Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Supergirl Episode 17: Manhunter

Supergirl Episode 17, titled Manhunter, aired this week and was a wonderful world-building episode, bulking up the back stories of the primary cast while pushing some the current plot lines forward. We see this all the time in comics. After major plot lines, the creators will often take an issue to tell an 'untold tale of ...' to build up characterization while setting the stage for something coming up. For me, after the gut punches of "For the Girl Who Has Everything" and "Falling", I needed a chance to catch my breath. And this episode gave me that chance to pause, reflect, and understand the characters' motivations a bit better. So the plot of Supergirl being mistrusted by National City is mentioned but not really moved forward.

This episode is instead all about beginnings or new phases in people's lives. So we see a school age Kara just arrived on Earth. We see her first day at CatCo. We see a college age Alex. We see the 'real' Hank. And J'onn in hiding. We meet Jeremiah Danvers. These scenes add so much depth, helping us understand how everyone got to the point they were in episode 1.

As great as those flashbacks were, it was the ending that got me. Alex, Hank, and Lucy are all in very different places at the end of this episode than where they were at the beginning. I believe they are in better places, or at least more interesting places. Especially Lucy. I worried about her character arc a lot these last few weeks. But the writers and producers did something that made me cheer. I suddenly like Lucy even more than I did before.

Lastly, the ending of this episode seemed to be a set-up for a Season Two, something that we still don't know we will be getting.

I seem to say it each week. But I couldn't ask for a better show for the character of Supergirl.

There is something of a pall on the show as we start. Kara is still mistrusted by the public. And Hank is still imprisoned at the DEO. At least Alex is still there to support him, slipping him his favorite Choco's cookies (nice nod for comic fans).

But Hank knows that heads will roll for his hidden identity. He asks Alex to distance herself from him, to protect herself ... something which has been his mission. She is resolute in her loyalty to him.

And that loyalty is going to be tested when reinstated Major Lucy Lane arrives at the DEO with Colonel James Harper. They are there to uncover all the lies and hold those who deceived the government accountable.

Eddie McClintock plays Harper as an angry soldier out to kill the enemy. He spits out his lines about how Hank/J'onn played with his children and how the real Hank was his friend. He is unyielding and unforgiving.

And so the investigation starts with interrogations. With his powers muted, Hank is asked about his origin.

We see that 10 years ago, the real Henshaw was a bloodthirsty DEO head. He has learned that 'the Manhunter' is hiding in South America. The DEO squad, including Agent Jeremiah Danvers, will head there with orders to shoot to kill.  He wants to know the color of the alien's blood. He doesn't care if J'onn has knowledge to share. The DEO will eliminate him. They head off to the South American jungle giving off a feel of the Predator team.

Jeremiah never seems to be down with this kill mission. Nor is he a good soldier. He almost dies in the jungle but is saved by J'onn.

The two share experiences. J'onn is a refugee from Mars. Kara is a refugee from Krypton. Jeremiah knows that J'onn isn't a threat. Maybe they can co-exist. It is a good scene between Dean Cain and David Harewood as we see how they might look different but have so much in common.

Hank shows up and immediately tries to kill J'onn. We learn that Superman has called J'onn the most dangerous being on the planet and that clearly scares Hank. Jeremiah steps between the two, stopping Hank from killing J'onn. A struggle ensues. In that fight, Hank falls off a cliff to his death. Jeremiah is fatally stabbed.

Jeremiah's last words are 'take care of my daughters', something we heard earlier this season.

In the interrogation room, J'onn defends his body of work over the last two years defending the Earth. He disparages the real Henshaw as the violent man he was. But Harper doesn't care. J'onn is guilty. He will be punished.

It is, however, quite clear that Lucy is conflicted about the whole thing. You can see she realizes that Hank/J'onn has done good for the planet.

The next person to be interrogated is Alex. She defends J'onn, stating he is a refugee who has helped her.

She recounts how she met Hank. She was in a rebellious period. We see a long-haired Alex downing shots and dancing in a club. We see her almost drive her car while drunk. She gets arrested.

In her jail cell, Hank arrives telling Alex that he knows about Alex, her budding career as a scientist, her family including Kara, even how she got a particular scar. And pushing even farther, he knows that Alex doesn't feel special. He can show her how to reach her potential. He can give her a purpose.

He saves her from a self-destructive path.

Again, we have heard snippets of this from Hank and Alex earlier this season. But it is a interesting to see Alex in this part of her life, so out of control as opposed to the soldier we know now.

While Alex denies knowing Hank was J'onn, Lucy thinks she is lying. Alex is arrested.

She and Hank will be sent to Project Cadmus. So Jim Harper involved with Cadmus. Nice!

James lets Kara know that Cadmus is science gulag where aliens are vivisected, experimented on, and weaponized. Clark won't work with them.

Kara knows that she needs to save her sister and friend. The only way to do that is through Lucy. She invites Major Lane over and reveals her secret identity. Initially, Lucy is a little angry, reacting about the James/Kara relationship. But then she calls out Supergirl as a liar. It is why no one trusts her ... or J'onn.

Kara reminds her that as an alien, she would do anything to fit in ...

We now cut to Kara's beginnings. First we see her being awkward in school, hearing everything, seeing through people, mesmerized by earth birds. She embarrasses Alex by her odd behaviors. (There is something very Cosmic Adventures about the brief glimpse into school life.)

While at a beach party, Kara sees a car wreck and runs to the rescue, leaping onto the flipped car, ripping the door off, and saving the mom and baby inside. The car explodes, giving Alex a cut ... the scar we heard Hank mention earlier.

In one major misstep, we see Jeremiah tell Kara that it isn't safe for her to use her powers. The world already has a Superman. She just needs to be Kara Danvers. He hands her glasses which will blunt her vision powers.

This sounds way way way too much like Jonathan Kent from Man of Steel. If Kara asked him if she should have let that mother and child die, would Jeremiah have said 'maybe'? It diminishes Jeremiah in my mind. It is one thing to say 'be careful but do good'. It is another thing to say 'don't use your powers at all.'

Also, I recall hearing about this scene as something that was cut from the pilot. So I wonder if it was repurposed.

This carries forward to Kara's first day at CatCo. We see her interview from two years earlier. And in it, Kara just repeats how she is ordinary and regular. But she finishes it by saying how she just wants to help, to be useful, to be worthwhile. And we see how she craves to be helping even more when she sees a forest fire on the news screens and pauses. She wants to be a hero but has been held back. (That is a strong image given we saw Kara save a family in a forest fire earlier in the season.)

Back in her apartment, Kara says that an alien, someone isolated, like her would sacrifice everything, betray the most fundamental instincts, to fit in. Kara held herself back, lied to herself and others, so she could be part of the world. Just like J'onn.

Kara trusts Lucy, trusts her with the secret. Lucy must know that J'onn doesn't deserve this betrayal.

In the one big action piece, Lucy and Kara, disguised in bulky bike suits, stop the truck bringing Hank and Alex to Cadmus. Using his powers a bit less bluntly, J'onn erases Harper's mind of the rescue. But while in there, J'onn learns that Jeremiah is alive! In Cadmus!

Alex and Hank are now on the run. They know Jeremiah is alive. The two ride off, fugitives trying to find Cadmus.

The scene where Alex and Kara say goodby to each other is wonderfully emotional as the two say how much they love each other, how much they will miss each other, how much they have learned from each other.

Now I have to see how this plays out. But let's face it, Alex and J'onn are big parts of the show, good parts! Are they gone for the rest of the season? I can only hope that they are back for the finale.

In all honesty, Cadmus would be a great plotline, great villain for season two. A genetic lab gone bad, weaponizing aliens and holding Kara's dad prisoner. That has 'monster of the week' written all over it. And such a place would surely be the home of a flying cat called Streaky.

One last thing that J'onn did in Harper's mind was have the Colonel name Lucy the head of the DEO. In a nice moment, Lucy looks nervous about her new charge and asks Kara if Supergirl will help her. Suddenly, the shoe is on the other foot. Kara is now Alex, the seasoned soldier. Lucy is now Kara from earlier this season, learning on the fly.

It is a wonderful move on the writers to give Lucy this arc. I was afraid she was going to be the 'crazy ex-girlfriend' who became Superwoman out of spite and revenge. Lucy, this show, and women in general deserve better than that. I have always liked Lucy (even if I thought there wasn't much chemistry between her and James). Now she is completely an ally. I don't have to roll my eyes at her. It is brilliant.

So we know so much more about everyone. And just about everyone is in a different place. Even Winn is someplace else. He cuts ties with Siobhan who reveals herself as having Banshee powers.

And there is so much small excellence in the show. We see Cat make James answer her phone, smiling wickedly as she sees him pick up the phone. We initially see Winn support Siobhan, telling her that she is powerful and can overcome. We see Agent Vasquez show her true colors and help Kara when Harper is stomping around the DEO. It's all good.

Was this fast? Sure. But without a guarantee of a second season, I applaud the show for giving us all the stories they want to. This is the show I want and the show I deserve!


Martin Gray said...

That was phenomenal, they fitted so much in and played it so well.

And we got the specs explained! I'll give Jeremiah a pass for now, assume he is keeping Kara from catching the DEO's attention while giving her time to adjust to Earth before going public.

I love Lucy as an ally but won't be surprised if Cadmus turns her into a bad Superwoman with their weaponising tech. Is so, may she overcome. And I do hope this sees her getting back with James.

I liked Kara's office outfit that matched her costume colour blocks. And I wonder if Midvale's Rick has the surname Malverne.

No birds on Krypton? Not even flamebirds?

Swan Beach. Ha.

I wonder if this is the same project Cadmus as in Arrow and Flash – one shared space between realities. If not, it may be a way to travel between worlds.

KET said...

"Also, I recall hearing about this scene as something that was cut from the pilot. So I wonder if it was repurposed."

It was. The youthful Kara and Alex flashback scenes were directed by Glenn Winter, and were cut from the pilot due to time constraints. Also, Larry Teng helmed the jungle scenes with Hank, Jeremiah and J'onn, while Chris Fisher directed the bulk of the episode.

However, taken together, this episode really solidifies Kara's internal desire to be altruistic, all while struggling to fit in with modern society and its paranoia of people who wield extraordinary and seemingly unchecked power. This is a characterization moment that she's also sharing with J'onn, but because Kara has already come out in the open, she's now openly encountering the distrust and fears that both Ma and Pa Danvers had expressed in earlier episodes (and also reinforced by what Jeremiah said to Kara after she rescued the family from that car, inadvertently injuring Alex through her efforts).

I do think that this episode's status change for Lucy Lane will make for a more satisfying character development than a villainous Superwoman story arc would have been. Besides, given today's news that Jenna Dewan Tatum will soon be hosting a dance competition show for NBC next season, she's probably going to be much too busy to do a heel turn arc on Supergirl now.


Anj said...

Thanks for comments!

Completely forgot to mention Swan Beach!!

My hope is Cadmus leans more towards evil clones or Cyborg Superman than Superwoman.

Thanks for clarifying director scenes KET.

It worries me that Peter Facinelli is doing a NBC pilot and Jenna Dewan Tatum is now in another show. Maybe they didn't have faith in the show being renewed? Or probably more looking for a star vehicle.

Anonymous said...

I guess this means that Lucy is not bound over to be "Superwoman" at least over the intermediate term, it makes sense to get her onto "Team Supergirl" since Alex is now officially off the grid. Could not figure out why she got remanded to Cadmus with J'hon though examining her would yield no results...seemed sadistic and pointless. Its so much worse if she was court martialed...huge potential for a secret identity breach therein. Also significant that Lucy got Alex remanded to Cadmus and obviously immediately regretted the decision.
It was overall a good episode that set a high bar for moving something like five character's arc's forward in under a hour. I am guessing that Dean Cain is gonna be "Cyborg Superman" next season...and yes everyone must be going for irony in extremis.
I wonder if we will see Helen Slater as "Cyborg Superwoman"....;)


KET said...

"It worries me that Peter Facinelli is doing a NBC pilot and Jenna Dewan Tatum is now in another show. Maybe they didn't have faith in the show being renewed? Or probably more looking for a star vehicle."

Could be a bit of both, since they're both supporting players. Also, since the Supergirl writers room is presently vacant while the rest of Season One plays out, there could be any number of twists and turns for next season. I've already been informed that the season finale is going to contain several cliff-hangers.


Anonymous said...

Great review as always Anj, and you clarified a couple points for me that I was confused about while watching the episode.
See I wasn't the only one to get a Predator-esque feel during the initial hunt for J'onn. Personally the flashback I liked
the most was with young Kara and young Alex -- and seeing young Kara in action like that... SWEET!! Wish they showed more
of that. Personally I thought the Alex flashback was the one that got the short end of the stick of things.

The Cadmus stuff DEFINATELY was the one that gave me the creeps, like comments about "weaponized aliens" and "human experimentation,"
just plain creepy!

As for Siobhan, she steals the show again, especially her "I just wanna SCREAM!" scene. I thought that would be her initial
journey to the netherverse to get the Silver Banshee's powers, but seems like Berlanti and co have other thoughts for her.

Can only continue to watch and see where things go from here. Personally it's the next episode and the long awaited Flash
that interests me right now, other than the official announcement of Season 2 renewal.

...and from the trailers so far, definately the trashtalking / ribbing going on between Kara and Barry :D


Anonymous said...

Maybe there is a"director's cut" of the pilot out there might make an interesting DVD extra.

So if Jeremiah is alive is he a good guy or a bad guy or is he being used once again?
You have to wonder what he has told Cadmus about Kara.....


Uncle Screensaver said...

It seems contradictory to other scenes, but I was happy that Jeremiah (Why was "Fred" so bad a name?) called Supergirl his daughter and said his family had adopted her. While Alex has been represented as "adoptive," early on it was "foster family." It still bugs me that line Alex had about finding out what happened to "her" dad, and that it's a first name basis for the parents compared to the both incarnations of comic book Danvers, but I guess this is a nod to real life? To showcase Supergirl's devotion to her "true" parents?

The cookie nod was great! Alex looked amazing with long hair. It's always nice to see/ hear "Midvale." The no birds on Krypton was odd but I guess it was a line to help drive home the whole alien thing.

How cool was it that Supergirl was on a motorcycle! Barbara would be proud.

Yes, I was surprised that Jeremiah is alive - it would be sweet seeing Dean Cain as Cyborg Superman. In any case, here's hoping to see Cain interact with Benoist.

I didn't like the "Man of Steel" line, especially with the implication that with a Super"man" who needs a Super"girl," but maybe it was a way for Dad to tell his daughter it's okay to be "normal" and live a "normal" life - she doesn't HAVE to be follow in her cousin's footsteps?

KET said...

"So if Jeremiah is alive is he a good guy or a bad guy or is he being used once again?"

Hard to say at this point, until Alex and J'onn find Cadmus itself....but I suspect that what Col. Harper said was merely a brief glimpse of the genetic experimentation horrors that exist there. Perhaps even Jeremiah Danvers has been cloned.


Arion said...

I've missed the last episodes, but this one looks quite promising. By the way, I just read your post about Kurt Busiek and it was great, I'm actually a big fan of his work. In fact, I've written about Superman: Secret Identity in my blog (wich I encourage you to visit):

I hope you enjoy my review, and please feel free to leave me a comment over there or add yourself as a follower (or both), and I promise I'll reciprocate.



Kirk Cekada said...

Two things I really liked -- that Lucy will be a friend -- and not an enemy (really like the actress playing her) and that Jeremiah is alive (enjoying Cain as Danvers).

If CBS doesn't renew the show (which would be shocking), I'm sure it will show up elsewhere.

Gene said...

A great episode overall, with all the flashbacks to Kara's childhood it truly felt that it is from the producers of Arrow and Flash. A long haired wild and crazy Alex was certainly a sight to see.

Anj wrote:
"In one major misstep, we see Jeremiah tell Kara that it isn't safe for her to use her powers. The world already has a Superman. She just needs to be Kara Danvers. He hands her glasses which will blunt her vision powers."

I see what you are saying, but like some parents of 12 year old girls, it was wiser to be absolute with some things. I'm sure if Jeremiah had not disappeared in the jungle he would have allowed Kara to gradually embrace her powers as she got older, but alas, it was a road not to be traveled. It would be interesting to see in flashback how Eliza raised Kara and Alex after Jeremiah "died."

JF wrote:
"Maybe there is a"director's cut" of the pilot out there might make an interesting DVD extra."

Believe me I am eager to see what DVD extras there will be in the Season One set when it is released in the fall. Fingers crossed for an up to date Supergirl history documentary feature.


mur said...

hi just wanted to know if its true that the show is cancelled or just a hoax oh please let it be on the schedule on CBS, its one of my Favourite shows on the net and T.V.