Sunday, September 11, 2016

Top 20 Fictional Duos

For this installment of my series of lists on small-sized teams, I will be focusing on teams that have the minimum number of members required to qualify as a “team” (at least, in my opinion): two.  So, these are my most favorite duos in fiction.

To make a “duo”, they must be basically working together – either as partners of equal standing or as senior/hero/mentor and subordinate/sidekick/protege.  There could be tension, bickering, rivalry, and even some dislike between them, as long as they’re working together and not against each other (thus, Tom and Jerry aren’t considered in this list).

Not only do I love The Lion King, but it had a significant impact in my worldview development.  One of its biggest influences, if not the biggest, on me is “Hakuna Matata” – the motto of this quirky meerkat-warthog duo, which they shared to Simba, and which I took up as my own as well.  Moreover, they’re one of the most hilarious fictional duos there are – as I’ve witnessed in the movie, its sequels, comics, as well as the fun spin-off animated series that carried their names.

19.) “BAD BOYS”
The titular “Bad Boys” of the Bad Boys movies are Detective Sergeants Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey of Miami Police’s narcotics department.  It can be argued that there are funnier, more endearing, and more badass buddy-cop movie pairings out there.  But I’ve always had a soft spot for the Bad Boys movies – dumb and flawed as they are.

These two genius stepbrothers proceed to do a lot of fun inventions for the sake of fighting the boredom of summer vacation.  It’s always extremely amusing to see them work together to build the most over-the-top projects they can think of, which then gets torn down before their ratting sister can show it to their parents.

Speaking of genius (and “ratting”)…

“Gee, Brain. What are we going to do tonight?”
“The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world.”

Pinky and the Brain was a very fun, clever animated series.  It follows a duo of genetically modified mice residing in a cage in Acme Labs, the megalomaniac Brain and the feeble-minded Pinky, who constantly schemes for world domination once they’re left alone.  However, these schemes – contrived primarily by Brain – eventually fail due to a seemingly obvious overlooked flaw which the dim-witted Pinky ironically notices and points out, but Brain arrogantly dismisses

16.) J & K
I find the Men in Black a fascinating organization.  And its most prominent agents – charismatically played by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones/Josh Brolin – display an enjoyable dynamic with each other in all three MIB movies.

This is the newest duo in this list, debuting this year in the movie The Nice Guys.  Provided that their detective agency only officially started at the end of the movie, Jackson Healy and Holland March – played respectively by Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling with perfect chemistry – already displayed, during the rest of the movie, that they make a great, immensely entertaining team.

These central characters of the short-lived but immensely entertaining Almost Human TV series are the nigh-perfect embodiment of Elijah Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw (which will appear later in this list).  Until an actual screen adaptation of the Isaac Asimov’s Robot novels are made, these two are the closest we’ll ever get of seeing them be portrayed in live-action.

(They won the “Best TV Duo” category in the 2013 Bernels.)

The “GetBackers” is made up of Ban Mindo and Ginji Amanom, a pair of retrieval-specialists-for-hire capable of recovering any lost or stolen item.   At first impression, it’s already apparent that they’re a cool duo with kickass powers – Ban, an illusion-casting, super-strong tactician; and Ginji, an electricity manipulator.  But as the series progresses, it’s revealed that they are actually much more powerful than they’re letting on.

Between the Psych duo, the distinctiveness and identity of their detective agency are mostly hinged on Shawn’s flawlessly keen observational skills, very potent eidetic memory, and high quality deductive reasoning skills, which he then utilizes to pretend that he’s a psychic.  Gus’ super-sensitive nose may be not as impressive as Shawn’s talents, but playing the role of the “straight man” (with Shawn tending to be more immature), he nonetheless is a consistently important contributor in making their quirky mystery-solving process work.

Even back as a kid, I found Cloak and Dagger a fascinating pairing, particularly because of being two of Spidey’s most regular teamup partners.  But as a duo, they’re also pretty distinctive due to their complementary powers and the thoughtful themes that their dynamic and adventures tackle.

Both were runaway teenagers (named Tyron Johnson and Tandy Bowen) who were forcibly made test subjects by the mob for their new synthetic heroin.  This activated their latent mutant powers – Tyron gained darkness-themed abilities while Tandy gained light-themed abilities.  They called themselves “Cloak and Dagger” and began a crusade against drug crime.  Though they moved on to other non-drug related adventures, much of their earlier adventures were drug-themed, with Dagger’s light powers capable of purging bodies from drug addiction and deterioration.

A TV show is rumored to be on the works, and I’m excited for that.

Kids on the Slope is a magnificent coming-of-age anime centered on two teens’ common love for jazz music.  My appreciation for this particular duo – Kaoru and Sentarō – is hinged on how they are capable of creating stirring, catchy music through a piano and drum duet.  Prior to witnessing them do it, I never thought the piano and the drum can be an impeccable, efficient pairing of musical instruments.

Through the fun, juvenile experiences and adventures of a very imaginative six-year-old boy named Calvin and his stuffed tiger Hobbes (who is alive and anthropomorphic in the boy’s perspective), we get delightful, sardonic, and thought-provoking reflections on various topics relevant to childhood and adulthood.   For that, I love Bill Watterson’s comic strip and its titular duo.

Detective Elijah Baley and the android R. Daneel Olivaw are the duo which John Kennex and Dorian (no. 14 of this list) are obviously patterned from.  They are the main protagonists of Isaac Asimov’s brilliant Robot novels, teaming up at least three different times to solve three sensitive robot-related murders while engaging in thoughtful discussions about the importance of humanity’s exploration of the galaxy and expansion to other planets.  As partners, they’ve displayed terrific dynamic due to the differences of their thought processes and Baley getting over his initial dislike of robots, as he eventually develops a strong friendship with Daneel.

“Caskett” is the beloved portmanteau for Castle and Beckett, the two main characters of the recently cancelled Castle (yes, Beckett was a legitimate equal to Castle in that show).  Though they eventually became an adorable couple, the true value of their partnership is hinged on how enjoyable and effective they are as a mystery-solving duo.  They are polar opposites, leading to constant sense of annoyance (especially in Beckett’s part) and bickering.  But their difference is what makes their partnership ironically compatible.  Castle’s hyper imagination and keen instinct for what makes sense in a storytelling angle initially leads to absurd theories.  But with Beckett’s grounded and prudent deductive skills also in the equation, putting sensible perspective in the case, their investigation and dialogue eventually arrive – oftentimes, the two of them simultaneously realizing it – on the correct solution.

Riggs and Murtaugh (iconic roles for Mel Gibson and Danny Glover) are universally considered as the best buddy cop duo ever.  They are probably the definitive embodiment of the “buddy cop” dynamic.  They are a lot of fun together, making all Lethal Weapon movies – even the latter, not-so-good ones – fun to watch.

I really want to see Gibson and Glover reprise these roles for at least one more movie.

I grew up with reading Hardy Boys.  The Hardy brothers, 18-year-old Frank and 17-year-old Joe, are probably my earliest favorite duo.

Having a famous detective for a father, the two boys understandably became interested in mysteries and solving them.  Both boys are smart, resourceful, versatile, athletic, and never crack under pressure, even in the face of apparent danger or death; thus, they thrive in their chosen hobby (since they’re still technically high school students, their sleuthing is just a hobby rather than a career), solving every case thrown at them.  In a later book series (Casefiles), they would even engage in international espionage.

Edward and Alphonse Elric are the main protagonists of Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (two different anime adaptations of the manga).  They are alchemy prodigies who failed in an attempt to bring their mother back to life, costing Edward his left leg and Alphonse’s entire body.  In order to save his brother’s life, Edward sacrificed his right arm so that he could contain Alphonse’s soul in a suit of armor.  Now, their hope to restore their bodies lie on finding the philosopher’s stone.  Thinking that it will bring them closer to their goal, they decide to work for the State, which sent them to perform various missions.  The successes of their assignments give Edward the reputation of “Fullmetal Alchemist” due to his automail prosthetics and inclination to perform alchemy with metals (though Alphonse is often mistaken as the Fullmetal Alchemist due to his appearance).  But as they go closer to finding the philosopher’s stone, they unfold a conspiracy that threatens the entire world.

Their tragic backstory, cool characterizations, and well-written character arcs easily make them an interesting duo.

Being known as the Dynamic Duo, the case can be made that Batman and Robin are the ultimate epitome of the concept, with the former serving as mentor and the latter as sidekick.  However, my favorite incarnation of the “Batman and Robin” model is that of Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin run, which sees Dick Grayson a.k.a. Nightwing, the original Robin, adopting the role of Batman after Bruce Wayne was seemingly killed by Darkseid; Damien Wayne, Bruce’s biological son but brought up by Talia and Ra’s al Ghul, serves as his Robin.  Suddenly, there’s a sudden shift in the iconic duo’s dynamic: Batman, since it’s Dick behind the cowl, is now the light-hearted and good-humored one; Robin, understandably due to his upbringing, is now the dark, brooding one.  It’s so fun and brilliant that I wish it became a permanent status quo (the New 52 reboot erased it).


With John Watson narrating almost all of their adventures, Sherlock Holmes has a dominant presence in the original literature.  Watson is more of an observer, and their dynamic as partners doesn’t really have much impact – the glory was all on Sherlock Holmes.

One the other hand, their fantastic dynamic as partners is portrayed and handled more interestingly in three Sherlock Holmes screen adaptations “with a twist.”
First, in the comedy film Without a Clue, wherein Ben Kingsley plays John Watson, who is actually the real brains of the duo, and “Sherlock Holmes”, played by Michael Cain, is just a hired actor so that Watson can solve cases incognito.
Second, Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law’s gritty but hilarious portrayal in Guy Ritchie’s neo-noir steampunk mystery period drama reinvention, Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (my favorite movie of 2011).
And third – and the best of them – Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s modern spin of the duo in Sherlock (one of the greatest TV shows ever made).

There’s no other pairing in fiction I enjoy more than two of the most iconic comicbook characters ever, Batman and Superman.  Sure, they are probably more known as members of a larger team, the Justice League, or as individuals than a duo, but they do regularly teamup.  There’s always a comicbook series centering on them as a duo, like World’s Finest Comics (1941 to 1986), Superman/Batman (2003-2011), and Batman-Superman (2013-present).  Other references showing how awesome they are as a duo are the animated movies Superman/Batman: Public Enemies and Superman/Batman: Apocalypse.

1 comment:

Carly Tucci said...

I totally agree on Benedict and Martin. They are awesome. You should do a list of top 20 Sherlock Holmes duos.