Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Supergirl Episode 210: We Can Be Heroes

(Please be aware that this is a long review ... even by my standards.)

Supergirl Episode 210, titled 'We Can Be Heroes' aired this week and heralded the return of Supergirl's arch-enemy Livewire. Given the commercials we had seen for this, I thought it would be something of a very action-heavy episode. But instead, we got a character driven show in which several of the show's primaries had to deal with either personal biases or outright misjudgments. This concept of prejudice blinding someone has been a popular theme to tackle on this show right from the beginning. But usually it is the main character's reaction to it, not wading in it a bit themselves.

Perhaps the most perplexing plotline in the episode was Kara not wanting to let other less proven people wade into super-hero business. She tries to shelve Mon-El (not trained) and James (not invulnerable) throughout the episode and even moving on. And yet ... you think that Kara of all people wouldn't feel this way. After all, it was in the premiere itself that Alex tries to stop Kara from being Supergirl and it is Kara who still pushes forward on her journey. Supergirl wasn't trained at all but she knew she wanted to help people. It is this hypocrisy which I think is easy grist for the mill moving forward.

There is a very good subplot of J'Onn finally having to deal with his own hatred of White Martians as he weighs the pros and cons of helping a dying M'Gann. We get the slightest peek into the deepest part of J'Onn's psyche which shows he is pretty human in his own way.

And then there is the Livewire subplot which took a left turn I wasn't expecting. Are villains immutable in their evil ways? Or can they change and redeem themselves?

Mixed in all the action were two or three very powerful conversations where characters confront each other in ways that aren't warm and fuzzy. Things aren't always bright in National City. In particular, Mehcad Brooks gets a couple of standout moments which made me say 'wow'. God knows his character needed it.

If I have one complaint about the episode it is in the directing. There are a lot of moments of conflict between characters here. And yet the shots are often a closeup of one character's face, sometimes as viewed over the shoulder of another character. I would have loved it if both characters were in the shot so that we could see body language and other cues. These weren't comfortable discussions at times. Let me see that!

On to the show!

The episode starts off with a nice montage of Supergirl and Mon-El in a training sessions in the DEO, fighting laser shooting droids and trying to avoid hitting cardboard cutouts of 'innocents'. (One of the cutouts is of Hank glowering, a nice touch.) Mon-El seems to be getting better in all this but in defending himself he lets an innocent get torched. He laughs it off as 'only one' casualty this time. But Supergirl reminds him that the only goal in superheroics is to protect the innocent.

After that, we cut to the Guardian and Winn out on patrol after stopping some drug dealers. James is wounded, his arm grazed by a bullet. Winn is exhausted both physically and mentally. He demands they tell Kara. James agrees, but only after they stop one more crime. James even laughs when he hears the 'frat boy' Mon-El is trying to become a hero.

The contrast couldn't be cleared. James is willing to sacrifice himself for the good and is serious about his job. Meanwhile, Mon-El seems to think it is a bit of a game.

Meanwhile, we see M'Gann still in the DEO prison cell she was thrown in earlier this season. Inside, we see her screaming in telepathic pain, haunted by visions of white Martians. Then she seems to be possessed, saying 'Blood. Death. Beautiful War' over and over. Finally, she collapses. Alex cannot deduce what is wrong with M'Gann who remains comatose. But J'Onn doesn't seem to care. In fact he says that he doesn't worry about war criminals. That is pretty harsh from J'Onn but you couldn't expect easy forgiveness even from a dissenter.

We then cut to a real criminal, Livewire. In prison, Livewire is being interviewed by the prison psychiatrist. It is clear that Leslie has truly become Livewire. She won't respond to any other name but Livewire. And she talks about frying Supergirl and even this therapist. But before we hear more, a prison guard and another inmate break Livewire loose. 

Again, these are good scenes contrasting M'Gann, someone who we know is innocent being treated the same as Livewire who clear is wallowing in her evil.

We get a nice scene in the DEO where Winn reviews Livewire almost like the announcer of the dating game. And we see Kara's dislike of her 'nemesis'. It is clear that Kara isn't interested in necessarily rehabilitating Livewire. I don't know if she would hold out a hand and say 'let me help you' off the bat. Instead, Livewire is described as despicable, someone who brings death and destruction.

Meanwhile, M'Gann is drowning in her own mind and will be brain dead shortly. The only thing that could help would be if J'Onn does a 'mind meld'. A 'Mind Meld'!!! Holy Star Trek!! But J'Onn refuses. He won't share his loving memories with someone he feels should die a 1000 deaths while drowning in their own sins. I have to say, that is pretty hard core. Almost too awful.

Back at CatCo, James tries to tell Kara about being the Guardian. But Kara goes off on a tangent about Livewire and Mon-El. Almost disgustedly, James tells Kara that he thinks Mon is doing it all for the wrong reasons. A hero wants to make a difference and is willing to put their life on the line. That isn't Mon-El.

This idea of who is a hero, who can be a hero, and what are the motivations of a hero run through this episode.

We then get a nice action sequence.

We see Livewire tormenting some police officers in a garage. Supergirl arrives to take on Livewire who turns out to be the female prisoner who helped spring Leslie now sporting her powers. And then the prison guard from earlier arrives also sporting powers.

Mon-El arrived with Supergirl but is told to stay back and protect the police. The Guardian shows up as well. With Supergirl looking defeated, Mon-El jumps into the battle. Mon deflects a lightning bolt which strikes a police officer and James.

After the villains escape, Supergirl rushes to the Guardian and unmasks him. Hit the climactic music!

But again, this scene is meant to contrast James and Mon-El. Mon-El 'disobeyed' orders to join the fight and almost got an officer killed, were it not for James who takes some of the damage to save the man.

Back at the DEO, Kara asks James to explain himself.

And it is here that Mehcad Brooks really shines. He says that he tried to make everyone better in his life and initially he did it in his career and as a friend. But he can't live in the shadows anymore, or behind Superman and Supergirl. He has to cares about people and wants to be the hero. In many ways, Kara could have given the same speech in the show premiere.

But she is beyond that. She tells him he isn't strong enough. He'll get himself killed. She'll stop him.

Kudos to James for doubling down. Kara shouldn't accept Mon-El as a hero because he has powers. Mon-El is heroing only because he cares about Kara. And then James says that she can't decide his life. And who is she anyways to tell him what he can do. He won't back down. Heck, Kara could have given this speech to Alex in the premiere. I thought to myself 'whoa' when he faced off against her. Incredible.

But as I said, it is all single character facial close ups. Pull back director! Show me how they are interacting!

Kara then confronts Mon-El. Is he heroing because it is the right thing or because he 'likes' her.

She chastises him for not listening to her and for putting those officers in jail.

Frustrated with him as well, Kara flies off to find Livewire.

There is some chemistry here and tension. Both Mon and Kara are speaking from their hearts. But once again we barely see the two in the same shot ever, only this one brief peek.

Winn is able to grab the prison security tapes and it seems that Livewire wasn't broken out by allies. She is kidnapped. We briefly see her strapped to chair which seems to be torturing her.

There is a nice throwaway line in the DEO where Winn tells the incoming agents that all they have missed is awkward silence. It is clear that the Guardian work and the threat of Livewire and the distance between Mon and Kara has just put a strain on the team.

When it is clear that M'Gann is about to die, Alex presses J'Onn reminding him that M'Gann 'opened up a vein' for him, even though it jeopardized her hiding.

Hank says that when hate becomes the reason to live when you lost everything. He doesn't want to forgive M'Gann. It is a rare look deep into his character.

But eventually he relents. He can't watch her die. He knows heading into M'Gann's mind will make him relive his worst memories. He asks that Alex and Kara stay with him for support. It shows that these three are family now.

Inside M'Gann's mind, we hear her memories. She lit a guardhouse on fire. She killed other White Martians. She refused to kill the young green Martian she had been ordered to execute. She is as much a hero as anyone in this issue, standing up for what is right even though it meant going against the biases of her people.

There is that notion of prejudice again. 

M'Gann tells J'Onn that she pretended to be a green Martian so he wouldn't feel alone. She is trying to atone.

Meanwhile, Winn has figured out a way to track where Livewire is. Rather than tell the DEO he gives James the information. It is a way for the Guardian to shine.

In the lair we learn what is going on. An evil scientist is draining Livewire so he can create new super-soldiers. Military groups will pay this guy millions for his tech. And the fight with Supergirl and the police will only up the price. 

Mon-El also shows up but the scientist has experimented on himself and defeats both Mon and the Guardian.

There is a lot of great snappy dialogue in this scene. Livewire is deliciously nasty saying the super-soldiers are copyright infringement, that Mon-El's costume is sucky cosplay, and other barbs. The scientist says that of course evil scientists experiment on themselves. He calls Livewire 'such a nasty woman', akin to recent political statements. 

Winn comes clean that the Guardian and Mon-El have been captured so Supergirl has to streak in.

There is a nice sequence where Mon-El and the Guardian fight the Livewire-dupes. Supergirl frees Livewire who then punishes the scientist who tortured her. There is a sort of 'enemy of my enemy is my friend' moment between Kara and Leslie.

But Livewire wants to kill the scientist. It is only when Supergirl says she will let Livewire go and wait a bit before she pursues Leslie that a truce is made. Livewire leaves. The scientist is arrested.

It is an interesting dilemma for Kara. She knows Livewire is a killer. But she negotiates this escape. Fascinating.

I loved this little circular shot of the super-team.

Nothing left to do but wrap things up.

Winn is chastised by Hank for his reckless offline action with James. But Hank also says he was impressed with the work Winn and the Guardian did. Truly, I have loved the treatment of Winn this season.

Kara tells Alex that she believes that maybe there is some good in Livewire. She didn't kill the scientist. Maybe one day Leslie will ask for help.

J'Onn frees M'Gann who reveals that she had receded into her mind because she had received a telepathic message that the White Martians are coming to Earth to retrieve her.

The big scene was between Supergirl, Winn, and James. She says they have always been heroes to her. She won't stop them. But she won't support them either. They leave her.

And then get the shot above, Kara alone in the middle of the DEO floor. She has pushed James and Winn away. Alex is concentrating on her relationship with Maggie. Hank is dealing with M'Gann. For the first time, Kara is sort of alone. And this shot conveys that. Finally, a wide shot!

 But there is even one more ending.

Mon-El shows up at Kara's apartment and reveals that he does have feelings for her. He remembers kissing her. He can die now because he kissed her. He realizes that she doesn't feel the same but he wants them to remain partners and for him to become a hero. They end the scene with an awkward high five.

But it is clear that Kara is burying her growing feelings. When he says he remembers the kiss, she adjusts her glasses, a tiny sign that she is feeling nervous, perhaps because she had feelings from it. And this pained look on her face her. I just kept yelling 'kiss him, you dope!' at the screen.
So overall a very good episode focusing on heroic motivations, realizing your potential, and dealing with prejudice. After several weeks of dominating the screen, Alex and Maggie take a little bit of a back seat even if we still get cute dialogue snippets. And the action was well done. I like Livewire as an arch-enemy.

Kudos to all those involved. And a big shout out to Mehcad Brooks for his work in this episode.


Anonymous said...

I've seen some fans dissing Kara for not supporting James and Winn and other fans bashing James for being an hypocrite that digs at Mon-El although he also became a hero because he wanted to impress Kara.

I... I guess I can understand both points of view.

Poor Kara, standing all alone. Maybe she should reconsider moving to Metropolis. After all, her original counterpart was always moving.

I don't know where they're going with the Kara/Mon-El romance. I kind of think Mon-El will have to travel to the future at the end of the season.

And Teri Hatcher has joined the cast! How fitting since there was no Supergirl in "Lois & Clark".

JT SG FAN said...

I don't know about this one.

This was definitely a case of the subplot being more interesting and better handled than the main plot. J'onn and M'gann story stole the show and was wonderful. A great performance by everyone involved there. However the main storyline with Livewire and Supergirl, Mon-El, and James....uhhh didn't work as well.

I'm firmly on the side now that James needs to leave the show. Reason why is because clearly the writers have no idea what to do with him. After dropping their relationship like a stone, the writers don't know what his role on the show is. Alex and Hank fill mentor rolls. Winn took over a lot of the support/geekier elements that can make up version of Jimmy Olsen. Alex fills in a family role as big sister and Kara's hero at times. Once they took away his role as love interest....what's left for James? Well they made him a superhero, which I guess can work but it doesn't.

Now is James right a normal person can be a superhero, of course. Is James doing that though? Sure he's donning a suit and fighting bad guys but...why is he doing that? Let's go back to all the times Guardian has come up in the show when its James talking about him. He focused on how 'cool' he was or even shoved a story about him down Snapper's throat. The latter really annoyed me because while Kara might write a story about Supergirl she's not doing it to promote Supergirl or get publicity because of it. James was just pushing that story because, HEY EVERYBODY LOOK HOW COOL GUARDIAN IS!

He's also really abusing his friendship with Winn, only now giving into the former's feelings about, uhhh we should tell Kara. Also I'm really mad they seemed like at the end Winn was turning away from Kara, which doesn't respect their friendship at all. I'm not saying Winn should be 100% in line with Kara but IDK they needed something to make it look like he understood both their positions. Also, really hated they had him doing something so stupid. I'd hated to have seen it but, Winn should have been fired by J'onn right there and then for holding that information back.

Kara seemed to have some characterization problems here too. I liked her being upset about Livewire being on the loose, wish they got more into the why. I thought it was going to be revealed Kara felt responsible for her creation and slide to evil. But we never got that, it was more...she's just upset Livewire is on the loose. I'm also a bit dismayed at her dismissing the idea you need powers to be a superhero. Does Alex need powers? Or Batgirl if Kara ever got to meet her? Hell she saw what Ollie could do surrounded by superhumans. Now if it was more, you need serious training before you can do this, then I'd agree as all my examples have those characters finding training in different ways. I just thought Kara came off odd a bit this episode which I hate as Melissa does such an amazing job as Supergirl/Kara.

Somebody on SGTV mentioned this and I think it's worth sharing. It feels like we've lost the family element the show had in S1. James, Winn, Alex, Kara were a family besides being Team Supergirl now, they all seem to be running in different directions. Now maybe that's the intent but a bit like Flash going a bit too dark this season, I feel like we might need to get Supergirl a little back on track. IDK maybe I'm reading too much into this.

Okay, rant over lol

Anonymous said...

"I'm firmly on the side now that James needs to leave the show. Reason why is because clearly the writers have no idea what to do with him. After dropping their relationship like a stone, the writers don't know what his role on the show is. Alex and Hank fill mentor rolls. Winn took over a lot of the support/geekier elements that can make up version of Jimmy Olsen. Alex fills in a family role as big sister and Kara's hero at times. Once they took away his role as love interest....what's left for James? Well they made him a superhero, which I guess can work but it doesn't."

Honestly, I agree.

"Or Batgirl if Kara ever got to meet her?"

I'd like reading that. Kara and Babs are best friends in DCSHG and are about to meet each other in the comicverse. Maybe SG will get to meet BG in the Arrowverse? Dare I hope?

Hmm... Maybe Kara getting to learn to trust vigilantes is an ongoing plotline?

Anj said...

I think/hope that one of the big themes for the season is Kara realizing how she is acting and drawing everyone back close to her. She clearly is an inspiration. But now that she has become established, she is trying to overly protect everyone in the same way she felt she was being overly protected.

If Kara is going to grow, she needs to see this and evolve. She isn't the 'newbie' any more. She's the veteran. But she needs to remember her roots.

As always, thanks for the great comments.

Anonymous said...

I have to say the Livewire 1liner zingers were the highlight of the episode:

- to her "savior" : "this is copyright infringement, A**hat! I'm going to sue you... then I'm going to murder you."

- Guardian & Livewire : "Supergirl's busy." / "Great, I'm screwed."

- about Mon-El's costume : "Your cosplay sucks!"

- description of Guardian and Mon-El : "Little boys who think they can do a better job than an actual superhero."

- to Supergirl : "I'll make you a deal, All-American Barbie" and "Just us girls next time, we could braid each other's hair?"

Brit Morgan just killed this role of a woman totally consumed by vengeance on Supergirl, and totally disconnected from her
previous life -- her comment to the therapist of "I am a God" was eerie as heck! I'd love to see Livewire brought back again
for more episodes!

I'd also agree the J'onn / M'gann meld scenes was another strong point -- even though it was just the two on a blank
soundstage, was some great acting there -- as was the Trinity shot of Supergirl, Guardian and Mon-El!

That being said, the whole Kara and Jimmy "if you won't stop, I will stop you" felt pretty contrived; it's not like intervening
for a drug addiction, and you make an excellent point Anj of the hypocrisy of Kara's actions of this. I'm wondering if, as
previous commenters have mentioned, TPTB are just running out of things for Jimmy / Guardian to do, or is there a bigger plan
at work here? Jus to put my thoughts on the line, with "The Big Bad" threats of The Mon-El Seekers, Dominators, and now the
White Martians looming, Supergirl can't be everywhere at once handling every threat, especially at the street level? And
that's where Guardian's niche is?


KET said...

"I think/hope that one of the big themes for the season is Kara realizing how she is acting and drawing everyone back close to her. She clearly is an inspiration. But now that she has become established, she is trying to overly protect everyone in the same way she felt she was being overly protected."

I think you've nailed where Kara's head is at here in the mid-season. She is being too protective, and she's not even paying attention to her personal vulnerabilities at this point. That lingering shot of Kara after she had that final conversation with Mon-El...she's being too indecisive about where they stand as people getting to know each other.

On the other hand, the James/Guardian dismissal exposes her present hypocrisy at 'playing hero'. It's rather amusing how some factions of fandom want James to disappear from the show now that he's become a rival hero to Kara, not realizing that the show runners are pretty much just trolling their emotions with this subplot. Hero worship has its dark side, and it's looking like this is going to come to a head eventually in future episode installments. Still curious if the show is going to again borrow from Jack Kirby for the climax.

I feel that the Martian subplot made for an interesting parallel to what was going on around Kara this week. David Harewood's performance of a conflicted soul with still painful memories wrestling with the concept of forgiveness was simply outstanding throughout.


Anonymous said...

The overarching theme this week seemed to be "blocked compassion", J'onn is all but ready to let M'gan croak off in the first fifteen minutes of the show (remember she saved his life in a similar situation very callous behavior from Martian Manhunter) and Kara is hell bent on catching Livewire with Extreme Prejudice.
By the end of the ep they both end up in more humane generous places....
That having been said I'm not sure where I am with this one, the theme seemed interesting and it was nice for once to see Alex/Maggie in the background and unconnected to saving anyone....but the whole Guardian Mishaugas seems very contrived, designed mostly to "Give Jimmy Something To Do" if he can't act as Supergirl's unrequited Love....
On the other hand the acting was top notch and I'm idly intrigued at the vague possibility that Livewire could "go straight" down the line.
THAT would be a real rarity, Kal & Kara have almost no reformed rogues in their supporting casts....might make an interesting story.
The litany of close ups is a hallowed TV tradtion especially in action oriented shows, its used to disguise the unavailability of the other actor...normally because a fight scene needs to be choreographed or rehearsed. The Late Orson Welles referred to television as "The Art of the Close Up"...
I'd love it if the producers would block out some time in future eps to explicate exactly why Supergirl is so sternly opposed to the Guardian/Jimmy/Win combo, she sounds so much like Alex in the pilot when she talks about it...I doubt they'll do it due to the show's unholy breakneck pace but it'd be nice all the same.
Some of the current muddle I blame on the lack of "Cat", Flockhart had a real knack for concentrating the plotlines and good rapport with Benoist...she was like an extrusion of Supergirl's psyche and an excellent sounding board as well.

Still waiting to see whats up with the President, Jeremiah, Cat etc.....lots of dangling plotlines and we are instead getting high does of Sanvers and Guardian.....


Scrimmage said...

I couldn't agree more with the comments that James' character should be written out of the show. I don't know who this poor man's Batman/Captain America/Ironman/RoboCop is, but I DO know he's NOT Superman's pal, JIMMY Olsen. In the comics, Jimmy was living out his dream working for the Daily Planet, first as a cub reporter, then later, as a photojournalist, and he took great pride in telling the world about the exploits of the hero he called his friend, Superman. That was "enough" for Jimmy Olsen, but now, even running an entire publishing company is not enough for JAMES. In my opinion, this is poor character development, because we saw no hint of this insecurity and discontent in James in S1.

From a dramatic point of view, having James as Guardian is problematic because it makes it necessary to provide him with bad guys that he can take on successfully, people that would provide little challenge for Supergirl, the star of the show. Heck, a typical "Mad Scientist" type took him down with one shot on his very first try as a super powered villain. What chance would Guardian have against someone with REAL power, like Zod, or even Bizarro Supergirl? Kara's right to discourage him from trying to play in the big leagues.

If TPTB want to do a show about James Olsen in a tricked up suit, riding a motorcycle, and chasing bank robbers and jewel thieves, then they should give him his own show, and quit taking time away from Supergirl.

I thought the actors' fine performances overcame the clich├ęd writing in the scene with J'Onn entering M'Gann's mind. It was just a little TOO easy for him to convince her not to die, and I thought the way the whole "Mind Meld" plot device was portrayed lacked imagination. It pales in comparison to ANY of the classic Star Trek "Spock-Mind Meld" episodes.

I was glad to get at least some idea of the extent of Mon-El's powers in comparison to Kara's in the very first scene, but I certainly wouldn't mind a little more detailed exposition on the differences between a Kryptonian and a Daxamite in terms of their relative powers and abilities. For instance, is there anything Mon-El can do that Kara can't? That could prove to be both interesting, AND useful.

I'm still amused by the running gag about Mon-El's unfamiliarity with Earth, and especially pop culture. When he asked "What's Shark Tank?" as if it might be an important clue, you could practically see James' "WTF?" face even through his Guardian mask.

Finally, while I enjoyed seeing Supergirl assert herself as a leader, both in taking on the task of training Mon-El, and even giving him orders in combat, as well as when she calmly showed James how disappointed and angry she was at him both for risking his life, and for keeping secrets from her, when she has trusted him with every secret she's ever had! When Kara "asked for the room" so she could ream James out in private, I thought that that was something she would've NEVER done in S1, when she ws just a novice hero herself.

Now, she's proven, experienced, and confident, not to mention the most powerful woman in the world, which is why it's absolutely ridiculous that a human being, even an electrically juiced up human, could trade punches with her, much less knock her down. The writers continue to play fast and loose with Supergirl's power levels as the story dictates, but what we saw in this episode is WILDLY inconsistent with the Supergirl who teamed up with her cousin to save that jet in episode 1, OR the girl who lifted a whole space station/prison into space, all by herself at the end of season 1.

The writers' mantra should be "Let Supergirl BE SUPERgirl!"