Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Supergirl Episode 9: Blood Bonds

Supergirl Episode 9, titled 'Blood Bonds', came out this week and was, in my opinion, the best episode of the season. This show has been slowly gaining momentum in my mind, finding its legs, working out plots, and playing up the chemistry between the actors on set. This episode seemed to be the culmination of all that, showcasing all the simmering plotlines, giving Melissa Benoist tons of powerful scenes, and adding some great action sequences. As old time comics used to boast, 'this one had it all'.

But, as always, the foundation of this show is the Supergirl character and Melissa Benoist's portrayal of her. I have marveled at the range and depth of emotions that Benoist has brought to Kara. Add to that a subtlety that I know am noticing and I honestly think she is worthy of an Emmy nod. I am noticing expressions and body language and intonations in her performances that make her remarkable.

Overall though, in this episode, I love the undercurrent of faith and love battling fear and hate. I love how there is feeling that civility and humanity can be scraped away if hate rules, that the ends can suddenly justify the means, and how Supergirl as a symbol can change that.

The episode opens right where the finale ended. Non and Supergirl battling in Maxwell Lord's site and even into the skies. Just when it seems as if Non has bested Kara, he tosses her aside, grabs Hank Henshaw and flies off.

I have to say, this is the one part of the plot that I had a hard part wrapping my head around. They 'allow' Astra to be captured to free up Non to attack Lord. Then, when things seem to be in hand, Non runs off after grabbing Henshaw. That seems odd. Especially when we later learn that Non grabbed Henshaw to trade for Astra. Why give her up if you then want to trade to get her back?

With Hank out, Alex is named Director of the DEO. And Maxwell Lord officially ends his partnership with Alex, demanding the DEO to get off his property. Hopefully, this means the feared Alex/Max relationship won't materialize.

 Back in the DEO, Kara asks her aunt why Hank was singled out. The scenes between Benoist and Laura Benanti are fantastic, both trying to be hard to the other while softening now and then because of their relationship. I loved that Astra says Kara is the 'true heir of the House of El' because Kal has gone native on Earth. She reminds Kara of the old saying 'blood bonds all'.

It leads to a great flashback to Krypton including a stunning flying sort of shot through a Kryptonian city. Zooming into a Kryptonian courthouse, we see Alura acting as judge, condemning her sister and brother-in-law's violent acts. Non acts very much like Michael Shannon's Zod, yelling as he is sent to Fort Rozz.

Astra says that Alura is weak because Alura clings to the idea that people are inherently good. Like mother like daughter.

So Maxwell Lord is becoming downright evil and the released prisoners from Fort Rozz are mobilizing. That would be bad enough. But there's more. Cat thinks Kara is Supergirl.

An overly nervous Kara vaporizes Cat's latte with her heat vision and begs James and Win to act 'normal, not super-normal, just normal'. Cat won't let go of a good story, interrogating Kara about her youth, and later telling her to quit CatCo so she can superhero 100% of the time. Cat talks of 'leaping a tall building in a single bound', having a 'plane to catch', and even 'truth, justice, and the American way.' When was the last time we actually heard the American part of that old saw.

I think Calista Flockhart's performance here was also strong. After a couple of episodes where we saw a softer Cat, this time we really see the claws.

At Non's headquarters, a telepath can't probe Hank. Troubled by this and to show his strength, Non kills the telepath. Henshaw quips that such a move doesn't make him think Kryptonians aren't savages.

Back at the DEO, General Lane has arrived and taken control. In a horrifying and uncomfortable scene, we see him torture Astra, holding her down and drugging her to drag information out of her. (I will say, I like that we learn that Lane's Xenophobia was born from viewing 'The Day the Earth Stood Still'.) Lane is no different than Non. Both are willing to cross a line to feel safe and advance their cause.

This was chilling, especially seeing Kara crying and trying to stop this from happening.

Astra gives up information and tells the DEO where Hank is being held. This is another great sequence where we see Kara flying along side the armored vehicles. Just gorgeous.

It is, of course, a trap. A bomb is where Hank is supposed to be hidden. In another great image, Kara uses the indestructible cape to shield Alex from the bomb blast. Just beautiful.

 While Kara battles Non and struggles with Cat, James Olsen decides to be 'Mr. Action' and, with Win's help, breaks into Lord Industries to find what Max is cooking up to fight all the Kryptonians. In what could be a throw away line, Max tells Jimmy that maybe Olsen wouldn't trust aliens if one had injured him. Is there an alien involved in Max's back story.

Max discovers Jimmy and goes about torturing him. In fact, Lord uses his fists to batter James before threatening him with one big old wrench.

Again, the similarities between Non, Lane, and Lord aren't subtle. There is evil all around here. And yet, all these people think their causes are noble and therefore their actions are justified. Brilliant.

 With her entire life unraveling, and learning that James was beaten up, Kara loses her cool. Her plan is simple ... break into Lord Industries and confront Max. It is clear she means to do this with violence.

In one of my favorite moments in the episode, Win steps in front of Kara, blocking her way from leaving. He tells her that she needs to be better than everyone else. She has to be better or why bother fighting the good fight.

Again, Benoist shines here. She talks about losing her life at CatCo, Hank, even the memory of her mother. Her life is in shambles and she feels powerless. James reminds her that heroes will always find a way.

 Reminded that there is a better way, Kara heads back to the DEO and reengages with Astra. She is ready to listen.

We get another great flashback where we learn that Alura believed her sister was right, that Krypton was dying, and that Alura would fight to save the planet. Alura always believed in her sister, a sign of faith in family.

These Benoist/Benanti scenes crackle. But this one, with both remembering Alura fondly, just grabbed me. There was serious feeling here.

It becomes clear that the only solution is to trade Astra for Hank. Kara takes control of the situation. Even when Lane orders his men to stop Kara, the troops defer to Supergirl. She is a hero. Her inspiration overwhelms his orders.

The switch happens without a major hitch. Non seems poised to doublecross when Astra, as general, takes control and tells all her troops to stand down. It isn't a truce; it's a start. Again, Kara's inspiration and optimism effects her potential enemies. Wonderful.

Hank heads back to the DEO and relieves Lane, reminding the general that idealism will save the world.

Then, Hank and Alex reveal his Martian identity to Kara. They didn't tell her because she can't keep a secret. Too funny.

But Hank's powers let Kara solve the Cat problem. Look, Supergirl and 'Kira'. J'Onn is Supergirl here and you can see how Benoist is sort of 'play acting' Supergirl like J'onn would, her hands on her hips, shaking hands strongly. The two Karas practically snicker throughout the whole scene. (I am pretty sure I called this.)

Kara tells Hank that her friends at CatCo keep her grounded. I liked that too.

The episode ends with two cool beats. One, we once again see Superman IM'ing Kara. This had to happen. There were 8 Kryptonians in the skies of National City in this episode. Someone would ask 'where is Superman'. So they needed to put this in to once again kick Superman out of the show. Kara tells him he isn't needed. She'll call when she needs him there.

And the episode ends with us finally seeing what Maxwell Lord is keeping in his Lab #52, a brain damaged young girl with no family being pumped full of some drug. It has to be BizarroGirl.

Seriously, this was one great episode from opening shot to closing shot. It was what a Supergirl story should be. It had action. It had an optimistic Kara. A fierce Kara. It had emotional punch and some humor. It was everything. This one truly had it all.

Such a great episode.


Uncle Screensaver said...

Don't forget it mentioned Midvale!

Anonymous said...

Hey Anj, thanks for the review again. TOTALLY agree with you of the oneliners they put in, especially the ones that
intrinsically show mow much and how powerful Supergirl is as an inspiration and a symbol of hope. I ESPECIALLY want
to single out the lines "[Kara] is the true heir to the House of El" (with all due respect to Kal-El, of course) and
"[Kara] has a powerful effect on people," and the scene with the soldiers refusing General Lane's orders -- when I
heard and saw them I just wanted to leap and scream at TPTB "THAT is my Kara! THANK YOU!"

I see I wasn't the only one getting the Terence Stamp / Michael Shannon "I will find him!" riff Non was playing during
the trial, though personally I found it rather hammy and corny. Terence Stamp owns this portrayal, bar none.

Regarding Lane and Lord, I'm just going to say it -- someone get these two off the screen, PLEASE! While General
Lane's actor does the best with what he's given with the script, General Lane's character is so 1-dimensional it isn't
even funny. Peter Facinelli plays the small-big man, super big ego well, but Lord is slime through and through with
no redeeming qualities... and the final reveal with what he's hiding in his basement... I suddenly got a flashback to
Lex Luthor II and the scene where he has all the clones of Matrix in the lab; I also can't help but believe if he could
get away with it, Maxwell Lord would want to do "this and that" to Kara as well *shudders*

Regarding the wrap up points : TOTAL comics cliche of J'ozz shapeshifting to Supergirl to fool Cat... if Cat or the
writers leave this rest, Cat can turn in her reporter's card at the door. :) And I appreciate the reinforcement of
the supercousins' relationship again, however impersonal the method of communication was.

Slight niggling point for me was the kryptonite injection scene with Astra... obviously green-k's properties aren't
too well defined, but to me that'd seem no different effects-wise than injecting something radioactive into a human
body, kryptonian superpowers notwithstanding. Seemed Astra recovered from that within the space of a commercial break
way too easily...

Can't wait for the next episode!


Anonymous said...

I wanted to like this episode a lot the acting certainly was of a near uniformly high caliber from the Astra-Kara scenes thru the Kara-Cat scenes....
WHY did Astra allow herself to be captured sans any discernible escape plan? Did she really think she could co-opt Supergirl and then the two of them would bust out of the DEO?
Or was she captured simply to divert attention from Non's assault on Max Lord's complex? In which case what was the escape plan?
It doesn't seem like Non took J'onn hostage deliberately...
What was the reason for the raid on Max Lord's headquarters? For that fact exactly how many Kryptonians are on Earth under Astra/Non's orders?
Too many loose threads which is a shame because again the acting was impeccable across the board.
Because the bar is set higher on "suspension of disbelief" shows like "Supergirl" have to pay close attention to sloppy plotting and there was more than a little of that this week.
BTW I agree with the above poster re Glenn Morshower (sp) as General Lane he seems like a very weak performer compared to everyone else in the cast I would swear he is reading his lines off a teleprompter and badly at that...
As for the torture scene....I'm just gonna note producing liquid kryptonite probably takes time so likely General Lane didn't have Astra in mind when those items were requisitioned.
Let that thought chill your blood for a moment...


Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

I agree that the Rozz plot was the most confusing part of this episode. I don't know what they are planning, or why they are even hiding.

But I continue to be floored by the acting of the main cast and the chemistry growing.