The CW’s Supergirl returned from its winter break this week, as did film director Kevin Smith to the DC Television Universe. Having already helmed two broadcasts for The Flash, the installment marked the first for Smith in National City. Smith, however, would not be the only visitor to a new world. In “Supergirl Lives” (named for an aborted Superman film planned by Smith in the 1990s), Kara Zor-El would travel to Maaldoria and attempt to disrupt the galactic slave trade. Critically though, she had to do so under the planet’s red sun. Supergirl would be without her powers. The premise served as an apt metaphor for the episode, as several character-regressions kept the show from fully taking off. Below were my reactions (WARNING: Spoilers below!)

What Went Wrong

The first of the false notes in this episode came from Kara, herself. Speaking with her sister at the DEO, Supergirl confided that she felt bored only stopping jewel thieves. To some degree, it’s understandable that burglars are a step down in the threat level from evil alien menaces. But why root for innocent lives to suddenly be at stake? Threats hanging over the heads of everyday citizens should carry more weight with the hero who takes the obligation to protect them. Of course, Supergirl would soon confront a challenge that was almost more than she could handle. That portion of the story, fortunately, would be part of the show’s success.

Another issue in the early segments was Kara’s self-centered dialogue. She and James Olsen argued at CATCO over which National City hero should be getting more credit for fighting crime. The childish contest occurred in front of CATCO Magazine Editor Snapper Carr, whose obvious look of annoyance felt like he was speaking at least for me. Many viewers of Supergirl, during Season 1, expressed frustration with Kara’s concerns about her public perception. While some of that criticism was overdone, seeing Kara return to this preoccupation was disappointing.

Even more exasperating, however, would be Alex’s dissolution into near panic and poor decision-making once Kara disappeared from Earth. The show has certainly driven home that Alex has always felt an immense burden of responsibility for Kara’s safety. She’s carried it with her since adolescence. However, after all the scourges Kara has defeated, Alex should have more poise and confidence not to take out her uncertainty on Maggie. Alex, herself, has faced down the deadly dream-state of the Black Mercy. She shot down Bizarro while Kara and the Maxwell Lord-created monster tussled in mid-air. She’s even faced the threat of Supergirl’s abduction before, as when Master Jailer imprisoned and intended to execute her. Alex deserved better credit than her reactions in this episode. Season 2 has done a wonderful job showing her vulnerability, but Alex ditching her relationship with Maggie was a move I couldn’t buy.

The last foul of this episode was the writing of Winn Schott, Jr. In the opening sequence, Winn was nearly killed by the fugitive thieves being pursued by Supergirl and Guardian. Had it not been for Guardian’s last minute save, Winn might have been shot dead. The moment so badly scarred him that he refused to continue assisting James in their double-life. Going further, he tried to protest following Alex and her DEO squad to Maaldoria. Here again, a weakness was written into Winn that doesn’t seem validated by his past experience. When Silver Banshee came to CATCO to attack Cat Grant and Kara, Winn stood in her way and pled for her to turn back. Winn was also seconds from death in the Season 1 finale, as he was forced by Myriad to jump off the CATCO Tower. Winn has faced down danger before. He clearly knew the risks of the vigilante life when he attempted to dissuade James from it. As a result, his reversion in “Supergirl Lives” felt forced. It ignored, or at least diminished, crises that he had already shown the nerve to overcome. Despite lacking superpowers, characters like Alex and Winn have become heroes in their own right. I hope we don’t see these sporadic regressions for them in the future.  

What Went Right

On the positive side, Alex and Maggie (when together) continue to be the strongest character pairing of Season 2. They’ve shown daring in raiding Roulette’s alien fight club. They’ve alternated in showing compassion and frailty as Alex had to be eased into coming out and Maggie had to be persuaded to let go of her defensiveness. In this offering, Alex and Maggie simply demonstrated their affection for one another. Their sweetness in playing hooky in Alex’s apartment came through earnestly. After Alex’s near meltdown in the middle of the story, she fortunately had the guts to ask for Maggie’s forgiveness. Despite the setback in their relationship, I continue to look forward to where these two will go.

Similarly, I enjoy watching the evolution of Supergirl and Mon-El. In particular, the power of Kara’s example for Mon-El intrigues me. After learning of a sudden surge in missing young adults, Kara and Mon-El found that the victims had been taken off-world through a teleport gateway. The connected planet, a slaving hub, would orbit a star much like Krypton’s. Therefore, Kara and Mon-El would have to free the captives without any of their super-abilities. For most of their adventure, Mon-El begged Kara to forsake rescuing National City’s youth and worry about their own safety. Supergirl, however, pressed on. Despite her mortality, she even withstood torture by the slavers in order to stop them from taking the captured humans off to auction. Eventually, Kara’s selflessness inspired both Mon-El and the other captives to rebel and they successfully fled the ship. At the conclusion, Mon-El (again) confessed his admiration for Kara and humbled himself to ask for training to become a superhero.

To be sure, several of these story elements have been seen before in the show’s brief history. In “Human for a Day” (Episode 1.7), Kara had to be a hero with her powers temporarily drained. In “Worlds Finest” (Episode 1.18), her self-sacrifice saving a helicopter from Livewire inspired dozens of National City bystanders to become human shields for Supergirl. However, I do believe this chapter told the tale best. Witnessing Mon-El’s evolution has been gratifying, and I like that the writers are taking their time drawing out this arc over the entire season.

It seems clear at this point that Mon-El is, in fact, the disregarded Daxamite prince that Kara spoke of back in Episode 4. He acknowledged, in a moment of hidden self-reflection, that Daxam’s prince wasn’t worth admiring. Other clues to his identity have come in the fact that Mon-El, despite his alleged service as a Daxam Palace Guard, needed training to fight. In addition, when spotted on Maaldoria by a Dominator (a randomly added feature along with Roulette’s return), the Dominator bowed and stated that Mon-El wasn’t to be harmed. That deference seems the obvious clue to Mon-El’s true identity. The mysteriously armored aliens that we have seen tracking his location in cutaways are likely to be fellow Daxamites trying to locate him. Supergirl’s inspirational example may, then, prove a double-edged sword. With Mon-El now motivated to be the leader he should have always been, he’ll opt to leave Earth (and break Kara’s heart) in the season finale and lead what remains of his people.  

What I Took Away

Unfortunately, the successes above weren’t enough to make this installment of Supergirl a “good” episode. After an incredibly successful run in the season’s first half, episode 9 was a toe-stub. It was ridden with the uneven character treatment that sometimes plagued the first half of Season 1. However, we did find the launch-pad for Mon-El’s redemption arc, which makes me less convinced we’ll see the return of Superman to finish off Project Cadmus in the wrap-up for Supergirl’s sophomore stint. Next Monday is “We Can Be Heroes”.

Submitted by Jody Money

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