Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Supergirl 419: American Dreamer

Supergirl episode 419, title American Dreamer, pushed the season's plot forward while shining a spotlight on the character of Dreamer. It also gave us a heaping helping of Kara Danvers. In a show called Supergirl, we didn't see the S-shield once this episode. And somehow I didn't mind that.

One thing that show hasn't always shown us is the Kara Danvers side of our hero's life. Given how much time she has spent at the DEO and adventuring, her 'career' as a reporter has been made something of a punchline for fans of the series. Does she even work at CatCo? So this episode, where we saw her actually doing some investigative reporting, getting an interview, inspiring people with her crusading, and using her super powers discreetly so as not to reveal herself was long overdue. Do I think she should be neglecting her Supergirl identity? No. But for one episode, I can deal.

The other big plot this episode is Dreamer becoming more established in the superhero world. Whether it is out their defending aliens or inspiring hope on television, we get to see just how far Nia has come in her training and confidence. For me, the best part was her 'Spider-Man' like quips and style. Nothing like a powers-related pun to make me grin. Now we only saw her defending aliens from bigots. I wouldn't have minded a straight up robbery stop thrown into the mix.

And the last plot is James dealing with his powers and his PTSD by confronting a repressed memory. I have to say this is the last couple of episodes have been the strongest performances by Mehcad Brooks I can remember.

Lastly, more than other times, this episode seemed to pull from prior events and tropes and plot points from prior seasons. Adding these give the show a sense of history that makes a continuity person like me happy.

On to the particulars.

We start by seeing Kara putting her thoughts together on her search to uncover Lex. The best way to help her Supergirl identity is to find Lex and reveal whatever plot he concocted with a doppelganger.

It is a small touch but seeing her typing this timeline, organizing her questions, and trying to connect the dots was a nice touch. We haven't seen her be an investigative journalist before. So seeing how she even starts her process gives us a foundation.

Meanwhile National City is being defended by Dreamer.

When she sees a couple of bigots trying to beat up an alien delivering bread in the wee hours, she steps in. As I said, she is a font of sleep-based quips as she batters these guys with 'dream energy' blasts and tangible dream energy whips.

She says she is their worst nightmare. When she knocks them unconscious, she says 'sweet dreams'. And when the cops show up, she has written 'sleeping beauty' on the forehead of one of the attackers. It is all so Spidey.

Much like James and Winn were partners when James was acting as Guardian, we see that here Brainy is her 'man in the chair'. He tells Dreamer she needs to leave before the DEO arrive. Because right now it seems like Ben Lockwood has somehow assumed control of the place.

Brainy knows that if they aren't careful, it is highly likely that they will be apprehended.

She pushes him a bit, wondering why he doesn't 'blue-green up' and join her. It is true. We haven't seen his true form in a while.

Meanwhile, Lena and Alex are trying to extract the harunel from James body and they aren't getting anywhere. In fact, the more they try, the more his body fights their efforts. His vitals are all over the place. Moreover, whenever he has a panic attack, a new power seems to manifest.

Brainy thinks perhaps instead of trying to remove the harunel, they should instead try to get to the root of James' trauma. Perhaps he can learn to control his powers and stabilize himself. The best way to do that is in James' 'mind palace', his inner self.

We haven't seem a mind palace since episode 310 'Legion of Super-Heroes'. In that Brainy helps Kara learn how to deal with her own issues from within. So seeing this technique used again was a nice call back.

Two more things. I love Alex tossing around medical jargon. Second, Lena is using Miss Tessmacher's notes to try to do this extraction. Shouldn't Lena know not to trust anything she has found of Tess's or Lex's??

When a word document isn't big enough to keep track of Lex's plots, Kara goes to writing on the window of her CatCo office. I love this sort of stuff. It's so conspiracy theory! All we needed were the threads putting all the points together. The tech form Amertech keeps popping up everywhere.

While walking the halls, Kara sees that Franklin, the Dryad alien working at CatCo, has begun sleeping at work. He fears for his life in his own apartment. It turns out his sister works at Amertek. So Kara sets up a meeting!

Nia hopes that Kara will be spurred into being Supergirl again. But there is no changing Kara's mind. Her best play is to expose Lex and clear Supergirl.

Besides National City has Dreamer.

Again, I love the silly puns Nia keeps tossing out. Ben Lockwood needs to go 'nighty night night'? Cringe worthy and fantastic at the same time!

And Lockwood is reveling in his power.

We see him rounding up a father out of a home because of supposed crimes. He tells the mother that if she isn't careful, he'll take her in too, leaving their son an orphan. Hard to know what marked this guy, but he keeps saying he's innocent.

The thuggery does seem to upset George, Lockwood's son. But Ben says that they can't humanize the aliens or care for them.

It is interesting. At the beginning of the season, Ben was much more open minded and liberal and it was Ben's father who was a bit more rigid in beliefs. I wonder if that is going to play out here. With George telling Ben that he has become the grandfather.

Of course, just a couple of episodes ago, George was wielding a machete and beheading Menagerie. So weird that he has changed so quickly.

At Amertek, we see Kara stop a mugger while in her civilian identity, mirroring a Clark Kent 'klutz' move to elbow the guy. I like that she is still using her powers and doing the right thing, just in a quiet style.

Outside she meets, Edna, Franklin's sister. She has become scared at her own job. They are putting in alien detection devices. She wants to expose Amertek for its more sundry operations. And she has access to all the files. Kara reminds her that standing up like this is brave.

Pretty cool to see Kara be effective in her job this way.

Meanwhile James has entered the mind palace with Brainy. Brainy thought there was an 86.7% chance of Lex being behind James' trauma and initially it seems so. They appear in the Daily Planet. We see the famous picture James took of the streaking Superman, another throwback, this time to season one.

But the Daily Planet scene quickly melts away to two kids running at a young James. We see James' father in a coffin at a funeral home. The stress gets to the physical James who screams and fires heat vision.

Now I know there is no way James is going to keep his powers into next season. So I wonder how this will play out. And seeing the Daily Planet building from the inside was pretty cool.

Inside the Amertek building, Kara uses superspeed to flip through all the files. She runs across a Sebastian Melmoth who has been getting funds sent to him about a base in a land called Rubnio.

When security shows up, Kara again uses her powers stealthily to outmaneuver them. But it is enough to freak out Edna. She won't be helping Kara any more.

Back in James' Mind Palace, we are back at his father's funeral. But there is no image of James' younger self. He confesses to Brainy (joining him in the palace) that he was locked in a bathroom in the diner across the street. It all sounds very odd. Brainy wonders if this was a false memory or something else.

Meanwhile, when Kelly hears that James was back at the funeral, it triggers emotions in her. She was alone and needed James to be there for support. But James wasn't there. Kelly does not want to remember that day.

Apart from the crowd, Alex comforts her. Alex sees some of herself in Kelly, people who take care of others but don't care for themselves all the time

Investigating Sebastian Melmoth more, Kara sees his name on an LCorp financial statement.

Kara decides to ask Lena if she knows anything about Melmoth or Amertek. After all, they both want to take down Lex.

I think appropriately, Lena turns on Kara. They are supposed to be friends but Kara hasn't been around. Kara wants Lena as a source not as a friend. She asks where has Kara been. After all, even Supergirl has been there to comfort Lena.

It would be a perfect time for Kara to come clean. But she doesn't, instead just leaving.

Back on the streets, Dreamer tracks what she thinks are crooks only to find that they are aliens, hiding in the old dive bar which has become a refuge. I love how she continues the sleep puns, asking if it is past their bedtimes (when she thought they were bad guys).

Suddenly the Children of Liberty break in. With 'American Woman' blaring on the jukebox, Dreamer goes about kicking the snot out of them. She again uses dream whips and then some sort of Dream Field, rippling out of her. But the bartender knows this was a battle victory of an ongoing war. These refugees have to run again and won't be safe.

While cool, it isn't exactly the Dream Girl I am used to. Still a nice sequence.

Back in suburbia, George Lockwood continues to question his belief in his father's thoughts. He talks about it with his mother who has completely converted.

Back in CatCo, Nia and Kara wallow. Kara made Edna more afraid. She has been missing in Lena's life, at least as Kara. And Nia is happy she won at the bar but knows the war goes on.

That makes something click in Kara. The world needs a hero, a hero who is alien and human. They need someone to inspire hope. And that person is Dreamer. Kara will interview her on CatCo television, bringing the message to the people!

It reminded me very much of the 'Hope' speech in season one (   ), another great throwback.

Back in James' memories, we see how the things actually unfolded at James' father's funeral.

We see James had seen his father in the open casket before everyone arrived and vowed to make his father proud. Outside the funeral home, we see the two boys we saw in the earlier flashback. They were bullies from James' past who chase him back into the parlor and close him into a casket. They memory is so powerful that Brainy is ejected from James' mind.

The best thing to do is to bring Kelly into James' mind as an emotional tether. Witnessing everything, James realizes he was never locked in a diner. He suppressed this shameful memory. Kelly sees that James didn't abandon her; he was stuck here.

The older James opens the casket releasing his younger self. With the memory and trauma sorted out, James vitals stabilize in the real world. In fact, he is floating/flying in the lab. All is well.

I don't know enough about psychology to comment on this other that to think it is terrible that James somehow had this situation haunt him. This wasn't his fault.

We switch back to CatCo television where Kara interviews Dreamer. It is broadcast everywhere, even in the DEO where it seems that they are unable to turn it off. The DEO looks like a Children of Liberty gathering now.

In the speech, Dreamer opens up about herself. She is human and alien and trans. She humanizes herself, talking about normal stuff - her favorite dessert, how she likes Harry Potter, how she is a personality type INFP. She likes 'nerdy boys who think too much'. And she is sick of feeling hopeless. She wants to be optimistic. People should be their true selves and the world should welcome this new day.

This might be the moment where Brainy realizes he loves Dreamer. I like that they drop the INFP line. As a dyed in wool ENTJ, I like hearing other characters types. And it is inspiring.

Brainy watched the speech with Lena. He had gone there to give her the good news about James.

Surprisingly, she breaks down in front of him. What Dreamer did was brave. Lena thought she knew bravery but she didn't. And she is paralyzed. She was fooled by Lex. She can't find him. And she couldn't save James.

Brainy says he knows what it means to be betrayed. How it can eat you up inside. Lena needs to open up.

You can see how the weight of this season has taken its toll on Lena. But the Brainy betrayal line is the most intriguing thing. Who betrayed him? And when?

Of course, the Dreamer speech is exactly the type of message Ben Lockwood doesn't want spread. He orders the Children of Light to storm CatCo and grab Dreamer. A loyal DEO agent warns Alex.

Stating the broadcast was illegal and meant to incite violence, the Liberty mob storms the building. The good guys douse the lights to Kara can work some super powered magic while maintaining the Kara look. We see her use her jacket like a cape, working in some of last season's cape tricks (another nice callback). Brainy fights with staplers. He goes back to back with Dreamer to fight.

I even like how Kara makes it seem like Franklin saved her from the Children of Light, pumping him up a bit. This was a very good fight scene.

The lights come up and James arrives all super-powered and in control. He crushes Lockwood's hand and gun.

Freedom of the press outranks Lockwood's belief. He makes them run.

It is clear what the season finale is going to be.

Super-powered James vs. super-powered Lex. Supergirl vs. Red Daughter.

There's nothing left but the wrap up.

Back at CatCo, Edna shows up. She has been inspired to do the right thing. She'll be open with the press and expose Amertek. She even hands over some more papers about the military base in 'Rubnio'.

And then Lena shows up.

It is a time for reconciliation with Kara. Lena confesses how she worked with Lex. She knew she was probably being manipulated. But she needed to complete the Harunel. She admits to being weak.

Kara doesn't get angry. Lena thought Lex was dying and helped her family. It's noble. But friendship is the most important job.

Again though, it would be the perfect time for Kara to reveal she is Supergirl. What better moment would there be??

Instead, she remains quiet. This is not going to end well.

But now Kara and Lena can work together.

Lena looks at Kara's research and knows that Sebastian Melmoth is an Oscar Wilde character and a favorite of Lex's. Knowing it is Lex who now got paid dollars from Amertex, she can unscramble the coded clues.

Rubnio is code for Kaznia. Looks like a Lena/Kara road trip is going to happen.

Meanwhile things are unraveling in the Lockwood house.

George now is now secretly defying his father, texting his support to a friend who is an alien.

And the alien wife Ben threatened earlier has slipped into the Lockwood house and killed Lydia.

Hmmm … maybe not all aliens are good guys? Will this make George change his mind? And why wouldn't a cabinet member have some security at his house?

The episode ends with J'onn on Mars dropping off the sacred symbols. That story is complete.

Overall I think this was a very good episode. It very much riffed on the call for hope from season one. And I like the progression in the Lena story. And I love the Dreamer puns and her joy in being a hero.

We're nearing the end!


loona leshock said...

OMG i'm such a fan! Just wanted to let you know that i admire your work and you let me see the world a different way. thx. You really are super. Your reviews are awesome and well done. Idk what to say accept thank you for all your work.

The SUPERFAN said...

hey ANj, I hope you read this.. What do you think about this theory:
For the finale, Lex will reveal Supergirl's secret identity. So that people will see that Kara Danvers just reported for her own good and promotion and stuff like that. It would explain why Kara hasn't "came clean" to Lena about being Supergirl.The reaction of lena could be a turning point for the story. And a very good cliffhanger. pls tell me what you think!

Anonymous said...

Honestly, Kara's secret identity is her secret to tell. It's her choice and right to not share it with Lena.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments!

Supergirl’s Identity being revealed by Lex is a crazy idea. But maybe that would make for an interesting half season pre- Crisis!

And yes, it is Kara’s decision to reveal to Lena but the time seems perfect!

Anonymous said...

A Lexreveal...might be a powerful cliffhanger, but its a favored trope of the show that Supergirl has some skill in covering up a identity that her own casual approach routinely imperils. Just saying' Outwitting Lex in this fashion would really really p*ss off Luthor in extremis.
Loved the "Pink Overcoat Fu" BTW...

Otherwise I liked the ep, I initially thought Nicole Mains was "stunt casting" but in the interim she has demonstrated she has chops, "dream energy" and all.


Anonymous said...

This season truly has been tremendous, I am glad they have realized that Kara doesn't need a romantic interest and that as a hero she is different from flash and arrow. So the whole 'kid' storyline won't work for her,especially as someone who is nearly immortal. Ofcourse, I want Kara to have it all but I would much rather we see this kind of stuff rather than a hammered in romance storyline. (I still hope to see more Krypton/argo tho)

Depression and PTSD has haunted me and still does so to see the show dealing with this,I love it. This is why I loved the beginning of new52 so much, it showed someone who was lost, confused and angry. I loved that ultimately she did find her way. Guy's last line to Kara in the red lantern arc as he tells her that she is made for better things helped me somehow as well.

I hope that they explore Kara's trauma as well because I relate to her issues (on a micro scale ofcourse) a lot more. But since she is an alien so I guess for Kelly to offer therapy to her will take some time and the Supergirl reveal as well.

Overall, I am loving this season and hope this streak continues in season 5 as well.

Scrimmage said...

The best part of this episode was seeing how effective Supergirl can be in her secret identity of Kara Danvers, Ace Reporter. Unfortunately, it seems that Kara is a better writer than an interviewer. That “touchy-feely” farce with Dreamer was about as hard hitting as a pillow fight. It was a TERRIBLE interview that came off more like a pro-alien political infomercial. Where were the questions about all the HOSTILE aliens, who HAVE come to Earth with bad intentions? How will being “more understanding” protect humans during the NEXT invasion? It's the fear of THOSE aliens that is the driving force behind the Children of Liberty, and the “Earth First” movement, yet Kara's softball interview with Dreamer did NOTHING to address, much less alleviate those concerns. Doesn't the cold-blooded murder of Lydia Lockwood JUSTIFY those fears, at least to some extent? After everything he's lost because of aliens, can you really BLAME Ben Lockwood for his hostility and prejudice toward them?

Speaking of Secret Identities...

Considering that the DEO and the Children of Liberty have access to state-of-the-art facial recognition software, it seem like an unnecessary risk for Dreamer (or Kara, for that matter) to make an appearance on a national television news broadcast. It would be child's play for the authorities to digitally remover her mask, and then, along with the personal information she revealed about herself, identify her as Nia Nal.

I also have a problem with Dreamer's power set. Precognition, and astral projection seem to fit, but “Dream Energy Web Slinky's” and “Dream Energy Blasts” do not. In combat, Dreamer should be epitome of non-violent confrontation, putting her opponents to sleep, or making them “dream” they're somewhere else. In a pinch, she could even manifest their worst nightmares with her “dream energy,” but the point is, it would all be part of her dream-themed powers. She's NOT Spider-Man!

And I say that, despite the fact that I enjoyed her fairly lame attempts at dream oriented superhero banter. Like her fledgling superhero career, Dreamer's painful puns and quips are a work in progress, but they do allow us to see a more playful side of the character, that is usually hidden in her civilian identity.

As for Kara, she's going to have to work harder on being more “mild mannered” if she wants to distinguish herself from her caped alter-ego. Getting herself trapped in an office building doesn't exactly fill me with confidence, either. After she used her Super Breath to freeze shut what appeared to be the only door in or out, how did Edna get out?

Outside of kicking some butt in the CatCo attack, about all Kara managed to do in this episode was dole out a few of her signature “Super Pep Talks,” in this case, her supposedly “inspiring” interview with Dreamer, and her reconciliation with Lena. I can't help feeling that the show gets a little off track whenever it focuses too much attention on the anti-alien politics, which is why I'm glad it looks like Kara and Lena are going to track down Red Daughter in Lex's Kasnian stronghold. That's the most compelling storyline this season. The pseudo-political stuff doesn't even amount to a close second.

Scrimmage said...

Turning Superman's pal, and ace photojournalist, ginger Jimmy Olsen into hunky, black, “James” Olsen, potential love interest for Supergirl was a failure.

Turning James Olsen into CatCo's CEO by day, and a motorcycle riding, shield carrying, armor clad, masked vigilante / Batman wannabe calling himself “Guardian,” who was barely a match for human, non-powered, street criminals that Supergirl could defeat in seconds, was ANOTHER major failure.

Putting James in a mismatched, ill-advised, romantic relationship with Lex Luthor's sister, when they have absolutely NO chemistry whatsoever, was COMPLETELY out of character for him, and a major failure.

Giving James super powers won't be any different from any of those OTHER plot devices they've used to prop up this useless character who should've NEVER been part of the show to begin with.

Clearly, the writers have no idea WHAT to do with this guy. I think it's obvious that he needs to go back to Metropolis, and the Daily Planet where he belongs. Let him be a pain in Perry White's ass again!

Martin Gray said...

Thanks for a great review. As a viewer of Flash but not Aroow, I must ask - what’s a ‘kid’ storyline?

Who these days is called ‘Edna’? Someone being written by writers giving us a random nod to Sixties Supergirl. Love it!