“They have called this day the eleventh of March! And whomsoever of you gets through this day, unless you are shot in the head or somehow slain, you will stand at tiptoe when e’er you hear the name again. And you will get excited at the name March the eleventh! We happy few, we few, we band of brothers… our names will be as like… household names! And those who are not here… be they sleeping or doing something else, they will feel themselves sort of crappy! Because they are not here to join the fight on this day the eleventh of March!
Okay, I have a rant brewing. It’s kinda tangential to Canada Day, old TV shows and superhero blockbuster trends. It’s too late to run.
So, this is mostly about Superman. See, lately there’s this weird assumption that you need to rework his character to make him interesting in the movies. You can’t have a guy with godlike powers helping people just cuz, you need to imbue the character with depth, which usually means a trauma, an internal conflict, a space to grow and change and have an arc. Also you have to make him Batman. All of this may or may not be directly blamed on Zack Snyder, Ayn Rand and misconstrued Joseph Campbell, but let’s leave these guys alone, they’ve had enough already.
What we won’t leave alone is that one Canadian buddy cop show from 20 years back which I love to bits and which presents us with a perfectly functional alternative approach to writing a superhero story.
And yes, Due South is lowkey one of the best superhero shows out there. Let’s see. We have a stranger in a strange land (of Chicago (shot in Toronto)) story, a set of weird powers that can not be chalked up to our hero simply being Kryptonian Canadian, a bright, ridiculous outfit, a magical pet, a dad from beyond the grave, a strong moral code and no gun, a sidekick and a catchphrase. All of the above is Benton Fraser, the mountie exiled to the barbaric land of Illinois and partnering with a local cop to, well, help people.
The thing is, he has no arc and doesn’t need one.
Writing perfectly stable, goody-two-shoes hero is, of course, kinda boring, but here’s that one simple trick that drives Warner Bros. execs mad. Superman Fraser does not need to grow and change and have his world shattered by some bullshit third act revelation, because it’s not him who does the growing, it’s everyone around.
He has some shady shit in his past which will resurface to Sarah McLachlan’s song, but that is not why he’s great. He’s already this out of nowhere towering beacon of hope who may need to catch up on American slang and customs, but other than that comes pretty much perfect out of the box.
Pictured: the box.
It would have been super easy to set this up as a typical fish-out-of-water-and-into-late-capitalism kinda story, but the show starts to subvert these tropes from day one. Fraser does not even leave the airport yet when there’s a guy asking to borrow some money, and Fraser, this naive Canadian unprepared for tough streets of Chicago, of course, takes his word for it and lends that guy like a hundred bucks.
This is the rare show where that guy actually comes back at the end of the pilot and returns the money, thus proving it’s the naive humanist who was right about people all along, and not the cynical genre cliches. The sheer element of surprise in the mountie being nice to people is what gets to everyone on this show and steers them right every goddamn time.
Like, hey, someone actually believes in me.
This shit gets you a long way.
So, yeah, I just needed to reiterate I love Due South.