Friday, November 1, 2019

Supergirl Show 502: Stranger Beside Me


I continue my 'better late than never' reviews of Supergirl season 5.

First off, nice sort of new opening title card, made from the tiny electronic circuits forming the now famous rainbow-y Supergirl title.

This second episode, titled 'Stranger Beside Me' did a good job at looking at all the characters on the show and demonstrate how relationships aren't always easy or open. J'onn has a brother who is a stranger to him. Alex is in love with Kelly but doesn't really know her. Brainy is trying to be a good significant other to Nia but he is overcompensating, unable to recognize cues from Dreamer. Kara clashes with William Day who has another side to him besides conceited jerk. And Lena creates a stranger when she deals with Eve Tessmacher.

That's a lot of strangers!

But despite that deep character look, the main plots of the season - technology controlling people, fake news dominating the airwaves, and Ma'la'fal'ak wanting revenge all nudged forward.

I have to say, I have been pretty impressed so far! If only I wasn't about to be 3 episodes behind!

On to the show.




One thing I have liked about this season has been the every day superheroics we have seen Supergirl do (even if once it was in VR). Last episode she saved an out of control school bus from slamming into kids. Here the episode opens with Supergirl stopping an eighteen wheeler from running into a family car.

All of this happened because a pedestrian looking at their cellphone instead of traffic signals walked out into traffic causing this near pileup.  It's aggravating because it's true!

Anyways, these little scenes really sink in that Supergirl is a hero of the people, and dedicated to hope, help, and compassion for all!

We again see that a special election is on the horizon for the country. No doubt this will impact the series somehow.

Also I don't mind the pants that much given the boots remain unchanged.


With that behind us, we check in on some of the couples in the show.

Alex nearly kills Kelly by serving her blueberry pancakes, not realizing Kelly is anaphylactic to the fruit. Have you ever heard of Chekov's allergy? If you hear about an allergy in act one, it will have an impact in act three.

And Brainy serves Nia breakfast burritos just as she likes them. When she declares it the best morning ever, Brainy starts doing some calculations about how to top that.


And then the biggest plot hook from our supporting case.

James, recently quit from CatCo, has been approached to run for the Senate. And he has been approached to run the Smithsonian's media output. While I know Mehcad Brooks is leaving the show, I do hope he gets something big to do beforehand.


When James and Kara walk into J'onn's office, they find him unconscious from a psychic feedback from running into his brother.

J'onn gives us a little Martian history. There is a curse called Fa'ra'too'rik, a punishment when a brother attacks a brother, born from the deities Phobos and Deimos attacking each other. That is interesting. It also ties into the split between green and white martians. There really is quite the history being built.

It turns out that Brainy thinks q-waves can help J'onn break through the psychic blocks he has, And luckily enough, Kelly is using q-waves with the Obsidian North lenses to help neurotrauma victims. So why not try with J'onn.


Meanwhile, Lena continues to stew over the fact that humans are too emotional and therefore cannot be trusted. She keeps hoping that the Obsidian lenses could be used in some way to help her bring about some sort of paradise.

And she puts her trust in Hope, her new AI persona who has a base code built on morality, empathy, and logic. It seems like this is built for disaster. I mean, hasn't Lena seen 'I, Robot'??

What's worse, Lena shows she isn't above emotions. She has kidnapped Eve Tessmacher and is holding her prisoner!


As of now, the subplot which hasn't grabbed me is Andrea Rojas turning CatCo into a high click, low integrity media platform.

As if to prove a point and knock Kara down a peg, she puts Kara on the fashion beat. She wants to see Kara do lowbrow journalism. When Kara says she has a lead on a senate hopeful, Andrea tells her to do both jobs.

I hope this plot grabs me because it looks like it is one of the legs this season is built on.


Meanwhile, Eve begins to talk about Leviathan, telling Lena she never wanted to betray her. She was compelled by this group. They groomed her from early on. But when working for Lena, she loved it. Lena doesn't buy it. Eve was no better than Kara.

I love the Miss Tessmacher character, layers on layers on layers.


In the DEO (how great to see the Department up and running again. But do they have a purpose these days?), Brainy brags about how well he knows Nia. In reality, he is truly naive. He has fallen into the old trap that more is better. Jumping on the success of his breakfast meal he has sent Nia 35 boxes of sushi.

He doesn't know that he is pretty strange.

Meanwhile, Alex begins doubting her relationship with Kelly. She thinks she loves Kelly, but what does she really know.

It is a sort of turnabout, isn't it. The healthier relationship in doubt; the awkward one thinking it is perfect.


Speaking of Kelly, she uses the qwaves to not only begin healing J'onn but to enter his mind's virtual reality. We learn that J'onn has a whole swath of memories which have been blocked or stripped away. It manifests as book shelves filled with books with blank covers and spines. That is a nice image.

Together the two begin wondering what happened. Is it a side effect of My'rnn's memories? Or was he mind wiped. Regardless, it is memories of Mars' Civil War.

When confronting these memories, both J'onn and Ma'ale'fa'lak suffer bouts of pain. They are linked.

In a nice bit of continuity, James tells J'onn to not give up. After all, Kelly helped James with his own suppressed memories. That is a good call back!


The psychic flash from that memory helps the DEO track Ma'ale'fa'lak. He is hidden in the city sewers. Brainy, Alex, and Supergirl all head in only to see that J'onn's brother has an unlikely ally ... a white martian.

A brawl ensues.

Prior to that, somehow narcissist reporter William Day, decides to track Kara, somehow locked onto her with his cell phone. He ends up in the sewer too, almost pulped by the ongoing battle.

I don't know how the heck he tracked her.


Within his mind, J'onn is able to see the suppressed memories.

His brother worked with the White Martians in the civil war as a traitor. He poisoned his own people. As a result, J'onn hunted his own brother and sent him into the Phantom Zone.

I don't think we learned exactly who stripped these memories. Ahhhh, the mind wipe. Always filled with story problems.

While seeing these memories helps J'onn, it also cures Ma'ale'fa'lak who is suddenly energized, grabs the White Martian and retreats.

This whole mystery is fascinating. And why would the Monitor free Ma'ale'fa'lak from the Zone?


No surprise, her actions as Supergirl keep Kara from completing her CatCo duties.

As a result, William Day rewrote her article. And even worse, Andrea makes Kara do copy editing.

It is enough to make Kara confront Day.

I mean, Kara won a Pulitzer. This is nonsense. It is great to see her stand up for herself.


Earlier in the show, Lena broke a pair of Obsidian North lenses. Somehow Rojas figures that out. We then get the two powerful women sizing each other up.

Andrea tells Lena to knock it off. She won't let Lena steal Obsidian's IP.

Eve heard the whole thing but kept quiet trying to prove her loyalty to Lena.

Meanwhile, Brainy continues to stymie his chances, topping the 35 sushi boxes with a tower of pizza. Even when Nia says she like Brainy and likes more than food (listing poetry, Taylor Swift, and hanging out as other likes), you can see him recalibrating his naivete.

And J'onn acts like space dad, telling Kara to rise above the nonsense at CatCo.


I told you the allergy would come back. Ma'ale'fa'lak sneaks into Alex's apartment and takes the shape of Kelly. When Alex holds the hand of her 'girlfriend', she can tell something is off. She asks about blueberry pancakes and the fake Kelly says she can't wait. Now you would think a telepath would have sensed this trick but nope.

Alex hits her signal watch.

When Kara arrives, she can sense that the Alex she meets isn't Alex. Shades of old school 'V', after a heat vision blast, we see that Alex isn't Alex.

I don't understand why this would happen. But I love the visual!!


And then there is a throwdown between fake Alex and Kara. I wonder if Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh loved filming this. I don't think they have fought since Season One! We even get some cool effects like Alex chucking a car.

The fight leads to a rooftop where the real Alex faces two Kellys. Which is the real?

It is the classic two Kirks from Star Trek. The real Kelly gives a selfless answer. Thus Alex can deduce who the Martian is and blast Ma'ale'fa'lak who is forced to retreat.

Again, don't think too much about this. The evil Martian could have used telepathy to know what to say.

Anyways, it was nice to see the Guardian and J'onn helping out too.

That Alex/Supergirl fight was a hoot.

There is nothing left but the wrap up.

Taking J'onn's advice, Kara tells William that she will do her job with heart and integrity. She gives Andrea all she wanted and a bunch of story ideas for the next day's meeting. She will make it in this new CatCo.

Alex realizes that even if she doesn't know the details of Kelly's life yet, she knows her. After all, she knew when an alien was impersonating her. That earlier doubt has vanished.

Meanwhile, Brainy triples down on overdoing things. Hearing Nia liked poetry he takes on that role 1000%, reading Shakespeare to her all night. This isn't going to end well. He is like an elementary school level around romance.


And in a nice wrinkle, we see the 'evil' William Day working at a soup kitchen after his shift. There is more to him than snark and corporate ladder climbing. He is a stranger beside Kara. Hmmm...

But the ending is horrific. Lena mapped Eve's mind. And then she has the AI Hope download herself into Eve, removing all base emotions and taking over. Afterwards, a sort of Stepford Wife Eve comes out. That was chilling.

So overall a decent episode nudging everything forward. I definitely am invested in the J'onn arc. Too many mysteries there!

So what did you guys think 3 weeks ago?
Lena – frees Eve. Mapped mind Hope
William working at shelter.
Hope inside Eve.

3 comments:

KET said...

A few replies:

"All of this happened because a pedestrian looking at their cellphone instead of traffic signals walked out into traffic causing this near pileup. It's aggravating because it's true!"

Said pedestrian was actually stuntwoman Lisa Chandler, who usually subs for Chyler Leigh during Alex Danvers action scenes. Nice that the series gave her a more visible cameo appearance in this one.


"Prior to that, somehow narcissist reporter William Day, decides to track Kara, somehow locked onto her with his cell phone. He ends up in the sewer too, almost pulped by the ongoing battle.

I don't know how the heck he tracked her."

New CatCo mandated cell phones...might not be very secure against tracking malware, which could potentially pose huge issues for Kara's secret ID.

"As of now, the subplot which hasn't grabbed me is Andrea Rojas turning CatCo into a high click, low integrity media platform."

I suspect that this subplot will pick up steam pretty quickly when Kara discovers that William Dey is not who he appears to be on the surface.

"And why would the Monitor free Ma'ale'fa'lak from the Zone?"

Well, therein lies the main conundrum that leads into the Crisis crossover. Some viewers are noticeably having some trouble picking up on this subplot lead-in, and find it boring. Of course, I'm not one of those people...there's still a lot of mysteries here to uncover...

"But the ending is horrific. Lena mapped Eve's mind. And then she has the AI Hope download herself into Eve, removing all base emotions and taking over. Afterwards, a sort of Stepford Wife Eve comes out. That was chilling."

Yep, 'very Stepford-like' was my immediate reaction to this sequence. Does Lena really need humans (or everyone around her) to act like pliant robots for future technology?

Don't remember if I mentioned this in the last ep recap, but Lena's AI "Hope" is being voiced by Kari Wahlgren, who also voices Zatanna on DC Super Hero Girls.


KET

Anonymous said...

Y'know I know this season is supposed to be about techno-dependency and the fight for Lena's soul, but in a meta sense its about succession in that Supergirl is now Earth's Prime Defender with Superman off planet until further notice. With all the "imaginary stories" and "alternate realities" that DC toyed with down thru the years, the one concept they've never really fully developed is what happens when Supergirl At Last Supersedes Kal El?
Cuz thats what I'm seeing at the moment..."succession", and we can posit all sorts of questions in it's wake, like if Jimmy Olson is moving on, then how long before the resident "Mentor in Chief" J'onn J'Onz clears out?
For that fact Supergirl has Dream Girl Brainiac Five and her sister the boozy gunslinger on tap...some of the show's original premise seems due for a revamp....she isn't a Padwan anymore Kara is a Jedi...so to speak maybe the setting and supporting cast should reflect that...

JF

KET said...

"Y'know I know this season is supposed to be about techno-dependency and the fight for Lena's soul, but in a meta sense its about succession in that Supergirl is now Earth's Prime Defender with Superman off planet until further notice."

Actually, she's been Earth-38's Prime Defender ever since she and her team got rid of Queen Rhea and the Daxamites, back in S2. However, the series has been evolving Kara's outlook with every season, to where in this season, she's VERY take charge now. And according to Benoist in interviews from this past summer, her character's evolution has been by design all along.

...although with a new Crisis looming on the horizon, the future remains uncertain for now.

KET