Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Supergirl Episode 404: Ahimsa

Supergirl episode 404, titled 'Ahimsa', aired this week and was another strong character episode in what has been a very strong season. Yes, there was action, one might say 'Marvel-ous' action. And yes there was plot progression. But this was again about looking at how the plot of alien amnesty and xenophobia is effecting people. I am thrilled with this season so far.

This is also the episode with the suited Supergirl, probably because Melissa Benoist was so far away on Broadway. The DEO is trying to clear the air of Kryptonite. And I might be looking to deep for metaphors, but each character has something weighing on them as well. They need to clear the air, revealing their problems and working through them. Some make perfect sense, like Alex suddenly dealing with the weight of leadership. Or Brainy dealing with uncertainty and how his emotions make working through that doubt difficult. Others make less sense, like J'onn saying he has lived his life 'steeped in rage'. But overall it worked. And that's all that matters.

As for the action, some of the villains' actions and motivations are a little wonky. But they are appropriately scary and nefarious. I like seeing the smooth words and charisma of Ben Lockwood coming to the foreground of the main plot.

On to the episode.

We start with Supergirl still comatose in the Lena-suit. It is trying to filter the Kryptonite out of her system. But that is taking a lot of power. Supergirl is still vulnerable in this armor. And if anything damages it and it shuts down, she will die.

As she convalesces, Brainy says that if Kara is in her mind palace to say hello to Streaky. Last episode I applauded the show leaning into its own history. This is a clear reference to Episode 310, where Brainy helps awaken Kara from her Reign induced coma. In that we learn that Streaky helped Kara learn to blunt her powers and be safe to those around her.

It does mean that Mercy and Otis are still out there. The DEO needs to find them to see if they can reverse the K-poisoning.

James is more than willing to step up as Guardian but Alex tells him not too.

And J'onn is very upset. He didn't help Kara when she reached out to him because of his new pacifism. But now others have been hurt because he 'laid down arms'. It's here that he says that he has lived his life steeped in rage.

I don't know if I would say that 100% rings true for J'onn. While he has a lot to be angry about and was the warrior, I wouldn't say he was filled with anger. But we'll see how this weighs on him throughout.

And then Kara awakens to her Stark new reality.

See what I did there??

Anyways, we get a good mix of things from Kara's perspective here. Mostly we get this Iron Man, in the suit, look at her face as she speaks her lines. Benoist is so expressive that it works well.

But we also get the occasional look from her perspective, almost like a first-person shooter viewpoint. So we get to pretend to be Supergirl now and then.
 She awakens – Iron Man

In more of that looking back at their own mythos, we see the Graves head into the DEO desert facility, the main site of the DEO way back in the first season. And we see some of the aliens still in there - Hellgrammite and Copy (a self-replicating villain). They also steal the remaining bits of the Parasite.

The Graves were let in by a DEO agent sympathetic to the cause. But after that rogue has played his part, Mercy guns him down. Agent Jensen, the turncoat from last episode, thought they didn't kill humans but Otis says 'he isn't human. He's loose ends.' We definitely see how much of a psychopath the Graves are, willing to hurt their own cause and kill humans all while saying they are there to save humanity. Twisted, just the way I like my villains.

Meanwhile, J'onn heads back to his apartment and meets Manchester Black, Fiona's fiance. At first it seems like they might fight but pretty quickly they both realize they are looking for the same thing - the safe return of Fiona.

Black will do some digging his way. While he seems human and without powers, he does say he has his own tricks.

David Ajala is all cool and slick as Black, confident and mysterious. You get the sense he is holding back here. And that bears fruit later.

I said that we get a lot of characterization in this episode and the best bit comes from Chyler Leigh who is struggling with her new role.

Here we see her, alone in the locker room, deep breathing and gathering herself. She needs to appear in control and confident. It just rang so true.

Then she heads out and says to the DEO that they have already had 2 agents turned. She believes in the mission of the DEO, to protect the planet from all threats, human and alien. And she believes in the people she has working with her. It is a decent rallying cry. But I don't know if it was amazing. And it shouldn't be right now. Alex is struggling.

Manchester Black gets one of the dirty cops Fiona was investigating drunk and the learns about an upcoming attack planned by the Earth First movement. Ajala spouts the same 'roaches' rhetoric of the enemy to get his information while remaining that detached British cool.

Meanwhile J'onn can't commune telepathically with the world because he is still seething with anger. Still, while in this state, he gets a sense Fiona is alive. That's weird since we saw her stabbed in the spine by Agent Liberty earlier.

There are nice effects when J'onn is reaching out with a swirl of energy and images flitting through.

Earlier we saw Agent Liberty use the bit of Parasite to somehow utilize its powers to mind control Hellgrammite and Copy. Now we learn the attack is on a police station.

As the DEO mobilizes, Kara says even half-powered she wants to join. But Alex commands her to stay in the med bay and recover.

In the middle of the battle, Kara shows up bashing through the wall and joining the fray. Unfortunately, she is almost immediately overwhelmed and her armor nearly made inert. It is only J'onn coming in enraged and pummeling Copy's dupes that save the day. 
Hellgrammite and ‘Copy’ – strung up.
Mask signifies that it doesn’t matter who I am. Small piece of something necessary. Use parasite to get control of the aliens. Use them to conjure up fear. Perhaps the Earth First movement will utilize this rage later? Are we destined to see a Supergirl/Martian Manhunter brawl at some point?

As the fight winds down, one of the Copy's says 'Ahimsa' a Hindu word for non-violence which Fiona always said. She must be alive.

There was something else here worth noting. Agent Liberty says his mask signifies that he represents everyone. He isn't the leader; he isn't special. He is a small part of something big. It reminds me of how V in'V for Vendetta' said that he was an idea, not a person.

In the aftermath of the fight, the President dresses down Alex for losing control of the DEO. She has had agents go rogue. The dispersal unit used for the Kryptonite was stolen from her headquarters. And Supergirl almost died in that battle.

He demands that Supergirl stay out of action. And he says the country is a powder keg of fear. He needs people to feel safe again.

I don't know if Bruce Boxleitner's president is outright evil or xenophobic. But I do think he will slowly be turned to the bad side by external forces. He'll do evil because he thinks it is the right thing to do for the country. In essence, he will become a villain while thinking he is still the hero.

And you see how Alex is hurt by this. This is the most unsure I have ever seen Agent Danvers.

But remember, the big problem is the Kryptonite in the air.

We see Brainy and Lena at a loss. Upset, Brainy says they're 'sprocked' and starts to cry, what he calls tears of logic. He isn't a robot. He's techno-organic. I think it shows just how much he cares.

Lena tells him to bottle up his emotions. She is irate her tech was once again used for evil. She wants to murder someone!!! But she is going to box up her emotions and jam them into a dark corner of her brain.

I don't know if that is overall healthy. I think Lena is a powder keg too. It is only a matter of time before her Luthor-ness destroys the mental shield.

But for now, compartmentalizing works. Brainy thinks Lena's nanite tech can eat the K out of the air. Glad he used his intelligence for once!

In another intense, Chyler Leigh scene, she chastises Kara for breaking the rules. She orders her to stay put or they can't work together anymore. This is her final warning!

Then she lets out what is really bothering her. All the decisions, all the failures of the DEO, all the injuries and loss ... it is all on her. It is easy to be the scoundrel occasionally breaking rules went you aren't the ultimate authority. Now she is and she has to learn a new rulebook.

And seeing the two sisters relationship strained shows just how much Alex is reeling.

The character beats go on.

Agent Liberty says that attacking a police station isn't how you get people to join their ranks. You make them fear deeply. You attack their children. He has a new plot for Hellgrammite and Copy.

We also learn that Manchester Black was a ruffian, a football hooligan who learned nonviolence from Fiona. He knows how to turn the violence switch in his head on and off. That means he has an 'on' side.

And then we see Nia dreaming again. She warns James not to be Guardian again. Despite that going against her 'justice in action' view from last episode, she senses things could go wrong. But James echoes what Kara said earlier. A hero still acts even if they know they might get hurt.

I think this showed just what an influence Supergirl is. James is willing to risk prison to help others.

J'onn and Alex end up talking up their problems with each other. Nice shot, small in the room, showing how they aren't the huge figures we are used to seeing.

He talks of his anger. She talks of her doubt. In the end, both realize they need to trust their instincts. She needs to lead. He need to know that pacifism does not mean inaction.

Earlier J'onn got a vibe from Fiona that she was being held near a crowd. She smells cakes and hears music. That is a big enough hint as to where they are but Brainy instead uses a fancy algorithm to realize she is at the city fair.

Really?? You needed a 12th level intellect to figure out cakes, crowds, and music was at a fair?

Alex apologizes to Kara. Her gut tells her she'll need Supergirl. She'll break the President's order and let Kara out.

I do love when Kara says 'the Danvers sisters have never really been big on rules.' So true!

It shows that Alex is getting some confidence back and I like that.

At the fair, we see it all break out.

In what has to be a riff on the Thor/Iron Man fight from Avengers, we see armored Alex fight Hellgrammite with carnival hammers.

Meanwhile, James does show up as Guardian.

With the K almost out of the atmosphere, things look good.

But the suit has taken damage and locks up.

In a scene reminiscent of the end of Reservoir Dogs, Otis thinks he'll put one through Kara's brain and end it. He even yells his catchphrase as he cocks the gun. 'Welcome to Otisburgh!' Awesome!

But J'onn and Manchester Black figure out where Jensen is hiding with the Parasite control pod. Seeing them approach, Jensen leaves.

Suddenly free of the mind control, Hellgrammite skewers Mercy and Otis with his darts.

With the air clear, Kara removes the helmet. Unfortunately, Fiona succumbs to her wounds and dies in Manchester Black's arms.

I sincerely hope that Mercy and Otis are just wounded and not dead. They are too delicious as villains to lose so soon!

Nothing left but the wrap up.

The DEO gives Alex a nice round of applause. But the happiness is blunted by the arrival of Colonel Haley, someone the President sent to watch over the DEO given Alex's iffy tenure so far.

Nia's warning comes true.

Ben Lockwood writes a biased article declaring Guardian an 'Agent of Liberty', a human ready to fight aliens. James' identity is being tarnished. He is being turned into a symbol of hatred. That is very interesting.

We get a Danvers sister moment where the two attack pies. At the fair, Kara bemoaned a pie stand being destroyed. Out of the armor, she and Alex devour it with spoons right out of the pan. Not even slicing it! God, how I love these two.

Manchester Black is clearly upset about Fiona's death. Now sporting a Union Jack shirt like his villainous comic self, he buys up a ton of guns.

Evil Russian Supergirl had been in an atmosphere cylinder but now that the Kryptonite is gone she can train more.

And Agent Liberty decides he'll use aliens to his benefit and drops a piece of Parasite into Jensen's ear.

Whew! Amazing!

I don't know if I like Lockwood using aliens for his cause. You think he would me more of the 'old fashioned American guns' can do the trick. He is supposed to hate aliens.

Overall a great episode. While I know this was done because of Benoist's turn on Broadway, it didn't feel forced. I like how each character has their own arc to go through. In fact, the most stable one is Kara, still feeling confident as the beacon of hope she is. I am waiting for her fall to happen.

This season continues to impress me. So what did you guys think?
Pies – follow instincts.
Manchester Black with Union Kack
Evil Supergirl now training.
Jensen with parasite to ear. “doesn’t matter who ‘we’ are”


Anonymous said...

Interesting episode with a good number of callbacks, a Streaky mention and sisters eating pie.

Not sure how I feel about Manchester Black. On the one hand, he always felt like a one-note villain, AC #775 is good but not one of my favorite Superman stories, and I'd like seeing more Supergirl villains -like Blackstarr- instead of borrowed Superman villains. On the another hand, maybe the showrunners can "fix" him and make him more complex.

Anonymous said...

It was a good episode anj and a great review by you too.

I liked the sister dynamics, pies and streaky the most. After a new52esque s3, I am loving this return to a more light hearted show. I loved the couch scene with the blues and greens, oversized clothes and string lights. Beautifully done- looked so comfy. I feel like they are balancing the seriousness of the politics well with the humour and the allegory not right on the nose, it's not really baked in either, but it's better than s1 stuff.

It was interesting to see Brainy being worried and then crying for Kara, I feel like something maybe brewing. Maybe not this season but the next one I would like to see something. Maybe not jump right in, but build it slowly- I would very much like that. I have loved them since I began reading the legion and seeing it in live action would be a dream come true-the nerd and the alpha heroine.

Russian Kara will be showing up for the midseason finale I am sure to have some words with punches.

Manchester Black was always meh to me as well but we will see how they combine him with agent liberty.

Lena has issues and I feel that lex's arrival will just amp it all up. Very interesting to see moving forward.

I too wish the show would use Supergirl's villains like blackstarr, vortex or The Gang. They would need a modern upgrade, but CW specializes in that for the better or the worse.

Also, I was wondering about argo city and alura. Will both of them die in this season? I personally feel like it will be too cruel and I hope the show can keep them around somehow.

It's almost time for the next issue and I am filled with dread for it as well as for the sales numbers for the previous month. But in good news, Orlando's run is being released in trade. There is also a Supergirl figure produced by Ace Star (I think?). So something to look forward to.

Anonymous said...

Pretty good but very watchable episode overall as usual, Anj. And I love how the last 4 eps keep their
internal continuity arc with one another -- alot better continuity and flow than last season.

Definitely, I love how the cast continues to sell this episode -- I ESPECIALLY loved the performances of
Brainiac 5 & Lena in their scene together, some GREAT chemistry between the two, though I'm still hopeful
Lena stays on the side of angels, but she has a right to be royally pissed that her tech has been stolen
and perverted like that; Katie M sells that like water in a drought! I'd have to respectfully disagree
in regards to J'onn : my view is between the horrors he saw on Mars, the hatred and bigotry he experienced
hiding on earth, and the near loss of Kara Danvers when he'd given his word to watch over them for Jeremiah
Danvers, he also has a right to be angry overall. Interesting theory about a Supergirl / Martian Manhunter
brawl... we can only see what the future brings :)

Manchester Black I found the most interesting character to watch... I'm certainly hopeful TPTB bring him
back for more episodes this season!

Personally I'm offput by the plot threads of

- the Alex / "Chain of command" v Kara / "I want to help," which wasn't helped by either President Baker's
line of "Supergirl does not leave the DEO unless I give the order" or Supergirl being an "employee of the
DEO." You're right that Alex has alot on her mind right now and she doesn't need Supergirl going off
halfcocked, and of course they need conflict / drama to amp things up, but I think there would have been
a better way to portray this.

- James as Guardian again, and how "Guardian may be deputized by the city." After the buildup of him as a
Perry-esque editor the last couple episodes, this was a MAJOR step backwards, in my opinion. The propaganda
of him as a human hero "crushing roaches underfoot" just up the stakes, though. See how this plays out.

The end scenes of Russian Kara out of lead confinement and eager to return to her training, and Agent Jensen
to become Parasite? Can't wait till the next episode!


Scrimmage said...

To me, it felt like something was missing from this episode. Oh, yeah... SUPERGIRL!

The contrived “life saving, but vulnerable armor” plot device, along with a few shots of Kara's face delivering dialogue didn't work for me. I know it was necessary to accommodate MB's schedule, but I think I'd have preferred another episode like the one last week, focused on the development of a supporting character, without much of Supergirl at all, as opposed to watching a bunch of mind controlled alien goons beating down an underpowered, unrecognizable Supergirl, forcing J'onn J'onzz to rescue her AGAIN, for the second time in as many episodes. We saw that same sort of thing all too often during he last TWO seasons. Supergirl should NEVER be reduced to a “Damsel In Distress” on her own show!

I think the biggest problem I had with the armor, itself was the fact that the faceplate was blacked out for no reason, other than to disguise the fact that it wasn't Melissa Benoist in there, as if the fact that the stuntperson's body type was NOTHING like MB's didn't already make that obvious. That made TWO main characters whose faces were hidden behind expressionless masks – THREE if you count Mercy's botox-frozen visage.

As you can tell, I'm not at all impressed with the actress playing Mercy. Not only does she look more alien than some of the aliens on the show, but the halting, unnatural way she delivers some of her lines is mind boggling bad acting!

Mercy (to Agent Liberty): “And how..... do you plan..... on doing that..... EXACTLY?”

I mean, who talks like that? On the other hand, her brother Otis is a hoot, and a much more interesting character. I hope he survives. Mercy? Not so much.

I had hoped that TPTB had realized what a mistake the whole Guardian Olsen concept was, and that they had chosen to abandon it in favor of focusing on James' position as a publisher, and the head of CatCo. Apparently, I gave them too much credit for self-awareness, because apparently, Guardian isn't going anywhere. What a pity that the only way they can make Jimmy Olsen relevant, is to have him join the “solve every problem by punching it” crowd. Jimmy should rely on his instincts, his intelligence, and his good heart, more than his fists, and leave that stuff to the super people.

Weepy, insecure Alex? Um, NO! That was completely out of character. Bossy, bitchy, large-and-in-charge Soldier Alex? Oh hell, YEAH! Now we're talkin'!

Weepy, insecure Brainac 5? That does NOT compute.

Angry, conflicted Lena, filled with barely controlled murderous rage? Sure, but James' time would be better spent helping Lena burn off that excess energy, than running around on a motorcycle, wearing a tin suit.

Angry, conflicted Martian Manhunter? Fine, but as a telepath AND a shape-shifter, he should be MUCH more self-aware, and realize that he's NOT his pacifist father. He's a MANHUNTER, so start hunting, already!

A black Manchester Black? Works for me. The actor is good, if a bit difficult to understand, at times, but he's interesting enough, and he clearly has some potential, as well as a sense of humor. The jury is still out on that one.

Wasn't James' old girlfriend, and Lois Lane's sister, Lucy Lane in the military, and assigned by the President to oversee the DEO's operations in Season 1? She was MUCH better looking than this new “warden” Colonel Haley. For some reason, I don't think she's gonna be Alex's new romantic interest.

This episode was rather “meh” in my opinion. Not bad, but not all that good, either. Hopefully, we'll get back on track once Supergirl returns to her own show. I have to say that seeing MB speaking Russian, and looking like she's ready to kick some Capitalist ass was pretty HAWT! I wonder if her name is Galatea (or Tea, for short). That would be SWEET!

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

It is interesting to hear what people think of the character issues here.

In my job, I went from being the brash second-in-command to the first-in-command at one point. When the final responsibility fell on me, I went through a period of some introspection/second guessing before adjusting. So for me, Alex being a little worried now that she is Director felt completely right. I have lived through that. But I can see how that is very different than how she has been portrayed for 3 seasons.

I also thought J'onn's anger seemed way off so appreciate the explanation others saw of it.

Anonymous said...

Another week of reasonably good "no clunkiness" writing, I could get used to this, but then this is Supergirl and things could regress to the mean at any moment. I think the Guardian Problem can be encapsulated this way is he: "an inherently bad character and bad storytelling choice" OR "is he merely a badly written character with potential for improvement"?
I suppose it critically depends on how much of a distraction is posed by the Guardian Character to a storyline that is ideally built around "Supergirl"?
Personally I think "Guardian" becoming a inadvertent hero or unwilling asset to Agent Liberty has some potential, if nothing else it might sunset the character in an interesting way. So we'll see where this goes...


Nutation said...

> The contrived “life saving, but vulnerable armor” plot device, along with a few shots of Kara's face delivering dialogue didn't work for me.

Nor for me. But, their star was off on Broadway or filming Elseworlds. They had to do something. I will allow them the clunky fix.

I did not get that it was the Parasite that the Graves stole. Happy to see the old desert base, though. This show likes to be faithful to its history. Parasite as a mind control device? Channeling Fiona somehow? I don't see how that works, but the best I could come up with at the time was that they were using a not-cute version of Mr. Mind, and that makes no sense either. Little pieces of starfish might have worked.

Still not buying J'onn's inner conflict. Alex was great, though, wrestling with being in command. Otis was great.

President Boxleitner is too cartoonish, but it is a comic-book show. He may be a means to an interesting dramatic end. We've seen good chain-of-command conflicts at the DEO before, and I'm hopeful that we will get another.

I wonder what happened to former President Marsdin. She could be in for a lot of hardship even if not charged with any crime.

KET said...

"I also thought J'onn's anger seemed way off so appreciate the explanation others saw of it."

Felt to me like Space Dad being angry with himself for not recognizing when one of his daughters genuinely needed his help.

"...their star was off on Broadway or filming Elseworlds."

Broadway. The shows just finished filming Elseworlds last week. Gotham City is again located in Chicago, IL, apparently.

"...the Guardian Problem..." that there really isn't one. It's mostly another by-product of gay shippers wanting James away from Lena so they can proceed with Supercorp (which is never going to happen).

However, for Olsen (who as Kara's former mentor, has had a recurring 'heroic journey' subplot of his own ever since their romantic fling broke up), his executive status at CatCo may be in danger if Ben Lockwood decides to make a 'people's hero' out of Guardian for all the wrong reasons. Looks like this development may be explored next week.


Martin Gray said...

Not a bad episode, but not amazing. Kara as Iron Man, looking like the Danvers Captain Marvel was clever, though.

Ah, that was Guardian on the motorbike, that hadn't even registered (his end talk with Lena had me scratching my head) - if they insist on Jimmy suiting up, at least give him some blue and gold.