Supergirl – Season 1 Episode 19
Supergirl prepares for the season finale as Non’s master plan comes into play when he takes control of the population of National City.
Mind control is a fairly dodgy trope to use in science fiction as it’s often used as a quick way to resolve conflicts and build tension. In a show where the character has a secret identity it allows them to move around freely while everyone is blissfully unaware of what is going on.
Despite how dodgy a trope it is, having free will overridden completely is something that everyone is afraid of on some level. Our lives are defined by our choices so what if our ability to choose was taken away from us? This is essentially what happens here when the population of National City become mindless zombies under Non’s control.
Some attempt is made to explore the implications of that from an ethical standpoint. Myriad was a project developed by Astra on Krypton to save the planet. Like in Man of Steel, the Kryptonians had mined the planet bare so had basically engineered their own destruction. Astra saw it coming and I imagine others –like Jor’El- did too but the warnings fell on deaf ears so Astra’s idea was to use mind control to force Krypton’s leaders to take action to save their people.
This poses a very simple yet very complex question over what the right thing to do in this situation. If people are making bad decisions that could cause the death of an entire species then do they deserve to have the right to choose? Is forcibly removing that right justifiable when it can save billions of people or is individual liberty more important? I don’t have the answer and it’s up to each individual to figure out their own stance on the issue but presenting it in a way that has the alternative be annihilation creates enough uncertainty for it to be an interesting debate.
It is pointed out that Earth is going down the same path as Krypton. Natural resources are being exploited and human beings spend so much time fighting one another instead of working together to build a better world. We all see how devastating the human inability to get along can be in our daily lives so I can at least accept that Non has a point when he thinks that he needs to step in.
He is very proud of what he has done when he talks to Kara. As far as he’s concerned he has wiped out all crime in National City in one second while putting an end to the political and racial divisions so that everyone can be singularly focused on solving the world’s problems.
Again, he has a point but this peaceful existence comes at a really high price. Nobody chose to put their differences aside and dedicate themselves to improving humanity. They are being forced to do it so there will arguably be no true accomplishment. Krypton was apparently destroyed because of an inability to innovate to find solutions and Earth will go the same way if the only person deciding how things move forward is Non. He is only one man and his ideas about progress can only take people so far. Without people using their individuality and intelligence to find better ways of doing things then the human race will stagnate and ultimately be destroyed. There will also be no sense of accomplishment since everyone has been turned into mindless drones.
Beyond all of the ethical questions raised by what Myriad does and the reasons behind that this ultimately boils down to a problem that Kara needs to solve. The stakes are immediately high as she is cut off from pretty much her entire support structure with absolutely no idea how to tackle this. Her first instinct to head to the DEO makes sense as there’s a chance that they are unaffected. Unfortunately that proves not to be the case but Kara does manage to prevent the release of all the alien prisoners they have and incapacitate everyone there using the engines from her ship. I’m not sure why this is anything more than a temporary solution that prevents them from releasing the prisoners when they wake up but it was a solid action sequence made more exciting by the appearance of Maxima (the WWE’s Eve Torres) who only has a cameo to fight Kara and disappears but has some history with Superman who refused to become his mate. Hopefully she’ll come back as a more significant villain if the show gets a second season.
Fortunately for Kara not everyone has been rendered mindless by Myriad as Cat and Maxwell Lord have managed to escape the effects. Lord developed a tech based solution to the thing that he apparently saw coming but chose not to warn anyone about and Cat accepted a gift of earrings from him that had this tech built in. I’m not sure why Lord chose to protect Cat and not anyone else other than the plot needed Kara to have two people with opposing viewpoints to consider.
Lord’s plan to stop the Kryptonians involves detonating a bomb that will spread Kryptonite dust over the city and kill them while rendering National City uninhabitable for Kara for around 50 years shows his casual disregard for the lives of others that has been at the root of his character all season. It’s just a shame that M Another drawback to this plan is that 9% of the population will be wiped out as well which equates to about 300,000 people. This presents Kara with a very tough position common to any super hero story at some point. Does she sacrifice a relative few to save the human race and stop a bigger threat or does she risk losing everyone while trying to find a better way? At first she is conflicted and seriously considers Lord’s plan as it seems to be the only way at some point.
Luckily Cat is there to be the voice of reason. She never accepts Lord’s way of looking at things as she sees his actions being entirely motivated by fear which she attributes to pretty much everything he’s done. Everything he has done to bring down Supergirl is because he is afraid of her and what she can do so his plan to kill all of the Kryptonians is simply an extension of that as far as Cat is concerned.
She appeals to Kara’s better nature by reminding her of what the symbol she wears represents. The Kryptonian symbol that looks so much like an S on our planet is a symbol of hope as well as being the crest of the House of El on Krypton so there is a lot of meaning associated with it. People can look at it and feel safe so Kara has to fulfil the promise she made to protect the people and find a better way. Cat tells her that she has been inspired to change and be more accepting of people since Supergirl appeared. She is still abrasive but has started to be less guarded as shown by her mother/daughter relationship with Kara and her reconnecting with her estranged son. Supergirl has had a positive effect on Cat as well as many others in the city so she has to find a better way to continue to inspire people. It’s a well performed and touching scene that shows the relationship that has grown between these two characters. Cat has always been the biggest supporter of Supergirl and her faith in her ability to be a hero who does the right thing comes through clearly here.
This is exactly what Kara needs to hear and she immediately tells Lord to stop preparing the bomb and start looking at the problem from a different angle. Kara believes that there is always a better way than killing despite the fact that she lost sight of that for a while.
Kara’s doubts make a lot of sense as she is feeling completely overwhelmed by the situation. It has been established that she functions better when she has a team supporting her so the fact that she initially has to figure all of this out herself is a really daunting prospect. Eventually only having Maxwell Lord and Cat for backup isn’t the most ideal outcome either.
Her first idea is to go to the Fortress of Solitude to ask Superman for help. She has been very keen to solve problems her own way without the help of her cousin but the situation is dire enough for her to swallow her pride and ask for the help of someone more experienced. Having Superman be dealing with something not on Earth was a good way to remove him from the situation so I was surprised that there was an attempt to involve him in the story by showing up and falling under Myriad’s control.
The explanation of Superman being affected because he grew up on Earth so the way he thinks is more human than Kara was a bit farfetched but it does show how distinct Kara is from her cousin and creates a situation that only she can deal with because of the unique way she sees the world. I wonder why Non is simply allowing Superman to wander around like a zombie rather than make better use of him.
Kara’s support structure is actively used against her in this episode as shown by the DEO part of the story that I mentioned above as well as James and Winn who are used to speak for Non and show Kara exactly how far Non’s control extends. He shows Kara exactly what he’s capable of by ordering James, Winn and Kelly –whoever she is- to jump off the building. Kara is only able to save James and Winn so has to deal with her failure to save Kelly. There was a fairly transparent attempt to establish a prior relationship between Kara and Kelly by having Kara single her out when she gets to CatCo but it’s flimsy and doesn’t do enough to give her death the personal significance the writers really needed it to. Having her be an anonymous bystander that Kara fails to save is powerful enough to show her what she is up against so the personal connection is unnecessary. If Kelly had been a random bystander then the episode could have used this to have Kara question whether she favoured her friends over someone she didn’t know and give her more cause to doubt her ability to objectively save humanity.
Alex and J’Onn return in this episode after going on the run back in “Manhunter”. Not much is made of this other than showing them hiding on a bus as the authorities try to find them. Alex makes use of a blonde wig and J’Onn disguises himself as a child to evade detection. It’s a really well put together and tense scene that does show what their lives have become since they left. There’s hardly any indication of how their search for Cadmus is progressing but seeing what life on the run is like was interesting.
They head to Eliza’s place to gather some supplies before moving out again which seems to be about the stupidest idea they could possibly have. If the government are on the hunt for Alex then they surely would have Eliza’s place under extensive monitoring. I don’t believe that Alex is that good at evading them considering she uses the front door and doesn’t seem to check for any surveillance equipment.
Eliza was used well with her animosity towards Hank Henshaw being directly addressed. When she sees Hank her immediate reaction is that he can’t be trusted because he was the one who killed her husband. She doesn’t know that J’Onn is posing as him but the record is set straight and her scientific curiosity takes over. The questions she asks about his abilities were really amusing and I’m glad that the writers remembered that she is a scientist and that she would react with curiosity as well as excitement when faced with a fascinating new discovery like this. There is also a really sincere moment when J’Onn assures Eliza that he wants to keep her daughters safe.
The reaction to the National City situation makes sense. J’Onn wants to be there to help Kara as does Alex but the way they go about it isn’t very well handled. Alex comes across as fairly stroppy when asking J’Onn to use his telepathy to shield her mind from Myriad and the way J’Onn caves and accepts it with very little protest doesn’t really work for me. I would think Alex would be smart enough to know that J’Onn will be more effective if a good chunk of his concentration isn’t being used to shield her mind. Her desire to help Kara makes sense but her presence is sure to be more of a hindrance than a help.
This proves to be exactly the case when Indigo attacks and leaves J’Onn for dead. Alex finds herself under Non’s control and ends up being used against Kara. Surely someone would have realised that this would probably happen. I would have liked the characters to be smarter than this rather than manufacturing a way for Kara to fight her Kryptonite armed sister.
I did like the personal stake that Non has in making them fight as Alex was the one to kill Astra which gives Non a reason to hate her more than any other human being. It’s not difficult to believe that Non would rather give her a fate he considers to be worse than death and either have Kara kill her or make her responsible for killing her sister. This further shows Non’s casual disregard for human life but also that he really holds grudges and doesn’t hesitate when carrying out horrific actions to dole out his own version of justice.
It’s a shame that Non is so bland as a villain as he has all of the ingredients that should make him a more engaging antagonist. There is implied depth shown by the funeral for Astra and him carrying out the mourning period. He’s clearly a sadist and an intelligent strategist but there’s something off about Chris Vance’s performance that doesn’t bring Non to life in the way that he should. I wish Astra was still around as the dynamic between her and Kara was just starting to become more complex.
Indigo wasn’t very compelling here either. I see what the episode was going for with her trying to push Non to be more ambitious and do what she wants rather than carry out his original plan. She is seen to be appealing to his ego and it seems to be working but she should be less obvious about it as Laura Vandervoort’s performance suggests she is being more sinister than the writing puts across. It’s the classic example of an actor elevating the material but it does come across as if Indigo isn’t doing everything she could either.
The episode was light on action with only one action sequence in the early part of the episode. It was a well put together sequence and I liked the focus on the remaining characters as Kara was presented with a difficult choice. I found it well paced and compelling and I imagine the next episode will be more action focused after all of the pieces have been moved into place in this one.
A solid episode that sets the stage for the finale really well. Removing Kara from her comfort zone as she is forced to tackle a situation without her usual support structure is well handled. I also like that the presence of Superman was addressed by making him part of the mind controlled population. It isolates Kara and forces her to make decisions on her own which works really well. Non has all of the ingredients to be a good villain but something about Chris Vance’s performance doesn’t quite work and Indigo wasn’t used as well as she could have either. Alex and J’Onn’s return worked in the context of the story and provided a tense scene of them on the run but the approach to having them return to National City was badly mishandled in how Alex acted. Next week will hopefully deliver on what this episode promises.
- Kara being isolated from her support structure
- the impressive opening action sequence
- strong focus on moral issues
- Cat’s bond with Kara being important to her decision
- Non and Indigo not being as threatening as they should be
- Alex’s really stupid demands