Supergirl – Season 1 Episode 9
Supergirl returns after the winter break and picks up right where it left off with Non’s assault on Maxwell Lord’s facility and Kara’s confrontation of him.
I mentioned in the review of the last episode that the cliffhanger was a fairly underwhelming one and the resolution does little to redeem it. Kara’s fight with Non was a decent visual spectacle that takes advantage of their powers but it wasn’t really worth waiting through the break to see it. I feel that Kara should be having more trouble taking on Kryptonians that have military training than she does. She should really be no match for Non at this point but that really isn’t coming across.
The biggest issue this episode has is that there is far too much going on for a single outing so it feels that the episode is rushing through plot rather than giving it the time it needs to develop. I took the DEO story to be the main one and it’s better than most DEO stories that this show has had since it began. The idea of a standoff between Astra/Non’s people and the DEO over their mutual hostages was handled quite well and it allowed both Kara and Alex to be faced with some difficult choices.
Alex being made Acting Director in Hank’s absence is no surprise as she is the only DEO member besides Hank that we know of. It’s also supposed to she the bond of trust that exists between them since Hank’s reveal that he is actually the Martian Manhunter. I say “supposed to” as there has been no time to establish that these characters trust each other any more than they did before. This sort of story should have come a bit later after that reveal or more time should have been spent showing what the episode is telling us.
The situation becomes more complicated when General Sam Lane comes in and takes over under orders from the President which removes Alex from her position of authority. It’s not a bad idea as written but Alex wasn’t in it long enough to prove that people might see her as incapable so the show missed a trick there.
Despite that, Sam Lane is written well enough that it’s easy to see how he rose to his position. His conversation with Astra where he admits that he’s afraid of her like he was when he first saw The Day the Earth Stood Still was really nicely done as it adds an element of humanity to Sam Lane as well as giving a bit of grounding to his position on Aliens. It’s completely irrational as his fear stems from the fact that he was scared by a movie as a kid but there’s a strong basis nevertheless. Sam is clearly very flawed and this scene shows that.
It also shows his intelligence as he shows some vulnerability to send the message to Astra that he is an honourable man by Kryptonian standards. On Krypton it is considered honourable to admit your fears so by doing that he proves to Astra that according to her cultural beliefs he fits that definition. This allows them to face each other as equals in some way.
The fact that Sam uses torture to try and get information from her might seem harsh but it’s also a valid military tactic. Sam feels that the situation is desperate enough to try to force her to talk by injecting her with Kryptonite. Kara’s reaction to this is really well acted by Melissa Benoist and shows how naive she is by thinking that everyone could be reasoned with. I don’t agree with the methods but I understand why Sam felt that he had to do it. When Hank/J’onn is freed it creates an interesting contrast in methods as Sam sees idealism as a weakness where Hank/J’onn’s outlook is that it is a strength. His alien perspective gives a different dimension to the whole thing.
Kara’s relationship with Astra is handled better than it ever has but there’s still work to do before it becomes as compelling as it needs to be. There’s an attempt to give Astra a little more depth by continuing with the idea that she believes that her methods were necessary to raise awareness that Krypton was dying. With a little more work her reasoning could be better understood but it’s not quite there yet. I like that her sister Alura knew that she was right about Krypton’s destruction but couldn’t let the fact that Astra killed people to help prove that point slide. The flashbacks don’t give enough information about the sisterly relationship to explore the depths of this conflict as I am left wondering why Alura didn’t do more about the information since she had a year. Maybe she did and we will see more of that as time goes on.
I like that they managed to reach an understanding and that Astra called off the Kryptonians before they could attack. This should deepen the familial conflict between Kara and Astra to the point where future battles are more problematic. There is also potential for Astra to find herself in opposition to Non so that she can protect her niece.
Kara is shown to be regularly corresponding with Clark via instant message. If this is the only way we can have Clark be a presence in the show then it’s good enough for now but there’s only so far that this can be taken. I like that Clark is looking out for Kara but also giving her space to do her own thing. Kara knows that all she needs to do is ask for help and he’ll be there so that’s enough for now. I wonder why Clark is showing so little interest in meeting people from his home planet especially since one of them is related to him but maybe he has already been through dealing with other Kryptonians. It’s certainly possible since we know so little about his career as Superman at this point.
The other core story was Kara’s relationship with Cat who keeps trying to force her to admit the truth about her dual identity. These scenes were good and reaffirmed the relationship between these two characters but it feels like a bit of a reversal on the previous episode. As readers will know I always assumed that Cat knew Kara’s secret from day one but let her keep it because it was the right thing to do. She helped in other ways such as offering advice on how women can advance in society and better ways to conduct herself as a public figure but always respected her enough to keep the secret. This episode completely undermines that with the constant mind games as she tries to force Kara to reveal the truth.
What was Cat going to do if Kara admitted the truth? She mentioned that it was in service of a story but I really don’t want to believe that Cat would print the truth about Supergirl once Kara admitted it. The show has spent a lot of time developing the mutual respect between these two characters so to do that would be a betrayal of a solid relationship.
There were some aspects of this story that didn’t work all that well for me. Cat quizzing Kara on her own past to try and trip her up as a liar is something I can’t understand. Kara will know her own past since she lived it. The only guess I have is that she thinks Kara’s past was fabricated and was testing her knowledge of that but she didn’t accept that Kara knew all of the answers either.
Kara’s plea to Cat to drop the whole thing was the strongest moment of this story. It is said in this episode that she needs her job as well as her friends to keep her grounded and keep her human as that side of things is really important to her. She was raised human so doesn’t want to abandon that side of herself to be a full time superhero. I can see why she thinks that as it’s a good reminder of why she needs to care about humanity if she works closely with normal people. Kara points out that she loves her job and respects what Cat has taught her but won’t be bullied into doing something she isn’t comfortable with. It’s something that Cat should respect even if she doesn’t agree with it.
Of course the whole thing is swept under the rug when Martian Manhunter uses his shapeshifting ability to pose as Supergirl so that she and Kara can be seen together. Cat’s reaction is fairly amusing as her ego won’t allow her to see the similarities and she definitely comes across as really embarrassed by the whole thing. It was also cool to see both sides of the identity in the same place. Kara finding out Hank’s true identity was a bit of an underwhelming offscreen reveal and the rationale being a joke around Kara’s inability to keep a secret was disappointing too.
There was also a subplot involving James, Winn and Maxwell Lord that was a bit hit and miss. Maxwell Lord is a long way away from being as compelling a villain as Lex Luthor but the ingredients are definitely there. His reaction to James taking crime scene photographs is definitely suspicious and causes him to investigate further. If he had just allowed James to do what he was doing and be on his way then the whole thing could have been resolved.
I did like James and Winn’s reluctant partnership as they work together to break into Lord’s facility. James has no issues with Winn but Winn can’t get over his resentment of the fact that Kara has a crush on James. He is still adult enough to push it aside for the greater good but the animosity is still there.
Kara’s reaction when she finds out that Maxwell Lord roughed him up is really well acted by Melissa Benoist. It shows that Kara’s frustration has come to a head as she feels that she is losing everything that is important to her. She is all set to attack Maxwell Lord but Winn makes a reasonable argument about her turning the other cheek to show that not all aliens are bad. Attacking Lord would almost certainly destroy Supergirl’s reputation as he has the media on side and would be able to spin her attack on him in such a way that she would be discredited.
I can see what the show is trying to do with both Maxwell Lord and Astra by having them represent the worst that both Earth and Krypton have to offer. They are the personification of the darkest parts of both sides of Kara’s heritage and ultimately exist to show why Kara is better than they are. I think Non would be better placed to represent that as this episode seems to suggest that Astra is somewhat redeemable whereas Non doesn’t have to be.
We are finally starting to get an idea of what Maxwell Lord is up to with the suggestion that he’s going to create his own Supergirl. I’m not sure where this will go but I am interested to see it develop.
A solid return that indicates that the show is heading in the right direction but has a lot of work to do before reaching its full dramatic potential.
The resolution of the cliffhanger from the last episode proved that the short fight wasn’t really worth the extended wait but it was never going to be. It was fairly impressive to look at but I’m not getting the impression that Kara is no match for the military trained Kryptonians.
There is definitely far too much going on here for a single story and it feels like the episode is rushing through a lot of the content rather than giving it time to develop properly.
I took the DEO story to be the core one and it is handled better than any other DEO story so far. Alex being made Acting Director is supposed to show the trust that has developed following Alex finding out Hank’s true identity but there hasn’t been enough time spent on this to make it as apparent as it needs to be. Also, Alex isn’t in charge long enough before General Sam Lane takes over to prove why people might find her to be incapable.
Sam’s scene where he admits he is afraid to Astra is an interesting one as it shows some vulnerability and allows him to be seen as an honourable man according to Kryptonian tradition. It shows how intelligent he is to use his own vulnerability to gain an advantage. His use of torture is something I don’t agree with but I can understand why he did it. Sam feels that the situation is desperate enough to use this method to get her to talk. Melissa Benoist plays Kara’s reaction to the torture perfectly. I also liked the conflict between Hank and Sam where Sam sees idealism as a weakness where Hank/J’onn sees it as a strength. His alien perspective lends a different perspective on things.
Kara’s relationship with Astra is better handled here than it ever has been but there’s still lots of work to do on it. There’s an attempt to give Astra more depth by continuing the idea that her methods were necessary to raise awareness that Krypton was dying. I like that Alura recognises the truth but has to punish Astra for the deaths she has caused. I wonder why Alura didn’t use the time to try to raise awareness herself but maybe she did and we just haven’t seen it yet.
I like that Kara and Astra reached an understanding shown by Astra calling off the Kryptonians. This should deepen the conflict between them and hopefully put Astra at odds with Non while she tries to protect her niece.
Kara is shown to be regularly corresponding with Clark via instant message. I’m glad that he has some presence in the show and this way is working for now. It’s interesting to have Clark looking out for her but giving her the space he needs. Kara knows that she only needs to ask for help and Clark will be there.
The other core story was Kara’s relationship with Cat who spends the bulk of the episode trying to force Kara to admit the truth. It works well enough but I prefer my idea of Cat supporting Kara without her really knowing it. It’s much better if Cat always knows the truth and tries to help any way she can. This episode largely undermines that good work but having persistent mind games in an attempt to get Kara to reveal her identity.
Cat quizzing Kara on her own past and being frustrated with her knowing the answers only works if Cat assumed that Kara’s past has been fabricated. Either way she wouldn’t accept the answer so I wonder what the point of it was.
Kara’s plea to Cat to drop the whole thing was really strong. She needs the job and her friends to keep her grounded in humanity so that she can remember why it’s important to care. Kara points out that she loves her job but won’t be bullied into doing something she isn’t comfortable with. It’s something that Cat should be able to respect.
It is swept under the rug when Martian Manhunter uses his shapeshifting ability to pose as Supergirl so that they can be seen together. Cat’s reaction is amusing as her ego won’t allow her to see the similarities between them. Kara finding out Hank’s true identity was pretty underwhelming as it was an offscreen reveal with flimsy justification around Kara’s inability to keep a secret.
The subplot involving Maxwell Lord, James and Winn was fairly hit and miss. Lord acts too suspicious to be seen as a compelling villain. I like the reluctant partnership between James and Winn. It’s interesting that Winn resents James but still acts like an adult when supporting him despite his feelings.
Kara’s reaction to Maxwell Lord roughing James up was really well acted by Melissa Benoist. It shows Kara’s frustration coming to a head as she feels that she is losing everything important to her. Winn’s argument against attacking Lord is reasonable as it is her responsibility to show that not all aliens are bad. Lord would use the opportunity to discredit Supergirl anyway so it would do more harm than good.
I can see that the show is trying to have Maxwell Lord and Astra represent the worst of both Earth and Krypton. They exist to show that Kara is the best of both sides of her heritage but I think that Non would be better placed to represent that as it seems that Astra is redeemable in some way.
Maxwell Lord’s plan to apparently create his own Supergirl is an interesting one and I look forward to seeing it play out in subsequent episodes.