NOCs of the Roundtable: The Darkest Timelines

I guess Bryan Singer has a complex about Marvel movie announcements that aren’t about the X-Men. Back in October, on the same day Disney/Marvel released the long-awaited trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Singer and Fox Instagrammed a teaser vid of their own X-Men: Days of Future Past trailer. So last week, when Sony debuted their trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Singer took to twitter to divert the attention of those fans who might have been willing to give Marc Webb’s sequel a chance:

Also because the internet has a short attention span. If the X-Men eighth-quel is indeed about the classic “Age of Apocalypse” storyline from the 90s — in which a mutant time-travels to the past and accidentally kills Xavier, thus setting off an alternate timeline in which Magneto assembles the X-Men, only to have Apocalypse choose that moment to launch a war that places mutants at the top of the food chain because he slaughters humans by the millions (holy run-ons, Batman!) — then that would mean back-to-back alternate timeline movies for the X-Men. But it got the Nerds to reflect on other media that took advantage of the alternate timeline/evil twin conceit. So we took to the Roundtable once again.

The alternate timeline device seems to go hand in hand with the evil twin one. Not only do the characters in these alternate timelines tend to represent darker versions of the heroes we love, but the former often leads to the latter. It even happens in “Age of Apocalypse” when Dark Beast made his way into the 616 universe (and thus conveniently allowed the Marvel editors to retcon some confusing X-history).

Another example is Evil Abed and the havoc he wrought on Community‘s Prime timeline before being sent back to the Darkest one.

Cruel. Cruel. Cruel.

RAYMOND: Favorite examples of the Evil Clone/Twin trope: Dark Link in Legend of Zelda, Bart Simpson’s evil twin Hugo, Evil Ryu in Street Fighter II, Nega-Scott in Scott Pilgrim.

JASON: The Mirror Universe in Deep Space Nine.

RAYMOND: The Mirror Universe! Oh, and Data and Lore, or Will and Thomas Riker. Man Star Trek does this a lot.

KEITHParticularly TNG. They didn’t go the Mirror route, but they loved alternate timelines. You have episodes like “Yesterday’s Enterprise” or “Parallels.” Hell, the series finale “All Good Things” was basically just an alternate timeline episode. I am a bit partial to DS9’s “Trials and Tribble-ations” though.

JENN: I love pretty much every iteration of the Star Trek alternate universe, but particularly when it was done in the (non-canon) TNG book Dark Mirror.

I think the prose format really gives the author a chance to fully explore the alternate universe concept, which is really about the illusion of predetermined identity and a discussion of how accidents of circumstance shape who we are.

JASON: Anyone watching Orphan Black? So good!

KEITH: If we’re going the “Clone” route, Bizarro is another example. It’s interesting how that concept has so many interpretations. You have Bizarro as failed experiment, Bizarro as an imperfect Superman clone, Bizarro as Phantom Zone escapee, and my favorite, Bizarro World where there’s a whole universe of backwards heroes — including Batzarro(!).

It’s so dumb. And so great.

RAYMOND: My favorite hero-fights-his-evil-self moment is in my favorite anime of all time, Naruto. 495 chapters in Naruto is going to gain more power by learning how to control the literal monster inside him, the nine-tailed fox. Before that though he’s got to learn to defeat the metaphorical monster inside him, himself. Instead of a Dagobah swamp, Naruto is instructed to meditate in front of a waterfall and out comes his “dark” self fully equipped with the dark eyes and evil smile.

I love the silliness of the trope because you literally fight yourself. So Naruto battles himself to a draw because how do you fight someone who knows exactly all of your techniques and tactics? But “dark” Naruto is a manifestation of all of Naruto’s anger and resentment towards people so he defeats evil in the best way possible. HE HUGS HIMSELF(!) and thanks his anger for its well intentions of wanting to protect him. But he tells his dark self to not worry, he can be strong without him now. AND THEN DARK NARUTO GETS SAD(!!) because he doesn’t think he’s needed and he’ll fade away. So Naruto tells him it’s not a problem and that he can just come back. Naruto at its best is always about acceptance of others but this is a great moment because it’s about accepting yourself.

KEITH: Smallville used this trope quite a bit during its run. There was the episode “Onyx” when Lex was split in two (a good Lex and an evil Lex) and was responsible for one of my favorite lines of the whole series:

Season Six was all about the aforementioned Bizarro Clark in which Bizarro was more of Clark’s evil twin than his “imperfect clone.” Honestly, I never liked how that whole storyline played out on the show.

JENN: My other favourite is the Buffybot, because she is a conscious nod to what critics of the Buffy show were characterizing Buffy as: a vapid, idiotic, robotic sex kitten. She was well-used through the latter half of the series as a direct juxtaposition against the human Buffy, which served to underscore how nuanced and complex a character Buffy had become by then.

At the same time, Buffybot was written as funny, charming, and likable. And her — spoiler alert — death is actually impactful to the audience, because she sort of becomes human to us.

RODRIGO: Does the “Just-Us League” count?