Supergirl – Season 2 Episode 10
“We Can Be Heroes”
Supergirl brings back an old enemy while Mon’El tries to figure out the basics of being a hero and James continues to suggest that his role as Guardian is a good idea.
This is an episode that lets some of the lesser used characters take some of the focus after a broadly Kara and Alex focused season up to this point. Mon’El has had a fair bit to do but his story has always been in service to Kara’s rather than taking on a life of its own. James and Winn have consistently been on the sidelines so giving them more juicy material is something that was required.
In particular, James and Winn are the characters that have been struggling. Winn at the DEO is a much better place for that character but he is still, as he puts it “the guy at the computer”. His talents suggest that he is better placed there but the show hasn’t found a way to make that blend with other functions that he has like it has with Felicity over on Arrow. He’s not a bad character by any means but there’s more he could be doing.
Superhero sidekick is, in theory, something that could offer him some development opportunities but in practice it has been more of the same thing. The only real difference is that he looks at a screen and talks to James rather than looking at a screen and talking to Kara. It’s only a subtle difference and doesn’t give him that much scope to branch out. The way he speaks up against going back to the way it used to be with Kara is really telling as it shows that Winn really wants to step out of the role he put himself into and find some way to do more. The episode doesn’t do a lot with it but there’s a suggestion that Winn is gaining more confidence and has more character growth to go through.
James’ arc has been really frustrating this season as I’ve repeatedly mentioned. It doesn’t really make sense for him to be running around as Guardian and his motivations just come across as childish. All of his friends are superheroes and he feels left out. There’s lots of talk of wanting to make a difference and help people but it comes across as really insincere. If he really wants to help Kara in a more active way then surely he could join the DEO as an Agent. To my mind that would solve the problem and have him in a position that everyone could be more comfortable with. That would essentially kill the CatCo portion of the show but he wasn’t doing anything in that space anyway so would it really be that big a loss?
Kara finally finds out James’ secret when she unmasks Guardian and the conversation they have is probably the best they’ve had all season. She is flat out against James acting as a vigilante because she’s worried for his safety; even going so far as to threaten to take him down herself if he doesn’t stop. It might seem harsh but it comes from a place of concern and it fits with her character. Kara thinks that heroics should be left to those with superpowers which is a position that makes a lot of sense for her. It makes a little less sense after her trip through the multiverse where she worked with a few heroes who don’t have superpowers but that doesn’t detract from the approach taken in this episode.
The way I see it is that this is an excuse Kara makes because she doesn’t want her friend to get hurt. He is putting himself in danger to help her and wouldn’t be able to carry that on her conscience if he were to get hurt doing that. That’s the difference between James and DEO agents. Of course she is concerned about them but they are in that organisation for their own reasons and understand the risks where James seems somewhat confused in his own motivations.
It’s interesting how this feeds into Mon’El’s training as a hero. Kara has convinced herself that Mon’El’s desire to help is a genuine one where his reasons are more complicated than that. Mon’El has always been a little self serving and I never got the impression that his desire to be a hero was earned but this actually becomes part of his overall development. It hasn’t been addressed as yet but I imagine he will get a thrill from helping others when they are grateful to him but his main motivation for now is to impress Kara. He has feelings for her and thinks that becoming a hero is something she will look favourably on. He isn’t wrong but her outlook might not be the one he thinks. In many ways his motivation is similar to James’ but Kara is blinded to it because he has powers and she wants to believe that he grown to the point that he really wants to make a difference.
Kara eventually has to accept that Mon’El isn’t naturally that sort of person and she does eventually realise this. James does repeatedly mention that Mon’El isn’t hero material and his actions when fighting alongside her force Kara to see that he would rather look out for her than protect others. This allows Kara to question him about his feelings for her and for Mon’El to finally start being honest. He brings up the kiss back in “Medusa” and his description of how he saw her in that moment shows that the feelings he has for her go beyond simple attraction. This will make things difficult in the coming episodes but I think Mon’El’s journey to being a hero is going to be a long one. This is fine because his development fits with his established character whereas James’ Guardian story does not.
Having Kara in a support role for other characters in this episode works really well for the most part. Developing both James and Mon’El as people who have their own reasons for wanting to help her allows Kara to see both perspectives and start to move past her own naivety in how she sees those around her. She definitely has the wrong idea about both of them but she is able to realise this and deal with it so that these characters can move on in their own ways.
Her approach to Mon’El will have to change after the revelations in this episode but it’s unknown what that looks like at this point. There’s a lot of work to be done with James and Winn before they are all able to find a reasonable way to work together. James doesn’t want to go back to the background support role he had last season and Kara doesn’t want him out in the field because she fears for his safety so they have reached an impasse that still has James risking his life as Guardian while Kara disapproves.
Kara’s support role also extends to the returning Livewire. She is able to talk her out of killing the Doctor who was using her as a template for an army of electric powered supersoldiers. It’s a good scene as it shows some growth from Kara as a hero. Livewire’s terms were to be let go in exchange for sparing his life and Kara promises to essentially let her have a head start. I like this as it shows Kara understands where the real fight is and that sacrifices have to be made in order to protect people. Livewire is still at large but at least she didn’t get to kill so there is a victory there. Long game thinking is often missing from superhero stories so seeing this addressed is welcomed.
Livewire’s return on its own isn’t all that interesting. I did like the idea of her abilities being used to create others against her will and that causing her and Kara to become reluctant allies but the episode didn’t do enough with that. The scientist isn’t given a name and the two people given her powers aren’t characters at all. With some more work this could have been a story about Livewire’s ego and how she really wants to be unique but the opportunity passed them by.
Kara’s constant insistence that Livewire is her nemesis doesn’t really work. She appeared twice during season 1 in “Livewire” and “Worlds Finest” but at no point is it ever suggested that Livewire is Kara’s mortal enemy. She has a more defined antagonistic relationship with Cat who is really missed in this episode but the connection with Kara just isn’t there. It felt as if the episode was trying to force that connection to make it more relevant but it didn’t really work.
The action sequences were impressive, in particular the climactic one featuring Kara, James and Mon’El. I enjoyed how they worked together as a team and used their various talents to beat the Livewire copies. It’s not enough to make me invest in James as Guardian but as pure spectacle it makes for compelling viewing.
J’Onn’s side story involving M’Gann being in a coma and rapidly slipping towards brain death was really interesting but oddly placed. J’Onn has been struggling with her presence since he found out about her and finds it really difficult to put the hatred he feels towards the White Martians behind him. Objectively he knows that she’s different but at the same time he sees the thing that caused the death of his family as well as his entire race whenever he looks at her.
His arc in this episode is all about putting that behind him and he does this by going into her mind to understand her point of view. The turning point for M’Gann was when she was asked to kill a little boy and refused to do it. Instead she kills the guards which makes her a traitor to her own people because she felt that she was doing the right thing. She survived and has to learn to live with that decision.
The scene inside M’Gann’s mind that partially visualised that turning point was really well done. Sharon Leal delivers a really raw and emotional performance showing just how significant her decision was to her and David Harewood also impresses as J’Onn lets go of his hate in order to protect her. It may have been at odds with the rest of the episode but it does set up the White Martians coming to Earth and provides important development for J’Onn and M’Gann.
An impressive episode that gives James, Winn and Mon’El some much needed development. The James as Guardian plot will probably never work for me but it made the most sense here as we learn that his motivation is to help Kara specifically rather than generically help people. The conflict between Kara and James that is created by this is interesting and definitely isn’t resolved as yet. Similarly Winn’s motivation to not just sit behind a keyboard to provide support makes sense. Mon’El being motivated to impress Kara because of his feelings for her makes sense as well and it’s interesting to connect James and Mon’El in this way, It causes Kara to reevaluate her approach to Mon’El now that she know the truth.
Livewire’s story doesn’t quite work despite her being used as a template for other electric powered villains. The repeated suggestion that she is Kara’s nemesis is inconsistent with what we’ve seen before and comes across as a transparent attempt to give the audience a connection to the story. This is the first time that Cat felt missed by me this season. Despite being at odds with the rest of the episode, J’Onn and M’Gann’s plot that explores M’Gann’s feelings about her decision to turn against her people as well as J’Onn letting go of his hate is really well done and sets up the arrival of the White Martians.
- much needed development for James and Winn
- expanding the motivation for James and Mon’El being heroes
- Kara’s mature approach to dealing with Livewire
- J’Onn and M’Gann’s plot
- the underdeveloped Livewire story
- James as Guardian still not making sense