How Supergirl Got James Olsen Wrong

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When you close your eyes and think of Jimmy Olsen, you think curly hair, a bow-tie, and suspenders.

Later versions may have messed with the look a bit to keep with the times as of the '90s, but the main aspects of the character stayed.

Jimmy Olsen Comics

He's always been an over-eager cub reporter. He wants to be like Clark Kent and Lois Lane, but he's still a little wet behind the ears.

James (Jimmy) Bartholomew Olsen defined being adorkable before it was even a word.

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He aims to please, not in a sycophantic, annoying, kiss-up kind of way, but because he admires the heroes and generally wants to help.

There is a reason why Superman would make this guy his best pal, but he is a lot more like Clark Kent than he is like The Man of Steel. 

Kara meets James - Supergirl Season 1 Episode 1

In 2015, Supergirl premiered and introduced a new kind of Olsen. Most notably, he was black, not to mention tall and bald.

More than that, though, he was suave. He was charming and confident. He was the character you admire, as opposed to the character doing the admiring. He wasn't Jimmy Olsen anymore. He was James.

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No show had given us a Jimmy like this before.

Smallville sort of went there, having Jimmy go through a Bond-like phase and then battle a pain-med addiction, but they retconned the whole thing by killing him off and revealing that he was actually Jimmy's older brother Henry James Olsen, taking away the significance of all his character growth, as well as his name.

I'm still not over it, but I digress.

James Henry Olsen's Brother - Smallville Season 8 Episode 22

As hard as it was to swallow seeing such a different Jimmy, I mean James, on Supergirl, it made a lot of sense. 

Jimmy was the Jimmy we know and love when Superman first started donning the cape, which was before Kara AKA Supergirl crashed to earth as a teen. Supergirl takes place a decade later; it makes total sense that Jimmy would grow in the span of that time.

He can't be a cub reporter forever.

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Superman and his friends are forever the same age in most iterations, so a mature Jimmy Olsen is not one we had really seen before.

While we missed our adorkable friend, the writers made the right choice in aging Jimmy up and giving him a chance to be more than Superman's best pal. However, they then decided to make him Supergirl's love interest.

Kara and James Kiss - Supergirl Season 1 Episode 18

To be fair, Jimmy Olsen did marry Supergirl in his comic series, so this wasn't entirely out of left field.

He also married Lucy Lane, but the marriage got annulled. In fact, Jimmy's spin-off comic series saw him with a few different women as well as up to crazy antics.

It was more a fun adventure series than a serious comic. But this Jimmy is supposed to be serious and adult.

Jimmy Olsen Marries Supergirl

That's not to say he can't have love in his life. However, this wasn't Jimmy's show.

It was Supergirl's show and making Jimmy simply a love-interest to the lead seriously limited the storylines he would have and the way the audience saw him.

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Aside from that, James and Kara just didn't have a lot of chemistry, and while the Supergirl creators were trying to launch this ship during Supergirl Season 1, many of us were rooting for Kara's friend Winn, who with his adorkable sidekick ways was actually a more Jimmy-ish kind of character.

Maybe the writers didn't see chemistry either, or maybe they just decided to go in a different direction when the show switched networks.

Whatever the reason, the Kara/James romance got completely scrapped in season two. Now the writers had to figure out what to do with this character which they had tried and failed to write as a romantic lead. 

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They tried to promote him; James was made the editor of CatCo World-Wide Media, giving his career a boost.

It had potential, but since they barely had time to focus on Kara's career, it was unlikely that Jimmy's evolution in the media world was going to get much screentime. 

Guardian - James Olsen - Supergirl Season 2 Episode 6

The next idea the writers had was to make Jimmy a Superhero like all of his friends. In the comics, Jimmy did get powers and became a hero many times.

It was just usually a one-off or alt-world situation. Since none of those Jimmys was a lasting hero and many shared powers with other comic-book heroes in the Arrowverse such as Speed Demon or Elastic Lad, they went another way.

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It makes sense that James, after years on the sidelines, would want to step up and be a Superhero. Making him Guardian, a hero from the comics, though never associated with Jimmy Olsen, was an interesting idea.

They just never seemed able to follow through on making it interesting. I think at this point people just didn't care enough about the character to get invested.

In season three, the writers had a great idea; put James with Lena Luthor. James had expressed that he didn't trust anyone named Luthor, so he and Lena were far from friends.

Kara was always encouraging James to trust Lena in season two, and by season three, he seemed to think she had proven herself.

When she became his boss, they clashed, which always makes good television. In working together, they eventually grew to respect each other. James got to know Lena and realized he was wrong about her. Something beautiful developed naturally.

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The only problem was that at this point, the favorite ship by fans was SuperCorp, so anyone other than Kara being with Lena was not going to be received well.

I think James's character shone in his relationship with Lena. It put him back as a love interest, but this time with someone whom he had chemistry.

James and Lena - Supergirl

Some of James' best storylines came from his relationship with Lena and the dynamic they had. Where he and Kara had both been positive, hopeful, and idealistic people, Lena was a realist with a dark past.

The question of morality became a part of their relationship. They would influence each other and disagree with each other. Lena helped James to see that the world was not black and white.

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I legitimately believe that if SuperCorp fans weren't so die-hard in their fanning, this storyline would have saved James Olsen. Alas, it was not to be.

The final nail in the coffin was the show trying for a racial storyline. It wasn't a bad angle, and it is one that needs to get addressed. Having a Superhero of Color could mean a lot to people, both in-universe and in fandom.

Unfortunately, many fans found the racial storyline to be too heavy-handed. In fact, this was felt about most politically-driven liberal plotlines in seasons three and four.

It is important for a show to be woke and for arcs to start a conversation, but they shouldn't hit you over the head with it.

Jimmy failed as a Superhero and role model because he wasn't written to be until a little too late in the game, and his second attempt at being a leading man was sunken by the SuperCorp ship.

In aging Jimmy up, the writers took away too many of his endearing qualities and scrambled to fill in what he lacked. 

There wasn't enough character left for a full-blown arc, and by the time he started to hit his stride, it was too late.

Plus, again, SuperCorp. 

As much as I always have and always will love the classic Jimmy Olsen, bow-tie and all, I'd like to see the DCU try again at some point.

Letting Jimmy grow up is not the worst thing in the world, but if he's going to out-grow what made him lovable, he needs to be more than a love-interest of a public service announcement; he needs to be a fully-developed person.

Supergirl's writers took too long to flesh out this character.

He can't stand on his own, and it isn't Supergirl or Lena Luthor's job to prop him up. It's a shame that he's leaving National City, but with how the character got handled, are we really surprised?

Do you think the writers did right by our favorite photo-journalist?

What could they have done better?

And if not Kara or Lena, then who?

Tell us in the comments.

Leora W is a staff writer for TV Fanatic..

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Supergirl Quotes

Beth: You know it's true what they say, behind every great man is a strong woman.
Lena: I wouldn't know, I've never stood behind a man.

Nia: How do you feel? Uninhibited?
Brainy: Something like that.