After an impressive first season, Supergirl fast became one of my favourite superhero television shows currently airing. To my mind, it far outstripped both Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, and at times even exceeded The Flash in terms of quality. This isn’t, I realise, a particularly popular nor mainstream opinion, but it’s still held by a significant number.
What is interesting though is that, even amongst those who like Supergirl, there’s one character who is typically quite unpopular – that’s Jimmy Olsen, as played by Mehcad Brooks. Personally speaking, I never particular had a problem with him, but I can understand why people weren’t fans: the majority of his plotlines over the course of the first season were quite firmly rooted in terms of the love triangle between Kara, Jimmy and Lucy. Again, not something I had a problem with, and I’d argue there was more to his character than just that; at the same time, though, I can understand why people might have perceived this to be the case, and then in turn why they’d begin to dislike the character.
However, Supergirl season two is in the position where it will – almost by default – solve all of the perceived issues with the character essentially reflexively. After all, the first season ended with Kara and Jimmy in a relationship together – meaning, then, that the majority of Jimmy’s plotlines will no longer be linked to a love triangle, because this love triangle simply doesn’t exist anymore. Which does then beg the question:
Where next for Jimmy Olsen?
The problem when trying to answer that question is that we’re trying to answer it for Jimmy Olsen – a character who has, historically, essentially only been a minor character whom Superman would occasionally tease. Certainly, there have been departures from this, but only the most dedicated of comic book devotees would be able to point to “the definitive Jimmy Olsen story”. So, let’s widen the field a little bit – this is a journalist character who’s in a relationship with our Super main character, and has thus far acted as a moral centre for them. When you distil it down to those base elements, which character does Jimmy Olsen most resemble?
I’m not saying, of course, that we should be lifting Lois Lane stories wholesale and applying them to Jimmy – particularly given how ridiculous some of them are – but I do think that Lois Lane is a very good touchstone to consider when writing for Jimmy. In many ways, it’s reflective of the instances at which Jimmy worked best; one of his standout scenes during the last year was a quiet conversation with Cat on the matters of journalistic integrity, and doing the right thing. Continuing in this vein is, I’d argue, the best route to take with Jimmy; casting him in the role as the moral centre of Kara’s world, the one who’s most in touch with the public, and who’s most conscious of their effect on the world.
When it comes down to it, I do think there’s a lot to Jimmy that would make for a really compelling character. He’s trying to establish himself anew as a journalist, and get out of the shadow of Superman – and yet he’s most well-known for his Pulitzer prize winning photo of Superman, and now he’s working so closely with Supergirl. Jimmy has, as we’ve seen, a firm belief in due process, yet is quite closely aligned with people who work outside of it. He is, in many ways, a man of contradictions – and that’s something that can be particularly engaging if written well, with close attention to the character.
Lois Lane is, then, a really good benchmark to consider, because it helps us to remember the moments at which Jimmy worked best – the moments when he was a journalist.
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