Supergirl: 1.13 For The Girl Who Has Everything/1.14 Truth, Justice and the American Way
This episode is quite a common trope in fantasy and sci fi shows; hero gets transported by nefarious means to dream version of their perfect life where they're not responsible for saving the world every week at 9pm.
One of my biggest criticisms of Supergirl would be how easily and rigidly it sticks to the standard procession of episode tropes and clichés, without any real attempt to subvert or even put a new spin on things. Doing these episodes doesn't make the show bad but it doesn't allow it to really shine as something new on the playing field as much as perhaps it should. A show with the level of joy and passion for its source material should feel a little braver in its story arcs. Hopefully this is something that will be rectified in a second series.
Picking up from last week, Kara is engulfed by an evil plant that is causing her to hallucinate that she is back on Krypton, family in tact, no exploded red sun, just hanging out the way any young Kryptonian woman would.
This is a strange episode as its loosely based on a Superman story. The show seems to take a lot of story inspiration from classic Superman stories, which is fun but at the same time I wonder why not take from some classic SuperGIRL stories?
Its fun to see some Krypton scenes, even if they’re a little enclosed – basically the El living room - and of course, we sort of kind of see Superman, or at least pre-teen Kal-El. The episode suffers from never truly building Kara's fantasy world sufficiently, perhaps relying too heavily on the audiences familiarity with the narrative structure; we know in this kind of episode the character wants to stay in their dream world but the show takes short cuts in showing us why. Her longing to return to a simple life on Krypton isn't really established in the series beyond her simply missing her mum and dad. Kara has shown such strong desire to help and protect Earth with her powers the idea that she's subconsciously fed up and ready to trade it all in doesn't quite ring true, at least not at this point in her development.
The story heavy lifting is done by Alex in her drive and attempts to save her sister but this too feels underserved.
This is an episode with some fun visuals and interesting ideas but perhaps the show and the characters simply weren't ready to explore them. As much as I enjoy Supergirl, thematically this episode perhaps was running before it could walk. At worst Supergirl is cheesy but enjoyable fun, at best insightful and poignant character drama, this falls somewhere in the middle.
After the existentialism of episode 13, episode 14 feels a bit more monster of the week.
It's a bit heavy on Jimmy Olson and Lucy Lane after Cat Grant sends them on a reporting mission together, they're both likeable actors but I'm still not very strongly connected to the supporting characters.
In the main Kara story, Cat has hired a second assistant (with a comics familiar name!) and Kara is now Assistant Number 2. Kara pretends this doesn't bother her but she's clearly shaken buy this unsubtle power play from Cat, especially when Assistant Number 1 starts out assistanting her.
The episode plays with some interesting ideas with Jimmy uncomfortable with the DEO imprisoning Maxwell Lord - a human - without due process. There are a lot of issues to be looked at with the morality of the DEO and while I'm not convinced we'll ever delve too deeply, it's nice to see it being questioned even just a little.
In between battling her work rival and the obligatory alien threat, Kara talks with Alex about her lack of trust for Hank after he killed her aunt. Alex wanting but being too scared to tell Kara the truth is well handled and I feel Leigh is an acting secret the show has yet to tap into.
The villain this week is Master Jailer, an over zelious black suited, chain throwing character dishing out ultimate justice by tracking and killing Fort Rozz escapees. After eventually capturing Supergirl - who is trying to protect a Fort Rozz prisoner who has turned over a new leaf and started a good, altruistic life on earth - and trapping her with a red sun simulator, there is a great moment when Alex, having come to the rescue, shoots holes in the roof of Kara’s prison, allowing the yellow sun to pour in and re-power her. The show does these little hero moments very well.
By the end of the story, Alex and Kara have convinced Hank to let Maxwell Lord go - it was pretty weird that the DEO would hold him in the first pace - and the moral plot line is well resolved; with the caveat that Alex threatens Max with exposing his darkest secrets if he ever exposes Kara/The DEO’s.
Too often, particularly in US weekly show like this, the drama and narrative is pushed forward by characters not telling each other very simple facts and details, creating false drama out of misunderstanding and innuendo. It's nice to see characters actually confronting their actions and feelings and discussing their reactions to events. This level of heartfelt, joy filled love and understanding the characters show for each other is not only refreshing in an ongoing American drama but its at the core of the Supergirl ethos.
While the overall story is a little wishy-washy round the edges, this was a strong character ep that built on the work of the previous couple of episodes well.