Supergirl: 5.12 Back from the Future - Part Two
Back From the Future Part 2 continues Winn’s mini return from last week; unfortunately it’s a slightly dingy meandering conclusion with a familiar set up. But hey, I still love having Winn back!
To be fair, this episode perhaps more than the last couple, does the heavy lifting of establishing the new status quo for the show and characters. We spend a lot of time with the Luthors, watching Lex manipulate Lena into doing what she wants for his benefit. And we get an injection of info on Andrea and William - yes, I’d all but forgotten about them too.
The episode starts with one of the shows signature we’re hanging out in a bar scene. I usually find these horribly forced and cringy but this, I have to say, was one of the best. Perhaps because Winn is back and perhaps because its just him, Kara, Alex and J’onn but it actually had a more genuine energy to it. I think sometimes the fault these scenes have is too many characters, though Legends of Tomorrow manages to create large group hang scenes that feel warm and real, so I’m not sure what it is here that always feel phoney. I thought the scene might go off the rails when William arrived but the following karaoke scene between him and Kara was, again, the most realistic karaoke moment they’ve managed. It was genuine and had charm to it. Melissa Benoist can get a bit pantomimey at times and really over emotes in the role, so I sometimes forget that she is a charming and talented actor. In a later scene when she talks about the fact she quite likes William, she gives a very real, casual performance and I’d say overall her acting this week is some of her more mature for a while.
At the end of last week’s episode, Doppelganger Winn digitised himself and went into a computer - like Tron but not as cool. This week, he manages to infect the entire DEO and the facility goes into lock down. This was a little disappointing; they’ve done a lot of locked down in the DEO episodes and this one wasn’t anything especially dynamic. There are so many moving pieces this week that the core story felt rather throw away; during the digitising process Evil Winn accidentally completes and activates a failed, half finished download of Father Toyman. So Daddy Toyman is also in the DEO computer trying to fight his even more evil multiverse son. What this eventually allows for is a moment of closure for Winn and his Evil Dad (the always fantastic Henry Czerny). After some convoluted plot twisting, its decided that Winn needs to enter the computer as well in order to shut down his Evil twin before he’s able to escape the DEO lock down and weaponize the internet. Do you want Skynet? Because this is how you get Skynet.
Once in the computer Winn meets his father and eventually releases him into the wider programme to help fight Evil Winn; his dad actually helps and saves Winn and allows him to save, in return, the world. The scene is actually quite nicely done, as they don’t pluck for any last moment gasp of “I love you son” or other cheesy goodbye lines. His dad just restrains Evil Winn to give Good Winn enough time to wipe them both from existence. It was a more powerful moment than I’d expected when the episode started and the actors bring a lot to this fairly simple scene.
While all this is going on, Supergirl, Alex and J’onn are fighting Toyman’s toys – stored at the DEO as evidence and now infected with his computer virus consciousness. The flying monkeys look pretty bad in all these scenes; they’re so brightly coloured but don’t quite look like toys enough and they’re so badly integrated into the scene. It's quite jarring. The Lexosuits look a bit better and Toyman manages to control a few of those as well, which prove a little trickier for Kara as they’re anti-super tech but she defeats them, just in time, of course.
This is isn’t exactly a Supergirl light episode but the core stories being explored this week aren’t focused on her or Kara. But it works better this week than others because we do get to see Kara trying to figure out what she should do about William. She thinks she likes him but doesn’t want to start a relationship built on a lie and it was nice to see her worrying about something other than Lena’s sulking for a change.
Part of Lex’s plan we see this week is manipulating Gemma Cooper (a wasted Cara Buono) into manipulating Andrea to step up work on her VR system, which involves working with Lena. I have no idea what is going on with Andrea at the moment? She was a super-powered sleeper agent assassin and I’m not sure if she still is or if she’s been redeemed? Julie Gonzalo is absolutely fine in the role but Andrea feels a very loose character. We now have this weird domino where Andrea, Gemma and Lena are all motivated by serving the greater good (Gemma is a bit more low key evil collateral damage is fine about it all but still...) but all being manipulated by Lex. I really hope the show addresses the fact we have three powerful, successful, intelligent women being manipulated by a man? Its almost awkward, especially since he so easily manipulates Lena emotionally; it’s not doing these characters any favours.
By the end of the episode, the world is saved and Brainy has basically confessed to everyone that his multiverse selves told him he needs to work with Lex for the greater good. The Brainiac working with Lex conflict is a messy little plot strand I can’t quite buy into; sleeping with the enemy for the sake of protecting people in the bigger picture is fine but it all feels a little sloppy here. Alex resigns from the DEO because she can't work with Lex and Brainy gets promoted in her place, with the hope he can work both sides. I see this going down a path of Brainy making more and more compromises for the perceived greater good.
This was another moving parts episode. Supergirl has a habit of sacrificing its story to info dump and shift the playing pieces around and I wish the show could allow its narratives to unfold a little more organically. However, this was a solid if unexceptional episode, that did give us some of Mellissa Benoist’s better work in the role. But it still wasn’t as cool as Tron.