This week’s episode of Supergirl, in several ways, served as an extension of its predecessor. The previous installment, “Supergirl Lives”, examined how the heroism of Kara Zor-El ran deeper than just her powers. It was her selflessness that truly defined her. This week, in “We Can Be Heroes”, the focus shifted from the inner qualities of the Girl of Steel to those of her National City allies. Surprisingly, several of them didn’t shine as brightly. Supergirl’s own attitude even gave the unfortunate hint of paternalism. One hero’s storyline did manage to soar, however, as J’onn J’onzz finally reconciled with M’gann M’orzz. As a result of this unevenness, Supergirl stumbled for its second consecutive airing. Below are the rest of my reactions. (WARNING: Spoilers below!)
The Heroes Who Failed
James Olsen, aka Guardian, fell among the offenders for this week’s edition. Though he was sympathetic in declaring to Supergirl that she couldn’t dictate who could be a hero, his character suffered in other exchanges. Early on, he offered a skepticism to Kara about Mon-El that did seem well-motivated. Mon-El was a disaster in his brief internship at CATCO Media. But James kept returning to this judgement, turning the sentiment from professional doubt to personal bias. Considering James’ own frustrations with having his capabilities recognized, his dismissal of Mon-El was propagating the problem rather than fighting it. CATCO’s interim CEO also specifically chose to work behind Kara’s (and the DEO’s) back in locating Livewire. Crucially, this decision was made after his identity was discovered, adding an element of spite to James’, and Winn’s, gambit.
On the subject of the DEO’s supergeek, it was actually Winn’s brainchild to pursue Livewire, even after their Guardian operation was unveiled. The act was remarkably selfish for someone who, in the back-half of season 1, was often a character of conscience. At the beginning of the story, it looked as though Winn would serve that traditional role as he expressed to James his desire to be forthright with Kara. For him to suddenly change direction and attempt this subversion was an awkward fit.
Supergirl, herself, would be the final false note for “We Can Be Heroes” precisely because, in her mind, almost no one else could be one. Her conclusion was puzzling considering how the first half of the season ended. Back in December, Kara crossed dimensions and joined an entire team of superheroes. To be sure, they included metahumans like Flash, Firestorm and Citizen Steel. But mostly, this elite squad consisted of ordinary humans using their disciplined athleticism and intelligence to make a difference. Ray Palmer, Sara Lance, John Diggle, and of course Oliver and Thea Queen were all equally critical pieces of this extraordinary group. Any lesson about what everyday people can achieve blew past Kara faster than a speeding bullet. Not only did Kara object to James and Winn’s Guardian project, she brazenly threatened to stop them. This series excels when it presents stories of inclusion. Part of its identity – as well as that of its title character – has been recognizing the humanity and the promise inside all of us. To watch these characters who have been core to the show since season 1 devolve in this storyline has been exasperating.
Though not as frustrating, Supergirl also displayed a curious preoccupation with this week’s villain. Livewire returned for her third time as it initially appeared she escaped from prison. In actuality, she was abducted by a mad scientist with the intent to clone her. It was a physically tortuous process for the one-time National City shock-jock. But before Supergirl realized that Livewire was a victim rather than villain, she displayed a near manic obsession with finding her. Having defeated opponents like Lieutenant Non, Indigo and Lillian Luthor, it was strange to see that Livewire was the nemesis that got under Kara’s skin. She even repeated the word “nemesis” as though it were a compulsion. Perhaps the aim was to underscore how Supergirl’s assumptions were proving detrimental to her own cause. Nevertheless, her behavior was head-scratching for a hero who had come so far into her own over the last year-and-a-half.
The Heroes Who Triumphed
Though Kara and James (most notably) struggled to look past their own pride this week, J’onn J’onzz and M’gann M’orzz finally saw one another. It was easily the most affecting storyline. Since M’gann was revealed to be part of the White Martian race that nearly exterminated J’onn’s Green one, the Martian Manhunter has harbored a toxic prejudice against her. It nearly caused to him to stand by while M’gann lost her life. While in DEO custody, M’gann fell victim to a psychic attack by the White Martians hunting her for desertion. Rendered comatose, she became trapped in her own subconscious. M’gann would die if she could not be awakened. At first embittered and reluctant to intervene, J’onn eventually reversed course and mind-melded with her.
He found her consciousness in a state of despair, nearly ready to pass on. In this moment on an imagined, war-torn Martian landscape, M’gann recounted her sabotage of a White Martian camp. She freed as many prisoners as she could, despite knowing the penalty would be death. Her fatigue with continually trying to run was palpable. Here, though, J’onn finally began to understand her journey. Finding a kindred spirit despite their disparate heritage, J’onn forgave M’gann and rallied her to keep surviving. During this exchange, J’onn invoked the social justice patois, “I see you.” It’s the phraseology of recognizing the hidden minority whose voice or presence is ignored. If the intent of this week’s episode was, indeed, to highlight the value and contribution of heroes we might otherwise overlook…between these two performances, that storyline soared. Miss Martian soon awoke from her coma back at the DEO to the elation of J’onn and her caretakers. However, their joy would not last long. M’gann had an ominous warning. With a mental connection to her established, the White Martians would now be coming for her.
The last praise to offer for this chapter goes to Chris Wood, who portrays the lost Daxamite, Mon-El. He’s continued to provide solid comic relief when recent episodes have needed it, but he is starting to excel at showing Mon-El’s vulnerabilities too. Having insecurely hidden his own feelings for Kara over the past four stories, Mon-El took the risk of admitting them this week. Where the recent character gyrations of Winn – for example – have felt forced, Mon-El’s slow awakening to his own emotions have come across credibly. After his admission, it was Kara’s turn to be on uncertain ground. Over the back-half of the show’s second run, it looks to be Supergirl that will have to sort through her attraction to her alien counterpart.
What I Took Away
While David Harewood and Sharon Leal gave mighty efforts in keeping this week’s installment afloat, “We Can Be Heroes” still couldn’t reach the heights of Supergirl’s Fall 2016 run. The sooner that the show can resolve Kara, James and Winn’s differences over Guardian, the better. It is a disagreement that isn’t bringing out the best in any character involved. If there is an upside from this tenth edition, it is that M’gann looks to now be firmly a part of the DEO family. Hopefully, we’ll start to see her own heroics shine through for the remainder of the year. Next week ought to be a good opportunity as it’s entitled, “The Martian Chronicles”.
Submitted by Jody Money