TV Review: Martians are More Interesting than Humans in Supergirl S2E10 “We Can Be Heroes”

Supergirl -- "We Can Be Heroes" -- SPG210b_0278.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl and Chris Wood as Mike/Mon-El -- Photo: Bettina Strauss /The CW -- © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

For the second straight week, the B-plot of Supergirl is more interesting than the main storyline of “We Can Be Heroes” penned by writers Katie Rose Rogers and Caitlin Parrish. Livewire is back and full of personality and cool special effects, but for most of the episode, she is being used as a battery by a mad scientist with a British accent, who is using her powers to create an army of lightning super soldiers. They’re kind of silly opponents, and the real conflict comes from Supergirl trying to manage the rookie hero Mon-El in the field as well as the reveal that James Olsen is Guardian. Rogers, Parrish, and director Rebecca Johnson nail the philosophical conflict between Kara and James because she thinks he can’t be a hero without having powers, but drop the ball any time the possible romance between Kara and Mon-El is set up. (But let’s remember she fought with Green Arrow back in the crossover…) They don’t really have a lot of romantic chemistry and fare better as a mentor/learner duo, especially when Melissa Benoist deepens her voice and calls out Mon-El for letting civilians get hurt both in the field and in the simulation.

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However, the plotline featuring J’onn and Miss Martian almost makes up for the second straight week with a forgettable science bro as the main villain. (Livewire plays more of an anti-hero role in “We Can Be Heroes.) Rogers and Parrish are technically setting up next week’s White Martian infiltration episode, but save most of the foreshadowing for the end and explore the growing bond between the Green and White Martian. David Harewood airs out his range as a performer throughout the episode going from total disdain for Miss Martian and wanting to just let her have a brain death to slowly starting to feel sympathetic for him. Alex Danvers continues to be the heart of the show, and her well-reasoned dialogue about how Miss Martian saved his life with a transfusion and also helped Green Martians escape in the past slowly persuades J’onn to help her. Rogers, Parrish, and Underwood build up the mind meld for the entire episode as Kara and Alex hold J’onn’s arms before he experiences the trauma of his past again. He isn’t just a boss, but a real father figure to them both.

Other than some cool slow-mo and Livewire using a whip to take out her clone/knockoffs/ electric punching bags, the flashback of Miss Martian and J’onn on Mars is the visual highlight of “We Can Be Heroes”. Mars is wreathed in otherworldly shadow while the barbwire of the internment camps and the faint CGI forms of the White Martians fill the background. The use of filters and slow pans from Rebecca Johnson help the conversation about this not being real, and that Miss Martian escapes Mars advance at a natural pace instead of going for a lot of whip cuts and action. Miss Martian just wants to be friends with J’onn and not be alone in the galaxy. After they pop out of the flashback, Miss Martian and J’onn have a real bond that looks like it’ll be built on in an upcoming episode. And I will be happy to see more of Miss Martian’s heart, determination, and desire to find a new home in upcoming episodes as Sharon Leal gives a beautiful performance.

Rogers and Parrish handle the character of Mon-El in a balanced way, and his motivation to be a superhero rises to the surface. It’s simple, really, he has a huge crush on Kara and wants to spend time with her. When she’s not at work, she’s being a superhero so Mon-El decides to be one. When I was a dumb 19-year-old, I decided to try swing dancing to be close to a girl that I had a crush on, and that was silly, but being a superhero involves getting human lives in danger. His reason for being a superhero is pretty terrible, and it almost gets people killed. Thankfully, James Olsen is there to call him out, and his selfishness and willingness to get hit by bullets and pass out to help keep National City safe. He also calls Kara out for allowing Mon-El to be a superhero when apparently he isn’t allowed to because he’s only human even though he has a good heart, some great tech from Winn, and a black belt. There is definitely a rift between Winn and James and Supergirl and Mon-El, but not in a Batman v Superman way where punches are thrown. It’s more of friends having a huge philosophical rift and deciding to work together again and naturally flows out of James keeping his Guardian identity secret from almost everyone except for Kara. It’s sad to see the Superfriends broken up, but this is counterbalanced by J’onn complimenting the team chemistry of Winn and James.

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Supergirl in 2017 truly has a bad guy problem as Lillian Luthor leaves a huge void that a random mad scientist can’t fill. At the beginning of the episode, Rogers and Parrish make it seem that Livewire is going to be some badass criminal mastermind as she escapes from prison after a therapy session that skews a little too close to Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad. But then, they go for a twist and have Livewire just be a pawn of a scientist, who wants a juicy defense contract’s game and have her sit in a chair and be a human health potion. Supergirl, Mon-El, and Guardian fight her clone for most of the episode until Brit Morgan finally gets to unleash her attitude with quips about rookie male superheroes trying to save the veteran female one. She even helps Supergirl save day, which earns her a head start in semi-homage to Superman in the Justice League Unlimited series finale after some supervillains help them beat Darkseid. Kara is definitely a bit of a softie, but it’s nice to see her sterner side when she benches Mon-El from superheroing after he almost gets a police officer killed in their initial skirmish against the wannabe Livewires.

Supergirl is still finding its footing in the second half of Season 2, but its cast of heroic characters is very fleshed out with J’onn having some signature moments in “We Can Be Heroes” as he forges a friendship with Miss Martian even though her people killed his. Plus Katie Rogers and Caitlin Parrish mercifully pulled the relationship between Mon-El and Kara into platonic territory, which somehow Melissa Benoist played as almost tearful in a rare acting misstep from her.

Overall Rating: 7.0