Supergirl: 5.06 Confidence Women
This is a valiant but highly flawed episode and really highlights how this show has been racing through its narrative, trying to cram a season worth of development into less than a full episode.
When Supergirl did it’s standalone episode about Ben Lockwood, it showed us his slow and tragic radicalisation across several years. We witnessed several of the show’s biggest, most triumphant moments from the point of view of this ordinary man in the street. It was a great technique that really managed to relate the character and his journey to the characters and journey we were already familiar with.
After the clear success of that episode, they tried to repeat the formula when Lex Luthor appeared on the show. It worked, to a degree, showing us how Lex had been pulling the strings for the whole season. It wasn’t as effective but it kind of worked in places. Unfortunately, now the show has formula and this is a formula they seem determined to milk to death. This week we see Andrea and Lena’s relationship from teenage school chums to powerhouse business people and we see Andrea’s decent into shadow killer.
We see Lena and Andrea as absolute BFFs (dunno where Sam comes into the equation as I thought, pre-Kara she was Lena’s BFF?) and we see the moment that Andrea - to Lena’s eyes, anyway - betrays her bestie. Turns out Lena’s mum was obsessed with a magic amulet. There is a shade of retcon aka bad writing as Lena’s mum never mentioned this amulet before, yet she and subsequently Lena were apparently obsessed with it. It feels like the kind of connection she might have used to try and get through to or manipulate her daughter?
After searching for the lost amulet and literary stumbling on it, Andrea is greeted by a mysterious man who charges her to use it in order to save her father and his ailing business. The price for her father’s life and business? She has to take the amulet and wait for their word to be summoned. It’s all a bit far fetched, even for this show and when the mysterious old last finally turns up to call in her debt, Andrea seems to go from confused and conflicted daughter to ice cold killer pretty quickly. I think we’re meant to feel empathy for Andrea, to feel like she had little choice but she literally kills a man in return for her father living. It’s a pretty calculated murder. She continues killing people pretty much when asked.
The problem with this story, is that we know nothing about Andrea. She’s been little more than a mild antagonist for Kara at work. Seeing how she went so bad isn’t compelling because we didn’t really know there was a villain this bad or that it was her. It’s hard to have any sympathy towards her because this is the most time we’ve spent exploring this character, who is basically a stranger; so her behaviour just seems like her behaviour.
Along the various flashback moments, we’re shown Andreas relationship with Russell Rogers (aka Rip Roar) develop after a cheesy chat up in a bar and they end up apparently hopelessly in love. Things go sour in a weird scene where he sees the amulet in her bathroom and the baddies turn up and threaten to kill him? I don’t quite understand why they turned up when they did, but Andrea persuades them to spare his life because he’s developing some cool cyborg tech; so they turn him into a cyborg whch doesn’t really make much sense but which he seems pretty okay about, even though he is badly beaten up. The whole section of the story is rushed and weakly thought out, like pretty much the whole episode.
On Lena’s side of things, we see her go from idealistic (with old boyfriend Jack Spheer, who turned up a couple of seasons ago and went evil, naturally) and being put down by Lex to building herself up and trying to distance herself from the Luthor name. We also get to see Kara trying to befriend her. The scene where Lena gets betrayed by Andrea in another scene that doesn’t make much sense. Lena turns up to a party which Andrea is at, at first theyre excited because they’ve not seen each other for years but then Lena sees Andrea wearing the amulet. This made no sense! Andrea was given the amulet in secret and told to keep it secret and her boyfriend gets attacked for apparently finding the amulet yet she wears it openly round her neck? I would have rather seen Lena grow untruthful and go snooping for it, which would have had more tension and deeper character evolvement. Also, Lena just goes home after this. Surely, at this point, being powerful but also hurt, she’d try and – at the very least – buy the amulet form Andrea, if not simply steal it?
I do love Katie McGrath, but the scene where she explains the plot early on (magic amulet that allows its wearer to bend shadows, her and her mothers obsession etc) is so over written and she delivers the dialogue so fast it’s almost unintelligible what she’s actually saying. My one criticism of her performance over all is her habit to rush dialogue; that said I think it’s a quirk of the show’s writing as other characters do the same sometimes (perhaps being given to much exposition to squeeze into a short take?). I’ve seen McGrath in other shows were the dialogue is allowed to breath and she doesn’t rush at all.
What I did really like was the idea that Andrea’s father was a suicide risk. A hugely successful man (guest star Steven Bauer, now less), it is alluded to that he has considered, if not attempted, suicide before. Should the company fail,he would kill himself. It’s an interesting angle to take, with Andrea basically trying to protect her father from his own poor mental health and while it isn’t really explored very deeply it still makes for a more complex threat on his life than the bad guys simply saying “comply or we will kill your father”.
I like a “Supergirl-lite” episode as a concept, though this one is a mess. The biggest problem the story has is, we know so little about Andrea. She isn’t some big evil threat that we now get to explore and understand the back story of and I don’t feel any closer to the charter than I did at the start. It does fill in some of Lena’s missing pieces, mostly why she’s so offended by what she sees as Kara’s betrayal, though I do feel like she really is over reacting a lot.
This whole season just needs to slow down – there are interesting ideas at play in this episode and some good performances but there is no nuance and its hard to care. So much dialogue in this show recently, especially for Lena, feels like info dumps to push things forward and this was the biggest info dump of them all! Nice try Supergirl but please, just slow down and show us the story instead of telling us the story.