Supergirl: 3.19 The Fanatical
This week's Supergirl takes an upwards turn, finally shifting a few dynamics and perhaps pointing some characters in a better direction.
Warning; It’s a Jimmy episode. Jaaames and Guardian take a leading role in this story and while the episode gets nowhere near fixing the major flaws with the character, it does tackle some interesting themes, if a little ham fisted at times.
One of the reasons I enjoyed this episode is that we get a little bit of monster of the week after all the endless Reign stuff. The main plot revolves around a young girl running away from the Supergirl cult that keeps popping up from time to time. The girl has escaped after discovering the cult are intending to try and create their own Worldkiller. The girl comes to Supergirl via CatCo and Jaaaames for help.
While protecting the girl from an attempted kidnapping by the cult, James – as Guardian – gets his helmet knocked off, revealing his face. When the police burst in they try to arrest Jimmy, instead of the kidnappers. This is quite clearly because he’s black. This opens up some interesting conversations for the show to have about race and it does a decent, if light, job. Jimmy telling Lena about the first time he ever had handcuffs put on him as a seven year old, because police thought he didn’t belong at the hotel where he was staying, is an all too realistic sounding story and Mehcad Brooks does the scene well. Lena’s bland response of “I’m so sorry that happened to you” is a little odd and its hard to tell if its just a clunky moment or if there was a deeper desire to show the inability of a rich white person to comprehend what they were hearing but her response felt a little flat to me.
There’s nothing inherently wrong or unusual in a superhero show presenting us with a world as it should be rather than as it is but its always been rather refreshing that the Berlanti shows address social issues (in their own, fairly upbeat way) and I was happy to see the concept of the public perception of black heroes touched on here.
After the cult threaten to expose James, he and the show ask the question of what it means to be a black vigilante – without a mask - in modern America and it was finally a good use of the tedious Guardian character. Perhaps if Supergirl had started this conversation earlier and made Jaaames a little less awful, Guardian could be a genuinely valued member of the team. Unfortunately, despite attempts to make him relevant, Guardian is just too fetch; Supergirl, stop trying to make fetch happen!
There is an incredibly pedestrian side story this week with Alex failing to get through to Ruby who is sulking about her mum being evil (get over it Ruby) and J’onn trying to deal with his dad’s increasingly failing mental health. After reading that video games can help with cognitive therapy the two hatch a perfect plan; buy a Playstation and get everyone together for a games night… oh, no, no that’s not what they do. They go to a pier side videogame arcade!?
When it inevitably all goes wrong Alex comments that it was a really bad idea. Yes. Yes it was. While it offered an interesting location for some scenes, a little drama when M'yrnn freaked out and ultimately an opportunity for M'yrnn and Ruby to bond, it was such a bad idea I can’t quite get on board with the idea that Alex and J’onn would even have tried it.
A highlight for me this week was Mon-El Clark Kenting it by pretending to be mild mannered and “accidentally” getting in the kidnap van during the finale. After figuring out what the cult are up to, the plan it hatched for Mon-El, in tweed suit, glasses and bowtie, to infiltrate the cult by getting captured before signaling Kara and the gang to come and save everyone. This little moment was great and the show as a whole needs much more of this.
It was however another episode of Supergirl without much Supergirl. Obviously these shows with larger casts allow for more diverse storytelling and more on-running storylines and this was great in previous seasons with stories like Alex coming out, J’onn helping liberate Mars and Winn finding out his dad was a villain but we’ve fallen in to a dip now where the wider cast stories are pretty boring and Kara’s story, unfortunately, isn’t stepping up to fill the gaps.
A fairly fun and genuinely interesting episode this week which takes a valuable look at the importance of representation. While still carrying the overriding season three baggage, this is the most I’ve enjoyed an episode of Supergirl for a while.