Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Supergirl Episode 12: Bizarro

Supergirl episode 12, 'Bizarro', came out this week and was a great character episode while adding the best super-powered battles of the season. I was floored by the action and I was impressed with the depths of emotion that I felt for the characters here.

Are you sensing there is a 'but' coming? Because there is one.

But I also felt that there was almost too much happening in this episode. We are dealing with two major plots. One is Supergirl fighting BizarroGirl, the creation of a suddenly darker Maxwell Lord. The other is Kara trying to date Adam Grant. When taken separately, they are both well done. And I can understand why they are both here, as themes of isolation and trying to find love are in both.

But I feel like this should have been all BizarroGirl. That plot was big enough to dominate the episode. And Adam's story could have waited. But by putting them together, the romance plot seemed small. When those scenes were happening I was waiting for them to end, even though they were well acted and well done.

The BizarroGirl plot really leaned heavily on some ideas of the Sterling Gates story, that is that BizarroGirl and Supergirl are reflections of each other, not true opposites. And the idea that both are dealing with feelings of isolation, of not being normal, of having their worlds and lives slowly destroyed, just resonated. And yet, even in that despair, Supergirl can inspire.

Add to that memorable character turns for Winn, James, and Cat, and overall it was superb. On to the details.

We start by seeing the creation of BizarroGirl three months earlier. Now awake, Maxwell Lord quotes Prometheus Unbound and sends his creation out to kill a 'bad' Supergirl. The last episode we saw her throwing a truck into a mountainside.

With her world reeling a bit, Kara asks Winn to help her. Initially he declines. But then his curiosity and his friendship make him change his mind. I am glad we only had to deal with a sulking Winn for a week. While he doesn't specifically articulate how he thought things through, we see later on that he has accepted that romance with Kara is off the table and that he can still be her friend. Good for him.

As for Cat, she is suddenly acting nice to Kara knowing that a relationship with her assistant will keep her son nearby longer. And from a Supergirl viewpoint, she takes Kara's idea that this truck-throwing Maid of Might could be an imposter.

The super friends unite in their secret office to discuss how to track down the doppelganger. While there, Adam texts Kara to remind her about their date that night. She giggles and blushes and tells her friends about this budding romance. As always, Benoist shines here showing an awkward and innocent excitement while trying, in vain, to not be obvious.

Also surprising is the sort of cringe-inducing response by James who stammers out how he is glad for Kara even though it sounds all too flat.

Meanwhile, we see the tortured life of Bizarro in Lord's room 52. She is bombarded with images of Supergirl and subjected to shocks. She is told over and over that Supergirl is bad and that Supergirl must be killed.

Lord is suddenly going from narcissistic jerk to outright villain. This is brutal.

Kara goes out on her date with Adam and there is such an easy chemistry between the two. You can feel the attraction between them. But they talk a bit more like a couple who has been dating for a little bit and not two people who are in the cocktail time of their first date. Still, even Adam can see that Kara can understand people and he wants to be part of her life.

The date is cut short when Kara sees a new report of a skycar in National City about to fall. She runs out on Adam and flies to the rescue. That effort is stymied by the arrival of BizarroGirl. Before the fists fly, as always, Kara tries to reason with Bizarro, asking her why she is doing what she is doing. But the brainwashed duplicate lashes out.

This is the first of 3 fights in this episode and each improves on the last. Flying around, wrestling on the roof of the dangling car. When the car finally falls free, Kara stops fighting and flies to catch it. This reminded me a little of the Spiderman movie rescue.

After the fight, Supergirl heads to the DEO. This Bizarro (term coined by Cat) is a perfect copy. Alex thinks Kryptonite might stop her. Later, Alex confronts Max about Bizarro and he basically confesses to creating her through Kara's DNA that was left on Red Tornado's arm. Lord thinks he's untouchable.

But things get even creepier. Winn has learned that 7 comatose Jane Doe's have disappeared and been claimed by Prometheus Genetics, a shell company of Lord Industries. He has experimented on 7 women before one survived the process. Serial killer is a far cry from humanist.

But throughout this, we see the inspiration and heroism of Supergirl. First off, Bizarro wonders how Supergirl can be bad if she saved the falling car. Ironically, Lord convinces Bizarro that Supergirl still needs to be killed because 'things that seem good can be very very bad.' Look in the mirror!

When Alex says Bizarro needs to be liquidated, Supergirl reminds her sister that Bizarro is the victim in this. Supergirl always tries to help people.

As for the above pictured scene, Winn and James have a great scene. I like how these two have become good friends. Winn calls James out on the stilted support he gave the Kara/Adam romance. He knows James has feelings for Kara. Lucy deserves the truth. And James deserves happiness. That is relationship wisdom from Winn! Amazing.

Despite the threat of Bizarro, Alex convinces Kara that she should keep her date with Adam. But that date is also cut short when Bizarro scoops up Kara to fight again. (Seriously, Kara is randomly grabbed by BizarroGirl. Cat still has to know that Kara is Supergirl. That is too big a coincidence.

Another battle erupts. This time we see a more full array of Bizarro powers, flame breath and freeze vision. Perfect.

The DEO arrives to lend support and batters Bizarro with high powered rounds of synthetic Kryptonite bullets. The radiation doesn't hurt Bizarro, but it does mutate her to the more classic disfigured imperfect doppelganger we are used to.

It is great. I mean this is BizarroGirl, right down to the darker suit and backwards S. Perfect.

With BizarroGirl attacking Kara in her civilian mode, it is evident that Lord knows the Danvers secret. Anyone involved with Kara could be in danger. Fearing Adam may get hurt, Kara breaks it off with him. She wonders if she has room for someone like him in her life. Benoist conveys the sadness she is keeping under the surface well here. Even Adam knows she doesn't really want him out of her life but is isolating herself.

Continuing a number of badass but maybe ill-advised decisions this episode, Alex heads to Lord's office with some DEO troops, beats him up, and brings him into the DEO HQ. He won't hurt anyone even if she has overstepped her authority. Even Hank is upset with this decision. Imagine kidnapping someone like Steve Jobs? I guess Alex desire to keep her family safe has robbed her of the usual steely exterior. I mean couldn't she give an anonymous tip to the police? The FBI? General Lane? Why take this on personally, with no authority?

I really love the Alex character. But this seemed rash.

Meanwhile, BizarroGirl decides she needs to hurt Supergirl by hurting someone she loves. She takes James. I don't know if that choice makes the most sense. But maybe the childish emotions of a Bizarro could confuse infatuation with love.

James again tries to reach the Supergirl portion of BizarroGirl's soul. He says that even if she looks like a monster, she could be loved as Supergirl is loved. Because people love Kara because she is brave, kind, and always trying to do what's right.

It almost works. But instead the third and final battle between the Supergirls breaks out. This is a great fight with strength, flight, breath weapons and vision powers all on display. All the fighting sequences in this episode were fantastic, well-choreographed.

And Alex shows up with a gun of synthetic Blue K, made when they discover that Kryptonite with ionic reversal will weaken BizarroGirl. I live in a world where blue Kryptonite was used to subdue a live action Bizarro after a super-brawl. Wonderful.

The ending of the episode tugs all the right heart strings. The decision is made to induce a coma in BizarroGirl. She'll be at peace. Realizing her mistakes, Bizarro apologizes the Kara. Supergirl promises she will help. The two are isolated, alone, hurting. They are reflections.

I almost welled here.

As for Max, he is in the standard issue DEO fishbowl.

But how long can he be kept there illegally? Max almost seems bemused, joking about BizarroGirl, saying illegal imprisonment is 'American', and throwing a threat about Eliza Danvers out. Lord is a supervillain in the classic sense, an amoral sociopath with a god complex. Even his quoting Prometheus, who stole the power of the gods, is a tip.

BizarroGirl is a lost cause. Cat is suddenly cold with Kara for dumping Adam. James is weird and leaves to see Lucy. Things with Winn are still chilly. Her family is in danger. Kara is suddenly alone, and emotionally vulnerable.

So why not throw the Black Mercy, a parasite that shows someone their ultimate fantasy at her. It is the right time.

Just a few more notes. The writers continue to throw in some great throwaway lines. Hank says that while imitating Supergirl the skirt was 'surprisingly comfortable'. Winn saying he knows Kara's height, weight, and measurmenets ... then reminding people he made her suit. Cat says that Kara is 'skittish like a horse'. She also talked about putting out an Amber Alert about Kara, showing she thinks of Kara as a child. Kara says BizarroGirl talks like Cookie Monster. Dialogue flourishes make the show that much better.

Anyways, I shouldn't be damning with faint praise. This was very very good. But this felt a bit like the pilot to me, too stuffed for its own good.


Anonymous said...

This was yet again a well acted ep, and yes the fights were preemo, but the writing was clunky, rushed and underdeveloped over all. My heart sank when I heard Harewood actually something about "Precise Molecular Opposites" which is crude technobabble fitting for a 1967 ep of "Lost in Space"....
And am I the only person who finds Bizarro-Girl's sudden switch a tad...sudden? She goes from wanting to throttle Supergirl to wanting to move in with her....I LIKE that Bizarro is more simpatico with Kara but the journey out of mere super henchsperson status to take a little longer....
And just how many five foot eight blondish girls between the ages of 21 and 25 are lying around comatose in National City anyway?? I mean isn't that SOMETHING Cat Grant ought to investigate??
Lastly it's Supergirl's job as her "doppelganger" to talk Bizarrogirl in off the ledge, just having her hang there in the air bleating for Alex to "Take the Shot" betrays a serious lack of creativity at the scriptwriting level.
The three goals of this script were depict the hazards of Kara's romantic life in light of her dual identity, intro Bizarro Girl and boost Maxwell Lord up to Big Bad Status. I'd say of the three only the Max Lord beat really worked, Adam and Kara got relegated to subplot status and Bizarro founders on rushed, clunky writing and technobabble. And yes, Alex continues to make bad decisions about Lord down the line.
At this point in the season I can say while I love the show it is the very dream of forty years of wandering in the wilderness as a Supergirl but it is also a show with a tendency to rushed and clunky writing, that remains my core complaint.


Anonymous said...

Great review as always, Anj. I'm torn between the necessity of the Kara/Adam arc myself... one thing that's bugged me
since the start of the series is the wisdom of introducing (potential) romantic suitors in the first season. I'd rather
it being about Supergirl as a hero and an inspiration, rather than "Supergirl the untouchable fantasy girl." But on the
flip side, the devastation on Kara's romantic life, coupled with the other issues on her plate, seems to be a good an
emotional hook leading into the next episode, and how Kara may long for her lost life on Krypton. We can only see how
that plays.

Regarding BizarroGirl, I was so taken how much I was seeing twins with Lauren Hope in the role, and while my Inner Geek
Heart leapt at TPTB making her a true Bizarro by the end of the episode, the deus ex machima way of getting
there -- "synthesized ionic-charge reversed kryptonite," really?! Alittle off the wall for me.

I also love the James / Winn heart to heart; James' "having a drink with a friend" versus Winn's "I've been stuck in the
friendzone so long, I'm thinking of buying some property here" finally shows onscreen an acknowledgement these two are
friends as well as colleagues, though Winn's zinger at the end "leave the bottle" cracked the hell out of me!

But the cherry on top for me is OBVIOUSLY Jimmy's comment when trying to calm BizarroGirl down "I love her because of
who she is." CAN'T BEAT THAT!


Unknown said...

The biggest "WTF?" moment for me was how BizarroGirl's costume suddenly changed as soon as she was no longer identical to Supergirl. How did THAT happen? Don't tell me kryptonite can now affect fabric as well as Kryptonians.

Speaking of kryptonite...

There's just WAAAAY too much of that stuff laying around for my taste. That stuff is SUPPOSED to be rare and extremely difficult to come by, but the DEO apparently has an endless supply, including all the K-bullets they need if they ever decide to snuff out Kara or a few of her relatives. It cheapens the whole concept of the Supers being "invulnerable" if one human with a sniper rifle can take one of them down all by themselves.

There's ALSO WAAAAY too many super-powered Kryptonians on the show too. So much for the "Last Son (and Daughter) of Krypton.

Anonymous said...

That is actually a unresolved question from the Supergirl v. Non two parter, just how many Kryptonian Criminals are in Astra's Gang?
This is an ongoing issue with Berlanti's writing.....rushed & underdeveloped ideas and implications (because if there are enough Kryptonians in Astra's Gang then all the training in the world with Alex won't do Supergirl a lick of good if they decide to attack en masse).
Maybe Kara can hold them at bay with reverso-ionic molecular opposite kryptonite.....


Martin Gray said...

I liked the episode a lot, with only the angsty love stuff stopping this being a solid A. #poorAdam, he's a good guy (if a little un-curious ... he doesn't want details of what BizarroGirl did with Kara?) yet can't date Kara because he's the only person in National City who doesn't know her secret ID. The good thing about him returning home, though, is that one day Kara might seek him out, and we'll see Opal City, and maybe Jack Knight.

I liked the detail of the little Bs on BizarroGirl's cheeks. Is she really in an induced coma, though? I'd not be surprised if J'onn has had her put to sleep, that was so like a final goodbye, with Kara basically saying that one day she'll see her on the other side.

The cable car sequence reminded me of a cover featuring another white-faced type, Superman #320 with another pasty-faced confused baddie.

Jimmy needs to lose the signal crutch.

I'm so excited by the upcoming Black Mercy episode, and I hope that after that Kara catches a break - that's quite enough cliffhangers for a week or two.

Uncle Screensaver said...

I was confused about how Bizarro's costume changed but overall I didn't care because it was just awesome seeing her in action.

RE: Seven comatose patients. The seventh was the perfect "clone," so I was wondering if the first six were a nod to the six clones back in TDNAOS who eventually merged and became a second Linda Danvers.

I do hope that Eliza isn't killed off, I don't want to lose Helen Slater. It was interesting that we heard Supes was actually adopted. Despite the "adoptive sister," the relationship with Eliza has been depicted as more of a foster parent. "You always treated me 'like' a daughter." It may be something modern but I miss the relationship in the comic books. Supergirl had two mom's even in PAD's run, but what do I know.

I cringed about Jimmy actually being in love with Supergirl but I suppose this keeps the romance angle going.

I think the writing is getting better but the rushed aspect is possibly due to the fact we still don't know if there'll be a second season, so they will want to wrap things up quickly.

Still, I never thought I'd see a live action Supergirl again, let alone Bizarrogirl, so this is still mind boggling for me. It's such a fun ride!

KET said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KET said...

"But I feel like this should have been all BizarroGirl. That plot was big enough to dominate the episode. And Adam's story could have waited."

No, it couldn't. That's because the breakup with Adam was part of the larger tapestry of this episode, which pits male privilege (Maxwell Lord) against female self-identity (Both Kara and Bizarro). This was Kara's first real date since the pilot, and she's still confused about the difference between love and empathy yet. Keep in mind that Kara nearly lost her job last episode due to her overreaching empathy for Cat, by finishing a letter to Adam, which is what really brought him to National City.

Once Kara left the Super Friends room, both Winn and James started in on objectifying her, just like a typical 'couple of bros' would. Here, pass the bottle around, and think only about how she's not responding properly to either of you. James only got himself straight when he was confronted by Bizarro in the abandoned warehouse. 

Once again, Alex gives her sister some lousy dating advice, and tells her to go out with Adam on her make-up date. Naturally, things go horribly wrong when a super-villain already knows one's secret ID. Then in compensation for her blunder, Alex goes and arrests Maxwell Lord. The only time Alex finally gets it right is when Kara yells at her to not kill Bizarro in the final fight scene. 

Alex's words to Kara while she's about to do something to Lord in the ending DEO scene is actually a rebuke to Lord's abuse of his male privilege: "He's not worth it."