Welcome back all you Supergirl fans! After nigh on a month, I return to the show of steel. Thanks to Chris for covering for me two weeks ago. Go check out his Black Lightning and (when IT returns in April) his Legend of Tomorrow reviews. So, what did the show get up to while I was gone?
Ben Lockwood’s out of Jail, Menagerie was a sub-par monster of the week, Red Daughter Kara is nowhere to be seen, Lena’s at the DEO, and the president is. . .doing something? I say this, having watched the previous episode, and I STILL feel like I missed something when I started up this week’s episode.
Ah, well. On with the show and as always, spoilers ahead.
1. Superfriends Vs. The Elite
Let me put my feelings up front: Superman Vs. The Elite is one of my favorite DCAU movie adaptations of the bunch pre-Judas Contract, as I haven’t seen any of the ones after. No disrespect to all the others or any of the other source materials but as an adaptation, The Elite excelled at expanding on the core themes of the original, all while crafting a movie that felt complete rather than unduly cut or bloated. The movie got me to track down “Action Comics” #775 even. I say this because, well, I was deeply underwhelmed by Supergirl’s portrayal of the team.
I chalk a lot of this up to them having to operate within the network’s standards, and not being able to reach the same end point as those media thanks to this being a different show, but I also lay a lot of this at the feet of the way the show has framed Manchester & Menagerie thus far; Hat is way too new to comment on, other than his accent sounds ridiculously fake. First off, neither of them are very scary or threatening. They act and seem like your bog standard villains and while we have spent time watching Manchester’s decent into this, it is rendered unsympathetic because of the way he is positioned in relation to Supergirl the entire time.
What made Manchester work so well in the original was this undercurrent of malice and control that permeated all of his actions while he worked with, and then against, Superman. That’s not really here. The show wants him to be redeemable, which is fitting with the overall tone and themes of Supergirl, however they are not willing to show, really show, WHY Manchester is wrong or, on the flip side, to show why he’s RIGHT.
Instead, he’s stuck in this limbo where the show insists that people love what he’s doing but all he’s done is kill a few nameless goons off camera in the most PG way possible and then suddenly go to blowing up the White House with a space laser. Seriously? A space laser as the finale fight?
When he was cutting up the Children of Liberty members, he was at his scariest. We understood why he acted the way he did, sympathized thanks to the way his scenes were framed by the music and camera, while also being repulsed because of the reactions from J’onn and Supergirl. But that gets me to ask the question — as the audience, are we supposed to see Manchester as correct, misguided, or completely in the wrong? Is he supposed to be a good guy gone bad, a man with ideals that feed the hatred it so desperately wants to starve, or simply another villain, there to be stopped?
The show can’t seem to decide, executing all and none at different times, removing any teeth from The Elite as a set of ideological antagonists. I focused on Manchester here because, well, he’s the ideological core of the group in the show. Hat & Menagerie are just kinda there to kill people and have very little in the way of personality, which sucks.
Take a page from “Hunter X Hunter” on making villains interesting y’all. Or even do what you’re doing with Ben Lockwood, because he is the scariest villain on the show thus far.
2. Random Tasks
In spite of all I said before, I gotta give Hat his own thought because what little we got of him was gold. Louis Ozawa Changchien was obviously having a blast, mugging for the camera, and wearing those gaudy but somehow stylish suits. They did not do nearly enough with his hat, for dramatic or comedic purposes, and I hope they mine that for all it’s worth in future episodes.Continued below
For a while, I was also wondering how they were going to explain the hat because Supergirl doesn’t have magic (I think) and Manchester doesn’t have his telekinesis. J’onn supplied the throw-away line about 5th dimensional energy or something.
Does this mean that Hat is from the 5th dimension with Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk? If so, can we get a do-over for his last appearance?
3. Pardon the Intrusion
I’m sure it was explained in episode 12 but why in the ever-loving fuck is Lockwood out of prison with a presidential pardon? And, on another note, I cannot get a read on President Boxleitner. What are the writers trying to portray him as? He’s so ill-defined that every time he shows up, I wonder what’s the point of having him be a presence in the show. He adds very little as a character and while his performances are always great, there’s no real reason for this character to be so prominent other than as a figure for the show to pit us against.
Maybe his inconsistencies are the point. Maybe it’s to convey that this is a president that really doesn’t know what he’s doing. Or maybe it’s more examples of the show trying to reflect current events. But, as it stands, much like with a lot of other plot points, Supergirl doesn’t lay the groundwork well enough to discern intent, distancing us further and further from the tightly focused first half of the season. It’s just a disappointing waste of Bruce Boxleitner.
4. Close Encounters of the Super Kind
While I still think this was a weak plot point, I gotta say, I love that the the satellite launched from Devil’s Tower. It’s a nice twisting of the ethos and hope of the film. I will give that scene this: the return of Supergirl’s super suit was nice. I’m glad we got to see it some more, even if it was only in CGI.
It was also a nice moment in Alex’s arc post-memory wipe, wherein we see the core of who she is break through the mistrust that was created when the empathy she created through her knowledge of Supergirl was removed. I still hold out hope that there will be continued tension and unseen fallout from the memory wipe — I still contend that the lack of knowledge fundamentally changes Alex’s reasoning for joining the DEO and her empathy towards aliens, as seen by her working with Lena without question. But, that’s a question for future episodes.
5. Dreamer, Dream me a Dream
Nia’s journey to becoming a superhero takes a few steps forwards this week, albeit in an admittedly standard form. There is nothing wrong with that but it only adds to the feeling that this episode was a fairly standard fair for The CW superhero shows. That said, any more excuses to see Nia and Brainy working together is worth it. They bring a lot of joy to the show and having a journey to follow is welcomed. Plus, differential calculus and dreams as duo superhero banter? Lovely.
There was one moment, however, after Nia tries to astral project, that got me thinking, “maybe this isn’t as standard as I thought.” Nia is clearly impatient after the death of her mom to utilize her powers because they’re her last connection to her mom and the heritage that was kept from her. This gave a justification for her anger at Brainy for keeping things about her descendants from her. She wasn’t angry at the lack of future information, which is where this would usually go, but at her lack of ANY information about her powers, and therefore, her mom.
Brainy realizes this, or at least realizes that Nia’s frustration and impatience with her powers is born from a lack of explanation about her heritage. She feels as if she is letting her mother down, wracked with guilt, in much the same way she once felt for simply having the powers in the first place. It adds a layer of tragedy to her journey, which will make it all the more satisfying when she reaches her full superhero potential.
That about does it for now! What did you all think of the episode? Was it as “eh” as I found it? Let me know in the comments and then join me again next week for. . .something. I could not for the life of me figure out the promo but hey, that just means I’ll be surprised, right?Continued below
Best Line of the Night:
Manchester: “You could’ve just used the door.”
Supergirl: “And you could stop killing people.”