Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Supergirl 414: Stand And Deliver

Supergirl episode 414, titled 'Stand and Deliver', aired this week and was a good episode, pushing all plotlines forward, focusing on the political atmosphere of the day with the usual bend, but also trying as best as this show can be to veer to the center.

One thing the show has always had going for it are the strong actors and the character work on the show. This episode, we get a ton of wonderful performances. And we get to see great character growth and moments. In this episode we see Dreamer and her excitement over being a hero. We get to see Supergirl inspire people. We get Brainiac 5 growing as a hero. We see J'onn's personal torment. But most of all, this might be the strongest James Olsen episode in two seasons. I

And the villains get to shine here as well. Menagerie is glorious in her high class desires. The Hat is surprisingly revolutionary. Manchester Black is dogged in his pursuit of revenge. And after a some time, we see just why Ben Lockwood would be able to rally people.

But there has to be a plot to build these on. The main plot is the growing anti-alien sentiment on Earth. After four invasions in three years, I'm not surprised. One thing the show has done is to paint the extremists on both sides in a bad light. The Elite balance out the Children of Liberty. Slaughtering your enemy is never the answer.

Add to this a great cliffhanger and I was pretty happy. On to the review.

Nothing says old school cool like seeing the Elite march out to Stealer's Wheel 'Stuck in the Middle with You', a song and a slow motion walk which brings Reservoir Dogs to mind. I suppose we don't want to villains to be too cool. But as counterculture bad guys, this is pretty slick.

The four have a mission, a plan that the Hat isn't 100% behind. He wants the Elite to have a more revolutionary mindset. But Manchester Black believes this mission will help their overall goals.

But this isn't a well-oiled machine. Menagerie gets lured away by her own desires, the jewelry worn by a passerby. Menagerie might believe in the fighting anti-alien hatred but it isn't her passion.

Menagerie follows the woman into a parking garage. Whether by design or by luck, Dreamer, Supergirl, and J'onn are waiting there to apprehend her. And three against one are good numbers. Menagerie is quickly overpowered and placed in dampening cuffs.

I love how over the top Dreamer is. At first, hands glowing with power, she threatens Menagerie. Supergirl tells her that a hero shows strength more by defiantly putting hands on hips rather than force feed energy bolts to bad guys. Just like that, Dreamer backs off and puts her hands on her hips. Love this mentorship.

But J'onn isn't playing this one by the books either. He is filled with anger and basically threatens Menagerie with a forced mind read unless she reveals the Elite's plan.

The Elite are heading to a late night outdoor press conference by Ben Lockwood. Seems like an odd time.

Bringing up his great humility and bashing the random acts of alien violence, he seems ready to make a big announcement when the Elite strike.

In a classic move, Supergirl speeds in and saves Lockwood, draping him in her indestructible cape. With them element of surprise lost, the remaining Elite teleport away.

What I like here is that either as Supergirl or Kara, we know our hero hates Lockwood. And yet, she still flies in and endangers herself to save him. That is the message we need to hear.

The subplots that have been percolating this season continue along.

James asks Miss Tessmacher if Lena is hiding anything behind the 'black budget' that CatCo has discovered at LexCorp. Eve does some mild obsfucation by saying it is there to hide IP from competitors. But she tells James that Lena is one of the good guys, hoping to help end the protests and revolts.

Meanwhile, at the DEO, Lena stands her ground. She won't rush giving her formula to DEO agents unless it is safe. Despite Colonel Haley pushing the project, Lena is steadfast. Of course, we know that Lena is probably still feeling guilty over killing her human test subject earlier.

Supergirl says outright that the Elite are as bad as the Children of Liberty and that our heroes need to end this confrontation.

First step is dropping off Menagerie at the DEO with an classic pinned note to her. The super-hero delivering the villain to the authorities with a note is a wonderful trope I love. Once more, like last week, we see Alex warming to the idea of Supergirl helping the DEO. I wonder if her own love of her sister will somehow erode the mindwipe! I'd love that!

With Menagerie caught and Supergirl helping off the books, Haley gives Alex an assignment handed down from the President himself. Alex is put on Ben Lockwood's securiry force. At the DEO, Lockwood ironically says that he comes in peace, a line usually reserved to aliens in old movies. Lockwood is that perfect mix of slick public persona and dangerous, murderous secret life.

The following day, Lockwood holds a more classic press conference. He reminds Alex that there were people who disagreed with Winston Churchill but eventually history showed the British Prime Minister was right. Hey Lockwood, you can't tout your humility AND compare yourself with Churchill.

Publically accepting the role of the Director of Alien Affairs, he says his drive is to repeal the Alien Amnesty Act. Now obviously, he doesn't have the power to do that. Only Congress can. But he can be loud and persuasive and grab headlines hoping to force Congress to deal with it. His first step in showing that humanity has to fight for itself.

Almost immediately after his announcement, someone on-line calling themselves AmericanAlien organizes a pro-alien march at the same time.

I have talked about how Colonel Haley is a tough character to get a read on. In some ways, I feel she is the politically central figure who might represent the shifting feelings of many people. She recognizes the threat some aliens are but also simply wants to protect all life. She asks Brainy to try to figure out who AmericanAlien is so they can shut down the parade. Not that she is against pro-alien sentiments and more because she thinks it is gas on a fire. She is trying to protect those marchers in a way. Not the best way but not totally evil either.

Back at Kara's apartment, we see Supergirl streak in just as Alex walks in. You get a subtle little airblast, moving Alex's hair, showing how close a call this was. I loved that small touch. Still, I wonder if Alex has figured out the secret identity on her own.

Alex called this emegency sister dinner because she wants to kill Ben Lockwood and only take-out Chinese and talking to Kara will help. And she gets some good advice from Kara. Alex has to protect Lockwood even though she disagrees with him. But she is also a hero who will make tough decisions. She, like Haley, is there to protect people.

I love Chyler Leigh's exasperation in the scene, so different from her polished military presence in the DEO.

As for the Elite, they have done the impossible, broken into the Fortress of Solitude to look for either weapons or information to defeat Supergirl.

Sure enough, Manchester Black finds what looks to be a Brainiac 5 force field belt. But once again, the Hat tries to refocus Manchester. Hat wants to bring about a revolt against the anti-alien agenda. He thinks Black is out on a suicidal revenge trail. Again, the Elite shows they aren't necessarily of one mind. I suppose that Reservoir Dogs riff was more on the money than I initially thought.

Black now has a Legion ring, a force field belt, and other tech from the Fortress. He's almost an evil Booster Gold.

But our heroes have, using a mix of J'onn's telepathy and Dreamers powers, have sussed out the Fortress heist. They bring down the Morae. Once more Dreamer goes over the top saying 'yield or die' before being told to dial it down to a more heroic 'yield or else'. I love it. She is so hyped up on being a superhero that she hasn't gotten out of her costume all show.

The Hat had left earlier. But Manchester Black refuses to be taken, instead running into a room housing Superman's pet baby sun eater (nice comic reference, to go along with the Cosmic Anvil hammer we saw in the Elseworlds crossover). Looks like he has committed suicide.

The Morae is dropped off at the DEO and again we hear Haley trying to shut down the AmericanAlien Rally. For every successful protest there is a Tianamen Square. She is looking at the bottom line number of saved lives. In some ways, it is noble.

Meanwhile, the dueling rallies is big news. Franklin, the Dryad alien working CatCo is going to cover it. And James is going to join him. Maybe Franklin is a chip off the old Blok?

Okay, bad pun aside, James does give a great little speech. Good journalism can impact millions. They have to shoulder the risk to show all sides of a story. It is why they became reporters.

Perhaps inspired by his own words or realizing the magnitude of the story, James goes decides to cover the rallies as a photographer.

This was a great moment for James. We haven't seen too many moments of his hard-hitting investigations. Glad to see him mentor Franklin as much as Kara is mentoring Nia.

As for the AmericanAlien parade, Brainy reveals to Kara that he is the American Alien. He might not have a Legion ring but he needs to stand and be heard. He wants people to fight together, stand together, and espouse El Mayarah ... to be stronger together. And that would work best if Supergirl marched with them.

Supergirl is a symbol. By marching, she could be a symbol of aliens being citizens of Earth.

But like Haley, Supergirl is thinking of the bottom line. She needs to patrol. She needs to keep people safe. And so she needs to not march and instead defend.

This speech by Brainiac 5 was also great. He hits all the right marks. He drops an El Mayarah in there. And he is heroic, more eloquent and less awkward than we have seen him this season.

As I said, the villains give performances that are just as strong as the heroes. At his rally, Lockwood whips his followers into a frenzy, saying amnesty isn't a kindness but self-sabotage. He gets them to chant 'them or us', much to Alex's disgust. This is a united crowd, unlike the conflicted Elite.

One thing I did like was seeing that Lockwood's crowd was pretty diverse. This wasn't only white men in the anti-alien crowd, as it should be.

The AmericanAlien parade heads down the street towards Lockwood's rally in what seems to be an explosive combination.  While I get the overall sentiment, some of the signs (like 'no nations') seem a bit extreme. But it's a rally. They suffer hecklers, including Lockwood's handler Quentin. Quentin doesn't care if the aliens are fleeing war or devastation on their worlds. He only likes alien heroes like Supergirl.

Hearing Quentin's words makes Supergirl realize Brainy was right. She is a symbol. And the way she can help the most is to join the parade as a citizen, Kara Zor-El. Love that she is dressed in Kryptonian robes, toning down the superhero part of her and instead showing she is just a person like everyone else. Nice touch. And Nia finally takes off the Dreamer gear and joins as well.

The two groups meet in the same lobby and things get tense. Lockwood seems to want to incite a riot, forcing Alex to remove him from the stage. She says he is the problem.

Manchester Black also shows up, saved at the last minute by his friend the Hat.

He activates one of the devices he swiped from the Fortress. Suddenly a swarm of Blacks descend onto the crowd and demands that everyone find an alien hater and kill them. The whole place devolves into a riot. The Hat hands out truncheons to aggravated people.The copies of Manchester turn out to be holograms. Nia saves Franklin. James snaps photos.

The J'onn/Manchester dynamic is so interesting. They seem to really loathe each other. And J'onn seems outright irate at Black.

J'onn screams that Black is almost happy that Fiona died because it gave Manchester an excuse to kill. Hammering away and going almost feral, J'onn seems ready to kill Manchester when the hologram drops revealing that 'Manchester' was a Children Of Liberty member. J'onn almost killed a human.

I doubt these two are going to hug it out.

The riot police show up. Everyone is fighting everyone.

But in the middle of it all, we see Quentin shocked and scared by the carnage around him. Perhaps he finally sees what revolution and hate leads to. This isn't insults hurled at a parade; this is anarchy.

He seems a changed man, helping an alien to his feet and thanking Supergirl. She is a symbol.

This was a great moment.

But this was the greatest shot in the show. With Gary Jules ;Mad World' playing, we pull back to see the devastation of the melee. And we see Supergirl suddenly small amid the damage. That giant United States flag in the background is also effective. This chaos is not America.

It is an interesting juxtaposition. From the powerful 'thank you Supergirl' moment to this downbeat moment is something to chew over. I suppose it shows this is a complex problem. A battle victory doesn't mean we still aren't at war.

Nothing left but the wrap-up.

James photo of a human leading an alien to safety with a 'Stand together' sign in the background has become a touchstone for the problem.

Faced with the backlash of the attack, Lockwood seems to back down from his demands for a repeal. I doubt publicity hound President Baker can't be happy that he unleashed a rabid dog to the cameras.

As I said, Colonel Haley fascinates me. She again shows that she is more gray than black and white on these political matters. She calls Lockwood a bureaucrat drunk on power. She commends Alex for standing up for her beliefs rather than rigidly following the law.

Alex says it. Haley is confounding. In a show where people sometimes are almost political caricatures, having someone straddling common sense with occasional missteps is interesting.

J'onn sheds his human form so he can manhunt. Boy, Manchester Black really has irritated J'onn.

On the Danvers couchm Alex admits she was inspired by Supergirl to do what's right. She followed her beliefs not the rules. While superficially commendable, that can be a troublesome credo. What if her beliefs told her to bomb a building or shoot Lockwood?

And then, the cliffhanger. James is shot in CatCo.

My guess? Haley, who this whole episode I thought has been coming around to the side of good, has shot James to spur Lena into giving him the serum to save him. Earlier we heard Haley mention Lena and James relationship so she knows they were a couple.

Okay, so overall I thought this was an uplifting episode. Zealots on the extremes of the political landscape are painted as awful. People listening to each other's concerns and getting to know each other and striving forward and shown well. And Supergirl got to be Supergirl -  leader, mentor and inspirational figure.
Sorry for long review! So much to cover!


Anonymous said...

I was surprised that Kal's Fortress key was the only block
to get in. Surely there are other defenses? It reminds me of
the JLA episode, w/Brainiac, where Cyborg says, after Brainiac
got in, "I thought this was supposed to be a fortress"!

As for James being shot, they briefly showed the gun apparently
used, which seemed to be alien?

Scrimmage said...

There's a very good reason why, for the most part, superhero stories have avoided the “BIG,” real world issues like World Peace, hunger, disease, racism, religious intolerance, etc.. That's because these are very complex, sometimes abstract problems that can't be solved in the fictional world any easier than they are in the real world, and certainly not with the tools most superheroes bring to the table. You can't PUNCH poverty into submission, or beat the predjudice out of someone who was raised to believe in their racial or religious superiority.

The idea that Supergirl is portrayed as an inspirational figure to BOTH aliens and humans is an interesting aspect of her character to explore, but when that becomes ALL that she is, she is no longer the action hero I tune in every week to see. Ideally, Supergirl should be above politics, and remain neutral, but when that's not possible, her position should be rooted firmly in the pursuit of Truth, Justice, and the American Way. And to answer the question posed by the title of last week's episode, there's NOTHING funny about that.

As one of the most powerful beings on Earth, alien or otherwise, Kara has to be careful about which causes she endorses, because her presence on one side or the other can tip the scales dramatically. As an alien, she has to be sure her support for alien causes isn't seen as her being anti-human, and since she can “pass” for human, she risks being seen as a hypocrite when she criticizes pro-alien extremists. Supergirl should be seen as a symbol of tolerance and acceptance for ALL sides, as opposed to being viewed as an advocate for one side over the other. The truth is, she's got friends and enemies on BOTH sides of this current conflict between aliens and humans, and that's the way it should be.

That being said, I didn't have any problem with the way Kara joined Brainy's pro-alien march. She covered her uniform (although I would've preferred something more Kryptonian than that horse blanket she wore) and wasn't marching as “Supergirl,” but as a naturalized alien citizen of Earth – an American Alien. I had more of a problem with the fact that Brainiac 5 marched in his own rally hiding his natural alien appearance with an image inducer, and that J'onn didn't go “green” either. That sends a mixed message, especially for those aliens who CAN'T assimilate as easily as Brainy and J'onn by hiding their true appearance.

The problem with this episode's efforts to show how all the main characters feel about the extreme positions of the Elite, and the Children of Liberty is that it's BORING! There were no surprises, with everybody falling exactly where you'd think they would on the issues. No inner conflicts, or second guessing either, even though there's plenty of room for that on both sides. There was so much talking in the first three quarters of this episode, I was PLEADING for someone to throw the first punch. Manchester Black's motivations remain unclear, but you can't deny that when he shows up, things start happening.

The post riot denouement was HUGE letdown. Instead of some kind of dramatic resolution to this season's main storyline, all we got was a lot of “caring and sharing” platitudes more suitable for an “After School Special.”

“LOOK! Humans and Aliens helping each other!!” if that wasn't something that's happened in EVERY SINGLE EPISODE of the show's entire run. What next, a picture of dogs and cats getting along? If Jimmy's picture was supposed to capture the moment, as well as the public's imagination, I thought they could've staged something MUCH more dramatic than that. That picture wasn't even in color! At any rate, it's clear that Jimmy should've stuck to being a photojournalist, something he's good at. Likewise, Supergirl would be better off sticking to being a superhero, instead of a political advocate.

Scrimmage said...

The most entertaining parts of this episode were the off topic, usually funny, interpersonal moments between the characters, many of which Anj mentioned, like Supergirl coaching Dreamer to use the “hands on hips” stance to show her conviction, or Dreamer's “breaking in” her costume while off duty. Like Anj, I found Alex's comment about “doing what feels right,” as opposed to doing her her duty, and following the “rules” rather troubling. If everybody in the military acted on their own personal beliefs, instead of following orders, there would be chaos! If that's REALLY how Alex feels, she should resign from the DEO immediately.

Last week, I suggested that the Fortress of Solitude needs an upgraded media center, instead of showing images on a slab of ice. This week, it became painfully clear that the FOS also desperately needs a new security system. How did the Elite FIND the Fortress in the first place? How do they even know of its existence? The super-heavy key looked cool, but how about a simple doorbell camera that would alert Kara when someone other than her opened the door? Where's the Kryptonian facial recognition software and internal defenses? Where's the lock on the Sun-Eater's room? Where the hell is Kelex? Where's KRYPTO??!!

Speaking of the Sun-Eater...

Talk about a dangerous alien! I'm sure it's no more intelligent than some domestic animal species, but it's incredibly irresponsible for Kal-El to keep it on Earth if he's not going to be kept more securely than THAT! If that thing ever got loose, and gobbled up our Sun, we'd ALL be in big trouble! That's a bigger pet problem than someone's dog pooping in a neighbor's yard.

Well, say goodbye to J'onn J'onzz, Pacifist, and hello to the Martian Manhunter! Whoo-hoo! It's about time J'onn took off the kid gloves, and started kicking butt. His power set is just different enough from Kara's to keep his unique methods and style interesting, without encroaching on things that Supergirl should be doing on her own show. He's an invisible, intangible, shape-shifting, mind reading, badass private investigator, which makes him PERFECT for situations requiring more stealth and subtlety than brute strength. Unfortunately, his talents are being woefully underused. Whatever happened to his plan to infiltrate the Children of Liberty?

The most confusing part of this whole season has been the introduction, and then the nearly complete disappearance of the Russian Supergirl. I thought this was going to be the MAIN storyline of the year, but if they're going to revisit it this late in the season, it can't possibly receive the time and attention it deserves. It's got SO much more dramatic potential than any of these pseudo-political storylines about prejudice and governmental corruption that we've been dealing with all season, they should've gotten back to it long before this, but now they're probably going to drag this thing out until NEXT season.

Oh, and James Olsen getting shot by a sniper is hardly a “Who Shot J.R.” level cliffhanger. It's more like “Who Cares Who Shot J.O.?” Now the idea of Lex Luthor dropping in on his sister, Lena, and oh, by the way, turning the Sun red, is MY idea of what a superhero show should be all about. That stuff is EXCITING!

Could Superman's Sun-Eater pet play a part in foiling Lex's diabolical plan? Could THAT be the REAL reason why it was introduced in this episode? I can only HOPE the writers of this show are that clever.

Anonymous said...

> As for the Elite, they have done the impossible, broken into the Fortress of Solitude

Never mind exactly HOW The Elite found it in the first place. Looks like the Supers will have to up their
Fortress security systems... AGAIN!

That being said, I liked how this moved the plot forward, and as you point out Anj, it gives nice moments
to everyone characterwise -- I have to admit for me personally, ANY time TPTB bring back Eve Tessmacher,
it puts a smile on my face! Never mind the internal continuity they don't forget.

Agree that Black and J'onn won't hug this one out, and just HOW far J'onn will go with Black vs his promise
to his father remains to be seen. Creepy with Black egging J'onn needing to lose more.

And let me repeat, NEXT WEEK IS JON CRYER'S LEX LUTHOR! From the trailer alone, he DEFINITELY isn't Alan
Harper / Two And A Half Men any more. And takes some of the best elements of the "dark and power mad"
Luthors of before. A RED sun?! I can't wait to see how things plays out!


KET said...

Some nifty setups for future installments this week, giving plenty of things to ponder about while one awaits the siblings' arrival in National City. I did enjoy how Team Supergirl managed to pick off members of The Elite, one-by-one, demonstrating that perhaps "Stronger Together" works best when opposing individuals become distracted. The episode cliffhanger with Olsen might reveal that the shooter has been hiding in plain sight all along, which leads to the current Alex/Kara situation...

"Once more, like last week, we see Alex warming to the idea of Supergirl helping the DEO. I wonder if her own love of her sister will somehow erode the mindwipe! I'd love that!"

That notion might become a bit more complicated if Alex furthers her personal ambitions to become a mom, which coincidentally, Colonel Haley already IS.

"“LOOK! Humans and Aliens helping each other!!” if that wasn't something that's happened in EVERY SINGLE EPISODE..."

Well, it HASN'T. In regards to this ep, the visualization has a pretty solid connection to how James rediscovers his roots as a reporter. Plus, the ending scenes reinforce Supergirl's circle of influence on the situation....she's still got it!...

...except that Kara might want to check in on her Space Dad, who's falling right into Manchester Black's trap. Some viewers keep wondering why Black doesn't have powers of telepathy and mind control, like in the comics....but perhaps he's just not keen on letting his powers become common public knowledge...the stealth plan seems to be working quite good on J'onn so far.

Like I said, some things are hiding in plain sight, such as possible accomplices to the main villain of next week's episode.


KET said...

Oops...forgot about this bit:

"He activates one of the devices he swiped from the Fortress. Suddenly a swarm of Blacks descend onto the crowd and demands that everyone find an alien hater and kill them."

Thought that was a fun reverse nod to the ending fortress battle in Superman II.


Anonymous said...

> Thought that was a fun reverse nod to the ending fortress battle in Superman II.

HAHAHA, interesting point and observation there @KET, I'd never noticed that.


Anonymous said...

Well Historically, the Fortress, despite its imposing name has been very easy for miscreants to access, I think Luthor broke in back in 1970 for the first time. Kevin Spacey basically walked in without a "By Your Leave" in "Superman Returns".
I'm always tickled that the bad guys seem to always know what they are looking for and how to operate said device, its not like Kal and Kara publish a catalogue or anything.
As for the politics, what is going on here is no more and no less challenging than what Chris Claremont thought reasonable storytelling in the X-Men circa 1980. I don't see anyone trashing "The Days ofFuturepast" or the Dark Phoenix Saga...
I'm also suspicious that Manchester Black is goading J'on J'onzz via telepathy it'd be like him to be a sneak about it, to what end I cannot say. As for the Kaznian Kara Klone...I think the writers seem to have given up on her a big bad...I say she is "done in one" episode. Thats a pity since she is the consequence of Supergirl's own mini-Flashpoint, you'd hope she have to confront that decision somehow.