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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

TV Review: Supergirl S3E1 Girl of Steel

Kara deals with the loss of Mon-El by focusing her energy on being Supergirl and concentrating on a mysterious new threat; Alex confesses a secret to Maggie; a citizen of National City has a mysterious connection to Kara; Lena makes a bold move.

Supergirl‘s third season opens with the Girl of Steel dealing with the events that wrapped up the previous one and this is a a Supergirl that’s a bit moodier and a bit sad and down. The series is strongest when it blends the action with personal lives and this episode does that well.

The episode is about the various characters and their attempts at balancing their superheroics and their every day life. In this case Kara isn’t sure she can be both a reporter and a hero and then there’s Alex attempting to balance work and her relationship with Maggie. The series feels that it’s best when it keeps all of that in the mix and brings it to the forefront. One particular scene is very touching between the two and Kara’s issues with balancing “work” and personal life are something we can all relate to.

But, the should wouldn’t be super without some action and there’s lots of it here as the episode builds up towards the eventual confrontation. There’s some things that are very predictable with that and a setup is pretty bad as to where it goes.

The episode shifts some status-quo things around, especially when it comes to CatCo and it all feels pretty intriguing. The episode has a strong “screw misogyny” theme throughout. The episode is a prime example of the series knowing where its heart is and what its strengths are. This episode has that and then some mixing action, a greater story, and a lot of touching moments, especially towards the end (it’s hard to not get a little choked up over it).

As a start of a season, the episode could use a little more, but as an episode by itself, it’s a solid one doing what Supergirl does best.

 

 

 

Overall Rating: 8.05

TV Review: Supergirl S2E22 “Nevertheless She Persisted” has Kick-Ass Action and Human Emotion

Supergirl‘s Season 2 finale “Nevertheless She Persisted” opens up a potent can of whup ass with a no holds barred throwdown between Supergirl and Superman, who is being controlled by Rhea with silver kryptonite that makes Kara look like General Zod, courtesy of veteran Arrow and Smallvile director Glen Winter. And it has a Battle of Pelennor Fields-esque second act with White Martians, a Superman and Martian Manhunter team-up, and even Mon-El busting out some kung fu to defeat the Daxamites. However, where this episode really shines is how writers Robert Rovner, Caitlin Parrish, Jessica Queller, and Andrew Kreisberg,  and actor Melissa Benoist show how far Kara Danvers has come along as a woman, reporter, and hero. She’s not afraid to make the hard choice and irradiating the atmosphere with lead to make the Daxamites go away but feels terrible about having to send her boyfriend Mon-El away before he dies. Her grief comes out in teary, silent close-ups of Benoist as she flies in the twilight and wishes there was some way she could be with Mon-El. Also, having a nice trial by combat between Supergirl and Rhea is an excellent main plot point.

And this is where Cat Grant is kind of perfect in a more dialed down performance from Calista Flockhart even though she makes some great, leaning on the fourth quips about never seeing Star Wars to Winn and Kara. She gives Kara the pep talk of all pep talks by praising her investigative reporting while giving her constructive criticism about her writing style. Then, Cat hits what is honestly the thematic core of Supergirl as a TV show: women can be emotionally vulnerable and still fight on. And this goes for all the women of Supergirl, including the bad guys. Rhea is a terrible, cowardly tyrant, but she still has love for Mon-El even as she collapses in lead dust. On the other hand, Lillian Luthor will do whatever it takes to protect the world from aliens, but she regrets being so negative towards Lena while she was growing up and straining their relationship.

Even more so than the MacGuffin/mind control/Myriad season 1 finale, Supergirl Season 2’s finale is a war story. Most of the shooting is done in the dark, but Winter occasionally shows shots of buildings, fountains, and windows being caught in the crossfire of powerful aliens from the Superman vs. Supergirl battle in the beginning to Supergirl vs. Rhea and finally the all out Martian/human/Kryptonian/Daxamite battle royale. But unlike its higher budget cousin, Man of Steel, “Nevertheless She Persisted” consciously shows the heroes helping every day people, like Martian Manhunter carrying civilians out of harm’s way or Superman protecting them with his freeze breath. Superman and Martian Manhunter have a truly epic moment when they say “Stronger together” in their native tongues before giving us one of the coolest superhero team-ups in TV history.

But they get emotional stories too with Superman playing a supporting role even though Tyler Hoechlin has leading man charisma, and you can tell why Cat Grant has a crush on Clark Kent. In a sparring session, she opens up to him about her fear of losing Mon-El if she activates Lillian Luthor’s fail safe, and he empathizes with his fear of losing Lois. Except for when he’s under the influence of silver kryptonite (Which I didn’t know was a thing), Superman is kind, compassionate, and a team player. And the writers of Supergirl use him in small doses so he doesn’t overshadow Kara and the main supporting players’ arcs.

They don’t spend a lot of time onscreen together thanks to the frantic flying and rushing to fight Rhea and the Daxamites, but “Nevertheless She Persisted’s” writers manage to get a few great scenes out of Kara and Alex’s interactions. Their bond as sisters has been this season’s bedrock and even enhanced the romantic relationship between Alex and Maggie, which gets a bit of an upgrade in this episode. Alex nurses her back to health in the Fortress of Solitude and then later on thanks her for helping her come out as lesbian earlier in the season although she was struggling to be herself. Kara is definitely thinking about Mon-El as she flies and broods above National City, but her last great interaction is with Alex, the woman who she inspires and is inspired by in turn.

Supergirl is a TV show about women of action who also have rich emotional lives, and when the writers strike that balance between those two things (Instead of following Mon-El down a douchy rabbit hole), it can be a great genre show as “Nevertheless She Persisted” (And a great Cat Grant speech.) demonstrates. Supergirl Season 2 has definitely been a rocky ride, but by doubling down on the relationships between female characters and villains, it stuck the landing while leaving some threads for next season like Lillian Luthor being free as a bird, yet another pod being sent from Krypton, and perhaps a romance between Kara and Lena Luthor.

Overall Rating: 8.50

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

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

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

WeallloveAlex

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.

Alex

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.

MaggieDinner

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 S2E18 “Ace Reporter” is a Fun Transition Episode

Lena’s ex-boyfriend comes to National City to unveil his nano-technology breakthrough; Lena asks Kara to attend Jack’s conference with her for support.

After a bit of a break Supergirl is back with an episode that feels like a transition from the first half of the season to the rest of the season. The episode is a Lena Luthor-centric episode as it has to deal with her ex-boyfriend coming to town. That ex might look familiar as he’s played by iZombie‘s Rahul Kohli who plays Jack. The episode is interesting as Kohli’s character on that show has had some recent issues when it comes to women and his interaction with them, so to see this episode also focus on a relationship is a bit… weird. While I know it shouldn’t play on my mind, it did.

The episode though feels like one to transition the characters in various directions.

Kara’s situation concerning her job is the focus of her growth and that’s where this episode focuses her. We get more information about Lena and she’s given some depth by showing her being vulnerable concerning Jack. But, even through all of that, the end of the episode is her major twist. Then we get some stuff between Guardian and Winn.

It’s all rather forgettable when it comes to the big picture. None of it is bad in any way, and the bad guy in this episode feels different at least compared to the super powered aliens that have made up the bulk of them this season.

But, other than shifting some of the relationships, not much in this episode is really memorable or stands out. Not a bad hour, but also not the most super one either.

Overall Rating: 7.0

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

Supergirl S2E16 “Star-Crossed” Gets Sidetracked by Quirky Subplots

StarcrossedFI

At times, this week’s episode of Supergirl  “Star-Crossed” feels like a hybrid of the worst parts of two great genre shows. It’s the episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 5 or so where Spike is trying to be a “good person” to win Buffy’s love combined with the early episodes of Angel that spent an entire episode on some monster of the week gimmick, like hip hop themed demon gangs or elaborate games of demon poker. In this case, writers Katie Rose Rogers and Jessica Kardos spend most of the episode’s running time on a B-plot featuring Winn’s girlfriend Lyra and an intergalactic art smuggling ring while putting the reveal of Mon-El as the prince of Daxam on the backburner. We do find out that his parents, Rhea (Teri Hatcher) and Lar Gand (Kevin Sorbo) definitely would have voted for Trump as they espouse the motto “Make Daxam great again.” and say that slavery helped other alien races “improve their station”.

Rogers and Kardos should be applauded for finding some way to connect the Mon-El reveal and alien art thief through the shared theme of lying in a relationship. The makeouts and “divine museum sex” that Winn and Lyra shared were just a cover for her being a con woman and trying to steal priceless works of art like Van Gogh’s Starry Night (So cliched.) to buy her brother back from a trailer park dwelling group of gangster aliens. Roger and Kardos invent a whole backstory for her from whole cloth and set up Lyra as a terrible person, who has been using Winn the whole time, but he stills likes her for kissing reasons, I guess. If the Mon-El/Kara romance is any barometer, people do terrible things for attractive people or aliens.

Winnyo

However, the fights between the alien art ring members and Winn’s friends lets first time director and veteran stunt coordinator John Medlen Jr. shoot some brutal close quarters action as Alex Danvers continues to fight dirty while still breaking off after beating the bad guys to kiss her girlfriend Maggie. Rogers and Kardos also reunites the “superfriends” of Guardian, Winn, and Supergirl as they get to the bottom of these alien art shenanigans even if Lyra gets off a little too easy.

But, for the most part, this plot feels like a cheesy diversion from the important reveal that Mon-El has been lying all along and is the spoiled prince of a country, who kept their subjects drunk and lazy to exploit them all the more. Medlen’s red tinged flashbacks are shot in stark, yet stylized documentary style with Mon-El’s selfishness on full display as he leaves his one night stand behind to flee Daxam in his pod. And to get to his pod, his bodyguard kills its Kryptonian diplomat owner and sacrifices himself while Mon-El jets off to safety. Yeah, Mon-El isn’t just a frat boy, but a murderer too in a neat deconstruction of the white male Chosen One trope. And his excuses for his behavior ring hollow even though Chris Wood uses his pretty face to wring every last bit of charm out of them.

Finally, Katie Rogers and Jessica Kardos realize that Kara and Mon-El aren’t a good match. Her motivation for being a superhero is her implicit goodness while his is to put it frankly, to get in her pants or spend time with her. The opening scene of “Star-Crossed” shows Mon-El’s selfishness as he enjoys “Netflix and chill” with Kara rather than teaming up with her to help people or listen about the articles and investigations she used to do for Catco. He’s at his happiest when Kara is at her weakest and most inactive and sits out during the action scenes except for the end when he declares his love for her in front of his disapproving parents, who spend most of the time extolling the virtues of Daxam and decrying the Kryptonians. They’re like your racist in-laws only played by Kevin Sorbo and Teri Hatcher with regal speaking patterns.

SupergirlRhea

The ending of “Star-Crossed” seems to fall into a pattern of Mon-El being terrible and Kara forgiving him and taking him back, but Rogers and Kardos finally break with convention. Melissa Benoist puts on her tough, serious face and calls him out on lying about his entire past and personality and pretending to be another so she would like him. Ir’s a real moment of power for Supergirl in an episode that seems overly concerned with alien gang politics, and Jeremy Jordan’s shout-y dialogue delivery as he proves that he’s better at quick-witted comic relief than melodrama. She is single and free to be a hero, and so is Mon-El as he tells his parents to leave Earth. But their departure is a little too easy, and they’re sure to be back. Rhea is a master of a passive aggressive manipulation and uses Kara’s misgivings about Mon-El to break them up, and it would be a lot of fun to see her and Lillian Luthor match wits.

“Star-Crossed” meanders into a side character’s backstory a little too much kind of wastes Daxamites as potential antagonists. However, Kara finally sees the light about Mon-El, which means Melissa Benoist gets to exhibit some intense post-breakup emotions, and John Medlen is one hell of a fight choreographer for the Guardian vs. Trailer Park Alien Boys scenes so it’s not a half bad episode. Plus there’s a tease of Darren Criss’ Music Meister (and a Glee reunion) complete with CGI contact lens hypnosis at the very end.

Overall: 7.5

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