Tag Archives: mehcad brooks

James Olsen is Pretty Darn Heroic in Supergirl S2E20 “City of Lost Children”

Of Supergirl”s main cast, James Olsen (played by Mehcad Brooks) has probably seen the least screen time and had the least amount of storylines centered around him. Sure, he became the Batman/Arrow-esque vigilante Guardian around midseason and is good for the occasional action scene, but we’ve rarely gotten to see what makes the man behind the silver mask click. Luckily, writers Gabriel Llanas, Anna Musky-Goldwyn, and Robert Rovner change that as James discovers a more inspirational brand of heroism that doesn’t include putting alien weed dealers in the hospital. The main plot of “City of Lost Children” is about the telepathic and telekinetic alien race, the Phorians, losing control as wreaking havoc in National City. James ends up bonding with Marcus, the young son of the woman that is responsible for the destruction and starts to find out that they are peaceful, and someone else is behind the chaos.

James Olsen has a fantastic arc in “City of Lost Children”, and part of that is due to Ben Bray’s directing style. The opening scene of the episode made think that possibly Arrow had been moved to Monday’s with tight angles, plenty of shadows, and bone breaking fight choreography. Guardian’s heavy duty costume (That is the utter opposite of Supergirl’s maskless one.) and his blunt force approach to superheroing causes a woman he saves to run away in fear. Bray lingers on Guardian’s eyes in the mask to show that he thinks it’s time to change his methods. (Kara agrees and makes a couple great Batman jokes with Winn.) So, for the rest of the episode we get to see Mehcad Brooks’ smiling, charisma-filled face as he shows Marcus his camera and tells stories about how he was bullied by racist people as a kid and was afraid to open up to people. When James talks about Superman (Without mentioning the name.), Supergirl gains a little more gravitas as we can see in his eyes how this superhero/mild mannered reporter changed his life. Also, kudos to the young actor Lonnie Chavis (This Is Us), who plays Marcus with a sadness and silence that is heartbreaking. You can tell by the twinkle in his eye that he really looks to James too.

Although the Phorians barely get fleshed out beyond being super powered refugees who are are reacting negatively to Rhea and Lena Luthor’s matter transporter experiments, they help James have his All-Star Superman moment. At first, it seems like Winn’s anti-telekinesis MacGuffin is going to stop the group of Phorian refugees (Who live underground) from flipping out. However, it’s actually James’ bond with Marcus that saves the day. They haven’t exchanged many words, but James never treated Marcus like a criminal even when his telekinesis was ripping apart the Catco building. Just being there for Marcus creates a friendship between them, and the simple phrase “You’re not alone” calms him and the other Phorians down. And Ben Bray makes room for a little bit of light to hit the frame even though they’re deep underground. He doesn’t have heat vision, freeze breath, or is a member of the House of El, but James Olsen can bring hope to people in his own way.

It’s kind of inconsequential to the plot, but the interactions between the Martian Manhunter and James Olsen were some of the most enjoyable parts of the “City of Lost Children”. James isn’t a part of the DEO and is a violent vigilante so he and Martian Manhunter don’t normally see eye to eye. However, J’onn relaxes for a second and sees that James wants to be a hero just like him and Supergirl and also has a connection with Marcus. He doesn’t have the same paternal relationship with James that he does with Alex and Kara, but Martian Manhunter takes James aside and tells him about the birth of his daughter gave me purpose to become a police officer (or “Manhunter”) on Mars to protect them. Their conversations definitely push him closer to a less violent and more empathetic brand of heroism as the episode progresses.

Again, Lena Luthor and Rhea have a big, bad B-plot that chugs along throughout the episode, causes the Phorians to lose control, and flips to being the A-plot as it looks like the Daxamites are the final Big Bad of Supergirl Season 2. What makes this more compelling than your typical alien invasion plotline is the dynamic that has been developed between Lena and Rhea over the past few episodes. Although she is a successful CEO and genius scientist, Lena knows that her mother will always love Lex more than her. Throughout the season, she has been reaching out for a mother figure, and Rhea seems to fit the bill until she flat out lies about the experiments they’re running. Teri Hatcher can be super maternal and super evil at the same time as she talks about Lena using her own personality on the transporter and then steals her personal phone to taunt/attempt to guilt trip Kara. Lena’s continuing reaction to the metaphorical knife twisted in her fact will definitely be one of the more compelling subplots to check out in the final two episodes. (Will she go to the dark side?)

Speaking of metaphors, there is also a political element to the Daxamites being the main bad guys at the end of Supergirl Season 2. From what we’ve found out over the show, the Daxamites are the extraterrestrial version of white supremacists with their disdain for other alien races, like using the predominantly POC Phorians to power a portal to get to Earth. And they are definitely authoritarian with their monarchical government and the continued existence of slavery on their planet. They represent a side of humanity that unfortunately still holds power in the world with the rise of far right nationalism in the United States and U.K. through Trump’s election and Brexit, which adds an extra layer to what could just be cool overhead shots of alien spaceships from Bray.

“City of Lost Children” does the genre TV show equivalent of walking and chewing bubblegum by developing an underutilized character (James Olsen) and also setting up Supergirl Season 2’s endgame with Rhea and a host of Daxamites ready to turn Earth into a space tyrant planet.

Overall Rating: 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.

jonndad

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.

livewireback

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

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…

theguardiansupergirl

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”

supergirl_hank_henshaw_glowing_eyes

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

TV Review: Supergirl S2E6 “Changing” is literally and metaphorically draining

Supergirl -- "Changing" -- Image SPG206a_0103 -- Pictured (L-R): Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers and Melissa Benoist as Kara -- Photo: Liane Hentscher/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

In “Changing”, writers Caitlin Parrish, Andrew Kreisberg, and Greg Berlanti round off several characters subplots as James Olsen and Mon-El wrap up their heroic journeys, Alex Danvers comes out to her sister, Supergirl, and Martian Manhunter and Miss Martian are brought closer together in a traumatic way. Oh, and there happens to be a villain in this episode as director Larry Teng pays homage to The Thing with an alien parasite taking out scientists at a remote base near one of the poles in its cold open. Parasite (Lost’‘s William Mapother) that extremists can be on both the left and right side of the aisle. Climate change is terrible, but killing human beings isn’t the solution

But Berlanti, Parrish, and Kreisberg  use Parasite less as a global warming parable in classic Superman villain form and more as a way to cause the cast of Supergirl  external discomfort to go with their inner pain. The strongest emotional beat in “Changing” and one of the best character arcs on a TV show in 2016 belongs to Alex Danvers. Chyler Leigh excels at changing her vocal timbre and has great range as an actor going from aloof to happy to completely broken at the drop of the hat while also kicking ass in the action scenes against Parasite. She doesn’t have to speak to show the depth of her uncertainty about how to talk about being a lesbian, or the depth of her feelings towards Maggie Sawyer. The scene(s) where Alex comes out to Kara are the complete opposite of an after school special as Teng uses soft lighting with a minor piano score from Blake Neely as well as getting rid of Kara’s “glasses disguise” for a true moment of authenticity as she is there for her sister. Alex coming out as lesbian wasn’t a stunt for ratings or titillation, but an organic part of development of a character as she strives to be whole in her personal life as well as her professional life as an agent of the DEO. The ending of her storyline is completely happy, but thankfully Berlanti, Parrish, and Kreisberg go the route of Carmilla rather than The 100 as far as tragic queer characters are concerned.

Last episode, I described Mon-El as “adorkable”, but maybe he is more of a douche than a dork. His storyline in “Changes” starts out promisingly enough with Chris Wood flexing his impeccable comedic timing with Mon-El’s reactions to various aliens sending him drinks at the alien bar, which has become the show’s most memorable setting with Catco being a pale spectre of its Season 1 self. But it all goes to hell after this as Mon-El uses his powers to be an enforcer for an alien bookie and not feel any guilt about it. His amorality has gone from naive to downright frustrating or disgusting, and it’s kind of cathartic to see Alex light into him for using his powers to hurt people weaker than him and call him a coward. Mon-El does pathetically participate in the fight against Parasite as he takes baby steps towards being a superhero. He’s not very likeable though, but his role in the episode’s cliffhanger opens up a possibility for him to regain some face in the long run.

jamesolsenguardian

I have mixed feelings about the James Olsen becomes a superhero subplot, and all of Mehcad Brooks’ charm goes out the window when he is covered up behind a helmet and voice modulator. But his transformation into the vigilante Guardian has brought him and Winn closer together as well as added another black superhero to television. Even though he ends up cracking wise in the heat of battle when James battles Parasite while Supergirl and Martian Manhunter are down for the count, Jeremy Jordan plays Winn very seriously in “Changes” as he basically tells James to back off his demands for the Guardian suit. He cares for James and doesn’t want to kill himself while playing superhero. Winn is skeptical about James’ actions and kind of a stand-in for Supergirl fans, who are wary of his arc in Season 2. However, he ends up coming around when he realizes that telling a guy in a suit how to punch and defend himself is kind of an adrenaline rush. Olsen might have the gruff, grating voice of Christian Bale’s Batman, but he and Winn have a genuine good time as superheroes even if his origin story is rooted in the death of his father and his own insecurities as a “sidekick”. Some better sound editing would make the patter on Olsen’s side a tad bit snappier.

parasitesupergirl

Due to dramatic timing (and probably budget constraints), Larry Teng saves the reveal of Rudy Jones’ final Parasite form for the last third of “Changes”. Unlike the shoddy CGI of a recent of “monster” in The FlashSupergirl”s visual effects artists give him the purple hue of the comic book version to go with intimidating size and scale. The makeup and visual effects team should also be commended for their work on the wounded Martian Manhunter and Supergirl, who look like they’re on death’s door and completely drained of their health and vitality. They definitely don’t look like powerful, adorable superheroes or cool, regal Martians. In the big brawl between Mon-El, Guardian, and this week’s villain, Teng doesn’t neglect the horror giving Parasite a “chest burster” for a mouth that he breaks out when fighting Mon-El on the streets.  His direction (and the writing) does falter a little bit with the quick reveal of a limitless energy MacGuffin that Supergirl gives Parasite to finally defeat him which is even little too much deus ex machina for a superhero show. However, the image of Kara taking on a huge burst of energy that could destroy any of her friends is a visual representation of her ability to inspire James Olsen to become a superhero, Alex Danvers to embrace her queer identity, and for Mon-El to “show up”.

On the surface, “Changes” get its title from the physical transformation that Dr. Rudy Jones endures as he goes from an overzealous scientist to a character in an early David Cronenberg movie to a tricked out supervillain. However, it is truly about the transformations in Supergirl”s well-rounded supporting cast. Some changes are more thoughtful (Alex Danvers) than others (Mon-El), but the episode is another shining example of how Supergirl has reached new heights by focusing on the people behind the icons aka their feelings and not just flying, alien punching, and shapeshifting. All those things are cool though.

alexcomesout

Finally, Changes” is also yet another stellar example of how inspiring science fiction and superhero stories can be towards queer people as Kara finds common ground with Alex in their shared “secret identities” as a superhero and queer woman respectively. But Supergirl doesn’t stay in the world of metaphor and strives for nuanced LGBT representation as Alex and Maggie are at very different places, and maybe a romantic relationship isn’t the best option for them right now even though all the fans want them to smooch.

In a country where the government will be run by a man who allowed queer teenagers to be literally tortured and shocked into “becoming straight”,  Chyler Leigh’s portrayal of Alex Danvers is a beacon of hope and a reminder that you can come out at any stage of your life.

Overall Rating: 8.5

TV Review: Supergirl S2E5 “Crossfire” showcases the show’s robust relationships

supergirl25fi

If there is one word to describe Supergirl Season 2, Episode 5 “Crossfire”, it is meaty. Writers Gabriel Llanas and Anna Musky-Goldwyn intertwine the relationships between characters with a shared theme of identity. They exhibit this through James Olsen coming to grips with being a lifelong sidekick, Mon-El completely failing at being the Catco intern Mike Matthews (He would make an excellent male stripper though.), and Alex Danvers struggling with coming out as queer as an adult as well as her romantic feelings for the newly single National City cop Maggie Sawyer. And along the way, they deepen the legitimate friendship between Kara Danvers and Lena Luthor in light of mercenaries with alien weapons attacking her big gala while making the mysterious Cadmus Doctor (Brenda Strong) an even more deadly foe. She is a family woman and is more menacing in an Uber than Non and the Myriad gang were all last season.

“Crossfire” is really the episode for Mehcad Brooks to shine as James Olsen deals with the insecurity of always being a “sidekick” even though he is currently the acting CEO of Catco. But he wants to be more than an editor of a gossip magazine; he wants to be a superhero like his close friends, Superman and Supergirl. Director Glen Winter carefully shows the bumps and bruises that James takes when he foolishly goes into action against soldiers with extraterrestrial weaponry. Winter doesn’t go full Arrow with the fight choreography letting him throw a few good punches and a kick or two, but showing that he has a long way to go as a superhero.

jameshero

Llanas and Musky-Goldwyn also revive James’ friendship with Winn because there is so much more to their relationship that being two vertices on a love triangle with Supergirl. Winn isn’t afraid to bring the truth by punching James in the ribs after he makes a half-assed excuse about a basketball injury and telling him that he isn’t prepared to be a superhero. However, he also listens to why James want to be a hero. James want to live up to the example of his father, who was killed in war as well as Supergirl and Superman and not just be “behind a camera”. Winn sees a little bit of himself in James because he felt lost and listless as Cat Grant IT’s guy and feels much better doing more meaningful work in the DEO. Llanas and Musky-Goldwyn avoid temptation to turn James into a total badass in his first episode as a crime fighter and craft his journey slowly drawing on his feelings and relationships as well as Brooks’ presence as an actor that has been underutilized this season even with his “promotion”.

If you thought Mon-El was going to end up being a derivative of Superman or gender swapped Supergirl, “Crossfire” easily puts that to rest beginning with a funny musical montage. Like most parts of Supergirl, this scene of Kara making up Mon-El to be just like her is on the nose, but it connects into the sub plot of her choosing an identity for Mon-El instead of letting him be his own person on Earth. Mon-El has a much different personality than Kara and is frankly a party bro with a side of adorkableness rather than a hard working, yet slightly awkward, driven person like her. Seeing him utterly fail as an intern is hilarious, but slightly sad as well, but  through a well-timed conversation with Alex about how she let Kara become her own person on Earth, Kara lets Mon-El find his own path just like Winn helps James become a superhero. (He would be great as a guest star on No Tomorrow.)

alexmaggie

Winter continues to show the power of eye movements and shots of them in creating romantic tension and chemistry between Alex and Maggie in Supergirl in a manner similar to Todd Haynes in Carol. (But without the age gap.) True love definitely comes through in the eyes. Alex genuinely has feelings for Maggie and wants her to be okay after her breakup and spend time with her. But she doesn’t straight up ask her out or come out as lesbian or queer because “intimacy” and dating has not been a good thing for her in the past. Llanas and Musky-Goldwyn make her coming out process gradual and rooted in her emotions instead of going for a quick kiss to boost ratings. It also shows that there is room for all sorts of queer characters in the CW’s DC Universe from the flirtatious, yet occasionally vulnerable Sara Lance in Legends of Tomorrow to the happily married Mr. Terriffic in Arrow, and now Alex, who is battling with coming out as an adult. Llanas and Musky-Goldwyn aren’t quick to label Alex’s personality, but let her articulate it at her own pace while Maggie watches longingly and listens to her strive to put her feelings to words. The relationship between Maggie Sawyer and Alex Danvers is easily the best example of queer representation in a superhero TV show, and Chyler Leigh plays her scenes with great pathos.

Two other characters with great chemistry are Kara Danvers and Lena Luthor. Lena shows her dedication to being the “good” Luthor in deeds as well as action as she rigs a special device to destroy the alien weaponry than Miner and his men are using to rob wealthy guests at her party. Katie McGrath is gamely up for spouting out technobabble alongside Jeremy Jordan, who plays Winn, but the weapon’s goal as well as the final moments of the episodes continue to paint her as an anti-alien chess player. Plus Kara does a terrible job of concealing her secret identity around her. Nonetheless, Kara and Lena share a real tenderness, and Llanas and Musky-Goldwyn continue to align her on the side of the angels. (For the most part.)

lenakara

Even though Miner is a one-dimensional greed obsessed, gun toting NRA wet dream, Llanas and Musky-Goldwyn are self-aware of this fact and make him the object of constant criticism from the Cadmus Doctor, who is shaping up to be the real Big Bad of Season 2. The broadcast that Cadmus sends out are pretty generic and Anonymous-y, but the Cadmus Doctor herself gets some real personality this episode. There is even a touch of Amanda Waller in her as she uses a special gadget to remotely doing the network television of head explosions on Miner and his men when they are about to rat on her to the D.A. There isn’t a hint of fear in her voice when she stands up to him and his alien machine gun and says that attacking Lena Luthor is a bad idea.

The Cadmus Doctor is a perfect supervillain for a day when politicians, like Donald Trump, create an atmosphere of racism, sexism, hate, and xenophobia with their speeches to win elections and rally supporters. Through Miner’s attacks, she hopes to get the Alien Amnesty Bill repealed and whip the people of the world into a frenzy against them so she can make it “great again” for her children and humanity. Even if her goons are a little on the dumb side despite possessing Supergirl KO-ing weaponry, the Cadmus is terrifying, and Brenda Strong plays her with the perfect blend of distant coolness and almost maternal warmth. Definitely watch out for her down the road.

“Crossfire” and Supergirl Season 2 as a whole understands that what makes serial superhero fiction great isn’t just the plot twists and surprise character deaths, but the bonds between characters that can be developed over time. This is what makes Alex’s questioning her sexuality so potent as we have seen the stalwart soldier and caring sister, but now we get to see her slowly have the romantic relationship that she has always wanted.

Overall Rating: 9.0

Supergirl S2E1: The Adventures of Supergirl Recap

supergirl21fi

Season 2 of Supergirl kicked off with a bang last night on its new home The CW. Any fans who were skeptical about how the change in networks would effect their beloved show can relax.

Fans and newcomers to the show were treated to a new intro and that classic CW look. Always ready to keep the viewers on their feet there was a space pod crash and a mystery Kryptonian crash landed on earth.

In the interim between season 1 and season 2 the clandestine alien hunting team have moved into newer digs. No longer underground and with a little more autonomy, the lovable laughable Winn is now a member of the team. He’s their tech guy and it was a clever way to keep him on the show since it looks like Kara won’t be spending much time at the office season.

Supergirl -- "The Last Children of Krypton" -- Image SPG202a_0016 -- Pictured (L-R): Melissa Benoist Kara/Supergirl and Tyler Hoechlin as Clark/Superman -- Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

We also get to meet Superman and see the big cousin, little cousin ribbing and love that we needed. Having Clark on the show means Kara has someone, like her to talk about her Kryptonian problems. The Superman intro was delightfully campy, complete with slow motion running and shirt ripping to reveal the giant house of El crest.

The villain this time around is kind of ambiguous. Lex Luthor may or may not be trying to take his sister out and he’s willing to put all of National City at risk to do it. Supergirl and Superman team up throughout the episode and prove that two heads are better than one. I just hope that this mash up does not turn into the Superman show with Kara as a side kick.

Everyone’s favorite mogul and Kara mentor is back and still being the awesome example of a boss chick that we love. She is putting pressure on Kara to chose her next career at Cat Co. because she’s too good to just be an assistant. A good quarter of the episode is Kara trying to choose her path and Cat trying to lovingly but, bluntly get her to make a choice. In the end Kara chooses to be a reporter which Cat knew she would chose from the second she met her. That’s why Cat was so hard on her. She wanted to polish the diamond in the rough. There’s something refreshing about seeing them interact. We get to watch an older successful woman mentoring a young woman just starting out. She’s not trying to turn her into a clone, she’s trying to help her be the best she can be. So often in media we see women tearing other women down, exhibiting a sort of Highlander (there can be only one) mentality, or lamenti about boys. Their relationship is the kind that little girls need to see because it’s an image that is lacking in most media & depictions of female relationships.

clarkandkaraSpeaking of relationships, Jimmy and Kara are trying to make the relationship thing work. But, it’s not going as well as planned. clearly these two love each other and we all love to ‘ship them but, the timing isn’t right and Kara isn’t as into it as she could be. There is this great moment where Kara breaks the news to Jimmy and he acts like a human being. I phrase is like that because so often men take it the wrong (aggressive) way when women friend zone them. When Kara tells him that she just wants to be friends because she needs time to figure out who she is, how she can be Kara and Supergirl and, how she can manage a career he accepts it and supports her instead of telling her why she is wrong and pushing a romantic relationship on her. There was no saltiness and he kept his sulking to himself. It was a nice example for the young men watching, a feminist flag saying that women are not property and they don’t owe you a romantic relationship .

Another nice example for the men watching was Superman himself. When Kara asks for his advice about balancing it all he gives it to her. He doesn’t mansplain or tell her what to do instead he tells her how he did it and that she can figure it out. He treats her as a person instead of an object. He listens instead of ordering and, helps instead of sowing seeds of doubt.

Lena provides an antiCat for the series, she’s a strong woman but, she’s a variation on the most common women in power trope. She’s ruthless, cold and kind of heartless. She doesn’t even bat an eye at shooting a mama who was sent by her brother to kill her, even though Superman or Supergirl could have taken him down. But, the shows  take on this trope makes her relatable. She’s end fighting for her place so long she knows she’s alone and somehow it comes off less sexist and cliched and more complex and real.

With the threat to Lena neutralized and another unconscious Kryptonian pod person in the mix, Clark decides to stick around. The last few minutes of the show gave us the birth of Metallo who I’m assuming will be one of this seasons villians. Pod man (or should I just call him Valor? Because, it’s not like y’all weren’t thinking the same damn thing) will hopefully join the fight and I’m hoping the hero injection on the show doesn’t over power the She-ro the show is supposed to be about.

Overall this was a great start on the new network. It was serving up a little Smallville magic and I am hoping the magic continues. Supergirl is one of the few truly Girl powered (and empowering) shows on right now and, I am hoping that the writers continue to do right by her because she deserves it.

Overall Rating: 9.7

TV Review: Supergirl S2 E1 “Adventures of Supergirl” is a Crossroads for Kara

Supergirl -- "The Last Children of Krypton" -- Image SPG202a_0016 -- Pictured (L-R): Melissa Benoist Kara/Supergirl and Tyler Hoechlin as Clark/Superman -- Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Much of the press surrounding the season 2 premiere of Supergirl has been centered around Teen Wolf‘s Tyler Hoechlin guest starring as Superman, and he does turn in the best performance as the Man of Steel since the last Christopher Reeve. However, “Adventures of Supergirl” is about a turning point in Supergirl’s (Melissa Benoist) life as she must decide what job she is taking at Catco, whether she wants to date James Olsen (Mechad Brooks), and basically choose what kind of person she wants to be. Sure, a mercenary with a British accent and a name that is familiar to comic book nerds shows up to wreak havoc, and there is some intrigue from Lena Luthor. But writers Andrew Kreisberg, Jessica Queller, and Greg Berlanti focus the main brunt of the plot on Supergirl’s “coming of age” and ably position Superman’s guest apperance as both a family member and someone she can aspire to be. It’s the bedrock of a pretty overstuffed premiere that also features a subplot about tension between Superman and Martian Manhunter (David Harewood) over the DEO keeping kryptonite as insurance against any rogue Kryptonians.

“Adventures of Supergirl” is a major episode in Supergirl’s continuing character arc, and Melissa Benoist shows some nice acting range as she goes from smiling while saving a plane with Superman to stuttering about filling out an Internet quiz to pick her new job at Catco. And even though she isn’t Cat Grant’s (Calista Flockhart) assistant any more, Kara is a little unsure of herself as she and Superman (in disguise as Clark Kent) investigate Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath) and in some of her interactions with Cat. However, she has never been more confident as Supergirl as she smiles while speed fixing L-Corp (formerly LexCorp) Tower and crack jokes about changing Superman’s diapers on Krypton to a family of bystanders she rescues. When Supergirl shields civilians or bullets or flies to save an airplane, it makes you believe in things like truth and justice. And this extends to her civilian life as Kara Danvers as she channels some of her life as Supergirl into an impassioned plea to Cat Grant to become a reporter at Catco. (Also, it’s the perfect job for a superhero, and you can get “exclusive scoops”. Just ask Peter Parker or Lois Lane.)

clarkandkara

“Adventures of Supergirl” also features a trio of wide-ranging guest performances for the earlier mentioned Hoechlin, Flockhart, and McGrath. Hoechlin’s plays Superman as a human being, not an icon, and he channels the competent, mature reporter and hero that has settled down with Lois Lane as written in Post-Crisis stories by John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Mark Waid (His investigative reporting in Superman Birthright especially.), and the DC Animated Universe. The writers give him just a dash of cheesiness in his dialogue to satisfy fond memories of “bumbling reporter” Clark Kent, and director Glen Winter frames the big “S” front and center in the action scenes and establishing shots before cutting to him making a dry quip or shaking DEO soldiers’ hands. Superman is a family man with godlike powers, and Hoechlin and Benoist have a cheerful chemistry with Superman giving her helpful tips about being a more efficient superhero while Supergirl tells him stories about Krypton. I’m glad that they will have a few more episodes to explore their relationship, grow together, and share more triumphant high fives and smiles.

catgrantyas

Unfortunately, Cat Grant’s time as a main cast member of Supergirl has drawn to a close, but “Adventures of Supergirl” is hell of a curtain call for her. Kreisberg, Queller, and Berlanti build off the friendlier relationship that she and Kara developed at the close of Season 1 while still keeping some of her trademark sniping for good measure, like her constant reminders of the exact time Kara has to choose a job at Catco. Cat gets some of the most perceptive writing in the episode as she remarks that Supergirl’s beliefs are what make her a hero, not her abilities. Cat also gets a tiny bit sentimental when she talks about Kara’s potential to grow from an awkward, unsure assistant to a confident woman because she sees her drive to succeed in Kara. Flockhart excels at playing the mentor much more than the angry boss even though her one-liners are sharp as ever.

Finally, Katie McGrath brings an otherworldly presence to the role of Lena Luthor. Her calculated line delivery makes her initially seem like a femme fatale played by Eva Green, and Clark Kent doesn’t trust her, but she is really a woman, who wants to make something for herself apart from her family. She isn’t Lex Luthor’s plant, but a woman with a vision even though we don’t get to see her business acumen in this episode. Lena does end up being the one to take out Corben, and Kreisberg, Queller, and Berlanti do a twist on the Superman/Luthor dynamic by writing a favorable article about her and her company L-Corp because it’s the “truth”. But from the slow, measured ways that McGrath delivers Lena dialogue, and the “all too easy” ending of this episode, she may end up being a villain yet.

lenaluthor

Despite strong performances and inspirational themes, “Adventures of Supergirl” does have its shortcomings. The lack of budget in the move from CBS to the CW definitely shows with Winter’s quick cuts to not expose the fact that Supergirl and Superman are flying against a generic cityscape green screen. The sad richness that David Harewood brought to his voice performance as the Martian Manhunter in Season One is also distorted in the sound mix. Besides these technical hiccups, John Corben is a pretty one-dimensional villain of the week as your standard run of the mill merc with a drone that looks bought off eBay. (He becomes immensely cooler in the stinger though.) “Adventures of Supergirl” is also juggling a ton of plots and subplots, and major one of them (Jimmy/Kara romance) doesn’t get the kind of attention and lingering camera shots it got last season as Kara decides to just be friends with James. It does make sense that she wouldn’t have time for a romantic relationship at such a transitional time in her life though.

A villain of the week and some special effects issues aside, “Adventures of the Supergirl” is a sparkling example what an inspiring show Supergirl is and features some excellent character chemistry between Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl, Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman, and Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant. The episode dedicates itself to establishing and shifting the character of Supergirl while setting up a couple of mysteries to explored down the road. Lena Luthor is especially captivating thanks to Katie McGrath

Overall Rating: 8.5

TV Review: Supergirl S1E20 Better Angels

Melissa Benoist Supergirl 1Supergirl is forced to do battle with an unexpected enemy as she risks everything – including her life – to stop Non and Indigo from destroying everyone on Earth.

CBSSupergirl wraps up her first season as she takes on Non and Indigo in freeing the people of her city and then thing escalate. That issue is resolved rather quickly which is interesting and definitely caught me off guard.

But that false ending (in a way) is just the end of that plan, and instead there’s a bigger plan out there, kind of a scorched Earth policy by Non and Indigo.

That leads to a big showdown that has ok action and a meh ending.

The episode is really about its heart which is shown just before the battle as Kara/Supergirl realizes she might not return from the fight, and the end of the episode where Kara deals with Cat and then her friends. That’s where they show does best I think and here it’s cute and sweet in a way.

The episode has some good and some bad and feels a bit anti-climactic and the resolution to the battle with Non is just ok.

But, the end of the episode is really cool in that it sets up a possibly exciting second season if the show is back. There’s a mystery, a job change, some relationship stuff. A lot is wrapped up and a lot is set up!

Supergirl sputtered a bit, but this episode had more than enough to show off why this show is fantastic and why it’s needed on the air. Here’s to a super first season and hopefully a super second one.

Overall rating: 7.6

TV Review: Supergirl S1E19 Myriad

Melissa Benoist Supergirl 1Kara must devise a way to free her friends when Non and Indigo employ mind control to turn all of National City’s citizens into their own army.

CBSSupergirl last week gave us the beginning of the end game for the first season as National City was enslaved by Non with a mysterious signal that turns individuals into zombies.

The goal?

To use the zombie brainpower to solve issues. Yes, Non’s big plan is to use crowdsourcing to solve Earth’s problems….. yes this was a weapon that was created in the hope it could be used to save Krypton, but yeah. Even the weapon is kind of cute in a way.

Beside the master plan, the episode is actually good. The stakes feel high as Non and Indigo team up to take on Supergirl and the few folks she has to help here.

There’s some really horrible parts, like Superman being enslaved (the excuse given is eye rolling, as well as the lack of his actually being used). There’s some silliness absolutely, but, the episode feels like there’s some pretty heft battles going on and even though there’s lots of space in the battles, lacking a feel of an epicness to it, the episode still feels pretty big in the battle.

The first season is wrapping up and this story arc has done a good job at setting itself up. Here’s hoping it sticks the landing. Not a super strong episode, but it’s entertaining.

Overall rating: 7.8

TV Review: Supergirl S1E18 Worlds Finest

Melissa Benoist Supergirl 1The Flash arrives in National City from an alternate universe. He teams up with Supergirl to battle the villains Livewire and Silver Banshee, in exchange for Supergirl’s help finding him a way to return home.

CBSSupergirl gets a friend in the Flash as the hero from The CW crosses channels and Earth’s to join Kara for a team-up episode that has them taking on Livewire and Silver Banshee and having a great time while doing so.

The last couple of episodes folks have been untrusting of Supergirl, but this episode puts that at the center and has the city make a decision as to where she stands, so there’s a solid use of that storyline.

Before I get to the excellent, I have to ask, is Livewire’s music the same as Electro from The Amazing Spider-Man!?

But, what’s really fun is Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist working together after a rather short stint on Glee together. The two have fantastic chemistry and what’s truly amazing is that they bring back the fun to a series that has missed it a bit for a few episodes. There’s such an energy in this episode it’s kind of hard to not smile and giggle at the jokes and enthusiasm of its two leads. The fun explodes off the screen and Benoist is back to her adorkable fun self.

There’s the plot as well having to do with Kara and James, which I will say I am not a fan of the two. There’s something storywise that just doesn’t work for me at all.

But, the episode is beyond fantastic nailing things in every way possible and creating a fun enjoyable episode that’s fun in every way. The title of the episode is “Worlds Finest” and it might have been the show’s finest yet

Overall rating: 9.6

« Older Entries