Supergirl – Season 4 Episode 19
Supergirl focuses on Kara as the journalist as Nia picks up the superhero slack and Brainy helps James process his trauma.
I’ve previously criticised this show for not giving enough attention to the non costumed side of Kara’s double life. Since season 1 finished and the show moved to the CW the CatCo aspects have been largely sidelined in favour of the DEO as a hub of storytelling that all of the characters utilise in some way. This has been very limiting as it ignores one of the most unique aspects of this show’s setup when compared to the other Arrowverse shows. Instead of setting itself apart it became more derivative of the style made popular in Arrow and The Flash.
When an episode decides to double down on Kara’s non superhero life it feels refreshing and opens up a vast amount of storytelling possibilities that make use of the life Kara lives outside of her Supergirl persona. For one thing it’s good to see her using her skills as a journalist to investigate things in a different way. She is effectively playing a long game here as she will have to figure out how best to frame her research to gain a positive outcome. Kara spends a lot of the episode pouring over paper, following leads and working to make sense of the situation in front of her. It’s slow work when compared to flying into a situation as Supergirl but no less important and it’s good to see Kara realise what value she can bring to the world as a journalist.
One of the major challenges she faces is finding sources willing to come forward. The current climate of Martial Law means that anyone speaking out in defence of aliens is considered an enemy so people are understandably reluctant to put themselves at risk. The case study for this is Edna (Emily Tennant); the employee of a company that may have an incriminating connection to Lex Luthor. Her role in this episode is relatively brief but her interactions with Kara clearly illustrate the point that Ben Lockwood has created a sense of terror in the public space whereby people are afraid of being victimised for showing any sympathy for aliens. Considering Edna’s brother Franklin (Sean Hewlett) is an alien it’s likely that she is too but the focus is on her status as a citizen and how afraid she is to come forward.
Edna’s situation taps into something the show is often reluctant to play with. When Kara takes action as Supergirl she has the benefit of anonymity since nobody knows that she lives a Human life. This means the only fear she has is people learning who she really is. On the whole she can finish taking action and then return to her normal life after putting on her disguise. Edna doesn’t have that luxury as her life is fully on display so any action she takes against the legitimate authorities could be very dangerous for her. In many ways this season is about the bravery associated with putting yourself at risk by coming forward and standing up for what you believe in. It’s starting to become the focus now that we’re approaching the end of the season but the idea has been woven throughout.
Tying into this idea is Nia who is trying to pick up the slack now that Supergirl is laying low. She goes on patrol and helps people where she can while announcing herself with several sleep related puns. She may not be accomplishing anything huge but she is making a difference to those she saves and doing what she can to make sure that the Children of Liberty face at least some resistance. Her inability to make a significant difference further illustrates how widespread this problem is and how difficult it is to combat. Kara can fully relate to how Nia feels about this as she has been dealing with the same problem and didn’t know how to solve it. Her focus on her journalistic influence opens her mind to new options and she comes up with the idea of interviewing Nia as Dreamer because she is in the unique position of being descended from aliens but being born on Earth so she embodies the best of both worlds and can represent what the future can look like if diversity is embraced.
As always, Supergirl is never subtle when putting a point across but this also makes what is being stated more effective. Nia’s televised interview is great because it focuses on the person behind the Hero by drawing attention to relatable nerdy things such as which Harry Potter house she belongs to, what she likes to eat and the types of men she is attracted do. These things among others humanise her in a big way as people will be able to see similarities between what Dreamer likes and what they are interested in. The amount of detail delivered could be seen as problematic as there’s more than enough information given for people to easily figure out that Dreamer and Nia are the same person. It’s great that she’s open about everything but there seems to be no desire to protect her identity though I doubt her candour will cause her any problems.
Kara focusing on her civilian identity makes her aware of other problems that exist in her personal life. She goes to Lena looking for information and has a home truth thrown back at her. Lena feels that her best friend hasn’t been there for her in one of the most troubled periods of her life. She talks about Supergirl being more supportive which of course makes Kara feel bad about the way she has conducted herself of late. It definitely feels as if she has turned a corner in terms of how she had handled her dual identity up until this point and she is now realising the impact focusing on one side over the other has. In this case it has damaged her friendship with Lena because, as far as Lena is concerned, Kara has been more focused on breaking stories than maintaining her friendships when Kara has actually been supporting her in a different way as Supergirl. This is a problem she is starting to address and I hope this journey towards personal growth on Kara’s part takes hold rather than being another forgotten lesson when the story moves on.
This isn’t something that destroys their friendship as Kara is able to make things right and offer Lena support in the here and now. They put their heads together and follow clues that lead them to Kasnia. This is a clear sign of Kara and Lena being an effective team when they are on the same page. Their friendship remains one of the most complex and interesting relationships on the show.
Ben Lockwood is in danger of losing his depth as a villain. In this episode he comes across as more of a raving lunatic than a person in authority responsible for creating and enforcing law. I suspect the intention is to have him lose sight of his own mission which results in people turning against him. His son George has already wavered in his adherence to those ideals as he starts to see things from the other side when he finds out one of his friends is an alien. Between that and having his wife killed there’s a lot of scope for Lockwood to lose his grasp on his ability to be rational but also a strong possibility that he will become a far more shallow antagonist as a result. His attack on CatCo shows that he had become blinded by his hatred but there’s also no real sense that he has a bigger picture in mind.
The attack on Dreamer at CatCo was a really strong action sequence. It’s often fun to see Kara using her abilities creatively so that nobody sees what she’s doing. It was great to see the return of Cape Tricks by using her coat and Nia’s weaponised dream energy made for some impressive visuals. The chaotic setup of the arena and the effective use of darkness also made it stand out.
Linking James’ PTSD to his emerging powers is still less than interesting as a high level concept but going into his mind to explore the root of his anxiety made for some fascinating insight into James and his past. It’s a much needed look into a character who doesn’t often receive a lot of development. It turns out that the main trigger for his panic attacks is a repressed memory concerning his father’s funeral. Apparently he missed it because he was accidentally locked in a diner bathroom meaning that he wasn’t ever able to achieve closure on that relationship. This also created unresolved resentment where his sister Kelly is concerned because she feels that she was left to deal with the emotional heft of that day all on her own. On the surface this appears to be something that is resolvable though some discussion and soul searching but there’s a lot more to the story than even James realises.
The truth is that James was stuffed into an empty coffin by sadistic bullies and felt so ashamed that he constructed a more acceptable narrative to tell to others. He told the lie so many times that he actually believes it. In essence his inability to admit his own weakness keeps him from being strong. Brainy helps him through this and enlists Kelly to reach out to him. She witnesses the truth and forgives him because it’s not something he should be blaming himself for. It’s melodramatic but comes across really strongly and makes Kelly feel like a worthwhile addition for the first time. I still don’t like that James has powers and am even less interested in him having Kryptonian powers but inner strength manifesting as outer strength being controlled is very powerful. The payoff where James stands up to Lockwood as the CEO of CatCo and tells him to leave was excellent. Mehcad Brooks generally does excellent work in this episode so hopefully this will be a positive sign of what to expect from James in future.
A great episode that delivers compelling much needed focus on Kara’s civilian identity while making strong statements about people being true to themselves. Kara playing the long game and recognising the value she can bring as a journalist is definite growth for her character. It opens up a great many storytelling possibilities and allows Kara to examine her own methods while considering improvements to them. The concept of speaking out against injustice and taking the risk despite the strong possibility of personal hardships coming up as a result is explored really well using the character of Edna; she acts as the case study for this idea as she has a lot to lose by using her unique position to make the truth known. Nia also ties into this idea by participating in a very public interview where she opens up about her history as well as the little things that make up who she is. It’s effective because it humanises her while making her the bridge between Humans and aliens though it’s probably very easy to work out her identity based on the available information. Despite that the message is clear that she represents the best of both worlds and offers an idea of what an inclusive future could look like. Kara’s focus on her civilian life has an impact on her friendship with Lena who sees her as being more driven to chase stories than support her friend. This is ironed out by the end but highlights mistakes that Kara has made when focusing on being Supergirl.
Ben Lockwood runs the risk of losing nuance as an antagonist as he comes across more like a raving lunatic than someone in a powerful Government position. I suspect the point is to have him rapidly lose sight of his own mission and lose followers as a result but it could be done with more finesse. His attack on CatCo leads to an excellent action sequence that makes good use of Kara creatively hiding her powers but beyond that there’s a lot of depth lost from him as an antagonist. James dealing with his PTSD by learning and accepting the truth about the events surrounding his father’s funeral is excellent because it allows James to develop along lines he normally isn’t able to and makes Kelly seem like a worthwhile presence for the first time since she appeared. Having James develop Kryptonian powers is definitely something that could be done without but having him achieve outer strength by finding inner strength is powerfully done. Mehcad Brooks’ performance is generally excellent as well so hopefully this is a positive sign of things to come for this character.
- Kara learning from her mistakes and realising the value she can bring as a journalist
- Kara realising the impact her mistakes can have on her friendships
- Edna as a case study for having the courage to stand up for what you believe in regardless of risk
- Nia’s open and honest interview highlighting how Human she is
- strong development for James
- Kelly feeling worthwhile for the first time
- Ben Lockwood losing a lot of his nuance
- James developing Kryptonian super powers
- still not addressing the fact that Kara is routinely living a lie by hiding the truth about herself
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