictably that has plagued a rocky first season of Legends.

In an interview with IGN, showrunner Phil Klemmer promises “new good guys, new bad guys, new stakes, new dynamics, new goals,” in the second season. Implying that the Vandal Savage story will conclude in the first season, let’s hope DC’s Legends of Tomorrow can take the better elements from its DC counterparts and build on the mythos they’ve created in this shared multiverse.

Photo Credit: Diyah Pera/The CW
Photo Credit: Diyah Pera/The CW

Where Arrow is concerned, I’m actually glad to see Dig fall back into his own version of normalcy. Seeing him pistol whip Ruve Adams in “Canary Cry” last week felt wildly out of character for him. As Dig falls back into himself on “Genesis,” Andy, too, continues to be predictably bad. He thwarts his brother at every turn because he’s preying on Dig’s devotion to family. It’s not enough that Dig is tortured by his own brother for him to accept that there’s no redemption. But Darhk’s hold on Andy is too great, and Dig is pushed too far when Andy threatens that Lyla and baby Sara won’t be the only women and children to die once this war begins.

That kind of devotion is what separates cronies from betas. The moment he turned on the team in “Eleven Fifty-Nine” was the moment when his villain game was elevated to predictable in the most awful and awesome sense. Now Andy is the kind of bad guy we love to hate. The kind of character who’s consistency makes a great foil to the characters we actually love. Now that he’s done hiding and playing a double agent, he’s free to do all the terrible things he says he will do. Where John’s predictability tends to keep him in a box, Andy’s has allowed him the freedom to be truly villainous. This match-up has become far more compelling than anything we’ve seen between Darhk and Oliver.

Photo Credit: Bettina Strauss/The CW
Photo Credit: Bettina Strauss/The CW

It’s easy to applaud the “good” bad guys; the ones who can toe the line between characters we love to hate vs characters that are just detestable (Joffrey, from Game of Thrones, for example). Oddly enough, where many heroes fall into the trap of being predictable in a bad way, this is the area where Flash and Barry Allen thrive. Maybe it’s Grant Gustin’s portrayal, or maybe it’s just excellent writing, but The Flash manages to keep its finger on the pulse of my heartstrings with Barry’s predictable yet sincere nature.

It’s apparent that Barry will always do what’s right. He makes the tough choice, and when it doesn’t work out, I know he’s going to pick himself up and give it another go. What makes the Zoom story line in season 2 so compelling is that he is the polar opposite of Barry Allen. Where Barry always makes the self sacrificing choice, Zoom will always hit ’em where it hurts. When he threatened to kill the officers of CCPD if they tried to interfere, he did. Granted, that was a dark moment in a show that tends to trend lighter, but it made sense for the character. While the writers have tried to blur the lines between Jay Garrick and Zoom, the audience still knows that Zoom is predictably, maybe inherently, evil.

When a character stays true to their nature, it is easier to be more invested in their arc and the show overall. But when they can’t quite get it right, like with DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, sometimes it can be a chore to get through an episode. That’s not to say that characters can’t grow and change, but when the progression is unnatural, it’s hard to be totally immersed in the world that’s been created.

Perhaps the question we should be asking is, why are the villains on the better end of the predictability spectrum than the heroes?

Barry’s running out of time to stop Zoom. The Flash has three episodes left; Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.
Arrow also has three episodes left to put a stop to Damien Darhk. Tune in Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.
Only two episodes of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow remain. Follow along Thursdays at 8/7c on The CW.

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