Tag Archives: Lillian Luthor

Review: Supergirl S2E21 “Resist” is the Cat Grant/Kara Power Hour

Beginning with an action prologue showing the Daxamites putting National City under siege, writers Jessica Queller and Derek Simon literally bring out the heavy guns in Supergirl Season 2’s penultimate episode “Resist”. The core plot is simple: the main cast of characters plus special guest stars Cat Grant (Callista Flockhart slaying everything.) and President Olivia Marsdin (Lynda Carter) are fighting back against the Daxamite occupation. President Marsdin (Whose alien secret is revealed early on.) introduces the equivalent of the nuclear solution pretty on by authorizing Alex Danvers and the DEO to disintegrate the Daxamite flagship with Mon-El and Lena Luthor on it. They are arranged to be married and have a “perfect” Daxamite/human child because Rhea is basically a space Nazi. Katie McGrath’s side eye reactions to all things have to do with Lena’s arranged marriage to Mon-El are priceless.

Because her boyfriend and best friend are on the ship, Supergirl has a personal connection and decides to team up with Lillian Luthor and Cyborg Superman to save them, which goes pretty well… They might be the Big Bads of Supergirl Season 2, but they’re definitely bad guys. It’s not a Professor X teaming up Magneto in X2 situation, but more like being cool with the “bigger fish” in The Phantom Menace for five seconds or so so your submarine survives to be a part of yet another inane subplot.

It’s an understatement to say that Callista Flockhart steals every scene she’s in as Cat Grant, and that someone at the CW should move heaven and Earth to get her back on Supergirl as a regular or recurring guest star. There’s her reintroduction scene riding shotgun in Air Force One where Cat says that she could broker peace because she fixed Kanye and Taylor Swift’s relationship, and she even comments on the fact that James Olsen made her office smell like a gym locker room. But she’s not just comic relief in a relatively dark episode of Supergirl. Cat brings a high level of inspiration and direction to “Resist” and gives a great pep talk while sitting on a trash outside an alien dive bar. It definitely seems like the writers try to pack in a half season of interactions between her and Kara, but the scene where she talks to her about the importance of human relationships and connection stands on its own.  And it pays off later with Kara and Lena kicking ass together on the Daxamite ship and definitely with Alex and Maggie infiltrating the DEO. Also, Flockhart gets to share the screen with Lynda Carter and Teri Hatcher that turns a rote disaster movie plane crash into three strong women verbally sparring with Cat Grant playing referee to the political posturing of Rhea and President Marsdin. As a journalist, she truly wants to follow the path of peace and truth.

In its last few episodes, Supergirl has definitely rekindled its political allegories and is definitely not shy at taking potshots at Donald Trump, or using the Daxamites as a metaphor for his administration. Cat’s “resist” speech pinpoints all the problems with his campaign promises, including basically selling his supporters up the river with false promises and con artistry while taking away their healthcare and some basic social services, like Meals on Wheels or PBS. And there are broader themes of resisting fascism represented by the faceless Daxamite goons, who try to subjugate National City.

Supergirl‘s treatment of President Marsdin is interesting too as she protects extraterrestrial refugees because she is one too. However, she is also perfectly okay with firing upon civilians (Lena, Mon-El) for the greater good. Marsdin represents the problems I had with former president Obama and Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy with their liberal social conscience meets hawk-ish foreign policy. It’s nice to see a sociopolitical critique in a superhero show in 2017 that doesn’t just go for the obvious target.

Millicent Shelton, who has directed episodes of Empire and Black-ish along with the first Earth-2 episode of The Flash, brings a visually muscular style to “Resist” that matches its subject material. The cold open of the episode is quite epic and filled with whip cuts culminating in Supergirl catching Alex in slow motion. It’s the kind of action scene that immediately raises the stakes of the episode and is worthy of a Warner Bros blockbuster and not just a CW show. It’s good storytelling too as it introduces the conflict between human and alien by centering on Maggie Sawyer and the National City P.D. and not Supergirl or the comatose Martian Manhunter. There are good aliens and bad aliens just like there are  good and bad humans, and this keeps the conflict messy and nuanced as Supergirl Season 2 rounds its final bend. Also, Maggie Sawyer should use shotguns more often.

“Resist” is a visual treat from director Millicent Shelton (See the slow-mo action sequence where Cat deduces Guardian’s secret identity.) , is packed to the gills with action and moral conflict as Supergirl teams up with Lillian Luthor to save her friends, and has a season stealing performance from Callista Flockhart as Cat Grant. Add a fun/weird cliffhanger, and I can’t wait for the season finale.

Overall Rating: 8.5

Sister Power Prevails in Supergirl S2E15 “Exodus”

“Exodus” reminded me of why I loved and started to write about Supergirl in the first place and is the show’s best episode of 2017 so far. It puts Mon-El and Kara’s romance on the backburner, fishes out a criminally underused Snapper Carr (And the talented Ian Gomez, who embodies truth in a single passionate, yet cynical glance.), and best of all, puts the focus on the sisterly relationship between Kara and Alex Danvers. But this episode isn’t just long stretches of Kara and Alex pouring out their feelings, but is filled with some top notch action as writers Paula Yoo and Eric Carrasco and director Michael Allowitz have Alex basically go rogue and take out Cadmus all by herself when J’onn suspends her from Cadmus. Also, in an episode that guest stars TV’s Lois (Teri Hatcher as a mysterious alien) and Clark (Jeremiah Danvers) themselves, the most romantic moment comes from Supergirl catching Lena Luthor after she helps put her on the trail to Cadmus. They don’t get a ton of screen time, but Yoo and Carrasco continue to completely debunk the Luther/Superfamily rivalry and give them a genuine friendship even if they don’t have time for kombucha this time.

Even though Supergirl is pretty damn heroic in this episode carrying a spaceship filled with deported alien refugees (There are tons of political parallels in “Exodus.), the reporter Kara Danvers is pretty flawed. And even though “he’s rooting for her”, Snapper Carr is quick to point out those flaws that include basically only using Supergirl aka herself as a source for her pieces. He might come off as irascible, but Snapper is a true crusader for journalism ethics, which is kind of big deal in a time where journalists from the venerable BBC aren’t welcome at President Trump’s press gaggles.

Snapper humors Kara and interviews “Supergirl”, but she doesn’t reveal that she got information about Cadmus taking the alien registry from the DEO even off the record so there’s no story in his eyes. But Kara goes off the reservation and exposes Cadmus in a blog post. (Sadly not done in WordPress.) She’s a great superhero, but not a great journalist. These series of events causes Lillian and Cadmus to go into hiding, but it costs Kara her job. Now, she has an existential crisis in her civilian position, and you can definitely see the sadness in Melissa Benoist’s eyes as she sits on the window sill in a sequence tearfully framed by Allowitz. It’s a relatable sequence to anyone who has lost a promising job that they were passionate about. And yeah, Mon-El is there to reassure her, but that emptiness is still there as who knows what Kara Danvers is going to do with her life moving onwards.

Continuing the theme of going against authority, Alex Danvers decides to take down Cadmus all by herself. (With a little help from Maggie Sawyer, who is there for the smooching, snarking, and raygun blasts.) Her emotional bond with her father Jeremiah continues even after he steals the alien registry from the DEO, and she continues to passionately hope that there is good in him bringing her into conflict with J’onn and disagreement with Kara. One of “Exodus'” most shocking moments is J’onn shapeshifting into Jeremiah and coercing Alex into “betraying” the DEO by agreeing to team up with him. Thankfully, J’onn walks this back later in the episode after most of everything is set to rights, and their father/daughter relationship is intact.

But before the tearful reunion, we get to see Chyler Leigh and Floriana Lima star in the queer, female starring remake of Bad Boys that everyone secretly (or not so secretly) wants. They use some gun play and detective smarts by using their buddy from the alien bar, Brian, to act as bait for Cadmus goons before springing the trap in a thrilling hand to hand combat scene. Then, Alex gets to unleash her inner Splinter Cell character and stealthily infiltrate the DEO and team up with her dad, who is in deep, deep cover and joined Cadmus to protect her and Kara. Alex believes in him so much, and they move fluidly in combat trying to stop Lillian from sending a group of alien refugees to the far end of space before Cyborg Superman has to ruin things. Alex Danvers is a true action hero, and because her abilities don’t require CGI, her fight scenes are better staged with longer takes.

Nonetheless,The Flash and Vampire Diaries director Michael Allowitz brings some powerful visuals to the forefront of “Exodus in both the action and emotion department. Women kicking ass is the throughline of the episode’s setpieces even if Guardian gets a killer save in the early going from Lena tasing her own mom’s goons before jumping off the roof because Supergirl will save her to Lyra saving her fellow aliens while Alex and Supergirl attempt to crash land an “alien ocean frigate”. A group fight scene featuring Maggie, Alex, and Winn at the alien bar is relentless as Alex uses pool cues and whatever she can find to fight off the goons and try to save the aliens from Cadmus. It shows her resourcefulness and that she is willing to do whatever it takes to protect anyone in need. This ruthless pragmatism comes in handy later in the episode when Alex threatens to blow up Lillian Luthor’s top secret base and then sets off some explosives to show her that she wasn’t bluffing. Alex Danvers has a darker edge compared to her adoptive sister, but her relationships with Maggie, Kara, and her father figures Jeremiah and J’onn give a warm humanity to a character who brutally beat a prisoner early on in the episode.

However, Allowitz’s finest moment is a tribute to Star Trek: Wrath of Khan as Alex and Kara touch hands through the glass while Kara strains to prevent the ship with the alien refugees from going into light speed. The shot is a subtle homage to the film, and no one makes a joke about Star Trek, but it’s iconic enough to be shorthand for a lasting bond of friendship that transcends life and death. Blake Neely’s score is also pretty heroic, and Melissa Benoist does these death howls to show much pain she is in while saving this ship. Kara and Alex’s relationship has been the bedrock of Supergirl since Season 1 and centering an episode around it makes “Exodus one of Season 2’s sturdier episodes. They resist authority separately with the help of the women they love (Lena and Maggie) to protect the Earth from an evil, xenophobic organization and then end up saving the day together in a glorious instant.

The past few episodes of Supergirl have focused on romance and villains of the week, but “Exodus” is grounded in the reality of the 2017 albeit through the spaceships and extraterrestrials. Allowitz opens the scene with a moment of broad comedy as a mom and dad sings along to the latest Bruno Mars hit single while the pre-teen daughter makes snarky little comments. But then they are stopped by the police, and the context immediately turns frightening as they are snatched up and sent to Cadmus’ prison base. This is a jarring sequence to watch, especially after the “Muslim Ban 2.0” executive order was signed into law by a man, who thinks that security briefings are optional before sending soldiers to be killed in action, perjury is no big deal, and it’s totally cool to conduct international diplomacy in full view of the public at a Palm Beach club for rich white people while eating wedge salads on taxpayers’ dime. Just like the random aliens that get rounded up in “Exodus”, people are getting snatched up and deported because of their religion and national origin instead of being treated like human beings. This real world connection adds weight to Lillian Luthor and Cadmus’ villainy and makes Supergirl part of the pop culture resistance in a way.

Paula Yoo and Eric Carrasco throw aside most of this Mon-El foolishness for an episode and zero in on the flaws and heroism of Kara Danvers and Alex Danvers through relationships, defiance of authority in various ways that even have negative consequences in the case of Kara’s job, and finally a breathtaking rescue sequence that is one of Supergirl Season 2’s most memorable.

Overall Rating: 9.0

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

Supergirl S2E12 “Luthors” Unwraps the Enigma that is Lena Luthor

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Wow, Lena Luthor and Kara Danvers have amazing chemistry. And on the other hand, Kara and Mon-El don’t really except as a goofy friend/superhero apprentice and master deal even though they excel at lobbing insults at each other. Luckily, writers Robert L. Rovner and Cindy Lichtman in “Luthors” in which the main conflict is almost every character writing off Lena as just another villain even though she hates her mother Lillian. In the fighting front, Lillian sends a dying of synthetic kryptonite poisoning Metallo and Cyborg Superman to rescue her so her campaign against extraterrestials can continue. Plus there are plenty of flashbacks featuring a young Lex Luthor and Lionel Luthor to show Lena’s twisted life, and why she leans on Kara so much.

Rovner, Lichtman, and director Tawnia McKiernan strike gold in “Luthors” by centering much of the plot, relationship drama, and suspense around the characters of Lillian and Lena Luthor, who are played with maternal rancor and a potent mix of strength and vulnerability by Brenda Strong and Katie McGrath respectively. McGrath has a talent for body language visibly shirking away from Metallo when he busts her out of prison where the guards constantly insult and mistreat her. And when Supergirl comes to stop Metallo and Lillian, she instantly runs for her. This open vulnerability that she shares with Kara, who brings her donuts in a super cute scene, is immediately replaced by combativeness as it is revealed that she is the daughter of Lionel Luthor and his mistress, which wasn’t great for Lillian and Lena’s relationship growing up. But the manipulation is counterbalanced by the paradigm challenging friendship (With heavy romantic subtext.) between Kara and Lena, who feels safe and happy around Kara, and isn’t afraid to hug her when she is mostly distant around her mother and the people in the courtroom early on.

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Brenda Strong has been sorely missed the past few episodes, and her ability to turn from wannabe nice mom to goal oriented anti-alien fanatic is on full display in “Luthors”. Lillian plays Lena like a musical instrument as McKiernan instantly cuts to her daugher’s teary face when she talks about finally having a good mother/daughter relationship now that Lex and Lionel are out of the picture. But she really just needs Lena’s Luthor DNA to unlock a special vault filled with all kinds of goodies like Lex’s classic battlesuit, some sonic bombs, and more Easter Eggs that will likely pop up in episodes to come as Cadmus continues their war against Supergirl and her alien friends. And even when Lena puts two and two together, Lillian continues to try to soothe and comfort her like mother while leaving Metallo behind to burn out while she’s off to survive another day.

Metallo is decently well-used this episode as pure, if flawed muscle as his kryptonite blaster gives Supergirl serious problems and leads to a well-staged close quarters between him and J’onn, who channels his sadness over Miss Martian leaving into a fun last minute save. His core going nuclear is a boring action movie trope, but the fact that he has kryptonite after J’onn gave Superman the rest of his supply is a clever hook for most of “Luthors”. It’s also good to have a villain who can go toe to toe with Supergirl because you can’t win all the fights even if it looks like Metallo won’t be fighting any battles after this one. Metallo is just a plot device in “Luthors”, but works well as a distraction from Kara Danvers’ attempts to vindicate Lena as innocent because of their friendship.

And finally, we make it to our favorite part of each Supergirl review: where I continue to chronicle why the Kara/Mon-El relationship doesn’t work out on a romantic level. First, Robert L. Rovner and Cindy Lichtman have Mon-El talk about his failed date with Eve Teschmacher instead of reveling in all its awkward, disgusting glory with Chris Wood mooning all over Kara. This leads to some awkward dialogue throughout “Luthors” about Mon-El and Kara caring about each other dating other people, Kara choosing being Supergirl over having a boyfriend, and there’s no real bond between them or even story elements that show why Kara’s feelings have changed towards him. It’s like they’re looking for a reason to keep Mon-El, who does have a little bit of goofy charm thanks to Chris Wood, around, and the spinner landed on romance, not friend or hero-in-training. Luckily, their smooch is interrupted by a classic supervillain

“Luthors” puts some meat on the bones of the greatest villain in Supergirl Season 2 and one of Supergirl’s most unexpected confidants, Lena Luthor. Their backstory complete with low lighting and chess imagery from Tawnia McKiernan taps into the supervillain iconography implicit within the Luthor name, and she even leaves Lena’s true allegiance ambiguous even though she hates Lillian and loves Kara. (Yeah, I used the L word, deal with it.) The other plotlines featuring Mon-El and James Olsen seem a little forced although it’s nice to Kara and James as friends after their fantastic chemistry in Supergirl Season 1, but a comic book deep cut cliffhanger promises that next week’s will be more on the experimental and comedic side.

Overall Rating: 8.0

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