Supergirl – Season 6 Episode 12
Supergirl focuses on Kelly as she makes an important decision that will allow her to help those who don’t have a hero looking out for them.
It was announced some time ago that Kelly would be inheriting the Guardian mantle from her brother. This makes Lena the only member of the main cast who hasn’t become a vigilante -though given the recent reveal of her magical background that may be changing very soon- therefore furthering a distinct imbalance in the show between superheroes and civilians. Even though Lena isn’t in the field fighting with the others she is still a member of Team Supergirl which means there are no longer any civilian main characters in the show.
Is this a bad thing? Yes and no; it certainly skews the perspective in a particular direction but the show makes no attempt to suggest that there’s any interest in extensively showcasing the perspective being missed. At some point one of the pillars of Supergirl became Kara cultivating a team that would aid her in her mission to protect the inhabitants of National City as well as the rest of the world. It’s a clear and unambiguous mission statement and the show hasn’t strayed from that. Notably every character that has stepped into the role of vigilante has had an arc surrounding it; some more successful than others but there’s no denying that effort that put in.
Kelly’s journey towards becoming Guardian has actually been bubbling along in the background for a while now. Alex transitioning to her vigilante identity was due to Kelly’s encouragement and since then there has been a general sense of her wanting to do more to help people. In particular the continuing story across the previous three episodes that focuses on the system that governs western society being ill equipped to protect those it should. Orlando and Joey were the consistent case studies for the issues being explored and having them appear across multiple episodes allowed for natural development of them. Making them more than one and done characters added depth to them even if that depth was only in service of what was being explored. There was enough for viewers to invest in them beyond the mouthpiece for social and economic problems.
Kelly reaches the point where she feels there isn’t anything more she can do in her civilian identity so this necessitates her becoming Guardian. This doesn’t entirely work because it has previously been established that she wields considerable influence in her role as a therapist though lip service is paid to her resources drying up through a conversation with Andrea where she refuses to help because it’s not a story that CatCo subscribers will have any interest in. Andrea’s stance is cold but makes a certain kind of sense with the strong suggestion that she’s shaping CatCo into a clickbait outlet only focusing on superficial details in order to presumably make readers feel better about themselves. Shining a light on the downtrodden in society runs counter to that image so Andrea has no interest in it.
Inspiration comes from none other than John Diggle (David Ramsey) who reaches out to Kelly because he understands her frustrations having endured similar in his own life. He comes to her as a black man who worked as a vigilante and empathises with her feelings of hopelessness in the name of forcing change. Diggle and Kelly have a strong dynamic that draws on their shared military service, similar backgrounds and complimentary views on the core issues at play. He takes on his usual stance of the calm voice of reason in a given situation and uses his well earned wisdom to help Kelly along on her journey.
He refers to Oliver Queen having to be reminded that he would often only have his eye on the big picture which means that the equally important smaller scale issues are ignored. This feeds into Kelly’s brief conflict with Kara who has the same problem. She is so focused on finding Nyxly and the source of the Fifth Dimensional Energy that she forgets about the people actually being affected by it. An early scene shows Kelly walking through the hospital to directly witness the impact of the building having collapsed where Kara’s objective is to find the source of it in order to put it right.
It’s an important experience for Diggle as well as he has his sense of responsibility revived. In prior appearances he talked about how he was done with larger scale responsibilities such as the one offered to him by a mysterious box containing a green glow. He talks about passing on it because to take the offer would mean leaving his family behind. By the end of the episode he briefly mentions being on his way to “new world” followed by a knowing glance from Brainy which strongly suggests Diggle has decided to accept the mantle of Green Lantern. This completes his mini arc that was previously featured in Batwoman, The Flash and Superman & Lois. Whether we will see this followed up on somewhere down the line is unknown but the prospect is exciting.
The beauty of The Kara/Kelly conflict is that both sides are understandable so it’s not a simple case of one being right where the other is wrong. Kelly’s assertion that the people affected are important is perfectly valid and underscores what Team Supergirl are consistently fighting for where Kara’s fixation on defeating Nyxly as quickly as possible provides the possibility of preventing similar horrible things from happening to other people. Kara’s approach lacks that personal touch which runs counter to her usual empathetic nature but the episode does just about enough to justify her fixation on the mission. Kara’s casual comment about restoring things to the way they were countered by Kelly pointing out that it was a less than ideal scenario before this point nicely illustrates the high level differences in their thinking.
That’s not to say the conflict isn’t somewhat forced because it definitely is. One thing that has been consistent across the episodes that have featured Orlando and Joey has been Kara’s personal connection to them and her pledge to advocate for them on an individual basis. To have her all but ignore them so that Kelly can be positioned on the other side of the issue is a strange choice. If a point is being made about white people getting caught up in a cause until something else grabs their attention then the episode missed the mark because it’s a departure from Kara’s behaviour prior to this.
An attempt is made to have Kara confront uncomfortable home truths that she may have been unintentionally ignorant of. She references marching for alien rights as proof that she does care about those being mistreated in society but Kelly counters that with Kara being more invested in that particular issue because she is an alien. The implication being that she doesn’t connect with this issue in the same way because she isn’t black which makes her more inclined to push it aside. In theory it’s a scathing indictment that could have forced Kara to examine personal biases but it’s a point that’s made without ever really being explored. Alex does discuss with J’Onn about his experience of presenting as a black man in a world that mistreats black men. It’s a good scene that reiterates points J’Onn made earlier about having a unique insight seeing the world through the eyes of a black man while also being an alien. J’Onn talks about feeling even more alien as a result of this choice but decided to wear the face with pride because pandering to what might be socially acceptable would be worse. It would have been more appropriate for Kara to be involved in this discussion though it does inform an action that Alex would later take.
The resolution to the conflict is for Kelly to realise that different heroes exist for different reasons. In this case she sees Kara as someone who takes care of the bigger picture while Kelly represents the individuals swept up in it. In particular she promises to watch over this specific group of people and stand up for them in ways that others won’t It’s a noble sentiment if an overly neat solution that prevents Kara and Kelly from being at odds with one another. Kelly’s issue was that heroes don’t look out for those people but she has become that hero so she fills the gap herself rather than changing the methodology of Team Supergirl in any meaningful way. Perhaps there will be more to this but for now the narrative neatness is clear.
Councilwoman Jean Rankin (Kari Matchett) takes on the role of antagonist for the episode. Frustratingly there’s no nuance to her with her lack of empathy made clear from early on. When taken to the under-resourced hospital she clearly lacks empathy with no sincerity to what she says about the patients. An obvious point is made about the major chasm that exists between the classes with her receiving immediate high quality care while those affected by the building collapse struggle to breathe without assistance. Things escalate when she gains Fifth Dimensional Powers and realises she can use them to shape the world in the way she wants to. It’s an obvious metaphor for the power of privilege and it works fairly well but painting Rankin as nothing more than a moustache twirling villain who doesn’t care about those she represents is a missed opportunity that makes Kelly’s victory over her less than satisfying. There is a lot of potential in Orlando filling that slot and intensifying the voice of those who need to be heard and lots of scope within that for Kelly to be involved.
Kelly’s debut as Guardian isn’t as impressive as it needs to be. The costume looks great but her victory is somewhat diluted by having the entirety of Team Supergirl on hand. She is the one to solve the problem and it is focused on protecting the people specifically but her debut being a full solo endeavour would have been more impactful. It could be interesting to see how she goes about protecting people in a broader sense. Her conversation with Brainy about the importance of keeping up the good fight was especially illuminating for her as she learns that in the 31st century there’s still work to do in the ongoing struggle for equality. It’s harrowing to hear that social problems like racism will still exist in 1000 years but at the same time it highlights the need for those willing to stand for a better future which helps Kelly decide.
The closing scene where Alex asks Kelly what she needs from her in order to be an ally is really well done. Kelly donning her head scarf while wearing an appropriately messaged t-shirt and looking at the books on her coffee table related to the issue of racism before picking up a notebook as if to start writing her own thesis on it was a great visual touch. She gently points Alex in the direction of offering love and support without needing to understand exactly how she feels. It’s a really powerful scene between these two characters that gives Kelly’s journey the necessary weight.
A good episode that has Kelly follow a clear and compelling arc with a well explored conflict between her and Kara on a particular issue. Kelly reaching the point where she feels that there’s nothing more she can do as a civilian works well enough even if Andrea had to be an obvious contrarian in order for the hopelessness to set in. Kara and Kelly being in opposition to one another over the way they think is handled well even if the conflict is a little forced with a resolution that feels too neat. Both sides have an understandable stance with Kara being focused on the bigger picture and Kelly focused on the people affected. It does run counter to Kara’s usual empathy but her fixation on stopping Nyxly to ensure that nobody else is harmed by her actions is a reasonable motivation. Similarly Kelly focusing on those caught in the crossfire works as a motivating factor for her. John Diggle helping Kelly along on her journey towards doing something about it creates a strong dynamic between them informed by their military service and similar backgrounds. Diggle’s well cultivated wisdom comes in handy and proves valuable for him in the completion of his small arc chronicled in his prior appearances.
The episode falters in how it goes about exploring the conflict between Kara and Kelly because it doesn’t go deep enough. There was an opportunity for accidental personal bias to be highlighted on Kara’s part to force an examination of it but it never comes. Councilwoman Rankin is an antagonist bereft of nuance. She is an obvious metaphor for privilege but painting her as a moustache twirling villain with no depth is a missed opportunity that makes Kelly’s victory less than satisfying. Kelly’s debut as Guardian isn’t as impressive as it needs to be due to being diluted by the presence of the rest of Team Supergirl. Her focus is on protecting the people involved so that comes across clearly but her first appearance in the role being a solo endeavour would have been more impactful. The closing scene where Alex asks how to be an ally to her and is guided towards offering love and support without needing to fully understand how Kelly feels is powerful and gives Kelly’s journey the necessary weight.
- a believable journey towards becoming Guardian for Kelly
- Kelly and John Diggle’s engaging dynamic
- Kelly and Kara’s equally understandable positions on a difficult issue
- Kelly having a clear mission statement as Guardian
- the powerful final scene between Kelly and Alex
- Kelly and Kara’s conflict feeling somewhat forced
- setting up the examination of accidental personal bias on Kara’s part with the examination never coming
- Councilwoman Rankin being bereft of depth or nuance
- Kelly’s debut as Guardian being diluted by having all of Team Supergirl present
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