Sep 042011

Up until now, Maverick had been a relatively standard villain. He had his evil scheme. He used what abilities he possessed to execute his evil scheme. Other than the fact that he had mind-altering powers, he was no different from any typical political thriller villain.

But episode 23 of Tiger and Bunny was something of a coming-out party for him. He’s no longer some stuffy suit who could be slotted into a John Grisham corporate intrigue novel. This episode was him going full Dr. Doom on the world. And it was awesome.

Yeah, Maverick hadn’t been a full-blown comic book supervillain up to this point. He was content to work behind the scenes, pull strings, and look menacingly at the camera when no one else was paying attention. Many comic book villains do that sort of stuff as well, but those are universal traits shared by all big bads. But with the finale ramping up, Maverick finally let his inner Lex Luthor shine by embracing the death trap.

The scenario in place here is a thing of beauty. You have Wild Imposter, who has been revealed to be a robot created by the dude that created Proto-R-Dorothy-Wayneright, facing down Tiger and Barnaby. The heroes have to face the creature created to replace them now that they’ve been deemed obsolete for knowing too much. So we have the whole evil doppelganger thing going. But at the same time we have a separate scenario brewing. The other heroes have been placed into spiked chambers, explosive collars have been fitted to their necks, and they’ve been given an ultimatum: The first one to remove their collar gets to live. The others die.

We all know how this is going to end. Tiger and Bunny (Along with the help of Lunatic, I bet.) will take down Robo-Tiger while the other heroes manage to escape from their death trap without succumbing to temptation. No one is gonna betray their friends in order to save their own ass. Shit doesn’t go down like that in these superhero shows, especially when no one has given the slightest hint that they’re capable of betrayal.

The outcome isn’t what matters here. What matters is that this is a classic scenario. The primary heroes have to face their evil duplicate and the other heroes are placed in a morality trap. These are perfect ways for the villain to taunt and torment the hero. Death traps allow the villain to gloat about their scheme. Villains like to let the hero know exactly what’s going to happen while the hero is seemingly incapable of stopping their scheme. It’s cathartic, like yoga for evil dudes or something. And it allows the villain to place the heroes into a situation where their morals could potentially be compromised. It gives the villain the potential to corrupt the hero and bring them over to the dark side. This is the sort of shit that these guys get off on. Even if the villain is aware of the potential for the hero to escape, they’d probably still go through with these motions because they need to go through the motions. It just feels right, and to bawk at it for being stupid or cliched is to completely miss the point. And the robot double plays a similar role, since it forces the hero to “fight himself” and see the evil potentials of his dark side. It isn’t just about making a superior robot, it’s about showing the hero that he’ll never meet his full potential as long as he holds onto his heroic values.

It all comes down to the fact that a real supervillain isn’t completely fixated on “winning.” He may want to pull off whatever scheme he’s working on, since it nets him cash or power or whatever, but he’s just as concerned about breaking the hero. It isn’t just a matter of putting a bullet in his brain while he’s unconscious. Thugs and terrorists do that sort of shit, but not supervillains. They want to see the hero squirm. They want the hero to know he has no chance of winning. They need that dynamic to feel alive.

And in embracing this approach, Maverick has come full circle into the supervillain fold. He was a criminal before, telling his lackeys to secretly murder old women and the like, but in the finale he’s finally realized that deep down inside he’s a supervillain.

Welcome to the club.

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