Supergirl – Season 5 Episode 7

Dec 2, 2019 | Posted by in TV

“Tremors”

Supergirl is all about reveals with the truth about Leviathan, Kara learning of Lena’s true intentions and J’Onn learning the true location of his brother.

It’s amazing how much things can change in the space of a single episode. The previous outing did an admirable job showing the influence Leviathan has while still leaving a lot of mystery around their capabilities where this one delivers a really boring answer to the mystery that leaves them feeling less than inspiring as antagonists. I’m of the opinion that answering mysteries definitively can be the worst possible outcome because whatever the writers can come up with will never live up to fan expectation. Not that there will be much in the way of fan discussion where Leviathan is concerned but the setup certainly points to a mystery that would struggle to have a satisfying answer.

Supergirl

Showing your best friend the clubhouse

This episode doesn’t waste any time in removing all mystery from Leviathan as an organisation. They are headed by five aliens with three of them featured in this episode.; Margot (Patti Allan), Gamemnae (Cara Buono) and Rama Khan (Mitch Pileggi). Their home planet is called Jarhanpur which is one of Krypton’s many sister planets and they travelled to Earth in an asteroid sized ship which doesn’t really mean anything as there’s no standard asteroid size. Their ship was big enough to wipe out the Dinosaurs on impact and they have spent the millions of years since watching the rise of Humanity while influencing it at key points throughout history such as Noah’s flood and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The motivation behind this seems to be little more than deterring Humanity from destroying the planet that they live on which makes for a really heavy handed climate change message. It’s also very convenient that many natural disasters throughout history can be traced back to them thanks to records of Rama Khan provided someone knows where to look.

It’s a lot to take in and it’s not all that interesting as the Leviathan members all come across as broadly drawn maniacal villains with no real depth to them. Rama Khan appears to have a leadership role though it’s not clear why he does or even if that’s actually the case. There is also evidence of a challenge to that perceived authority by Gamemnae who thinks that they should look for a technology based solution to deal with the far more advanced Human society. She seems to think that natural disasters aren’t enough in modern times because Humans have the infrastructure to not be deterred by them to any significant degree. A lot more work needs to be done with the Leviathan characters to make them relevant as antagonists beyond the fact that they represent one of a number of obstacles to be dealt with over the course of the season.

Rama Khan barely registers as a villain in this episode and his actions don’t match up to the historical notoriety he’s supposed to have. There’s one instance of him attacking Lena only to be quickly dealt with by the timely arrival of Kara and then another brief encounter in the Fortress of Solitude that may or may not result in Rama Khan’s death. It’s unclear if he will be able to reform at some point but either way he’s far from a significant threat which also hurts the threat value that Leviathan represents.

Supergirl

Some questions should never be answered

Another blow to their effectiveness as antagonists is their complete inability to threaten Lena in any way, I’ve already mentioned the failed attack on her that was thwarted by Kara. She also uses the amulet to bait an appearance to give Lena an idea of what she’s dealing with. Considering they’ve been active for millions of years I’d expect far less careless behaviour as Lena’s plan to draw them all out wasn’t especially devious. Margot also comes across as desperate when trying to get Lena to give up the amulet which is never a good look.

The Leviathan reveal feeds into an awkward subplot involving Brainy and Alex. Brainy has another personality change when a bombing leaves him with a broken inhibitor which means that he gains access to potential that is often dulled for some reason. It opens his mind to analysis that would otherwise be outwith his capabilities which allows him to join the historical dots and find their hideout. Jesse Rath is always watchable when playing a more unhinged version of Brainy. It’s unclear if this will build to a riff on way his personality changed last season but I wouldn’t be surprised given that it has been established that there is darkness within him being kept in check. The potential to be Brainiac is within him and he is clearly mindful of that.

Alex isn’t painted in the best light in this episode as her usual competence is undermined in order to put her in a life threatening situation by way of a very obvious trap. She wanders haphazardly to Rip Roar’s location and leaves herself wide open to being blown up. Thankfully the rules of narrative convention keeps her alive and presents it as a teachable moment that relies on greater investment into her relationship with Kelly than I have. Kelly’s backstory around her former fiancé being killed on the front lines leaving Kelly in an emotionally vulnerable state where she is afraid to allow herself to become close to someone else is really compelling and presents a tangible complication to her relationship with Alex as her job means that she is putting herself in constant danger. Kelly has personally witnessed a couple of close calls of late and it’s really getting to her to the point that she doesn’t feel like she can deal with Alex’ dangerous life.

Supergirl

A Luthor in the Fortress of Solitude, who da thunk it?

This is met with empathy from Alex who apologises for not realising that Kelly was still dealing with the loss that she has experienced and failing to consider the emotional impact her dangerous occupation would have on her. She isn’t able to see things from Kelly’s point of view because she has never had to deal with loss in that way so can’t understand how she feels. One thing she is able to offer her is the support she needs to heal having received it from her following the end of her relationship with Maggie. Kelly accepts this offer of support and their relationship seems to be back on track but it doesn’t account for Alex continuing to put herself in mortal danger on a daily basis. Hopefully this doesn’t transition into Kelly suddenly being fine with that as that wouldn’t be realistic. There’s nothing technically wrong with how this plays out as they are relationship obstacles that are rooted in the connection between the characters so they don’t feel manufactured in order to create drama so credit has to be given there. The trouble is that the Alex/Kelly relationship has developed very quickly with much of it happening off screen so there has been little opportunity to invest in them as a couple since they are moving faster than the audience can keep up with. Kelly also remains a problematic character due to her purpose often being less than organic much of the time which doesn’t help.

J’Onn takes it upon himself to fix the Malefic situation by doing his usual and conjuring up a vision of his father to ask for guidance. It’s a well the writers have dipped into a number of times by this point and the effectiveness is lessened each time because it feels like a crutch J’Onn leans on when he’s conflicted in some way. It has been previously established that M’yrnn is a manifestation of J’Onn’s subconscious which means that he can’t tell him anything that he doesn’t already know deep down so it should be about him giving a voice to a part of himself that he isn’t quite listening to. This seems to have shifted into the manifestation of M’yrnn acting as a fountain of knowledge that gives J’Onn the answer rather than helping him to realise it on his own. David Harewood and Carl Lumbly do a great job in their scenes together and J’Onn’s soul searching is really compelling with him having the opportunity to put his feelings of guilt around what he did to Malefic into context.

M’yrnn -it’s easier to just call him that- presents him with his two choices; banish Malefic as he did or reach out to him in order to save his soul. Decisions were made that seemed to make sense in the moment and those have to be lived with but that doesn’t mean there is no hope of reconciliation. J’Onn is told that in order to do the latter he’ll have to take a risk and lower his defences in order to present Malefic with an olive branch through his own vulnerability to show him that he’s serious about finding a way to move forward. J’Onn decides to try this and the result is that Malefic forgives him.

Supergirl

The memory of Dad knows best

The scene that J’Onn and Malefic shared was great thanks to the performances by David Harewood and Phil LaMarr who convey the collective pain caused by the decision to erase Malefic from Martian memory. Malefic’s description of what being banished to the Phantom Zone is like is chilling and offers some justification for the anger that has been repeatedly witnessed prior to this point but an opportunity was squandered here as this should have been the story. Instead of J’Onn consulting a manifestation of M’yrnn he should have gone directly to Malefic and spent several scenes working through their issues together. It’s a really strong dynamic that gets barely any time to breathe because the focus is elsewhere which is a real shame as there was a lot more to explore here. Hopefully the writers will be able to make better use of this dynamic now that Malefic and J’Onn have reached an understanding. The healing has hopefully just begun rather than being at the point of resolution.

Kara and Lena’s interactions are where the episode really shines. We’ve been building up to the point where Lena reveals that she has been manipulating Kara all season and seeing it play out doesn’t disappoint. The build-up within this episode works really well with Lena easily taking advantage of Kara’s trust in her to manipulate her way into the Fortress of Solitude before eventually putting her plan in motion. Kara comes across as naive through most of their conversations but I don’t mean that in a bad way as it’s definitely the point. She doesn’t ever consider that Lena would be dishonest with her because she trusts her so completely so is completely incapable of seeing this coming. One of Kara’s greatest strengths is her ability to see the good in people but it’s also one of her most significant weaknesses as it blinds her to the truth in some instances. This is one of them and the consequences are catastrophic for her.

Their conversations in the Fortress prior to the reveal are brilliantly done. Lena adopts a passive aggressive stance as she recounts all of the times she thought she was protecting her vulnerable friend Kara while she was acting in secret to protect her. Kara can do nothing but apologise because she doesn’t have a valid excuse that explains why she waited so long to tell Lena the truth. She doesn’t pick up on it but Lena isn’t interested in her apologies and continues to attack her with further examples of times that Kara deceived her. Katie McGrath conveys so much pain in her voice and plays Lena clearly struggling to maintain her composure. Melissa Benoist compliments this wonderfully with guilt and shame in Kara’s words and on her face. What makes this better is that Kara is incapable of realising that Lena is building up to detonating their friendship.

Supergirl

The first step to reconciliation

The moment of realisation comes when Kara catches Lena trying to sneak away with the Myriad device. This is a deep cut callback to the end of season 1 and makes sense given Lena’s plan to make fundamental changes to the Human race. Myriad would be the easiest way to do that on the scale she intends. Once Kara catches her Lena drops any notion of friendship and completely opens up about how Kara had made her feel. She talks about shooting Lex to protect her friends only to find out that everyone she valued in her life was lying to her and how much she resents Kara for encouraging her to break her rule regarding getting close to others. Lena gave all of herself to Kara and opened up to her about deeply personal weaknesses that she has only to be met with further betrayal from Kara who continue to lie to her every day. Katie McGrath is stunning in this scene with so much pain and vulnerability being projected through every word, every gesture and every facial expression. Lena is so blinded by her pain that she is unwilling and unable to see Kara’s point of view and is fixated on punishing her for what she’s done. She is also clearly conflicted about what she has chosen to do as the words are not easy for her to say but at this point she feels that she has no alternative.

Kara has no defence either because she did lie to Lena every day. She understands her reasons for doing so but they aren’t important in this moment nor is she able to convince herself that she was justified in keeping this secret from her. Kara does admit that she made a huge mistake and appeals to her better nature to not take Myriad out of the Fortress. It’s a very powerful weapon and she doesn’t want to see her friend driven to do something terrible as a result of decisions that Kara made. The scene ends with Lena trapping Kara in the Fortress and leaving with Myriad while declaring that she isn’t a villain. She definitely isn’t one in her own mind because she truly believes that everything she is doing is for the betterment of Humanity. Lena is driven to ensure that nobody ever feels the way Kara made her feel ever again. All of this is incredibly heartbreaking to watch which is a testament to how strongly developed this friendship is and how good the actors are at conveying the depth of emotion involved.

It’s worth examining this conversation in a bit more detail as there’s a discussion to be had around whether Lena’s feelings are justified or not. Naturally it isn’t simple because there are two perspectives at play and a great deal of emotion involved that is clouding the issue. Lena’s point of view is that she took a chance when deciding to open herself up to trusting Kara. Andrea betraying her caused her to retreat into herself so she felt inclined to close herself off from trusting anyone ever again. Kara broke through that and they formed a deep friendship that now feels one sided from Lena’s point of view as this secret was always lurking underneath and Kara would casually lie to her in order to keep it. Lena was always honest, always open and always understanding towards Kara but now feels that the same wasn’t extended back to her. From an emotional point of view this is perfectly understandable but from an intellectual point of view there are things to be considered.

Lena is failing to consider the possibility that Kara felt she had a valid reason for keeping the truth hidden from her. I’d be interested to find out Lena’s views on when Kara should have told her as she couldn’t reasonably expect to be told right away since Kara would have no reason to trust her at first. Lena’s feelings make sense because of how open she has been with Kara at all points but her heightened emotional state prevents her from considering the reasons behind Kara keeping her secret. It’s all perfectly understandable because literally everyone else in her life knows the truth so she clearly feels singled out for reasons she can’t figure out. It’s a complicated issue and definitely needs an open conversation where Kara explains what motivates her to keep her identity secret and how that relates to her decision to continue hiding the truth from Lena after the point they became close. There’s no denying that Kara should have come clean with her long ago as the justification around hiding the truth being to protect her doesn’t work considering how often Lena is in mortal danger. A delay was caused when Lena developed a resentment for Supergirl and Kara was afraid it would extend to the Kara persona if the truth became known but other than that there have been ample opportunities to tell the truth. Kara definitely knows that but Lena is unwilling to listen to her at this point because of how hurt she is. It’ll be interesting to see how this shapes the rest of the season.

Supergirl

Understanding and support!


Verdict

An uneven episode that delivers some powerful interactions between Kara and Lena but removes the mystery as well as the menace from Leviathan by answering the lingering questions in less than satisfying ways. The reveal that Leviathan are a small group of aliens who crash landed on Earth millions of years ago and have been trying to keep Humanity in check by staging natural disasters as punishment for causing harm to the planet is really disappointing considering the work put into making their motivations mysterious. It undoes a lot of that and replaces it with something far less interesting. Tracing back lots of historical natural disasters to Rama Khan feels too convenient and he fails to be an effective antagonist because of how easily he is dealt with. Another blow to the effectiveness of the organisation is their complete inability to threaten Lena who easily baits them into a trap using the amulet and they prove to be unable to phase her in any way. It also leads to an awkward subplot involving Alex and Brainy where Alex’ competence is forgotten in order to manufacture a dangerous situation to create a challenge in her relationship with Kelly. This challenge relies on a greater investment in their relationship than the show has encouraged even if it’s done well. The idea of Kelly having trouble dealing with Alex routinely placing herself in mortal danger because of what happened to her ex fiancé is compelling and creates a tangible organic complication that isn’t easily solved. Alex offering her the support she needs is a really well acted moment and seems to resolve things for now though this shouldn’t be how it ends. It’s really good in concept and the performances within the narrative are great but Kelly continuing to be a problematic character doesn’t help. This plot does allow Jesse Rath to play an unhinged Brainy again which is certainly watchable.

The J’Onn and Malefic conflict is another thing that is technically well done but needed a lot of work. Conjuring up a manifestation of M’yrnn to deal with his internal struggles is becoming a crutch that is being leaned on. Instead of being a revealing glimpse into how he truly feels the M’yrnn manifestation becomes a fountain of knowledge that answers the question rather than helping him to get to that answer. J’Onn being presented with two choices; banish Malefic or reach out to him in an attempt to repair the rift between them is compelling because it forces J’Onn to consider the mistakes of the past and encourages him to find a better path. The scene he shares with Malefic is great because it allows them to work through the collective pain before reaching an understanding that allows them to move forward. Malefic’s description of what it’s like to be banished to The Phantom Zone is chilling and helps to justify his vengeful attitude when considering everything that he’s endured. It’s a definite misstep to confine their interactions to a single scene as it would have been far better if J’Onn worked through his issues with Malefic directly rather than the memory of M’yrnn. None of it was badly done but the focus was in the wrong place. The real strength of the episode was Lena revealing that she has been manipulating Kara. The build-up works well with Lena steering Kara into inviting her to the Fortress of Solitude and the passive aggressive stance Lena takes when recounting all the times she thought she was protecting Kara is equally brilliant. Kara is caught off guard and can do nothing but apologise because she has no valid excuse at this point. When Lena is caught out and confesses to Kara it’s heartbreaking to watch because it’s a depiction of a friendship being detonated. Katie McGrath and Melissa Benoist sell this beautifully and everything makes sense from Lena’s perspective given how betrayed she feels at that point. There’s room for further exploration as Lena isn’t considering everything rationally for for now it’s an obstacle to overcome because she thinks Kara sees her as a villain not to be trusted and hasn’t extended her the same openness that Lena allowed herself to give to Kara. How this impacts the remainder of the season will be interesting to see.

Overall
  • 7.5/10
    Tremors - 7.5/10
7.5/10

Summary

Kneel Before…

  • strong performances across the board
  • Katie McGrath and Melissa Benoist fully selling the devastation of a friendship imploding
  • the build-up to Lena’s reveal and the passive aggressive stance she takes before being caught out
  • Kelly’s issue with Alex’ dangerous occupation feeling like a tangible and organic relationship problem
  • J’Onn and Malefic finding common ground
  • Malefic’s chilling description of what it’s like to be banished to The Phantom Zone
  • Jesse Rath playing a more unhinged version of Brainy in a different way

 

Rise Against…

  • the unsatisfying Leviathan reveal
  • Rama Khan barely registering as a villain
  • Leviathan proving incapable of threatening Lena
  • J’Onn conjuring up a manifestation of M’yrnn becoming a crutch the show is leaning on
  • the focus being in the wrong place with the J’Onn/Malefic plot
  • relying on the audience being more invested in the Alex/Kelly relationship than has been encouraged so far

 

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