Supergirl: 1.19 Myriad/1.20 Better Angels
I love this show very much and I've talked in previous reviews about the disappointment when an episode isn't perfect, because I want it to be perfect. Unfortunately this episode has a few narrative wobbles that were, especially this close to the end of the season, a bit of a let-down.
We start out where we left off after last week's okay cliff-hanger. The aspect of Kara kissing Jaaaaames wasn't strong enough for me to add to the cliff-hangeriness so I'm only interested in the strange mind control (Myriad also the episode title) aspect of the story and unfortunately that's the episode’s first big misstep. Aliens mind controlling the population has been done, a lot, and Supergirl doesn't really bring anything new to that concept.
With every human being in the city under the influence of Myriad it's up to Supergirl to save the day. Then they hit the Superman problem. Though restricted to National City initially, this is a potential worldwide threat. Supes isn't gonna leave Kara to deal with it alone. Of course narratively Superman can't save the day, Kara needs to save the day. So Superman turns up, seen in the distance but when close he falls under the mind control. The eventual explanation for this is that Supes has been on earth for so long, since a younger age than Kara, that his brain had developed more like a human being's and therefore he was susceptible to the mind control. This is a pretty weak reason and they may as well have just said We just need him out of the picture. They have painted themselves into a corner at times with the Superman Problem and usually get out with a cheeky line of dialogue that we all knowingly accept because after all, this is Kara's show. But here it's clumsy and obvious. I also felt that the music used when Superman first appears as a dot in the distance didn't sell the moment. The music felt worried and unsure too soon, a blast of Williams or Williams-a-like music when we first glance him would have helped sell the disappointment and fear when he drops to the ground and joins the mass of hypnotised people.
Before big cuz shows up, Supergirl has met with Cat at the CatCo building, she’s apparently the only other person not effected by the mind control. This is a lovely scene and of course Cat isn't affected, she's badass! But when the mystery of why she isn't affected is solved it’s a bit flat; Maxwell Lord created an inhibiter to protect people from the mind control (having figured out what was going to happen). He wanted to protect Cat so sent her some earrings with inhibitors inside them... I'm sorry, what? Cat, powerhouse of journalism, feminist icon, namer of Supergirl and all round awesome woman was protected because Max could rely on her vanity? He knew she couldn't resist wearing the earrings? Even disguised as background characterisation - there is a little implication that their relationship has some history - this is another clunky and wrong-footed way to do what they need doing for The Plot.
The Alex/Hank side story is a bit of a narrative space filler but both are enjoyable to watch and the early scene on the bus is genuinely tense and fun. However, after escaping National City and going to hide out at Alex’s Mum’s, they decided to turn round and head back to National City pretty damn quickly. Another example of a loose narrative strand to get these characters out of the way then back again when needed.
This episode feels mostly like setting up the board for the game, Supergirl is setting out the little houses, shuffling the cards and counting the Monopoly money. It does this effectively enough but you really just feel that you’re being lead up to the finale episode and not watching a story in its own right. The even you with your great speed, Supergirl moment falls flat (no pun) when the villains throw two people off CatCo tower at the same time, because to us the audience it’s far too obvious from the first moment who she will catch and who she will let fall. Personally, I’d have dropped Jaaames ‘passive aggressive emotionally manipulative arse’ Olson on the ground and saved Kelly the Redshirt (oh god I can’t believe Kelly is gone… who was Kelly?). The age old Sophie’s Choice is a great one for superheroes to have to face but here felt a little ham fisted. Apart from not wanting people to die, Kara has no connection to Kelly the Redshirt so had nothing invested in saving her and neither did the audience. Throwing Winn and Jimmy off the roof or Jimmy and Lucy, especially if one of them actually died, would be a stronger use of this idea.
Supergirl saves the world with hope. That's all you need to know, review over a go home people, this was awesome.
After the previous episode’s clunky set up of the big bad situation, the finale delivers far more effectively. More or less.
The opening sequences of Supegirl hijacking the airwaves to send a message of hope to the people of the world is exactly what I want to see from a show like this. No fights. No blowing up buildings. No neck snapping. Just a message of peace, strength, love, hope and a symbol. Watching scenes of the brainwashed citizens seeing the S logo on screens, hearing Kara's words and snapping out of their trance truly had me welling up.
But this does all happen very quickly and then the episode falters a little. After freeing peoples minds we seem to slip into a short period of awkwardness, where everyone seems to be trying to go back to normal even though they are still very much under threat from Non. The eventual showdown in this episodes is visually strong. Supergirl and Martian Manhunter go toe to toe with Non and Indigo and the setting is bright and clear, fitting of this show. The moment J’onn rips Indigo in two was unexpected and pretty cool, especially as her blue-fillings T-2000ness allowed for a great, yet non gory, visual effect.
Non has proved to be a very bland villain. While I liked the misguided madnesses of Kara's aunt, her actions having a feeling of doing terrible things for the greater good. Non just seems like a crazy despot. I wanted to feel like there was some kind of subtext of men corrupting women's ideals and taking away power but if it was intended it wasn't played out well.
Once the villains have been vanquished and everything is back to normal, Kara is rewarded by Cat for all her good work with her own office and some words of encouragement and perhaps ore importantly, she gets her name right. Cat never pronouncing Kara’s name correctly was a subtle, nice touch since the start of the show and I’ll actually be a bit sad if that’s lost!
As the episode finishes it sets up us with a happy, healthy but fairly similar status quo; J’onn is exonerated and put back in charge of the DEO, Kara and Alex are closer than ever and Kara and Jaaaaaames are now free to explore their relationship. Winn is there too. The ending emphasis on family is nice and very fitting for this show.
So team Kara, the DEO, Max and even Sam Lane are all buddy-buddy now – though we see Max with the Omegahedron so we’re not entirely sure where his loyalties are.
The big cliffhanger is interesting and leaves lots of options open for the next season (personally, I’d like to see Power Girl but maybe its too soon for this show to go full post-moderns deconstructionist!).
My one underlying criticism of this series is I worry about how heavily it relies on Superman iconography and references. Racing The Flash, going bad and flicking peanuts, half the episode titles; all references and nods to Superman mythology. In fact several episodes have been based on Superman comics, simply putting Kara in the Clark role. While I realise there is more iconic Superman stuff to work with and its perhaps better known by the wider audience I don’t want to feel like Supergirl is just a stand in for Kal-El, so next season, maybe dial it back a little?
Supergirl has had its wobbles and some very weak moments, its failed to live up to its potential yet at times surpassed it. Over all this was a very good first season, with the usual teething problems of a first season. Perhaps my own expectations inflated the weaker moments? But when it was good it was great and I can’t wait to see where it takes things next. And who could fault that end shirt rip?
Up, up and away…