Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Supergirl Episode 220: City Of Lost Children

Supergirl episode 220, titled 'City of Lost Children' , came out this week and was an interesting mix of two plots.

Half the episode is devoted to James Olsen, a character who I feel has struggled to find his place in the show all season. James gets the spotlight here and we get some decent backstory and character progression. We learn about his childhood, how he was bullied, and how he kept his guard up. We also see him step up to the plate as a heroic figure just being James. I don't know if this episode solves the James problem but at least it lets him shine.

The other half is a close look at Lena and Rhea and an experiment that catapults us to the season finale. This is just as good a look at Lena as it is James. We get another peek behind the curtain to see just how damaged Lena is despite her polished and proper exterior. And Rhea definitely takes advantage of this weakness in Lena's personality. I must say that both Katie McGrath and Teri Hatcher slay in this episode

McGrath really has this wonderfully understated way of letting us know just what Lena is feeling just by a glance and a turn of the phrase. And Hatcher chews up the scenery, cloyingly sweet when dealing with Lena, stern when dealing with Mon-El, and turning quite vicious when talking to Kara. 

There is the usual dollop of political sentiment and current news in this episode as well, touching racism and refugees.

Overall this was a very good episode with a killer cliffhanger.

 The episode starts with Guardian out on patrol and stopping a purse snatching. After the crooks are captured, Guardian extends his hand to the victim who is just as terrified as the criminals. James is sort of devastated by this. You can see a sadness in his eyes while still wearing the Guardian helmet. 

Later Winn asks what's up. James says he wants the Guardian to inspire, like Clark and Kara, not be an agent of fear like 'Clark's friend'. In case we didn't know he was talking about Batman, Winn brings up Gotham and does this pitch perfect imitation of the Dark Knight, putting on a grim expression and holding up his finger like ears. This moment alone would make me love this episode.

In fact, I think while James has suffered this season, Winn has shined. He seems so at home at the DEO. There isn't the whining puppy dog chasing Kara. And he is the geek-equivalent of many of the viewers, tossing in references this episode like action figures, Carrie, and even whistling 'I'm your superfriend' from the Flash musical episode.

We also see Kara and Lena having a brunch and talking about Justin Timberlake and N'Sync. While silly, it at least shows these two are friends. Lena ends up discussing her secret experiment and her new mentor but doesn't give Kara any details. Once again, there is an opportunity here for Kara to learn about Rhea's plans but doesn't. Whatever Lena is working on, the first experiment is today. 

Back in downtown, a woman wanders into the middle of a street bazaar with food carts. She seems completely oblivious to the surroundings and then her eyes go purple. In a nice action sequence with decent effects, she releases a TK storm, flipping cars, whipping up winds, and tossing trucks high into the air. Supergirl swoops in to catch the automobiles but in the confusion, the woman slips away. Again, these were good, non-CGI effects, that felt real.

In the DEO, we learn she is a Phorian, one of a race of peaceful telekinetics and telepaths. The whole attack is plastered on the news making the crew worry about an anti-alien bias and backlash. The team needs to find her to bring her in and protect her. But James, still smarting from how the Guardian is regarded, leaves.

That night, Rhea and Lena have dinner at a fancy restaurant. Whatever the test was this morning failed. You can see just how crestfallen Lena is about the whole thing. But Rhea reminds her that failure is part of progress. As Rhea leaves, Mon-El happens to be walking by and sees his mother who he thought was on the other side of the universe.

I have decided that Katie McGrath has been put on this earth to atomize people with a glance. Whatever emotion she is feeling, it just emanates from her. And I feel I would be blasted to ash in her presence.

Meanwhile, Guardian gets a tip from resident alien Brian where the woman who attacked the city lives. When James investigates, he finds a young boy named Marcus still in the house. The house screams 'normal', filled with toys, photos, and kid's drawings. 

Initially, Marcus is scared of the Guardian but then James removes his helmet and there is a sudden connection. It is a nice moment and clearly shows the hero James wants to be.

In the DEO where Alex uses burgers to try and ply out of Marcus where his mother is. It is clear that Marcus is tight lipped and has put up a wall of his own. The only one he seems to respond to, albeit minimally, is James. The DEO decides that the best option is to release Marcus into James' custody to try and connect.

There is a lot to dissect here. One, I suppose Marcus being a telepath himself would block J'onn from reading his mind. But I would have liked to hear that rather than intuit it. Second, James makes a point of how Marcus is scared given all he sees on the news is people who hate his mother and his people. But the big thing is that the best option is a field trip with James?? That seems like an almost idiotic leap. They know nothing of Marcus!

In an LCorp facility, Lena continues to be stymied by how to make this 'experiment' work. We know from last issue it is a transmatter warp. But the power source can't be stabilized. In a great interaction, Lena divulges how she is still trying to impress her mother and still hoping to prove to the world she is better than her brother. Rhea, in a moment of tenderness and wisdom which feels true, says Lena isn't Lex. It isn't about power, it is about balance. 

Again, Hatcher and McGrath really show their chops here. There is vulnerability in Lena. There is this mentoring feel and true warmth from Rhea. It all works.

There is a nice juxtaposition to Marcus and James at CatCo. Here James tells his story to Marcus. James father was a soldier, defending his people, who died in service. Same with Marcus. And James talks about his love of photography and how he was inspired to report the news. Slowly, we see Marcus warming up to James as a mentor, so similar to Lena/Rhea.

At CatCo, Mon-El shows up with lunch for Kara. I guess he has learned his lesson about hiding things because he tells her that he saw Rhea. And then he says that he had feelings other than anger. He misses his mother. He is a bit sad. On Daxam, he would take drugs to blunt these feelings. He is trying to deal with them here.

Rhea's talk of how Lena is better than Lex seems to have worked. A new configuration allows the gate to be opened. And it is a big gate!

As the gate fires up, Marcus's eyes go purple and he also releases a TK storm, ripping apart CatCo from the inside. Once again, there are good effects of how this would feel, wind whipping in the offices, ceiling tiles and desks being tossed around. 

Kara does a classic shirt-rip and flies in to take Marcus out of the building. As the gate is powered down, Marcus regains controls. But there is a fabulous shot of CatCo from the outside showing how the upper part of the building is cracked and battered. He could have taken the whole thing down.

The DEO maps an electromagnetic spike when Marcus lost control. They know he and his mother are innocent. They need to find Marcus' mother before she loses control and unleashes destruction. James, upset that his bringing Marcus to CatCo almost led to everyone's death there, walks off again. He feels he is out of his element.

And then we get a great fatherly speech from J'onn. J'onn didn't know his role on Mars until he saw a reflection of himself in his daughter. James seems to have a similar connection with Marcus. James is still trying to define who he is as a hero. Maybe Marcus can inform him.

It leads to James talking to Marcus about his past. James was in a school where he was bullied. There weren't many people who looked like him. He put up walls to protect himself. Until he met Clark and opened up. The speech softens Marcus. 

Again, this gives James some much needed spotlight and depth. 

The connection between Lena's experiments and Marcus' spells is sussed out by Winn. Kara calls Lena to investigate, it is Rhea who answers.

If there is one scene to watch, it is this one. 

Rhea sheds all the civility she has shown Lena. And she gives a great speech that Kara is selfish for wanting to keep Mon-El on Earth. She says Kara craves the worship of the people of Earth to make up for the failure of Krypton. And then ... wow ... everything that happens next ... cities burning, nations falling, babies crying out ... is her fault. People will suffer and will ask why and will the answer will be 'Supergirl'. 

Whoa ... brutal. And completely sold by Hatcher.

Luckily, Marcus reaches out telepathically and knows where his mother is. James and Winn head off with a 'telekinetic dampener' to try to blunt the Lena experiment. Meanwhile Kara and J'onn head off to try and find Lena's lab. It turns out there are more Phorians than just Marcus and his mom.

Meanwhile, Rhea opens up the portal and finally reveals how evil she is to Lena. She truly thinks Lena is a marvel. While something bad is about to happen, everything she has said to Lena has been true. Hmmm ... maybe she thinks Lena is a better match for Mon than Kara?

The portal opens. The Phorians all go purple-eyed crazy. 

Meanwhile, Supergirl fights Rhea but decides that shutting the gate is more important. She flies off. 

Rhea pulls out a device which incapacitates J'onn. 

That leaves that only Mon-El to face his mother. He pulls a gun on her! (Remember, lead weakness!)
But he can't shoot his mother. She says his father committed suicide out of grief because Mon-El left. He basically can't act.

Again, a bit to unpack here. He could have shot her in the foot to stop her without killing her. He should have destroyed her device instead of letting J'onn be stuck in a telepathic loop of pain. But instead he just slumps his shoulders.

Meanwhile, James knows that all the Phorians are connected telepathically. He is able to get through to Marcus to shake off the experiment's effects. When Marcus shuts down, the others do as well. It shows how James breaks through those emotional walls, screaming that Marcus is not alone. It shows how James is the 'superman' in this relationship.

But the whole thing is a bit oversold when Winn yells 'That is a hero without a suit!!!'. A bit too on the nose. At least James gets his moment for the season. And this would be an easy out for them to write James off if they want.

But the gate remains open and a Daxamite fleet flies through. Hundreds of ships pour out and Rhea declares that Earth will be the New Daxam.

Now this is a great shot and a great cliffhanger. This is my favorite shot of the show, wonderful cinematography.

So the Rhea/Lena scenes were the highpoint of this episode for me. And clearly the big threat of the season finale has been set up. So hooray for us!

And I was glad to see James get some dedicated screen time because he needed it. This season has struggled with him.


Anonymous said...

Several parts of this episode remind me of two different Supergirl stories: Adventure Comics 411 and the first Sterling Gates' Annual.

I agree James' character has struggled this season. When the show-writers realized Karolsen was a very unpopular ship they dropped it and came up with the Guardian storyline. And when that subplot also fell through, they sidelined James. I hope this is the last we see of the Guardian and the character finds his spot the next season.

It's hilarious how the characters avoid to mention Batman, at the same making clear they are talking about him. And James says he's Clark's friend! Clark and Bruce are the World's Finest in this universe? And Batgirl will make an appearance or licensing will prevent this? I'm afraid that seeing the Mighty Maid and the Dominoed Daredoll teaming up in the show is an impossible dream.

Wow. Rhea makes a classic super-villain speech, tailored to torture the hero psychologically and shift blame: "I SHALL kill and slay and slaughter! The very rivers SHALL flow RED with innocent BLOOD! And it will be all your FAULT, hero!" It's a classic!

The next episodes will be a roller-coaster, for sure.

Anonymous said...

Great review Anj, and quite an enjoyable episode overall. Definitely the bits with Mechad B and "Marcus" were very
well done, and gave him something else to do beyond Guardian. I'm thinking back to the panel a friend sent me of
Mechad a few weeks ago, and listening to that again you could tell he had alot invested in this episode in particular,
and the messages therein. Great Stuff! Can only see where TPTB put Jimmy Olsen in S3; J'onn's line this episode
of "If you find out what kind of hero you can be, here is a great place to start" definitely is a good hook into the
possibility Jimmy will join the DEO as well.

The B-Plot with Lena and Rhea... SHEER BRILLIANCE! I still kinda wonder if the character of Rhea actually believes
any of the stuff she's fed Lena this episode -- so far, my sense of her is she's an entitled, haughty, manipulative,
"I Am On Top!" type that shall ALWAYS get her way -- as much as whether Lena would even let people see this emotional
blindspot, but as you point out, Hatcher and McGrath just sells this like water in a drought.

Personally I thought there'd be another episode before endgame got activated, but I was genuinely surprised when Rhea
activates the gate and lets the Daxam Refugee / Invasion fleet through -- TOTALLY reminded me of the scene in
Transformers:Dark Of The Moon as the Decepticons started coming down to earth.

Another scene I have to point out that put a smile on my face : Miss Tessmacher not being yelled at or being wierded
out at Catco (initially), which is a bit of a nice change of pace for her...

> Rhea makes a classic super-villain speech, tailored to torture the hero psychologically and shift blame: "I SHALL
> kill and slay and slaughter! The very rivers SHALL flow RED with innocent BLOOD! And it will be all your FAULT, hero!"
> It's a classic!

+9000! Brilliant line!


Anj said...

Thanks for great comments.

Rhea is clearly delusional. But deliciously wicked too!

Anonymous said...

Anyone else get a slight "ick" vibe from Rhea and Mon El's "reunion" at gunpoint? And is it wise for Daxam to invade a planet saturated with lead projectile firing weaponry? If Lena doesn't know that Kara is Supergirl in this ep she'll know in the next one when she gets gander at her alleged hubby-to-be. Thats a potential flashpoint for next season amidst the larger question of who doesn't know Kara D. is Supergirl at this point? And if thats the case, her carefully wrought and protected secret id becomes more and more a mere personality quirk that is simply waiting to auto-destruct publicly.
But the set ups were strong, Rhea has pushed thru several potential big-bads this year to make it to the final round...If I had to hazard a guess Kara's popularity is gonna take a hit next year with the public if she has to ally with Cadmus to take on Daxam. The narrative line will be she wouldn't give up her BF and brought this invasion down on us all...


Scrimmage said...

The basic problem with the James Olsen character is that the only thing recognizable about him is his name, and even THAT'S been messed up. Whoever this guy is, he ISN'T Superman's “pal,” Jimmy Olsen (who would've NEVER left Metropolis OR the Daily Planet), and he certainly ISN'T Guardian, either! He's like a Bizarro World mash-up of two COMPLETELY different supporting characters who have long been part of SuperMAN's inner circle (NOT SuperGIRL's), who seem as out of place in National City as Winn would be in Metropolis. No amount of propping James up with contrived, totally predictable storylines like the Marcus subplot will make him more compelling or interesting, any more than putting him in a suit of armor will turn him into Iron Man, or giving him a shield will make him Captain America. He's no Batman either, even though James acknowledges that all he does is beat up people, mainly because the only way he can stop the bad guys from hurting their victims is to hurt THEM even more. When the only tool you have in your toolbox is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail, but inflicting pain is NOT particularly heroic.

To me, the fact that James, himself is starting to question this whole “Guardian” thing is an indication that the writers have finally realized that James clearly doesn't belong on this show. The obvious proof of that can be seen in the difficulty TPTB have in finding things for him to do when dealing with the kind of super-powered threats that demand Supergirl's attention. Even the DEO has a “Don't call us, we'll call YOU” attitude toward him, and rightfully so!

James' part in this latest episode could've been cut out, and left on the editing room floor, and the overall narrative wouldn't have suffered a bit! Supergirl (Remember her? The titular STAR of the show?) should've been the one to get through to Marcus by relating to him as a fellow alien. The ridiculous idea that James could single-handedly overcome a dozen of out-of-control alien telekinetics who could've leveled the entire city, just by spouting a bunch of cloying aphorisms, and clich├ęd platitudes about “friendship” to a ten-year old was eye-rollingly bad, and perhaps the most poorly written scene of the entire season.

That's the same kind of trite,“After School Special” moralizing that ended last week's episode, which would be fine if this show was aimed at kids Marcus' age, but this is SUPPOSED to be a show written for an ADULT audience. Unfortunately, whenever TPTB try to fit a square peg named James Olsen into a round hole of a show about beings with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men (like him), they have to dumb everything down to a level that he can deal with, and THAT'S not good for a show with “Super” in the title!

Anonymous said...

"Rhea is clearly delusional."

Villains tend to be. Green Goblin blamed Spider-Man for his son's death. Venom's reasons for hating Spider-Man make absolutely no sense. Earth-One Lex Luthor got into his head that his grand inventions failed because Superboy was scheming against him. General Zod claims he could have saved Krypton but even after spending several decades stuck into the Zone he had no plan.

"And is it wise for Daxam to invade a planet saturated with lead projectile firing weaponry?"

I also question that move. It would be like Jax-Ur, Zod, Faora, Ursa, Black Flame... tried to invade a planet where Kryptonite and K-based weapons were commonplace.

SG Fan said...

Good review Anj, while I get what they were doing with James in the episode it really didn't work for me. I mean Mechad Brooks had some good scenes but...what did his story add to the episode or pushing things to the conclusion? James feels bad Guardian scares people...WELL DUH you're in a dark suit going around at night beating the crap out of people, James how did you not expect to be compared to Batman? And then that saddened look on his face when people cheer Kara on after she grabs the car during the first alien incident...again she's the bright, shinning, likable heroine of the city James of course she's going to be cheered. I wish they could have better adjusted things for James in S2 but now I feel like he's the eleventh man on a ten man show, so time for James to either go back to Metropolis or find a city he can be a hero in on his own.

The B-Plot worked great and for me was the more enjoyable of the two. At first I thought another alien invasion was a bit too much like S1 but this is different than Astra/Non's plan so I can dig it. Plus the imagery was great and I like what means for the finale; Cadmus teaming up with the DEO, all hands on deck, and finally Cat Grant returns!!!! I really hope we get some great Cat-Kara scenes and if this is the last time we see Cat, an admission she knows who Kara really is.

KET said...

Late to the episode discussion this week. Sorry about that.

"James gets the spotlight here and we get some decent backstory and character progression. We learn about his childhood, how he was bullied, and how he kept his guard up. We also see him step up to the plate as a heroic figure just being James. I don't know if this episode solves the James problem but at least it lets him shine."

I think that it brought back much of the heart-to-heart drama that we haven't had from James since the end of last season. It seems intentional that he's been thrown to the sidelines to fend for himself, while Kara does much of the same thing in a more visible light this season. They have both been cast adrift without a mentor on hand to help guide them (which last season, was Cat Grant). At least Kara had J'onn, Alex and Snapper to look to on occasion.

"I mean Mechad Brooks had some good scenes but...what did his story add to the episode or pushing things to the conclusion?"

It's in the title of the episode: "City of Lost Children". Several 'lost' characters draw parallels to each other in this one: James is lost in his desire to be a hero, but Guardian isn't providing the righ answer to his desire to make a difference. Marcus is lost without his mom, but he misses his dad as well...and that's where James could connect in a 'big brother' sort of way. Lena still feels a bit lost being separated from her mom, and Rhea is taking full advantage of this weakness. She also exploits Mon-El's 'lost' guidance of his father and mother, and blames it on 'the last daughter of Krypton' because it's convenient.

Leaving the home nest can often make one feel like a lost soul striving for direction, and this is a parallel to much of the immigrant experience as well. So this is where it all toes together.

The big question at this point is whether Kara still feels lost, or has she moved beyond the need for a full-time mentor to take charge of the situation? Guess the answer may come in the next couple of episodes, since both Cat and Clark are both coming back to National City.



Martin Gray said...

I liked this episode, and hope it does mean the end of Guardian - or at least a Blue and gold paint job

I was planning to be all insightful here and mention Adventure Comics #411 but Anon 1 was straight in there - nice one!