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    Five Thoughts on Supergirl‘s “Reality Bytes”

    By | March 16th, 2020
    Posted in Television | % Comments

    Welcome back all you Supergirl fans! We got a heavy one tonight but in true Supergirl fashion it’s balanced out by a B-plot that really didn’t need to be here, as important as it is for the characters involved, so that we could dedicate more time to the A-plot. Oh, and Creepy Grandma is back and stealing bodies.

    Yeah, it’s gonna be one of those nights.

    And as always, spoilers ahead.

    1. Virtual Combat

    Alex Danvers has not had an easy time since leaving the DEO or, hell, since being filled in on Crisis. A lot has changed for her and most of it not by her choice. That’s gonna fuck with you. For a character as control focused as Alex, that’s gonna double fuck with you. This tension informs her plot this week, though in a more subtle way than I thought it was going to. We got a very on the nose line early on when Alex couldn’t wield Undrjarn the All-Weapon right; change is scary and she doesn’t like how the weapon isn’t one thing. I thought the episode would be focused on that but instead she gets involved with VR.

    The VR world is constantly shifting around her and she has to literally deal with a world that is unrecognizable. Thankfully, we don’t get many on-the-nose lines during this and instead Alex’s mission in VR is like an 80s PG version Saw. It’s fine, and gives Kelly something to do with respect to Obsidian North, though, as I have complained before, she is still only here to support Alex instead of having her own motivations. Sure, we get that intro cut-away with her encountering a glitch in the system but that’s about it.

    You know what would’ve been nice? Having that scene four episodes ago and then having this be the pay off.

    But back to Alex, her struggle with change is starting here and I suspect this won’t be the last we encounter it. I could have done without that “What is an NPC?” line though. OK Danvers.

    2. Johnny Mnemonic

    I have been waiting years, YEARS, for J’onn to be something more than a person to facilitate exposition for the group and to embrace his detective roots. It may not be fully there but this was the first time in a long time that I felt that J’onn J’onzz was John Jones, private eye. He tracked down Richard, that dick, and even did the casual, network friendly “cut the bullshit,” line to Mrs. Bates. Then he got to go to a motel, punch out a baddy and discover the start to a conspiracy, all as his blood begins to boil from “justice.” I may be projecting a little but his actions fit the mold.

    I hope they keep this up because J’onn really hasn’t had much to do since he left the DEO, being dragged into Supergirl’s cosmic bullshit or his family drama. That’s all well and good but if a show is to survive, there must be a well from which to draw B and C plots that give characters things to do that aren’t always related to the main plot. This could be that in, though it probably won’t be.

    3. eXistenZ

    Remember how I talked about consequences of the technology last week? Well, we followed up on that really quickly. Kelly is still blinded by her optimism about the potential uses for the tech to not see how the tech is unfinished, poorly thought through, and easily abused. The first and second points are really the tricky bits here, as the latter is not always something that can be known before a product is launched.

    Rojas made it clear that she didn’t give two shits about solving the problems of her system or doing the requisite testing to make sure there weren’t major SAO-level flaws nor was she concerned with the ethical implications of creating a world that is believably real but with no rules, physical or otherwise. Anything can be done by anyone and, should that one glitch be abused, the more money-laden or the power users can abuse the rest, and the terms of service do nothing to prevent or discourage such abuse. Total freedom sounds great until you consider you’re dealing with other, real people and that actions must have consequences or the most vulnerable will be systematically abused and taken advantage of.

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    Moreover, personal ethical questions that hinge on VR being “fake” despite being almost identical to reality are never discussed nor considered by Obsidian North, at least not on screen. Like, sure, Richard is awful but we don’t really dwell on the fact that his wife was virtually fucking some rando (to her, not to us) in a space that is, for all intents and purposes, as real as reality. She says it doesn’t count but if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and you can feel its feather in your hand, you’re probably holding a duck, or in this case, cheating on your spouse.

    In this situation, we get it but what if Richard wasn’t king of the douchebags? What if he was truly loving but had not given consent for an open marriage via VR? It breaks the covenant they have. This is a consent question but it remains an ethical question that may not ever be addressed by the people making the technology. Should it be? I don’t know. My gut reaction to the cheating question is no but that’s because it’s a more abstract question that cannot be regulated from on high in the same way as “you can’t torture people.”

    What my beef is with is the lack of thought shown on the part of Rojas and my inability to tell if that was intentional on the writers’ part or a side effect of barreling into the product being launched so we could get these situations for plot sake. I hope it’s the former because then I can give kudos to the writers for making Rojas a better reflection of her real world counterparts rather than pinning all the VR problems on “escapism.”

    For those who want a show that tackles the thorny questions of the line between healthy escape and sacrificing reality for delusional fantasy, check out Satoshi Kon’s masterpiece Paranoia Agent. It’s about more than that, like the impact of media on our personal and collective psyches and the ways ideas take on life beyond their creators, but at its core, it’s a far more nuanced and well-crafted approach to the VR question being posed in the previous episode and what looks like the next one, without actually being about VR. It’s also deeply unsettling without being insulting.

    4. The Leviathan Woman 2: Beyond Cyberspace

    Leviathan is big and spooky and evil, right? They’re the illuminati of Supergirl and we know very little about them except that they’re aliens from another planet, seemingly immortal, control everything, and are evil for reasons that have something to do with how humans are pretty shit stewards of the Earth, which is a fair reason to hate humans if we’re being honest. Oh and they just kill people so there’s that. Regardless of the poorly established, nebulous evilness of Leviathan, it’s clear they’re this season’s endgame. Why? Fuck you that’s why.

    I’ve been down on these people since they threw all the mystique out the window with Rama Khan and the roundtable of snooze. It seems that Crisis has given them back their sense of drama and flair for secrecy while still doing just. . .the weirdest fucking shit out there. What IS Leviathan planning? Because right now it looks like they’re gathering bodies and having them float in tin-foil like some kind of human burrito. I have zero ideas of what this could be and I’m just kinda bummed that Eve wasn’t our in into this plot. Maybe Lex will realize she was a part of Leviathan and we’ll get her back.

    5. Dreamscape

    I’m starting to fade as I write this so if it seems like this thought is a bit more disjointed than usual, I apologize. Dreamer has thus far been on the sidelines during the season, in and out of the plot, but this week, she takes center stage on a (sadly) topical episode with a villain whose simplicity is his most terrifying quality. Transphobe with an Upswipez account whose name I can’t remember and don’t care to look up is a regular joe with an internet connection. He’s not a larger than life stand-in for an issue or a superpowered individual abusing said power, he’s a cis-white dude, presumibly straight as well, who’s weilding his hatred in as mundane a way as possible.

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    I’m of two minds how the show approached this plot. On the one hand, it’s handled very respectfully, shining a light on the real statistics surrounding attacks on the trans community and the reasons those numbers may be higher than reported and even makes sure to point out that such attacks often disproportionately affect trans people of color. It avoids the pitfalls of sensationalizing the attacks and making them voyeuristic, as is all too often the case. On the other, it falls into many of the same problems that Supergirl regularly does, with its very on the nose dialog, fast moving plot progression that doesn’t allow for deeper conversations to be had, and while it correctly places Kara to the side, it fails to give us enough to understand why Nia is so short with Kara and the cops.

    I understand why, as attacks on her community often go unsolved due to a lack of care in the police thanks to conscious or unconscious bigotry, and thus a distrust is born. Kara is also not trans and is viewed as a friend but an outsider to the community and so her advice is not welcome since it comes from a place of privilege. But. . .we’ve seen none of that in universe, thus undercutting her anger and making it seem like she’s being unreasonable rather than simply lost in her anger and thus lacking in patience. That is not the case but the work is not done to properly frame the scenes nor is there enough time spent thanks to the episode being split between this and Alex’s plot. Moreover, Kara nor Nia addresses Kara’s advice as coming from a place of privilege until very near the end, when it is re-framed, rightly so, as Supergirl’s advice on heroism and how heroes must be held to a standard that is high.

    There’s a teaching in Judaism as to why Moses was not allowed into the land of Israel for a seemingly small mistake, of hitting a rock for water rather than asking it as G-d had told him to. It seems disproportionate, considering this was the place he had been journeying to for decades while others were forgiven for far greater transgressions. But Moses was the leader, he was the hero, and thus must be held to a stricter code of conduct. There is more expected of him and when he failed to live up, the consequences were greater because he is an example to the people.

    So to with Dreamer and Supergirl. They are symbols and examples. They hold themselves to stricter standards than the ones who they fight because their actions lead the way. Why shouldn’t Dreamer kill the man who wanted her and her community dead and gone? Because she must be better. Is it an easy or even the most just move? No, and I think there is a conversation to be had as to whether or not Kara’s way is the best way, but not killing is the heroic one and Dreamer is a hero, through and through.

    That about does it for now! What did you all think of the episode? What are your thoughts on how they handled Dreamer’s plotline? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you again next week for more hating on escapism? Maybe it’ll be different this time. Until then, stay super y’all.

    Best Line of the Night:

    Alex: “What’s an NPC?”

    //TAGS | supergirl

    Elias Rosner

    Elias is a lover of stories who, when he isn't writing reviews for Mulitversity, is hiding in the stacks of his library. He can be found on twitter (for mostly comics stuff) here and has finally updated his photo to be a hair nicer than before.


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