Tag Archives: Robert Rovner

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

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: Family Comes First in Supergirl S2 E2 “Last Children of Krypton”

Supergirl -- "The Last Children of Krypton" -- Image SPG202b_0146 -- Pictured (L-R): Melissa Benoist Kara/Supergirl and Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers -- Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Even though most of the action deals with the emergence of Cadmus and the deadly effects of kryptonite, especially when you stick into a deadly ex-mercenary now named Metallo (Frederick Schmidt), “Last Children of Krypton” mainly focuses on the familial bonds between Supergirl and Superman, and Supergirl and Kara Danvers. With Cat Grant leaving her work and new boss Snapper Carr (Cougar Town‘s Ian Gomez) being just a general pain, Kara ponders leaving National City to be in Metropolis with Superman, who is one of the few people she can be comfortable with in both her superhero and civilian identity. Alex has been Kara’s rock since she landed on Earth, and this conversation drives a rift between them. Most of Robert Rovner and Caitlin Parrish‘s story is dedicated to the reconstruction of this bond and drawing a parallel in the relationship between Superman and J’onn as they go from not trusting each other to connecting over the loss of their homeworlds and finally becoming allies and teaming up in a badass, cross-cutting action sequence from director Glen Winter.

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It will be sad to see Tyler Hoechlin though as his two episodes playing Superman have kind of been a masterclass in playing the character, and his bond with Supergirl has just been plain adorable. The cold open where they joke about bullets and punching fists while easily apprehending a pair of armed robbers shows that unlike what Cadmus has been saying that these godlike beings truly care for humanity. But Hoechlin can do serious too in the Kryptonite subplot as he deepens his voice while confronting J’onn about some missing kryptonite that is being used by Cadmus to power up Metallo. Even though he doesn’t curse or drink alcohol and uses the word “jiffy” unironically, Superman in Supergirl  isn’t a naive boy scout, but a veteran superhero, who isn’t afraid to be confrontational. He is competent and cute.

The scariest parts in “Last Children of Krypton” isn’t when Supergirl is knocked out with a kryptonite blast (Her healing factor should be able to deal with that.), but when Kara Danvers is completely ignored by her new boss Snapper Carr after getting her big promotion to reporter last episode. Melissa Benoist does an excellent going from the pretty damn confident Supergirl to the too flustered to say a single word cub reporter. Ian Gomez is in complete control with his portrayal of Carr using a deadpan delivery with a side of passion when he tells Kara that she has basically been handed her job. And, on paper, this makes sense with her sudden promotion from assistant to investigative reporter. Rovner and Parrish don’t fall into the storytelling shortcut trap of quickly making Kara an excellent reporter, but give her a small victory when she hands in a story about the Metallo fight. Carr doesn’t throw her out of the office, but she is very much at the bottom of the food chain and is far from having the perfect dual life of skilled reporter Clark Kent and superhero Superman.

Supergirl -- "The Last Children of Krypton" -- Image SPG202b_0155 -- Pictured (L-R): Tyler Hoechlin as Clark/Superman and David Harewood as Hank Henshaw -- Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

On a technical level, “Last Children of Krypton” is an improvement from the season premiere with Winter making the action center around hand to hand combat and energy blasts instead of complex aerial maneuvers, which are difficult to do on a CW budget. J’onn mostly stays in his Hank Henshaw form, but Winter breaks out the Martian Manhunter effects at just the right moment for a big action climax or a sad mini monologue. Superman was a baby when Krypton fell, but J’onn had to see his entire people wiped out by the White Martians so he isn’t adverse to using more proactive means to keep his new home, Earth, safe. Just like last week, the best action scenes feature Alex Danvers as she joins the whole cast of Arrow by getting a nice little parkour scene while she is on the run from Cadmus goons, and her reunion scene with Kara is on the field of battle. The mirrored superhero fights in “Last Children of Krypton” have a kind of healing effect on the strained relationships between J’onn and Superman and Alex and Kara. They connect to the episode’s main theme and aren’t just there as some kind of “Well, it’s been almost 40 minutes. Let’s fight.” afterthought.

The only small flaw in “Last Children of Krypton” is the fact that secret government organizations like Cadmus have been done to death in superhero and science fiction shows. However, Rovner and Parrish add a couple new wrinkles to keep this well-worn trope from being boring. First, there is the fact that Cadmus’ goals are very similar to the “good guy” DEO’s goals as they both want to protect Earth from aliens. But the DEO has a more nuanced approached to dealing with extraterrestrials because they have two of them on staff. Next, Cadmus is the polar opposite of Non and Myriad from last season, who were Kryptonian supremacists while Cadmus is alien supremacists. Finally, there is the general mystery angle between who is pulling the strings because we have only seen some unnamed scientists and soldiers so far. It is probably Lena Luthor, but some dialogue about Alex’s dad Jeremiah seems to hint that he may be under their control. So far, Cadmus aren’t the best villains ever, but the parallels to the DEO keep things running for now while the best writing of Supergirl is reserved for the relationships between characters, and Kara struggling in her day job.

The cherry on top of “Last Children of Krypton” is the tearful goodbyes between Cat Grant and Kara as well as Supergirl. There is hugging all around as Cat decides to leave Catco and start on a new, unknown adventure. Her willingness to jump into the unknown acts as an inspiration to Supergirl, who is losing the support of Superman a little earlier than she though and is trying a new job as investigative reporter. These scenes show that there can be great emotional payoff to cultivating relationships between characters instead of focusing on plot twists and gimmicks, and hopefully, the writers of Supergirl will continue to develop the themes of family and friendship while the mystery of Cadmus deepens, and the Kryptonian Mon-El wakes up.

Overall Rating: 9.0