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TV Review: Supergirl S5E2 Stranger Beside Me

Supergirl Season 5

Supergirl, Alex and Braniac thwart an alien attack while William investigates Kara; J’onn J’onzz and Kelly use Obsidian tech to solve a problem.

What does J’onn J’onzz brother want? Why can’t J’onn remember details? This second episode reveals all of that and more. It’s an episode that balances reveals and battles each with good and bad. But, again, the most interesting aspect of the show is Kara’s work life.

Much like the season’s debut, the episode feels like it lacks some of the fun of previous seasons. There’s just something that feels off-kilter as far as tone and pacing.

The search of J’onn’s brother brings the team in contact and a quick battle ensues but it all feels a bit unnecessary. The episode would have been stronger have the hidden Martian among the team. It would have created a more tense episode and kept the viewer wondering who could be trusted. Stringing that along would create a bit more tension for the series and a unique aspect.

The episode mixes in humor with a focus on relationships that run from intriguing to a bit over the top (on purpose). It adds some levity and is closer to the “happier” tone of previous seasons. Though some of those relationships are unhealthy in reality.

Still, the best aspect is Kara and her work. With a new boss and a coworker whose actions are dubious, there’s a lot there to mine. The show dances around all of it but in a world where journalism struggles an staff are dismissed at a whim, it has the most potential of the season. A small detail at the end makes it all even more interesting and puts things in a gray zone.

The series continues to build up Lena as a villain and where that’s taken could make or break the season. It’s a bit of a shame as a Luthor as a villain feels a bit been there done that but Kara/Supergirl needs a big bad that can play out over seasons and Lena can be that.

The episode continues to set things up for the season and show continued potential. There’s a lot the episode dances around and while the tone of the episode and season is a bit different, it’s still an enjoyable hour.

Overall Rating: 7.35

TV Review: Supergirl S5E1 Event Horizon

Supergirl Season 5

Supergirl kicks off its fifth season as Kara is surprised to find CatCo has a new owner who has brought in a star reporter; new couples emerge and explore their budding relationships; J’onn J’onzz receives an unexpected visitor.

I ducked out of the fourth season of Supergirl though appreciated the show’s willingness to take on very real-world issues. The fifth season seems to be keeping that mix of fantasy and reality. Kara has been awarded with a Pulitzer for her work about the President and she and the newspaper are focused on the upcoming election. It echoes the current Impeachment and 2020 election. It wears its advocacy on its sleeve with observations about voting and voters.

The show continues to balance its superhero aspects and “real life” but in this season opener it’s the real life that wins out. The exploration of modern journalism and employment is interesting. There’s clearly more there but what’s presented is intriguing and the best part of the episode.

Kara’s relationship with Lena is the other focus. Kara is torn as to whether she should reveal her identity. It’s the second best part in an episode whose villain is rather boring.

There’s some negative in that Kara’s glasses lack glass at times and Melissa Benoist’s makeup is just not up to snuff. There’s a mix of what looks like bad foundation and tan lines (really a lack of tan). It’s noticeable enough to distract.

The episode is one of the weaker debuts for the series. It has its moments but never quite excites. Its best moments are the human ones.

Overall Rating: 7.0

Supergirl S2E19 “Alex” Centers on the Women Who Love Alex Danvers

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In “Alex”Supergirl focuses on the heart of its show, Alex Danvers, played with fierceness, warmth, and a side of sheer terror by Chyler Leigh. But instead of having Alex go on a solo mission or something, writers Eric Carrasco and Greg Baldwin put in her in a cell in the middle of nowhere and have her sister Kara and girlfriend Maggie work against the clock to save her from Jigsaw-like criminal mastermind, Rick (Z: The Beginning of  Everything’s David Hoflin). He also happens to be an old friend from Midvale Middle/High, and a blast from a past bad guy with the simple motivation of wanting to save his  criminal father, Peter, from prison might be just what the doctor ordered for a show which had a human nanobot swarm as the antagonist last week.

Carrasco and Baldwin immediately pit the optimistic, yet less than wary of collateral damage Supergirl against the pragmatic, by-the-book cop Maggie Sawyer in a quick action scene followed by an awkward pizza dinner. Thankfully, Mon-El is sidelined as the goofy comic relief, and the focus in on Maggie and Kara arguing about the ethics of being a superhero. Maggie likes it when Kara helps with aliens and monsters, but wishes she would stay away from human criminals. It’s a similar to the debate between Tony Stark and Captain America in Captain America: Civil War where Cap wants the freedom to make on the fly decisions to save people while Tony wants the the Avengers held accountable. But, luckily, “Alex” isn’t a Civil War ripoff as this ideological conflict reveals the deep love that Kara and Maggie have for Alex, and they show it through doing anything possible to save her, including almost freeing a murderer in jail. They might differ on how to fight crime, but they both care for Alex Danvers very much.

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Rick is an interesting villain of the week. He’s a regular guy with the superpowers of creepily stalking Alex Danvers for the past year and learning everything about her relationships and friends, which is why not even DEO super tech and Martian Manhunter’s shapeshifting can stop him.He also knows Kara is Supergirl because he witnessed her use her powers during a middle school beach trip to save an exploding car. Carrasco and Baldwin hint at Rick having a crush, but he doesn’t kidnap Alex because he has feelings for her. He imprisons her because he is still jealous of her and Kara’s “stable” home life while he had an abusive mother. This is definitely a sad backstory, but he ruins it through his traps and games that take up most of the episode’s running time. I enjoyed how the final rescue doesn’t come through brute force or advanced interrogation techniques, but Kara appealing to the fact that though Peter is a pretty crappy person, he was a good dad to Rick. Usually, Melissa Benoist’s portrayal of hopeful optimism is bright eyed and bushy tailed, but there’s an undercurrent of rage when she holds Rick in her grip and threatens him with her heat vision.

The acting from Chyler Leigh, Melissa Benoist, and in a small, but powerful role, David Harewood is pretty great in “Alex”. Harewood continues to nail the role of father figure and commander as he barks out orders one second and then softens and gives Alex and Maggie a big hug later. Leigh turns a part that could be a cliched “scream queen channeling both fear (Her desperate confessions to Maggie.) and resourcefulness (Cutting into her own body to activate her tracker.) in her performance. Melissa Benoist leans into the wistfulness of Supergirl as she realizes that although she has the ability to fly and maybe even turn back time by flying around the Earth, she can’t save Alex. But when the danger is over, she is back to her goofy self while half-flirting with Lena Luthor about not having kale at their brunch next weekend.

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Floriana Lima also gets to show the softer side of Maggie’s character while also having a pretty epic action jaunt when she breaks into a federal prison with a raygun to rescue Alex even if it means caving to a terrorist’s demands. On the other hand, there is a detective-like precision to the way she delivers her thoughts about Rick and Alex’s kidnapping transforming it from a superhero mission to a very cold case. The almost silent scene that she, Alex, and Kara share at the end is filled to the brim with love, and director Rob J. Greenlea takes some time to soak in the moment after his claustrophobic camera work of Alex almost drowning in a cage.

Running almost in a parallel universe is the B-plot featuring Rhea (Teri Hatcher) trying to get Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath) to help her build a transmatter transporter (To cure world hunger, she claims.) and opening a real Pandora’s box of mommy and family issues. During a dinner scene, McGrath plays Lena with a real empathy as she opens up to a woman, who thinks might be the mother she has always wished for. But this ends up backfiring although Lena and Rhea end up working together at the end as Eric Carrasco and Greg Baldwin continued the time honored Supergirl Season 2 tradition of pushing Lena Luthor as close to the edge of evil as possible. Her desire to make L-Corp a company that is the exact opposite of Lex Luthor may come back to bite her.

With a thrilling villainous death trap plot that steers close to the personal, “Alex” is one of the better Supergirl episodes in 2017. Centering the episode on a character that most fans like, Alex Danvers, is a stroke of genius as writers Eric Carrasco and Greg Baldwin use a cuckoo plot to coax out some real feelings from Alex, Kara, and even Maggie with Chyler Leigh, Melissa Benoist, and Floriana Lima creating a wonderful emotional bond as the credits roll.

Overall Rating: 9.0

Supergirl S2E17 “Distant Sun” is an Intergalactic Escapade

So, writers Gabriel Llanas and Anna Musky-Goldwyn and director Kevin Smith (If it’s not obvious from the quite clever Star Wars reference in the third act.) achieve the impossible and make a Mon-El-centric episode compelling thanks to some royal intrigue, bounty hunters, and super fun action scenes. Smith lines up some great sequences from a cold open pitting Supergirl against a fellow heat vision alien; Supergirl, Guardian, and Winn teaming up to take out a bald, mind control alien, and a Big Kahuna of a final brawl featuring Martian Manhunter. Other highlights, include Rhea, played by an icy and intimidating Teri Hatcher, rising up to true villain status, a strong subplot featuring Alex and Maggie working out some emotional baggage with Maggie’s ex-girlfriend Emily (Hayley Sales), and Martian Manhunter continuing to be a great father figure and even standing up to the president of the United States herself. There’s even a decent plot twist, and Llanas, Musky-Goldwyn, and Smith set up the pieces that will likely be knocked down after a month hiatus.

After spending the last episode tangling with Mon-El drama and showcasing her golden pipes in “The Duet” The Flash crossover episode, Melissa Benoist is back to being moral, a little bit goofy, and well super as Supergirl. (And Mon-El knows his place: the kitchen.) Smith shows this early on as she immediately leaves a scrumptious breakfast spread to save some innocent citizens from a heat vision wielding alien bounty hunter and shields them with her own body. When it’s revealed that someone has put a bounty on Supergirl’s head, she constantly bristles to go back into action, but decides to lie low and play Settlers of Catan so no one gets hurt in the crossfire. Supergirl will even fight a close quarters battle against her boyfriend’s kryptonite sai wielding mom to save the man she loves and protect Earth from the threat of a xenophobic alien monarchy that put out a bounty just so their crown prince would return to their ship. There have been plenty of Mon-El saying Kara is great speeches throughout this season, but I almost bought the one where he talked about admiring her as a hero. Maybe, it’s because it’s after a battle where they helped each other out and not a last ditch pity apology.

Speaking of relationship issues, Llanas and Musky-Goldwyn tell an Alex and Maggie story that falls outside the main plot, but ends up showing why their romance works so well. Maggie’s ex Emily is in town, and Alex is the best girlfriend ever and invites them all out to dinner because she doesn’t possess a jealous bone in her body. The first appearance of Emily causes a lot of strain in the usually unflappable Maggie Sawyer’s face with Floriana Lima conveying that there’s some darkness in their past. Alex finds out that Maggie actually cheated on Emily, but instead of going the soap opera route and breaking up with her, she is empathetic and understands that it’s hard for Maggie to trust people after  Instead of going for the easy pre-hiatus drama route, Llanas and Musky-Goldwyn double down on relationship development via talking and even steal some adorable smooches and flirting along the way.

“Distant Sun” is a generally well-structured episode of Supergirl with Gabriel Llanas and Anna Musky-Goldwyn centering the action of the plot on the strained relationship between Mon-El and his parents in a battle between heroism and an easy life of comfort. Mon-El is pretty darn heroic in this episode and talks with his father about establishing a democracy in Daxam. Lar Gand (Kevin Sorbo) acts as kind of a buffer between Rhea’s hardline stance of wanting her son back at all costs and has a quiet, misguided nobility to her ruthlessness. (If you’ve watched or read Game of Thrones, you know how these things turn out.) Teri Hatcher is fantastic at Rhea with her unflinching devotion to getting what she wants and provides an upper crust, extraterrestrial foil to Brenda Strong’s Lillian Luthor as a Big Bad this season. If you’re a mom, it’s a good bet you’re really evil if you appear in Supergirl Season 2.

Kevin Smith helps with “Distant Sun’s” strong structure by making each setpiece a little bigger than the other culminating in an extended sequence of Martian Manhunter in his green form beating down Daxamite royal guards. There aren’t any Daredevil-style one takes in this episode, but Smith lingers on the punches, kicks, and holds creating some truly epic moments like Supergirl pushing back five guards with one of their staff weapons. This longer shot technique combined with searing glances from David Harewood makes a psychic battle between Martian Manhunter and a telepathic bounty hunter believable without wasting any of the CGI budget on the CW’s Legion. Unfortunately, it hinders some of the suspense towards the end of the episode, but the action more than makes up for it.

“Distant Sun” has yet another nuanced Maggie and Alex subplot, a likable Mon-El, the addition of interplanetary intrigue to Supergirl‘s season long arc, and rock solid action scenes from Kevin Smith, which means this reviewer will be going into the hiatus as satisfied as Kara Danvers after devouring a plate of hashbrowns and poached eggs.

Overall Rating: 8.0

Jeremiah’s Return Shakes Things Up in Supergirl S2E14 Homecoming

Supergirl -- "Homecoming" -- SPG214a_0231.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Helen Slater as Eliza Danvers and Dean Cain as Jeremiah Danvers -- Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW -- © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

The latest episode of Supergirl begins with Mon-El being uncertain about and then giving himself a pat on the back for his sexual prowess, and things can only go up from there. When he’s not being the worst boyfriend ever and not listening to or empathizing with Kara, writers Caitlin Parrish and Derek Simon focus the plot of “Homecoming” on the return of Jeremiah Danvers (Dean Cain) in an overly easy opening set piece. The circumstances of his return are pretty sketchy from the get go as he pops into the DEO with the knowledge of Cadmus’ nuclear fusion bomb, but Kara, Alex, and J’onn are so emotional about the return of their father and friend that they don’t see it. A big kudos to Melissa Benoist, Chyler Leigh, and David Harewood for selling the emotional part of what is a staple superhero/genre show plotline.

I usually wait until the end to start throwing shade on the Kara/Mon-El moments in Supergirl, but decided to lead off with them because “Homecoming” is bookended by them wanting to snuggle. First off if you want to be a terrible boyfriend, do everything that Mon-El did in this episode. It starts small with him shrugging off Supergirl’s morning activities when he wants to cuddle/have sex longer instead of letting her help people. (Honestly, I don’t buy Mon-El as a cuddler.) And then, it goes to terrible lengths when he immediately starts accusing Jeremiah of being suspicious instead of being there for Kara when her father returns after 15 years. Yeah, it’s obvious that there’s something up with Jeremiah, but the big family reunion margarita shindig isn’t the time to voice your opinion about this. It does give Melissa Benoist a chance to trot out that acting range as he goes from trembling and happy about her dad coming back to just pure, measured rage when Mon-El starts being foolish. But, of course, since Parrish, Simon, and probably most of Supergirl”s writing room has them as star-crossed lovers, they’re all cuddly and supportive at the end as Kara gives Mon-El a millionth chance to be a decent human being.

Supergirl -- "Homecoming" -- SPG214a_0163.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Melissa Benoist as Kara and Chris Wood as Mike -- Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW -- © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

To not completely dump on Mon-El in “Homecoming”, it is nice to see him play an active role in the plot investigating and collaborating with Winn to find out what really is going on with Jeremiah’s return. He isn’t just a horny goof, but is a little bit savvy even if it’s just from binge watching 24 on Netflix. Unfortunately, the main storyline of “Homecoming” relies on the main characters being idiots, and that’s never good for suspense or characterization. Simon and Parrish even shoehorn some pointless sibling drama from Alex and Kara with Alex barking ultimatums at her sister and even being a little microagressive about her being adopted. Saying “my dad” makes it feel like Alex is saying Kara is a lesser status than her, which gets really problematic once we find out that Jeremiah Danvers has stolen the registry of all aliens on Earth for Cadmus.

Supergirl -- "Homecoming" -- SPG214b_0036.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl, Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers, and Dean Cain as Jeremiah Danvers -- Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW -- © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Speaking of Cadmus, Lillian Luthor, who gets minimal, yet powerful screen time, is a true chess master in “Homecoming” playing the entire DEO for fools. She plays on the family bond of the Danvers and J’onn keeping less than a weather eye on Jeremiah to get the alien database, which is like having all the cheat codes to her anti-extraterrestrial game. It’s clever and involves minimal goon punching (Except for the truck sequence during the cold open.) and destroys Team Supergirl’s morale when they realize the low trick that they’ve fallen for. Lillian Luthor and Cadmus now have the upper hand and even though a random (Possibly Dominator) ship doesn’t frighten or excite me, Supergirl is back to having a real antagonist to focus on instead of beatable villains of the week.

Director Larry Teng creates a sense of visual continuity in the bad guys this week through the cybernetic elements of both Hank Henshaw and Jeremiah Danvers. Teng’s fights that involve him are simple with lots of punches and hooks unlike the complicated, cutting everywhere, and trying to save the budget moves of Supergirl, who gets a nice close-up of her welding a railroad together with her heat vision. It’s incidental to the plot, but shows that she’s still a pure hero in the midst of all this family/Cadmus drama. Dean Cain’s performance as Jeremiah Danvers is also a tad on the underrated side as he strains at trying to be the man he once was for his family. Helen Slater as Eliza Danver’s usual warmth exposes this fake side pretty early on in the episode as she is distant and cold to him. Eliza is smart woman so maybe she thought something was up with him. If anything, “Homecoming” has crafted a tortured family man turned Cadmus toadie in Danvers, and he is vastly more interesting than the one note Cyborg Superman and still is solid muscle for Luthor.

The tender moments that Maggie Sawyer and Alex Danvers share are becoming more and more fleeting as the writers start to focus on the more volatile, toxic melodrama friendly relationship between Mon-El and Kara. (A good love/hate relationship can be fun, but there’s no spark to Kara and Mon-El; they are definitely not Spike and Buffy.) But Teng shoots an almost silent scene where Maggie comforts Alex after the hard news about her dad. They just hold each other while Alex cries, and Leigh pulls out the emotional floodgates. Their relationship is sweet, strong, and honestly a big reason why I tune in each week.

Larry Teng, Derek Simon, and Caitlin Parrish telegraph Jeremiah’s heel turn worse than a deer in the headlights freshman making their first bounce pass in a varsity basketball game. Most of the plot of “Homecoming” is utterly predictable, and the only positive of his return is seeing Benoist, Leigh, and Harewood emote on a powerful level. J’onn and Jeremiah used to be buddies, and they have a casual ease in the early scenes that turns into raw anger when it’s revealed Jeremiah works for Cadmus. The relationship between Kara and Mon-El continues to consume all too much screen time as it’s revealed that he doesn’t care about her until the last scene of the episode yet again. But fighting against an even more fortified Lillian Luthor sounds like a good season endgame for Supergirl, and hopefully, the writers, directors, and cast pull it off.

Overall Rating: 6

Kara and J’onn are Kinda Lonely in Supergirl S2E11 The Martian Chronicles

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Supergirl is definitely at its best when all of its various plots flow together with a single theme that permeates everything from the character’s interpersonal drama to the main villain. This theme is loneliness as Kara is having issues juggling her feelings for Mon-El and not seeing much of her sister, Alex, because she’s dating Maggie Sawyer. But Supergirl and her amazing friends definitely have quite the foe in “Martian Chronicles” as Miss Martian’s ex-husband (In an arranged marriage.) Armek and a White Martian comrade come to Earth to bring her back to Mars and try her for treason. Writers Gabriel Llanas and Anna Musky-Goldwyn build off the relationship between Miss Martian and J’onn in the previous episode that pays off super emotionally even if they don’t get the happiest of endings while director David McWhirter gets to shoot a lot of dark corridor action scenes. The shapeshifting, telepathic nature of the White Martians also leads to a rift between the characters as J’onn, Miss Martian, Supergirl, Alex, Winn, and two redshirts fall into Secret Invasion “who can you trust?” mode albeit in an enclosed CW budget friendly space.

In the action scenes against the White Martians, Supergirl is total powerhouse punching and heat visioning any bad guys in her path. However, when the costume is off and the glasses are on, Kara Danvers is really feeling the struggle. Before the Supergirl logo drops, Kara is in deep water, and she doesn’t completely recover by the time Lego Supergirl pops up after the closing credits. Melissa Benoist plays Kara with awkwardness galore in the opening scene at the alien bar where she utterly fails at letting Mon-El down easily questioning the character of a man, who is smitten with her. I’m not a fan of a romantic relationship between Kara and Mon-El, but she is still pretty tactless around him.

This awkwardness extends to her inviting Alex to go country line dancing with her to celebrate her “Earth birthday” instead of the usual cupcake, which doesn’t work because she is going with Maggie to a Barenaked Ladies concert. (I didn’t see that coming, but Tegan and Sara maybe would have been to much of a stereotype and awesome.) Sadly, Kara is insecure and makes a big deal about it because she thinks Alex is leaving her. Benoist nails the “trying to be cool” face when they chat about Alex missing the dance thing at the DEO headquarters and eventually vents the full force of her anger on a White Martian masquerading as Alex. In classic Supergirl fashion, the episode ends in cupcakes and understanding, but Benoist’s look in the episode’s final seconds as Alex is with her girlfriend, and Mon-El is on date with her co-worker Eve Teschmascher had this sad, forever alone vibe. Kara might be an awesome superhero and an up and coming journalist, but sometimes finding romance is difficult. This goes into fan fiction territory, but she and Lena Luthor would make a great couple. (And Lena is back next week.)

The theme of loneliness extends on a more dramatic level to the characters of J’onn and Miss Martian, who are the only members of their species left on Earth. During the scenes that don’t involve them shapeshifting and punching things, David Harewood and Sharon Leal pour out the feels with their performances and blur the lines between romantic and familial. J’onn wants to keep Miss Martian safe, but doesn’t pull the overprotective father and is cool with her helping the DEO find the White Martians. This is smart because of one of them is her ex-husband. They look out for each other in battle and execute some cool team-up moves to help defeat the enemy. Then, Miss Martian decides to mix things up and twist the knife of loneliness even deeper into J’onn’s heart and declare that she is leaving for Mars to show other White Martians a better way that doesn’t include death and genocide. It’s a natural end to her arc where she went from hiding who she was to being downright heroic and saving J’onn’s life while also showing him that White Martians can change their ways. She is inspired by both J’onn and Kara’s example to become a hero on her own world, but this doesn’t stop David Harewood from having sad eyes. Sharon Leal’s passionate performance as Miss Martian will also be missed on episodes to come.

Some of the CGI and lighting is awkward for the DEO/White Martian lockdown scenes, but David McWhirter ekes out a lot of tension with smart cuts, hesitations, and placements of not one, but two red herrings. The obvious choice for a shapeshifter is a character we haven’t seen before, but McWhirter, Llanas, and Musky-Goldwyn defy expectations and choose Winn before revealing Alex as one right after a dramatic scene. McWhirter alternates between long takes for the relationship building scenes between J’onn and Miss Martian and quick cuts for the action sequences giving the episode a watchable rhythm. He also adds some nice frosting to the theme cupcake of loneliness by having lingering shots of J’onn and Kara alone in the frame as they watch the ones close to them get in romantic relationships or teleport to other planets.

“Martian Chronicles” doubles down on both Kara and J’onn’s innermost feelings and relationships to those closest to them (Alex, Miss Martian), which leads to a memorable return to form for Supergirl. The hard hitting action and bursts of special effects of the battle between against the White Martians adds to the entertainment value while also slipping in a metaphor that this group of people are basically extraterrestrial white supremacists. Thankfully, they get punched a lot.

Overall Score: 8.0

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

Supergirl S2E8 “Medusa” is More Mother/Daughter Relationships than Crossovers

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While the lion’s share of the advertising and general hype surrounding this episode of Supergirl is about its impending crossover with the other CW superhero shows, writer Jessica Queller and Derek Simon don’t abandon the show’s arcs and relationships for guest stars and dimensional rifts. “Medusa” is centered around relationships between mothers and daughters and family in general as Lillian Luthor tries to get Lena to join the family business and release a bio-weapon killing. On the more heroic side of things, Supergirl works with her adoptive mother, Eliza Danvers (a very pleasant Helen Slater). The intertwining of the family secrets and the passive aggressive sniping of the Luthors thanks to Brenda Strong along with the added side dish of Martian Manhunter struggling with becoming a White Martian elevates the plot, which is a standard quarantine disaster movie or the X-Men “Legacy Virus” crossover without them.

The theme of family is definitely fitting for an episode immediately airing after Thanksgiving, and director Stefan Pleszysnki uses warm lighting and plenty of shots of Kara and her friends and family to show their bond despite “secrets,” like James Olsen being the vigilante Guardian, or more seriously, Alex Danvers coming out as lesbian to her mother. Alex does come out to Eliza later in the episode in a warm moment of acceptance, but thankfully the Guardian subplot is sidelined for this one. Helen Slater is basically a human sunbeam, and even though she mainly plays the role of scientific exposition or fixer of bio weapons, she brings intelligence and love to each scene. This is a total contrast to Kara’s real father, Zor-El, who is responsible for creating the basically racist bio weapon Medusa, which can destroy the DNA of any non-Kryptonians as a last ditch weapon.

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It’s disconcerting that Kara’s father, who instilled in her the values of goodness, hope, and being “stronger together”, created something that could be used for genocide and could kill innocents. Melissa Benoist’s performance as Supergirl is less bright and more pensive than usual after this reveal as she talks to Martian Manhunter about her father’s terrible legacy. As the lone survivor of a world he would have given anything to save, he slightly understands Zor-El’s motivation, but mentions this in passing and instead comforts Kara. David Harewood channels the noble, honorable warrior inside of J’onn Jonzz that comics fans and viewers of the Justice League cartoons have loved for years as he flies out to help stop Lillian Luthor from releasing the bio weapon. He has a passion for good that can’t be drowned out by the White Martian DNA devouring his body even if this disease makes for some nifty special effects makeup.

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In “Medusa”, we finally get to see Lena and Lillian Luthor share some extended screen time, and Queller and Simon make their pacing around an office scenes more tense than Cyborg Superman getting his block knocked off or doing a “super punch” for the umpteenth time. (There is nothing wrong with punching just a character that exists as a one-dimensional goon, punching bang, and waste of David Harewood’s acting talent.) Brenda Strong continues to be the queen of passive aggressive condescension mixed with the cold, hard truth. (Yes, she prefers Lex to Lena.) Katie McGrath pulls out all the acting stops going from being the easygoing friend as Kara “interviews” her to get information about Cadmus and her mother to the cold, disdainful daughter measuring each syllable in venom when her mom decides to drop in. And she is especially entertaining in villain mode with raised eyebrows and a purr that evokes Eva Green if she ever decided to play Lady Macbeth. And Pleszynski holds the reveal that she sabotaged the bio-weapon for quite a while hinting at some dark irony as aliens celebrate red sparks that fall from the sky and do nothing.

And this being a CW show, this review wouldn’t be complete with an overindulgent discussion of the romantic pairings in “Medusa”. Queller and Simon go to the soap opera well and have Kara and Mon-El share a kiss while he is on his “death bed” after being exposed to the bio weapon. It isn’t really logical that Kara would fall for a kind of sexist, kind of adorkable, and slightly cowardly guy like Mon-El, and the “bonding” scenes where they play Monopoly and discuss the meanings of “crush” and “like” don’t really help. He is attractive, but it seems like the Supergirl are trying to do Romeo and Juliet with DC Comics aliens and hopefully less bloodshed in their relationship. It lacks the spark of, say, Alex and Maggie or even Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak in early seasons of Arrow. Plain and simple, Mon-El is way too douchey to be with Kara.

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But, on a happier note, Maggie Sawyer and Alex share a beautiful scene at the end of “Medusa” , which acts as a rousing conclusion to Alex’s coming out arc. It’s kind of cute, kind of awkward, and also very empowering as Maggie finally realizes that Alex came out not so she could be with her, but that she could finally completely be herself. There’s great symmetry between both her chat with her mother and Maggie about finally being able to feel her full identity, but substitute familial for romantic love. Maggie and Alex finally share a long kiss, but it’s the little pause where Alex asks Maggie if she likes her that encapsulates their relationship as Alex is still a little unsure of herself after Maggie previously rejected her. This hesitancy and fear makes Alex’s coming out that much more organic because even if your friends and relatives aren’t homophobic, the process can be a little awkward. Luckily, Alex has a supportive mother and sister.

As Supergirl Radio podcast host Carly Lane astutely tweeted, “Medusa” is like a zero issue or prologue for the “Heroes vs. Aliens” crossover with The Flash and Vibe enlisting the help of their extraterrestrial ally in a battle against a mysterious alien threat. There is a scene with aliens on a ship that seems spliced in from a later episode or another show altogether, but mostly the “crossover” scene at the end is a reminder of Gustin and Melissa Benoist’s adorable chemistry (They give the best hugs. with a tinge of sadness as Barry and Cisco aren’t on the best of terms. And in true comic book fashion, the episodes ends on an energetic cliffhanger as Kara will get to meet Team Flash (and possibly more people) tomorrow night.

With the reveal of Zor-El as potential destroyer of worlds, Jessica Queller and Derek Simon find a real commonality between Lena and Supergirl in “Medusa”. They are both daughters trying to make something better out of their family’s misdeeds even if Luthor will always have a more villainous ring to it than El unless you’re a disgruntled train commuter. This through line of family, especially mothers and daughters, keeps this Supergirl focused, but some fun romantic, Martian, and speedster detour don’t derail it.

Overall Rating: 8.0

TV Review: Supergirl S2E7 The Darkest Place Retreads Old Plot Points

Supergirl -- "The Darkest Places" -- Image SPG207a_0140 -- Pictured (L-R): Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl and Brenda Strong as The Doctor -- Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Lots of things happen in Supergirl Season 2, Episode 7 “The Darkest Place“, which earns its title as director Glen Winter loves shooting in crowded corridors and using almost hallucinogenic filters in his cinematography. Even if some of the fight scenes have that herky, jerky Arrow Season 1 feel (See the Martian on Martian fight when clearly they are trying to save money.), Supergirl‘s weakness isn’t its budget. It’s the way Robert Rovner and Paula Yoo structure the plot going from point to point and rarely giving characters time to breathe or reflect. This episode is about Mon-El and Supergirl being captured and experimented on by Cadmus while Guardian is framed as a killer, and Martian Manhunter deals with hallucinations thanks to the White Martian blood infusion he got from Miss Martian. Like most of Supergirl Season 2, “The Darkest Place” hits some strong character beats, and Chyler Leigh and Melissa Benoist continue to give strong performances as Alex Danvers and Supergirl. However, the main plot is a fast forwarded retread of the solar flare episode in Season 1 where Supergirl loses her powers, and the B-plot is like the first half of Daredevil Season 2 with far less gravitas.

The filming style for the Cadmus secret base is pretty nifty as Glen Winter makes it look the DEO’s evil twin, and Cyborg Superman (The real Hank Henshaw, who is still played by David Harewood.) straight up says it’s the spiritual successor to the DEO with its alien-hunting and experimentation. There are lots of quick cuts and dark camera shutters in an eerie homage to X-Files as Supergirl goes in alone to the DEO base to rescue Mon-El, who was taken captive at the end of last episode. But then all the interesting visuals and brutal hand to hand combat between Kara and Cyborg Superman gets squandered for yet another depowering plotline that only exists so Dr. Lillian Luthor (Brenda Strong is still disturbing as hell.) can have Supergirl’s blood to advance the season-long mystery plot. The loss of her power also allows Jeremiah Danvers (Dean Cain) to show up for two seconds, be a big damn hero, and then leave. The response to Jeremiah showing is actually more powerful than his appearance because Kara immediately tells Alex about it showing that they trust each other as sisters. But Alex knows James is Guardian, and Kara doesn’t so maybe not…

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Speaking of Guardian, he and his techie sidekick Winn get the first villain in their rogues gallery, a chain gun wielding, former Navy Seal with a dead wife that is one skull logo away from getting a cease and desist from Marvel. Victor Zink Jr. plays the killer vigilante Phillip Karnowsky without an ounce of sympathy or personality because he’s mainly a prop to have the whole “mask or no mask” debate and give Guardian the requisite “hated and feared” step in his superhero journey. Luckily, Robert Rovner and Paula Yoo don’t have Snapper Carr channel his inner J. Jonah Jameson, but Ian Gomez keeps an even keel on his performance exposing James Olsen’s personal bias towards superheroes in his one scene in the episode.

The Guardian subplot is really paint by numbers with the exception of Alex Danvers easily finding out about James’ secret identity because he and Winn are superhero noobs. (Her “interrogation” of Winn is hilarious.) James gives sanctimonious lectures about not killing to Karnowsky in a terribly mixed growly voice, and Karnowsky has the weak gimmick of only killing criminals, who got early parole or off on technicalities. The bulky mask continues to cover up Mehcad Brooks’ natural charisma, and it’s also hard to have any idea of what he’s saying. The fight between Karnowsky has way too many cuts to probably cover up some of the costuming and effects and is just plain boring as Alex and Maggie Sawyer come in and arrest him. It’s kind of sad that Rovner and Yoo decide to make Guardian a pastiche of Batman, Daredevil, and Green Arrow instead of focusing on how James Olsen transforms beneath the mask, but that is what his role feels like in “The Darkest Place”

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The third major plot in “The Darkest Place” is Martian Manhunter’s sickness and hallucinations of his dead daughters and White Martians. Glen Winters creates a nice visual continuity between his cluttered mindspace and the claustrophobic halls of the Cadmus base before Rovner and Yoo use the sickness plotline to make him a creature of total vengeance. After finding out that Miss Martian is a White Martian through some blood tests, Martian Manhunter spends the rest of his storyline whaling on her. The fight culminates in an obscured CGI Martian beatdown with Martian Manhunter still under the effect of the plague.  And the plague raises a question. Why would Miss Martian give him a blood transfusion when she knew that it would transform Martian Manhunter into a White Martian? The underpinnings of this are left on the backburner for fisticuffs though.

Although filled with some excellent individual character scenes, like Alex going full vulnerable with Maggie in response to her or Mon-El admitting his fear of death while being captured by Cadmus, the overarching plots of “The Darkest Place” feel like a rerun of previous episodes of Supergirl and other superhero TV shows. This and the continuing trainwreck of the James Olsen as Guardian makes this episode the weakest of a stellar second season. Also, the writers tease at a romance between Mon-El and Kara, which is a little disgusting, considering how he has treated and talked about women in previous episodes. However, Cyborg Superman has a chance at being a super cool and twisted villain, especially as David Harewood gets to go all Angel/Angelus and showcase his villainous acting.

Overall Rating: 7.0

Supergirl Gets a Full Season Pickup by CBS

Supergirl has been picked up for a full season by CBS. The network has ordered seven additional episodes bringing its first season to 20 total episodes. The series is one of television’s top-rated new shows averaging 11.24 million viewers a week.

The series stars Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers/Supergirl along with Calista Flockhart, Mehcad Brooks, Chyler Leigh, Jeremy Jordan and David Harewood.

The series has had some trust by CBS as it was the first new series to get the greenlight for this season. It’s produced by Greg Berlanti who also produces Arrow and The Flash, two other successful television series based on DC Comics.

Supergirl airs Mondays at 8pm going against another television series based on a DC Comics property, Gotham.

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