Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Supergirl Episode 13: For The Girl Who Has Everything

The thirteenth episode of Supergirl aired this week and was titled 'For the Girl Who Has Everything". Comic fans will know that title from Superman Annual #11, the famous Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons story where Superman falls victim of the Black Mercy and has visions of a life on Krypton. Advance pictures of the episode showed Kara with the Black Mercy flower so we knew we were getting a version of that tale.

But it could have been titled 'for the fans who want everything'. Because this was the best episode of the series by far. Before the show aired, Jeremy Jordan tweeted that this episode was going to be the finale of the season until a second half was picked up. And this felt like a season finale. There were great action sequences. There were a few surprises. There were truly emotional, heartfelt character scenes. And for me, those were the best moments.

Everybody shines in this episode which focuses of family, love, and loyalty. Melissa Benoist, as always, shows incredible range. From the happy girl back on Krypton, to the distraught one yanked from that fantasy, to channeling Hank Henshaw in some scenes, Benoist is a marvel. This is as much an Alex episode as it is a Kara one and Chyler Leigh also shines. Flipping from bad ass to desperate, Chyler Leigh really shines. But everyone has a moment at some point. This cast is so strong.

And so we have this mid-season finale.

The show starts out on a supreme high note. Kara awakens on Krypton. She is being cared for by a medical robot named Kelex. She has been suffering from Argo Fever, a disease which may have given her fever dreams. Alura is there, by her side. And we pull back from the room to see the magnificence of Krypton.

Immediately, Supergirl recognizes this as some sort of trick. She knows it isn't real. She doesn't understand why she doesn't have her powers. She wonders who could have done this to her.

Okay, so they had me at Kelex and Argo Fever. But what I love is that Kara immediately knows something is amiss. I promise I won't compare and contrast this episode to the Superman comic too much. But it did take Kal most of the issue to shake things off.

When Kara doesn't show up for work, Alex, James, and Winn head to her apartment and find her wrapped in the tendrils of the Black Mercy. They med-evac her to the DEO and Alex brings James and Winn with her. That seems a bit ridiculous, but Alex says Kara will need her family with her.

And then we see just how upset Alex is. She immediately assumes that Maxwell Lord is behind the Mercy attack. She heads into his fishbowl and thrashes him. In fact, she might've crossed some line if Hank didn't intercede.

So here is the action side of Alex, ready to bloody her hands to save her family.

 To keep Kara's 'normal life' intact, Hank goes undercover as Kara. Turning his ankles on heels, walking with a confident stride and swinging her arms, Benoist really channels how Hank would act as Kara.

There is a rather heated encounter with Cat. Cat derides Kara for recent events, her disappearances from work, and her lack of execution. Initially Hank/Kara fires back saying better instructions might lead to better execution (such a Hank thing to say) but Cat wants none of it.

Later in the episode, to buy more time, Hank/Kara sheds tears, painfully obvious fake tears to get the afternoon off. Cat calls the tears a 'Catskills summer stock performance' but allows Kara to leave. Things won't be easy when real life resumes.

But these scenes again showed how great Benoist is. These were almost comical.

 As I said above, Chyler Leigh really shows incredible range here. When simply removing the Mercy doesn't work, Alex turns to A.I. Alura for information. But Alura knows nothing of the Black Mercy.

Alex sort of pleads with the computer for anything that can help. She talks about how Kara has always relied on her, how she wishes she was a better sister at the beginning of their lives together, how she used to resent Kara. But in the end, Kara is her sister. She needs to save her.

There is some serious emotion here. I almost welled. The actual welling comes later.

 Alex heads back to Kara's apartment. Suddenly, Astra shows up. Earlier, Astra learned that Non sent the Black Mercy.

Astra is clearly conflicted in her loyalties. She wants to save Kara from this fate and gives Alex the key information. Kara has to reject the false reality completely to free herself. (I guess Kara's earlier questioning of the Krypton reality wasn't enough?)

This is a tight, tense scene. Alex reminds Astra that their last encounter led to dead DEO agents. And yet, Astra, who could vaporize Alex, isn't lashing out here. She tells Alex to trust the information. In fact, Astra seems to warm up to Alex. When Alex calls Kara her sister, Astra wonders what relationship they have now. But Alex coldly says Astra is 'nothing'.


 The Black Mercy attack was timed with a solar flare storm. Supergirl has to be removed during this storm because that is when the Kryptonians will initiate their plan called Myriad. The flares will interrupt satellite communications significantly allowing them to pull off this scheme.

I just have to point out, that is a lot of Kryptonians. Too many? Why wouldn't this army just take over? Why scheme?

During the episode, we see snippets of Kara's fantasy life. Slowly she accepts this reality. She forgets about Earth. She cares for Kal. She has a boyfriend.

Alex realizes that she needs to enter this fantasy world to convince Kara to come home. Using some comic book science, Max Lord rigs up some of the DEO's VR equipment to synch Alex's mind with Kara. Alex convinces Max to help because there are lots of Kryptonians out there preparing to attack. Astra and her forces are a bigger enemy.

That said, Max is a known serial killer with no problem killing. It would be a big step for me to trust him.

The VR works and Alex heads into Kara's mind. Initially overpowered, Alex faces imprisonment in the Phantom Zone when she pleads with Kara to wake up. It is a great speech, talking about how Kara is a hero because she struggles to spare other people the pain and loss that Kara has felt. Alex knows how much Kara has suffered, how much pain she has felt, but it is that pain that makes us human. Alex needs her sister and Supergirl.

Those last words snap Kara back. While the Krypton behind them rumbles with impending destruction, Kara has to say goodbye Alura one last time.

It was during this speech by Alex that I welled ... a little ... maybe it was dusty in the room. 

Supergirl awakens.

So much is said in the look on her face. Sadness. Pain. Almost nausea. Leaving that Krypton was like ripping her heart around. And Benoist hits every single note of that without saying a word.

This was superb.

It becomes clear that Non is planning on using Lord Technology satellites to pull of their plan. That is why they attacked Lord's facility in the winter finale. The DEO splits up to head to all the other Lord sites. Kara insists on taking on Non.

Kara pretty much beats the tar out of Non. But it is her words that hit me like a hammer.

She screams about having to leave her family again. She vows that Non won't take another world from her. She has known pain. But she chooses her family. She chooses Earth.

Non hates the hubris of the House of El and is able to escape. He basically has to flee before Supergirl completely defeats him.

At another site, Alex and J'Onn (in full Martian mode) fight Astra. She plants whatever tech she was supposed to during the fight.

Initially, Alex again seems to try to convince Astra to join the DEO. She points out that Astra has had plenty of chances to kill Alex or Kara and hasn't.

Shockingly, despite that plea, Alex ends up skewering Astra with a K-tana. It is true that Astra was about to kill J'onn. But that seemed harsh for a possible ally. Couldn't Alex have just wounded her?

Astra dies. I was *NOT* expecting that.This is the one part that seemed to come out of left field. Maybe that is why the writers put it in here. This is a war. There need to be casualties.

When Kara arrives, Hank says he killed Astra. (Later Hank says Alex is Supergirl's hero. He took the blame so Kara wouldn't look at Alex differently. This has to come up later.)

In her last moments, Astra and Kara seem to forgive each other. That concept of family again bubbling up.

The episode ends with the super-friends together again. Kara says she dreamed of Krypton because she was feeling lost the last couple of weeks but her love of her family and friends brought her back. Winn mends their relationship, calling himself Kara's friend to which she responds 'best friend'. James breaks out the pot stickers, ice cream, and booze. It is an upbeat ending to a gut-wrenching episode. And it would have been a decent moment to end a season on.

There are a lot of other moments emphasizing family. Hank considers Alex and Kara to be family. James stops Hank from prematurely yanking Alex out of the VR because Alex wouldn't forgive Hank if he did. Winn laments not being in Kara's life when she is under the mercy, fearing he won't be able to be friends with her again. There is a lot to love.

Lord has his usual snarky moments, asking for Dr. Pepper and his Netflix. Asking for popcorn when guns are drawn in the DEO.

And Cat is the classic tough boss making Hank/Kara 'miss his alien prison'.

There is so much to love about this episode. Which might be why this review is so long.

But this one was for the fans. It has everything.


Martin Gray said...

Ha, I was watching this episode thinking, this have it all, it's like a finale! So there you go, the producers, few and cast got it right.

While I'd love to have seen more of what Kara's alternate life outside of her parents' living room was like, and wish someone would give Robert Gant's Zor-El something to do, meeting Kal-El was a treat. As for the Earth stuff, the always excellent ensemble shined brighter than ever. I think Winn is indeed going to wind up with a job at the DEO, seeing J'onn get involved in both the secret ID and action sequences without whining was much appreciated, the conflicted Astra was great, Jimmy's support was superb, Cat's anger was utterly convincing and Alex, wow, she's such a tough nut, Chyler Leigh was a true tour de force in the acting department. And you know how much I love Max.

As for Melissa Benoist, she deserves massive praise - Melissa as J'onn as Kara was just brilliant, and the seething anger when she came out of the fantasy was truly well judged.

I would have expected J'onn to facilitate Alex going into Kara's head, but of course, we saw in his spy mission to Max's lab that he's not great at control.

The only downbeat note was Alex going along with J'onn's lie, that kind of thing never works out.

Anonymous said...

Spot on review as always, Anj! Personally I thought the Kryptonian fantasy life story was given
short shrift, but all the other elements -- Alex's mix of action / emotion, the Jimmy & Winn
friendship and support, the emotional fallout of the Kara / Adam dating disaster, Hank / J'onn
posing as Kara so "[Kara] can have her chance at a normal life" -- more than made up for it.
Definately, everyone played their parts beautifully!

I also want to single out Alex's scenes and lines of admitting how much of a sister Kara is to her;
when she admitted to the Alura AI how much she initially resented Kara entering her life, it
immediately reminded me of her lines in the pilot, and I'm glad the writers included that. Her line
"Earth needs Supergirl... and I need my sister!" ... DEFINATELY wasn't dust in my eye when I teared
up at that :)

Plotwise, will have to see where things go with Non, the death of Astra, and the remainder of Fort
Roz's Kryptonian population. Also wonder if Hank covering for Alex's killing of Astra will come
back as a future plot point. As to why the entire population of Fort Roz hasn't gone on an open
rampage, my theory is they're keeping in liine with Astra's leadership and military background by
executing a deliberate and methodical plan rather than going willy-nilly.

My fInal thoughts on this :

a) J'onn is telepathic so you'd think he'd be able to handle Cat no problems... but his comment
"that woman makes me miss my alien prison!" pretty much summed it up.

b) I have to wonder if this isn't a sly promo for the new Independence Day movie, between Hank's
comment of "needing his satellites back" during the solar storm, and Winn's observation the
Kryptonians may be using Humans' own technology against them.


Anonymous said...

...should also add, "catch the latest episode of Flash, especially when Barry
and co. cross the dimensional barriers." I literally leapt out of my seat at
what I saw!


Paul said...

I thought for sure that when Kara woke up it would turn out she was still in the dream.

Gene said...

I have to say that Chyler Leigh was truly convincing as Alex trying to get Kara back. It honestly felt that she wasn't acting anymore. In my experience people who are genuinely upset and angry do not get profane, but rather make their words plain and direct as possible. I believe Kara and Alex captured that aspect perfectly.


Anonymous said...

If this show survives and prospers (and I think it will) it is because they did a very decisive "Pivot to Buffy" on Monday other words made the big story about a heroine fearlessly confronting darkness without compromising the goodness of her spirit. So yes superb episode but lets keep in mind Alan Moore essentially wrote it and alas he is not a writer on this show (which is a shame he betrayed a great insightful fondness for the silver age Supergirl in the form of "Suprema" during his run on "Supreme" back in the 1990s).
My big takeaway is Alex's increasingly casual use of fatal violence to fix things, she threatens Lord with a swift death and coldly stabs Astra in the back....that girl could definitely go rogue and if she does it'll be because she thought she was protecting her sister....that is something to watch going forward.
BTW who orders Chinese after their Aunt dies violently?....that part of the script made think that maybe just maybe Kara is still hallucinating just in another preferred venue there is something very dream like about that bit.
The Black Mercy told her "You cannot leave us" maybe they meant it....

Good to see Kara beat the living daylights out of Non, in their last encounter it was intuited that she wasn't yet ready to go mano a mano with him, clearly her determination and skills are on the uptick.
Loved all the Krypton scenes but it was definitely a dream-like environment, every time she exits the room, Kara keeps encountering her parents alive smiling and unperturbed...all lit in that ghastly orange glow. The part of Moore's script where Kal El's life on Krypton has it's miserable unhappy aspects was overlooked.
Tremendous performances all around even down to subtle switches in our heroine's hairdo as she sinks deeper into the fantasy I also loved the sort of "aphasia" that comes over Kara as she tries to recall the word "Earth"....again subtle work from MB.
Good ep how they keep functioning at this level though is a poser....


KET said...

"When Kara arrives, Hank says he killed Astra. (Later Hank says Alex is Supergirl's hero. He took the blame so Kara wouldn't look at Alex differently. This has to come up later.)"

Of course it will. Alex was basically acting like 'the girl who was losing everything' in this episode, and she was throwing away her moral compass in order to save Kara. Hank taking the blame for Astra's death isn't going to sit so well in the future...notice that Alex nearly told Kara in the end scene, then decided to distract her with the disastrous performance of Hank at CatCo instead.


Anonymous said...

Yeah systemically lying to Supergirl to save her some pain has to have consequences down the line, its a very dark turn from Alex IMHO. Keep in mind Kara gave up The Black Mercy's dream to embrace pain and doubt in the real world....yet first thing Alex & J'onn act like the parasitic plant in a way...
My core thesis is, Supergirl can't truly embody a "no kill policy" if she is tacitly prospering from having team-mates who kill at the drop of a hat, it makes her appear hypocritical, look for Max Lord to verbalize this soonest.
BTW how did the "Non Gang" get Astra's body? And for the Love of Rao how many kryptonians are in that gang??


KET said...

"BTW how did the "Non Gang" get Astra's body?"

The DEO left her body behind when they left the scene in a hurry. Should make things interesting in the next episode, as a preview pic shows Non back in Kara's apartment for unknown reasons.

"And for the Love of Rao how many kryptonians are in that gang??"

Don't know, but their ranks may be thinning out soon, as The Master Jailer also shows up in the next installment.