Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Supergirl 421: Red Dawn

Supergirl Episode 421, title 'Red Dawn' aired this week and basically blew me out of the water. It was amazing. This episode marked writer Eric Carrasco's last work on the Supergirl series and he went out with a bang, pushing the gas pedal down. Everything is screaming to the finale. Amazing.

There was almost too much to love about this episode, stuff I will cover when I get into the details/recap.

The Alex/Kara moments here were extremely powerful. Their ending scene made me choke up a bit. And getting the young actors who played them in the Midvale episode back was a nice touch. The flashbacks helped flesh out the ending of the Alex memory storyline.

Brainy gets a great turn in this episode as he overcomes his awkward emotions in the least desirable way. I guess Brainiac's like to bottle things up too much. The pressure got to him.

The final fight between Red Daughter and Supergirl drew on Sterling Gates, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Phenomenal.

Ben Lockwood might be heading to a mini-redemption. Although I think he wouldn't care how he got where he got, just that he got there.

And despite all that, my favorite scene was one between Lena and Lillian Luthor, filled with love, death, poisoning, and snark! Kate McGrath and Brenda Strong deserve a bottle episode of their own.

I do have to say that the back end of this season has been spectacular. Probably the best second half of a Supergirl season to date. On to the specifics!

We start out with a Midvale flashback.

The sisters are walking on the shore, listening to music, as Kara tries to clap along to the beat. But she just can't get it.

She wonders if the two sisters should forego college and just head out into the world together because no one outside of Alex gets her.

In the end, Kara gets rhythm, clapping along with Alex until a first super-clap shakes the Earth, sending them over a cliff.

Can I say again how great Izabela Vidovic and Olivia Nikkanen are in channeling Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh! Keep hoping for another episode that is completely set in the teenage Danver years with these two reprising the roles.

Turns out it is a dream Alex is having.

I love how the Danvers sisters love old movies. And while Casablanca seems an obvious choice, if Alex is still hurting from the adoption decision last episode, she might go for a 'comfort food' movie.

There is supportive Kelly. But Kelly does give a little exposition. Kara is the adopted sibling. Something as emotionally traumatic and stressful as what happened last episode can make physiologic changes in the brain. Perhaps the mental wipe that J'onn placed early in the season is breaking down.

Since I never was quite on board with the mind wipe, I didn't mind this at all.

And let's not forget that last episode ending with Kara being put taken captive in the oval office.

She finds herself tied to a chair with secret service officers saying that her evidence of the President working with Lex has been scrubbed. She won't be freed until she isn't a national securuty risk.

In a great little moment, we see her roll out in her chair, knocking these guys out all Black Widow like. With them knocked out, she smashes out of the chair. Too bad Red Daughter, all Linda Lee wigged out, is waiting on the other side of the door with a hunk of Green K on a chain (like Lex in Superman the Movie!).

Back in the DEO we get a little bit of catch up as Alex, Brainy, and Lena all compare notes. Brainy talks of Lockwood giving himself the Harunel formula. Lena talks about Lex's invasion plans and the Red Daughter clone. Together they realize that Lockwood's connection to the DEO is how Lex has been gathering these aliens. It is time to split up.

Brainy will look for aliens ... and tell Dreamer he loves her. He blurts it out crazily.
Alex will find Red Daughter.
And Lena will rattle Lockwood.

Go team!

We then get a nice face to face between Red Daughter and Kara.

The plan is to kill Kara by shooting her, a bit mundane don't you think? But the weakened Kara could be shot.

But there is a lot of stuff to unpack.

Kara lets Red Daughter know that she is a loose end that Lex will want to end.

Red Daughter spews a lot of propaganda. Kara is the villain. They aren't alike. Kara is a joke flying around in a cheerleader skirt. America is a land of fear, racism, and strife. It is a fatted heifer and Red Daugher is there to slit it's throat.

That said, she is in a room with green K. She is just as weakened. Except she doesn't have the experience dealing with it like Kara. There is a brief skirmish in which Kara gets shot in the arm but is able to fight off  Red Daughter and fly off.

Nice fight sequence!

At J'onn;s, she gets the bullet removed.

But she knows that Red Daughter knows everything about Kara Danvers' life. Alex is in danger. They need to lift the mindwipe. But J'onn says it could drive Alex insane. Only if Alex remembers on her own will the mind wipe simply go away.

I know I say it all the time. But Melissa Benoist is such a good actress. She shows such emotional turmoil when she thinks about how Alex is in danger.

And then we get that Lena/Lillian scene.

Lena gets Lillian a weekend pass so they can work together. She also puts a 'baby Truth Seeker' on Lillian. Now there are no lies. We hear how Lillian paid off a boyfriend to dump Lena. She doesn't know where Lex is.

But Lena needs help. She doesn't know how to extract Harunel. She needs Lillian's Luthor mind.
And while Lillian won't initially agree to do it (knowing it is to help Jimmy), Lena plays a card from the Luthor deck. She poisoned Lillian's lunch. She has 24 hours.

There is also snark. Lena gets to sarcastically ask Lena if Lex trying to kill Lillian hurt Lillian's feelings. It is delivered so deliciously by Lena.

The capstone is Lillian saying she loves Lena. Remember, there is a truth seeker on her. We know this is fact now.

It is enough to shake Lena who stands there for a second gobsmacked.

So well acted on both ends.

The absolute best scene!

Then Lena confronts Lockwood.

He is shocked to learn about Lex manipulating him and manipulating the President. Lena calls out the obvious. A year ago he was pushing pamphlets on the side of the road. Now he is a cabinet member with super-powers. Can't he tell it all happened too easily? Lex used him to stir up the populace.

Lockwood definitely seems shaken by the news. He thought all this was his idea, vision and work.

It is also clear that he is dying from the Harunel. It is unstable. That means James could be dying as well.

J'onn and Brainy try to track all the missing aliens knowing they will lead to Lex. At the dive bar, Brainy continues to say how he needs to tell Dreamer his feelings. While there they find a unicorn keychain. When Dreamer arrives, the keychain triggers a vision of wolves chasing a young alien riding the unicorn.

It is the second best unicorn dream sequence. Just behind Blade Runner.

J'onn flies off trying to find a way in.

Meanwhile Dreamer convinces Brainy to do a 'wookie gambit', faking a capture to sneak in. Brainy tries to fake being Ben Lockwood. But he is discovered. Now both are cuffed.

I don't know what is the funnier imitation - Brainy as Lockwood? Or J'onn as Kara?

I talked about Melissa Benoist's acting.
I talked about the Katie McGrath/Brenda Strong Luthor reunion scene.

But if you want to see a one man tour de force, watch Jesse Rath's performance when he is being tortured by the Children of Liberty.

He is so worried about what they might do to Dreamer and so pained by the torture that he runs an amazing gamut of emotions. He talks of his horrible ancestors, how he purposefully walled off their memories. He talks of how hard he worked to get to the past. How he uses 'little boxes' like 'Pandoras box' to pack up evil. I mean a Brainiac talking about his ancestors being collectors is a nice comic cut.

But then, overwhelmed by these emotions, streaming tears, he reboots, coming out the other side as an emotionless Brainiac. He quickly dispatches his captors.

When J'onn shows up, Brainy says that he is finally free. Nothing can hurt him anymore. He isn't experiencing pain. He knows now that Lex is sending aliens through a portal to drain them of natural energies to power a cannon.

For comic fans, seeing an unstable Brainiac 5 snap is all too familiar.

Meanwhile Supergirl, even as a declared enemy of the state, heads to the DEO to find Alex. Colonel Haley also has deduced that Lex is trying to recreate the Project Claymore space cannon, but smaller. The scientists who helped create the cannon are all dead.

And they also know that Red Daughter has been active in National City.

Even Haley agrees that they need to go against Presidential order and work together.

I have said it in the past'; I'll say it here. Haley's arc as a person of morals and ethics following justice and not laws alone has been fascinating. I hope she sticks around for next season.

Using science, Supergirl and Alex find Red Daughter's apartment. It semi-mirrors Kara's but in a spartan way. But the red daughter has a red blanket, so cape-like. She has journals with doodles of Alex. You can see Kara's loft from there. There are glasses and wigs.

It is all creepy. This is the apartment of a Kara stalker.

It also makes me think that despite her talk, Red Daughter wants to live Kara's life.

Lena and James follow Lockwood to Otis' safe house. He reinjects the Harunel formula, stabilizing himself.

There Otis chuckles at how Lockwood was so oblivious to being part of Lex's plans. It's all about money, power and world domination. And that will happen since Lex has set up Kaznia as a paper tiger. Lena knows that Lex wants to be recognized as a hero.

 Revealing the plan means Lockwood is another loose end. Otis tries to kill Lockwood. James jumps in knowing that Otis knows where Lex is. But James also begins to die.

With his pain under control, Lockwood rips out the Kryptonite heart, killing Otis. ('Harsh, bro' is a great death line.)

Back at Faolian shipping, Brainy's cold, calculating personality remains in power. He leaves Dreamer chained so she can find out where the portal goes. He then knocks out J'onn's powers so J'onn will also get shipped off. This is two chances for them to let Brainy know where Lex is.

Brainy is now devoid of feeling so totally he'll sacrifice his friends for the plan.

Will this be undone next episode? Will he become the villain of season 5?? I am very intrigued.

Back at Red Daughter's apartment, Alex shows up. She sees this is like Kara's apartment and so now Alex is worried about her sister.

Alex talks about how caring for a sister is like having part of your heart out there and always in danger. Kara knows what that is like.  It is a great Danvers sister moment even if Alex doesn't know it.

But then Alex gets a call from mom Eliza. Kara (that is Red Daughter) is there.

Supergirl speeds off. Time for a throwdown!

RD – you have things to make you whole? I serve the collective. Brings up Mikhail. Time for a throwdown!

In Midvale, Red Daughter laughs at all the 'things' in the Danvers home, as if they are trying to make themselves whole with consumer goods. Red Daughter lives for the collective, not the individual.

When Kara brings up Mikhail, there is gauntlet is thrown. The two brawl.

Again, I think subconsciously, Red Daughter is jealous of Kara.

In an episode of great moments, there was a perfect moment, channeling Sterling Gates' run.

Lex fights for himself. But Supergirl? Supergirl stands for 'hope, help, and compassion for all'. That's Supergirl's comic mantra.

We heard this in episode 219 'Alex', but that was Kara saying it. Here, seeing Supergirl in uniform saying it was thrilling.

It is an even brawl.  It looks like Kara might win.

But Red Daughter says she has evolved. She wields purple lightning which not only electrocute Kara but blot out the sun.

Remember the purple lightning outside Kaznia, the sudden storm which engulfed Lena's plane. Now we know the origin.

And that gives Red Daughter the advantage she needs.

Supergirl won't submit. So Red Daughter beats her to death. We hear Supergirl's heart stop.

Meanwhile. Alex has arrived to make sure Eliza and 'Kara' are safe. She sees the fight and her memories flood back. From new flashback scenes (including a Christmas morning where Kara makes it snow inside like Frozen) to show flash backs of the sisters (including the powerful scene of Kara pushing against the window of the space freighter in Season two's Exodus).

With her sister dying, Alex runs to Kara's body and pleads with her to hang on.

And then Chyler Leigh crushes it as Alex, crying that she can't lose Kara now that she has her again.

No ... you're crying.

In a little bit of comic book science, Alex pleads to Kara to take the solar energy from the life around her. While 'take the grass' is an odd sentence, it was cool to see the yellow energy from the field surge and envelop Supergirl, bringing her back to life.

Yes, we long time fans always cringe when we see Supergirl die. Crisis is still fresh.

But there is now doubt this is an homage to Frank Miller's Dark Knight returns where Superman does this very trick.

Wuth Supergirl resurrected, we have to catch up on all the threads.

James is dying but he convinces Lillian to reinject him with Harunel for now. With the threat coming, James will need his powers. Lillian can extract later. (And yes, Lena had poisoned her. She gives Lillian the antidote!)

J'onn and Dreamer scowl at Brainy as they are led through the portal.

And on the news we see how the President is thanking Lex Luthor for repelling the Kaznian invasion, including the traitor Supergirl. We see Luthor, in Lex armor and armed with a portable Claymore cannon, holding a dead Red Daughter.

It is all coming together. Remember, Lex thinks the real Supergirl is dead. All the loose ends are tied ... but not really.

Of course, this also means Lex probably extracted the unstable Harunel from his own body, thus the need for the armor.

I also have to hope that Red Daughter either isn't really dead or that we see her being killed next week. This is too key a moment to happen off screen.

That minor quibble aside, I need to catch my breath! So much happened.

I'm glad Alex has her memories back and the sisters are again united.

I love Supergirl saying 'hope, help, and compassion for all' and I like how confident she was here.

I love the Chyler Leigh scene, weeping over her sister's body.

I was overwhelmed by the excellent Lena/Lillian scene.

I suppose a double crossed super-powered Agent Liberty is still out there. Perhaps James has someone to fight?

And what will happen to Brainy??

But we are bound to get a Lex Luthor/Supergirl smackdown next week. That's a dream come true.

Thank you Eric Carrasco for all you have done for the show!


Professor Feetlebaum said...

Good to see that "hope, help, and compassion for all" has taken on something of a life of it's own. Now if it could just find it's way into the current comics! Every Supergirl writer should have that motto framed above his or her workspace as a reminder of what Supergirl stands for.

If that Supergirl movie ever gets made, and the producers want to go with a teenage Kara, Izabela Vidovic would be a good choice. But I suppose they would prefer a whole new cast, and not want to use anyone connected with the TV show.

Anonymous said...

The Good :
- Izabela Vidovic and Olivia Nikkanen return!
- Mindwiped Alex plot FINALLY over! And we get beautiful Danvers Sister Moments, both young
and old!
- Lillian and Lena mother-daughter bonding moment!
- ANY Jessie Rath scenes, and agree don't know whether J'onn-as-Kara or Brainy-as-Lockwood
is more funny and entertaining! I REALLY like this dark, evil Brainiac honestly, and would
LOVE to see him as the Big Bad next season!
- Supergirl v Red Daughter bellringer! Including the "Hope, Help, and Compassion For All"
line, and callout to Frank Miller! SWEET!
- Helen Slater IS BACK AS ELIZA!
- Kara's invokation of "Oh Rao!" We haven't had that in a LONG time, and I was glad to hear
it again!

The Bad :
Clunking writing and plotholes that were generally covered up and forgivable by the great
character and actor moments

- why would they blackbag Kara from the White House to a highrise with Red Daughter in it?
- why was Red Daughter seemingly immune to kryptonite at first like that?
- what was up with the alien girl, the unicorn, and the wolves? I hope it'll be addressed
next episode, but still...
- why wait so long for the Supergirl v Red Daughter fight? Honestly, THIS irked me the most
in that the minute Supergirl broke out of the window, she and Red Daughter should have come out
punching right then and there. Karatharsis, baby!
- the cure to Harun-El is more Harun-El? Huh?
- Lex Luthor doesn't know how to remake the Claymore satellite tech so went on a search for
the scientists who made it, but can do everything else sciency he has so far this season...
riiiiight. Never mind he knows enough about Kara to know about her link to Eliza, and send
Red Daughter her way.
- why / what caused Red Daughter to take off like that, only for her to be defeated / killed
by Lex?
- depowering Dreamer and J'onn like that... I get it, it ramps up the dramatics of them
walking to who knows where through the Stargate, but...

The Supergirl v Red Daughter fight was entertaining enough, and I liked how Supergirl seemed
to have the upper hand at first, but to me felt like things were kinda "done on the cheap,"
production-wise. I'm not sure about Red Daughter "blotting out the sun" with her lightning
powers; another theory I heard mentioned and I'm more partial to was that was just to represent
the passage of time, which I think is more logical -- you don't exactly drive from National
City to Midvale in 10minutes or less :) And would make more sense of Supergirl depleting her
solar reserves that she's have to absorb it from the surrounding flora and fauna.

Agree Anj, it was alot to take in this episode. And from the photos of next week's episode,
the shot of the Luthor family together in the White House -- this REALLY piques my interest!


Anonymous said...

It would be just like Berlanti et al to botch a potentially great Kara-Red Daughter showdown with an offscreen death for the Kasnian Klone. After all, she crowds the evil spotlight that must always shine entirely on Lex Luthor, on the other hand it would be like Lex to fake the Doppelganger's death in order to retain a super ace in the hole, he can always snuff her later since she is so easy to manipulate.
But I think Kasnian Kara has gone for the terminal dirt nap...Occam's Razor supports this...
Meanwhile the big takeaway for this season is that a great deal of clunky writing can be artfully forgiven if Lex Luthor starts plotting against our favorite heroine...kudos to Jon Cryer for nailing it every episode.

As for Jesse Rath as next season's big bad, Yes Please!! Please recall the last time we checked he still has the Alien Registry locked up in his computer that must have potential for season five mayhem...


Scrimmage said...

I agree with Anj on just about everything in his review. This was a well written, fast paced episode with several interesting performances by the cast, both the regulars, and recurring characters. I just wish they had gotten to this point with the Red Daughter storyline much earlier in the season. Both she and Lex are such compelling characters (along with Eve Tessmacher, and even Otis, who dies more often than Kenny on South Park), it seems like we haven't spent enough time with ANY of them, and WAY too much time on Ben Lockwood!

I absolutely loved the verbal confrontation between ReD and Kara, which, thanks to MB's adorable Russian accent, actually sounded like a debate between two different people. That effect was GREATLY enhanced by the brunette, “Linda Lee” wig ReD was wearing. Holy Secret Identity, Batman! Melissa was virtually unrecognizable in that thing! That makes for a MUCH more effective disguise than a pair of big rimmed glasses.

Kara might need to borrow that wig because, for all intents and purposes, Supergirl's secret identity is blown! Not only does Lex know who she really is, but by now, Kara HAS to assume that he's already told the President how Ace Reporter, Kara Danvers escaped the custody of federal agents. Alex finally regained her memories too, and in a way that I thought seemed rather plausible, so now it seems that the only person in Kara's inner circle who DOESN'T know Kara's secret is Lena. I'm sure she'll be pissed, but she's gonna have to get over it pretty quickly if Team Supergirl going to stop Lex from attaining his goal of “World Domination.”

I'm REALLY happy to see Brainiac 5 revert to something closer to his character's original concept as an emotionless, humanoid computer, who solves “problems” with cold, deadly efficiency. I MUCH prefer this “rebooted” version of the character to the increasingly cartoony depiction of him as “Brainy! The Lovesick Computer!” which sounds like a back-of-the-comic book story from late 50's. The guy I saw breaking out of his restraints, and taking down his tormentors in a systematic fashion was the first time I saw him as a real Legionnaire! I'd also like to see more of his Flight Ring Kung-fu in a combat situation. That's always interesting.

Speaking of powers...

J'onn J'onzz don't need no stinking “Wookie Gambit!” He's the ULTIMATE Stealth Weapon! He's an invisible, shape-shifting, telepathic Manhunter from Mars, who can fly, and pass through walls, but they NEVER take advantage of his full capabilities! That's probably because if they did, it would become obvious that his unique abilities make J'onn MUCH more powerful, and a lot more formidable than the titular Star of show.

My biggest gripe about this episode would be that, instead of the long anticipated battle between Red Daughter and Supergirl, we got a generic fight scene between Melissa and her stunt double wearing a helmet. It wouldn't have been so disappointing if we had seen Red Daughter wearing that helmet before, but she never did until she came face to face with her own face, and inexplicably decided to HIDE that face behind a helmet that ironically looks IDENTICAL to the one Kara wore in a couple of episodes earlier this season. I'm sure this was a lot cheaper than a CGI heavy slugfest between Super Twins would be, but that's the problem. It came off looking cheap, especially compared to the Battle Royale between Supergirl and Reign early last season, when Reign kicked Kara's butt in a MUCH more convincing fashion!

The “feed off the grass” thing was pretty silly, but it looked cool. You'd think by now that Alex would keep a Yellow Sun grenade handy for just such a contingency. Maybe she will, now that she remembers that Supergirl, and her sister Kara are one and the same!

KET said...

A couple of replies:

"- why was Red Daughter seemingly immune to kryptonite at first like that?"

She wasn't. Lead-lined box...even Superman has handled Kryptonite in that same way.

"I'm not sure about Red Daughter "blotting out the sun" with her lightning
powers; another theory I heard mentioned and I'm more partial to was that was just to represent
the passage of time, which I think is more logical..."

Answer could go either way, since we don't really know how far away "Midvale" is from National City on the series. However, since Harun-El lightning bolts are made of black magic, there's really no need for an explanation. It was an added advantage that Red Daughter had, which Supergirl hadn't advanced planned for (which is kind of her routine...jumping into action without a care about her own safety).


Scrimmage said...

My favorite line in this episode was when Kara escaped from her G-Men captors...

Kara: “You picked on the wrong girl!”

That's about as close to a catch phrase as anything I've ever heard Supergirl say. It sums her up in just six words.

It's always good to see Lillian Luthor. She's so unapologetically evil, it's refreshing. I wonder if her alien-induced admission of love for her daughter, Lena was written in because they knew this episode was going to be aired on Mother's Day.

Speaking of Mothers...

Eliza should be on more often. Certainly, both Kara and Alex do enough soul searching that they could do some of it with their mother, instead of virtual strangers, like Kelly, for instance. As we saw in this episode, it's not as if Eliza lives THAT far away to make regular visits impractical, especially for Kara.

Apparently, Eliza's inclusion in the scene where “dead” Supergirl draws on solar energy from the forest around her was added in after that scene was shot. At first, I thought it looked odd when she didn't immediately run over to her daughters as soon as she saw them, but then, when Alex didn't acknowledge her mother's presence – she was mostly talking to herself, and her sister – I realized that Eliza's lines were edited into that scene later, and rather clumsily, I might add. That's okay. I'll take Helen Slater any way I can get her, and putting her in a scene with both of her onscreen daughters on Mother's Day was a nice touch.


I never like it when the writers add new powers to an established character to advance the plot, which is why I don't care for this notion of Red Daughter – who is only a few months old - “evolving” the ability to generate purple lightning. If that's a function of her armor, they should've made that clear, especially since it would've explained why she's wearing a helmet all of a sudden, which, when you stop to think about it, defeats the purpose of her looking exactly like Supergirl.

How much cooler would it have been if the battle between Supergirl and Red Daughter took place while RD was dressed in SG's “cheerleader” outfit? If they had fought in public, it would've also proven that there were TWO identical Supergirls – the good one, and the bad one who torched the White House. I would've had them fighting to a standstill, which would only be logical since they are so even matched, and then I would've had Lex blasting BOTH of them with the new Claymore Ray Gun in his Lex suit. Alex and Eliza wouldn't have been able to tell WHICH of the two “dead” Supergirls was Kara, before the ambient solar energy revived them.

I think that would've been a lot more dramatic ending to this episode than seeing Lex blasting RD on a TV monitor, and then holding up her apparently lifeless body for the camera. My way, this episode could've ended with SG and RD flying off to take on Lex TOGETHER!

Martin Gray said...

I loved Supergirl being revived by solar energy in plants... I don’t remember that DKR scene AG all, but then I only read the comic when it came out, never wanted to go back to it. In my mind, this was a stealth Kara/Swamp Thing team-up.

I’d have liked Eliza to have come up with the solar energy suggestion, as on-scene Mom and a bio-engineer.