Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Supergirl Episode 408: Bunker Hill

Supergirl episode 408, titled 'Bunker Hill' was another very good episode for this season. As a 'midseason finale' (I guess the Elseworlds crossover is a stand alone event), this moved the overall plot themes of the season forward while also stuffing in a ton of small character moments, strong dialogue, and Easter eggs to keep the fan in me smiling. No big surprise given the fact that the episode was directed by Kevin Smith and written by Eric Carrasco and staff.

The title Bunker Hill refers to a sentiment from Ben Lockwood in the episode. He says that Bunker Hill was a case of losing a battle but ultimately winning a war. And that theme is going to play heavily into this episode's outcome. But it also resonates with how well the show has been handling this political topic of immigration and prejudice.

While it is clear the side the show's creators are on, I love how they haven't been heavy-handed in their presentation. In fact, they have done a very good job of showing how people don't consider themselves villains; they think of themselves as the hero in their own story. It shows how circumstances can breed hate in all sides of a problem. And it shows how when you look deeply, we still have a lot common with each other, enough that you think we would all care.

You can look at Ben Lockwood and Manchester Black as the same coin but on opposite ends of a political spectrum. You can look at Ben Lockwood and Supergirl as two people who believe in their personal definition of justice and have a 'secret identity' to protect their loved ones. And you can look at Supergirl and J'onn as people who can inspire, who keep trying to help people who are villains by their action but are rebuffed.

I think this is the strongest season of this show so far in that they are giving us powerful stories. But this review will cover that and geeky moments too, so settle in.

One of the subplots of this episode is the revelation of Nia Nal's powers. We start with a dream sequence in which we see how her precognitive powers are in a raw state. In this dream, in which she is watching Hitchcock's North by Northwest, she has blurry visions of a woman in danger, hooks and construction material, and Agent Liberty. But is all in a haze, nothing she can easily interpret. It is why she has been scared and shocked by her powers before. They are frightening.

I like the fact that Kevin Smith put in a classic movie reference (you may remember he had Kara watching The Big Sleep in a prior episode). Here in North by Northwest, we have Cary Grant's character believed to be someone else and therefore being hunted. That theme of being mistaken for something and trapped or even duality of a person makes that clip a nice deep cut.

Meanwhile Kara and J'onn are investigating Manchester Black's apartment in hopes of finding some clue or even some item so personal for him that J'onn can use it to telepathically track him. They find bloody brass knuckles emblazoned with the Union Jack, a perfect beacon.

But there is so much more than this. For one, J'onn mentions how the Union Jack shows Black's national pride. Nationalism taken to extremes (like on this bloody weapon) is never good, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum.

And the conversation from J'onn about how he didn't realize who Black was underneath the British civility shows how people can appear one way but actually be something else.

Kara says she is the one who always looks for the best in people and she did with Manchester, even though he totally betrayed her. She says 'that's her thing'. So I wonder if this is something that will test Kara this season. Will she become cynical?

It reminds me of Lockwood's hard line of never killing a human and how I think when he crosses that line he will be defeated.

Back at CatCo, Nia has three large coffees to keep herself awake. In a Flash-like move, Kara catches them all when they are almost dropped. The sight of Agent Liberty had scared Nia.

Later in the DEO, there is a geek moment where Brainy tells Alex that all the Children of Liberty claim they are Agent Liberty, like the moment in Spartacus. I love how Kara and Brainy get excited over old movie discussions.

But at the mention of Nia, Brainy lets out that he thinks she can help find Agent Liberty. He can't say much more.

As I said, one of the things about this season is that we see characters who are 'gray'. That duality, or complexity of people is for me a big part of this season. What I want to see is Supergirl as an example turn these people to the light.

But this season is also good at showing us how others turn to darkness.

For example, Colonel Lahey is a gray character. She certainly can be vilified for her horrible take on aliens. But I also think she is an intelligent person of color in a position of power who thinks she is doing what is right. I like this relationship she has with Alex because in the end I think Lahey is going to see the error of her ways.

On the other end is President Baker who seems to have all the wrong priorities in mind. Here he says that he is taking a hit in the polls over the civil unrest over the alien issue and Agent Liberty. He wants whatever needs to be done to make him popular again to happen. That isn't a good leader.

But perhaps the most fascinating character to watch is Ben Lockwood.

We saw his sympathetic backstory, how he was driven from good intentions to hate.

Here we see he is having an identity crisis. He talks about 'Ben' and 'Agent Liberty' in the third person, as if he isn't sure who he is any more. I think he realizes that he has lost his way as Liberty, doing things he doesn't want to do anymore. He hopes to retire that Liberty persona and just be Ben, reaching out to the masses via his show.

But his more violent friends in the Children of Liberty world won't let him do that.

Unfortunately, Manchester Black knows who Lockwood is. Ben comes home to see Manchester sharing a cup of tea with Lockwood's wife Lydia.

Black definitely knows Ben is Liberty. And we know what Black is thinking of doing.

Throughout the episode we do get moments like this where J'onn has reached Manchester telepathically and is trying to talk him down. It is a nice effect, Black moving in space while everyone else is frozen.

But Black, like Ben, is too far gone.

Realizing that Nia can help, Kara shows up with Brainy to Nal's apartment.

It is here that Nia reveals she is from Naltor and she has the gift of genetic oneiromancy, the ability to use dreams to tell the future, a gift bestowed on one woman per generation. Given Nia's gender, this is a extremely powerful statement, buried in a conversation. But it is clear, she is a woman. One of my favorite moments in the show.

But there is a lot of Legion love here. She is from Naltor. Brainy calls her Nura. So much Legion Dream Girl stuff said on a national television show. Incredible!

He can help guide her in her dreams. He can help her focus. And she does. She relives the dream from earlier but now sees the word Collinwood on the threatened woman's sweatshirt.

Good lord! Legion talk!!

Back in Lockwood's home, we learn that the Lockwood's have always been in the metal business. There is a bayonet blade from the Revolutionary War, hammered out by an earlier Lockwood who was a blacksmith. Here is where Ben discusses Bunker Hil and losing a battle but winning a war.

It also shows how the Lockwood family have always considered themselves patriots against a perceived threat to their freedoms. In his mind, Ben is like those colonists defending their way of life against those who would threaten them. It is a skewed view, a wrong one ... but that is how misguided he is.

But Black decides the time is right to reveal to Lydia that Ben is Agent Liberty.

Brainy, Nia, and Kara head to Collinwood, a small town with a large anti-alien faction. The three are followed by folks with alien-sniffing dogs and bad intentions. Kara figures out that if she can get herself brought to Agent Liberty she can end the whole thing.

In a cute scene, Kara awkwardly says she is all human and wants to meet her birthdad 'Mr. Liberty'. When she is tossed in a van she says 'this is all happening so fast!' Benoist is perfect.

Alas, her plan to keep Brainy and Nia away doesn't work when Nia runs to help. All three get kidnapped and brought to the Lockwood steel mill.

I love how Kara says Reporting 101, as evidenced by Lois Lane, shows that being kidnapped means they are on the right track! A Lois mention!
 BRainy crew on campus, col; daily planet, lanyard
 This is happening so fast
Reporting 101 – kidnapping and Lois; use 'super ...

The Children of Liberty decide it was a mistake bringing the three to the mill and decide to kill them.

I love this shot where Nia uses her precog power instinctively to know when and where they would shoot, bringing her handcuff chain in the path of the bullet to free herself. That is very Legion!

In the confusion, Brainy and Kara subdue the rest.

Back at the Lockwood house, Ben is forced to show the Liberty gear to Lydia.

Here is the key moment. Ben seems to be having a breakdown. He talks of wanting to stop being Liberty. He wants to be Ben again. This could have been the crisis point where you could put Ben back on the path of the right.

Just like J'onn keeps trying to put Black back on the path of Ahimsa, nonviolence.

But these warriors are entrenched.

Nia realizes they are in a Lockwood steel mill, something she now knows she saw in her dream. It all becomes clear. Ben Lockwood must be Agent Liberty.

Kara phones Alex who uses some Chicanery 101 who trick the arrested Child of Liberty into divulging that is indeed true.

Figuring she can end this, Kara switches to Supergirl and flies off. (Yes, there is a silly Bugs Bunny moment where her glasses and phone twirl in the sky. For some reason that didn't work for me.)

Back in the Lockwood home there is a fantastic throwdown between Ben (know in his Liberty uniform) and Black. It is a brutal fight in the tight quarters of the Lockwood basement. Ben ends up running out and they end up in the Lockwood mill again.

This has all the trappings of Nia's original dream, the loading hooks and equipment.

It seems like Black is going to kill Lockwood when J'onn again tries to step in. But it is clear the only way to stop Black would be for J'onn to telepathically kill him. J'onn won't do that so they fight is on. These are the lines the heroes won't cross.

Luckily Supergirl arrives and tackles Black (a nice flying sequence I try to capture). But Black is well-armed including some moon grenade which temporarily stuns Supergirl.

And, as if to show that neither side unwilling to listen to reason can be good, we see Black call himself out as the Intolerant Left. We already know that Lockwood is the Intolerant Right.

But here is where Black loses me. He tells Supergirl she only has two choices - be a government stooge or string up the Children of Liberty.

There has to be a better way. She says she will never be like him.

He dumps molten Nth metal on her which hardens into a shell even she can't break out of.

Lydia arrives with a gun, hoping to defend Ben, and she and Black face off.

To complete her dream, Nia uses the hook she kept seeing to hit Black in the head and knock him out.

Ben decides to use the gun to shoot Black but before he can get a shot off, Kara flies while stuck in the Nth metal, lifting the whole factory and stopping Ben.

Okay, we can talk about physics all we want. But how cool is it seeing Supergirl lift a whole building?

Both Black and Lockwood are arrested.

But this is where we see how a lost battle can win a war.

Lockwood suddenly looks a bit like a martyr. While he is (as James calls him) a psychopath in a mask, Lockwood says he wore that mask to protect his family from threats.

Is he a martyr now?

And  Black, now in jail, taunts J'onn.

Maybe J'onn wanted Black to kill Lockwood.

It is as if they have flipped from the earlier episodes. J'onn who said he was filled with rage has now embraced nonviolence. Manchester who had become nonviolent with Fiona is now a killer.

I like how these two characters are foils. They work way better as a pairing than Black and Supergirl.

We then get the wrap up and it is a doozy.

President Baker is at the DEO. Now he is worried about donors.
Lockwood's speech made him think everyone needs to be transparent. He asks Supergirl to reveal her secret identity. She should put her country first.

When Kara won't do it, he fires her from the DEO. He hopes she'll stand down. They don't want a war. She retorts they better not start one.

So much to unpack.

First off, great scene between Melissa Benoist and Bruce Boxleitner.
Second, was she an employee? Was she getting a check? (I know ... silly ... but I was wondering.)
Third, everyone at the DEO knows Kara is Supergirl. Not one will leak it to the President?
Fourth, her reasons for not revealing (protecting her family) are exactly what Lockwood said. There is the show once again showing similarities in people with very different viewpoints.
Fifth, will this tarnish Kara's 'see the best in everyone' outlook!

Lastly, we know that there is a Kara doppelganger out there. This can't bode well.

This is immediately followed by this great Danvers sister moment at the DEO where she tells Alex to not let the DEO become something horrible. She needs to protect it.

I wonder if the DEO will become something ugly and Alex will need to quit too. Or will Alex show Lahey the right path and they both stand up for what's right.

Meanwhile, Lockwood is brought to prison despite people protesting his being incarcerated. He has inflamed the extremists. But more importantly, he has won over some moderates. His wife, who was horrified when she learned he was Agent Liberty, is now cheering for him.

This is how slowly a nation can sink into darkness.

Just a gritty ending.

But before we leave we get a teaser for Elseworlds.

Scattered amidst many dead heroes from many other DC shows (even Smallville), the Monitor holds a book to rewrite the universe. Only the 90s Flash (played again by John Wesley Shipp) escapes.

Hoo boy.

Just another great episode.


Anonymous said...

To my surprise, I seem to be the only person on the Internet to recognize that the "I'm flying" scene is a direct adaptation of one of the best Superman moments in recent comics, from Bryan Hitch's "JLA" #7:

In the comic, Superman is restrained aboard the villain's massive spaceship in Earth orbit. He can't break free, so he flies in his bonds, dragging the entire huge craft with him and crashing it into the Moon.

It's an awesome scene, and I was thrilled and delighted to see it repurposed for "Supergirl." I thought if anybody else would catch it, it would be a well-read comics buff like yourself. But I guess I'm even more of a Superstuff expert than I realized!

Anonymous said...

Great review as always Anj, and very enjoyable episode overall, especially with the midseason finale
and Elseworlds around the corner. I want to say I really enjoyed the Kara / Nia / Brainiac scenes
overall -- the latter two are really growing into their roles on the series! And the "awkward Brainy
scenes were icing on the cake! I am having a bit of difficulty figuring out between Nia / Nicole's
earlier intro line as a "transgender woman" to "alien from Naltor," but I'll just roll with things.

Interesting perspective regarding the Ben Lockwood phone conversation; I interpreted it as hints of
split / multiple personality myself... but you're right, it'll be an interesting duality and "what
line not to cross" with just how far Ben will take his pain and hate. If not himself, then perhaps
someone in the CoL hierarchy who wants to go even more extreme than Ben himself is willing to go.

And can I repeat again how great it is to see SUPERgirl large and incharge in her own series!
Between the "ancient Kryptonian memory technique" finger flick, Brainy slipping his flight ring onto
the CoL member, Supergirl rushing out so fast her glasses and phone float in midair... and FINALLY the
"I'm not struggling, I'M FLYING!" moment! BRILLIANT! Those are the kinds of scenes I want to see
in this series! And thanks as well to previous Anon in pointing out the source of the last one there.

With respects to the President Baker scenes, agree that felt the most off / annoying overall. Recalling
the original casting notes, he was supposed to be "politically astute," but the whole concerns over
poll numbers and donors seems callous and shallow -- unless it's a case of TPTB wearing their political
leanings on their sleeves. And good point about the Russian Kara still out there, and what this bodes
about the "don't want a war with Supergirl." Alot to think about for the rest of the season.

But for now, counting down to Elseworlds! See everyone there!


Scrimmage said...

My first impression is that “Bunker Hill” is the best episode of this season, so far. It advanced the overall storyline on SEVERAL fronts, provided SOME resolution to a few of the simmering subplots, with Lockwood, Manchester Black, AND Nia Nal exposed for who they really are, and left us with a fairly shocking surprise twist at the end, with Supergirl's refusal to comply with the President's request to reveal her Secret Identity (to him? to the World?), and her subsequent dismissal from the DEO.

Frankly, I was surprised that the writers didn't take advantage of the opportunity to have their poll-obsessed, Presidential character use President Trump's former TV show catch phrase...

President Baker: “Supergirl... You're FIRED!!”

For me, this is a welcome turn of events, since I've been in favor of Supergirl distancing herself from the DEO, and becoming more independent, for the last couple of seasons. It's a natural progression.

In Season One, Supergirl was a raw, untested, insecure, and inexperienced rookie. In Season Two, we spent much of that season learning about the supporting cast, like J'onn's family history with the White Martians, Alex's sexuality, James becoming Guardian, and the introductions of Mon-El, and Lena Luthor, often at the expense of making Supergirl the central figure in her own show.

Last season, so much time was spent on Reign, the Worldkillers, the Legion, and the discovery of Argo City, something had to give, which is why Kara Danvers' life and career as a reporter was largely ignored. I commented at the time that I'd like to see more of Kara dealing with the traditional super hero conflict of maintaining a Secret Identity, operating as both a reporter, and at times a hero, but covertly, WITHOUT the cape.

We got some of that THIS season, especially in the episode where Kara was locked in the LCorp Building with Lena and Miss Tessmacher, and couldn't slip away to change into Supergirl, and again, in the kidnapping scene in this episode, but even so, until now, her secret identity seemed less like the “real” Kara, and more like a disguise Supergirl wears when she's off duty.

Before this season, it seemed like everyone at the DEO not only knew that Alex's adopted sister, Kara was Supergirl, but also that her cousin, Superman, is really Clark Kent. That always bothered me, so if they've decided to revise things back to where only Supergirl's “inner circle” know her secret identity, that's fine with me. I think of it at it as TPTB fixing a glaring oversight on the show, especially after a DEO agent turned traitor, who somehow, neglected to mention that he knew Supergirl's Secret Identity to his new, anti-alien buddies.

Ever since the arrival of Col Lahey, we've been questioning the nature of Supergirl's relationship with the DEO, and whether or not Kara felt that she was obligated to follow their orders. Now we know that they apparently had SOME kind of formal arrangement putting Supergirl under the command of the DEO, which has now been terminated. I see this as progress. Kara's no longer an unproven rookie, she's a seasoned hero, who has learned all she can from Alex, and now it's time for her to declare her independence, leave the nest, and fly away on her own... at incredible speeds.

Superheroes don't work for, or answer to any one government, or organization. They work to uphold the ideals of “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”

Scrimmage said...

I thought it was very interesting, and realistic, that Kara and J'onn had an impromptu “post-mortem” review of the last episode and that they both admitted the mistakes they made, and how they allowed themselves to be taken advantage of. I guess the old saying “You're only human” wouldn't apply, or be much comfort to them. Even so, I was pleased that by the end of this episode, BOTH Black and Lockwood were incarcerated, and hopefully, they will be held accountable for their crimes.


I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but why would the President, or anyone else simply assume that Supergirl even HAS a secret identity? I don't believe she's ever admitted it publicly. If I lived in that universe, I might believe that Supergirl used an assumed name from time to time, and had a home somewhere in, or near the city where she could hang up her cape, and kick off her boots, but I'd find it hard to believe that she would waste her time working a regular day job, moonlighting as a mild mannered human. I mean, who would ever ride a subway if they could FLY?

With the facial recognition technology the President has at his disposal, combined with Kara's ill-advised television appearance to debate Lockwood, and Supergirl's recent national TV addresses, it would probably take less than a minute for him to find out Supergirl's secret identity. Of course, in this world of “moon dust grenades” and Nth Metal, I guess it's better if they sometimes ignore the capabilities of real world modern technology.


Supergirl (to J'onn): “And Bob's your Uncle.”

I thought that was an odd figure of speech for Kara to use. I know it means something like “and there you go,” but it's an expression that's far more common in England than here in the US. Maybe she said it because they noted that Manchester Black's patriotism extends to wearing brass knuckles with the Union Jack on them, and she wanted to maintain the theme. I only wish Brainy had been there, just to hear her try to explain it to him.

It IS nice to know that both Brainiac5 and Kara are Ed Wood fans. I'd love to hear Brainy's take on Wood's “Plan 9 From Outer Space” (1959). He'd probably call it a “flawed documentary.”


If Manchester Black thinks of himself as “the Intolerant Left,” he's either delusional, or he has a real gift for understatement. As for Lockwood? His fifteen minutes of fame should be over, but he'll probably make a comeback somehow.


As far as I'm concerned, the scariest thing about Nia's dreams was seeing her wake up to the sight of her roommate! Now THAT'S the sort of thing that could give ANYBODY nightmares.

Nutation said...

I end up disappointed in both Manchester and Lockwood. After last episode, I was seeing enough complexity in them that I expected them (or at least one of them) to pull back from the cliff. Well, Manchester toppled, and Lockwood is at least tilting pretty far over.

Supergirl flying and lifting the whole factory is among the most badass things she has done, inclusive of submarines and spaceships. Parenthetical thought: Inertron apparently doesn't exist, and its properties are folded into Nth metal. (I like Nia's pronunciation.) This reminds me of the Marvel/Disney movies that don't use adamantium at all, assigning those properties to vibranium.

In the end teaser, that sure looks like Destiny's book that the Monitor is holding, minus the chain. Bodies: Stargirl, Vibe, the Smallville Arrow, the Ray's helmet, Hawkman's helmet, possibly Firestorm, and a few that I didn't recognize. Maybe someone can expand this list?

Anonymous said...

"Forget the DEO, Supergirl can do better!"


I too have to wonder when it was established in the storyline that Supergirl had a secret identity and it was publicly known that she had a otherwise uncited private & separate legal persona? As for the DEO (they need her, more than she needs them quite frankly) I thought the relationship, back in season one was she was considered an "independent contractor"...?
President Baker isn't gonna be too worried about her secret identity the next time a fifty foot robot wants to stop the Executive Office Building Flat...just saying....
Loved the building lifting scene, as ridiculous its physics as it may seem, it was serious "Karatharsis" one of the show's top images in that category.
As for Agent Liberty's "grievance scream" at the end of the ep, like all demagogues he bids on false moral equivalence, Lex Luthor could not have done better.
I wonder though if Ben Lockwood is a false flag, maybe Manchester Black & The Elite is being set up as The Big Bad either this season or next?


KET said...

"I too have to wonder when it was established in the storyline that Supergirl had a secret identity and it was publicly known that she had a otherwise uncited private & separate legal persona?"

It probably became a public assumption around National City after the "Human For A Day" episode had Supergirl MIA for most of that time.

However, striving to maintain personal distance via a secret ID does bring about a study in comparison/contrasts between Kara Danvers and Ben Lockwood. Who's really the one hiding from the world here anyway?

"Third, everyone at the DEO knows Kara is Supergirl. Not one will leak it to the President?"

Seems possible...if someone on staff is a newbie like Jensen was. But those who have been with the organisation for awhile probably wouldn't, out of loyalty to a fellow member.

"With respects to the President Baker scenes, agree that felt the most off / annoying overall."

Seems to me that Baker's being presented deliberately as shrill and one-dimensional, since the only times we ever see him is when he has beef with the DEO. However, if Baker has family working covertly, or in service around remote or politically parts of the world, perhaps he has some justifiable fears for his loved ones' safety...after all, who are the Red Daughter's handlers?