Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Supergirl Episode 302: Triggers

 Last week, Supergirl season 3 started with a very solid premiere, sowing some plot seeds, introducing us to the big bads, and giving us excellent character moments for both Kara and the primary supporting cast. This week the second episode, 'Triggers', aired and built on that foundation. And we got old-school Supergirl villain Psi to come in to challenge the Girl of Steel. This season is truly off and running.

One thing that I very much liked about this episode was that the emotional anguish that Kara was feeling in the premiere is still present. Yes, she is working through her grief. But one night of apps at the alien bar (as last episode closed) isn't going to alleviate all her pain. This sadness and anger and (as it turns out) fear runs too deep to be so easily 'cured'. As usual, Melissa Benoist brings it, showing us all the emotions Supergirl is feeling. And as a bonus, we get extra Danvers sisters scenes. As I said last before, season 2 didn't  give us enough of these two. Benoist and Chyler Leigh have such easy, breezy chemistry. Why not take advantage.

But as much as I loved the character stuff, the fanboy in me squealed a bit to hear about Gayle Marsh from Skokie, Illinois. How far have we come as Supergirl fans that Psi and her particulars were on a television show?? And Yael Grobglas plays her with such a cold, calm, and cruel, observing all she does with just a hint of enjoyment.  It makes me happy.

On to the particulars.

We start the show with a nice montage of the early morning of some of the characters of the show. We get extreme close-ups of Alex and Maggie in bed, having breakfast, getting ready for work. We see Sam and Ruby doing the same. All these scenes have the characters filling the screen, both of them filling the camera.

And then, interspersed between those shots, we see Kara getting ready. In a nice contrast, the director gives us wide shots, showing Kara alone in wide spaces, highlighting that while others are starting their day with loved one, Kara is very very much alone.  In a 'see what we're doing here' moment, Kara finds Mon-El's copy of Romeo and Juliet with a line he underlined and wrote 'Kara' next to it. It wasn't needed! The establishing shots were enough. Nice use of contrasting shot approaches.

The workday eventually starts and in the biggest change of the season, Lena arrives at CatCo and announces she plans to be a big presence there. Someone else will run LCorp. She will be a roaming CEO at CatCo, taking a very active role.

You can tell by James' body language he isn't into this. He has run CatCo for a year. Lena isn't in the press. I guess he thought she would be a figurehead and she would still run things. This looks to be a very good plot for the season. James was the last one to trust Lena. He has the most problem with Luthors. My guess is some animosity will build. And throughout the show we see how icy this is becoming. Lena calls Miss Tessmacher 'Eve'. But James is 'Mister Olsen.'

And Lena being there also adds a layer of problem for Kara and her being Supergirl. Lena gives Kara a job to do but Kara says she can't because she is being called away (secretly for a Supergirl mission). Kara's constantly running off is going to be a problem.

At the DEO, we see a cute argument between Maggie and Alex where they debate DJ or band at their wedding. Hank weighs in on DJ. There is some snappy banter here.

Kara arrives to hear about a bank robber has been looting National City. She is a young blond woman who walks into banks, and the staff and patrons seem to fall to the ground cringing. Then she simply walks out. In a bit of coincidence, the bank robber strikes during the debriefing.

Kara streaks off and meets the villain Psi in the bank vault. Psi is cool and cocky. She tries to convince Kara to join her in these capers. But when it is clear it won't happen, Psi attacks Kara.

Suddenly Kara is reeling and clearly terrified. Again, in a nice shot, we get this sense of Kara being alone. We briefly see what she is seeing, a bright red sun.

Later at CatCo we hear that Lena is calling for meetings of departments without including James. This pressure is building. And once more Kara runs off for DEO business, ignoring Lena's requests.

Psi is once more robbing a bank. Kara had told the DEO about her claustrophobic feelings in that earlier attack (although Kara says those fears are 'human' problems, going back to last episode's issues).

Realizing Psi must be a psychic, J'onn sends Kara into action but will add some telepathic shields. But Psi blows through those shields, incapacitating Hank.

And then we see what Kara attacked again. We see what she is seeing. We relive her rocket taking off from Krypton. We see Alura saying goodbye to her daughter. The whole vision is shot in a first-person point of view. We see the rocket lift off. We see cities on fire. We see the planet exploding while the rocket spins. And in this shot there is no music. In fact, all you hear is the panicked breathing of Kara and explosions outside.

There is a different feel to this from those prior wide shots. This is very cramped and claustrophobic. But again, Kara is alone here. Just alone in a confined space.

I thought this was pretty cool, from the first person roller coaster ride feel to the audio choice.

Finally we hear the name Psi. J'onn says she is the most powerful telepath he has faced. Winn names her as Gayle Marsh from Skokie Illinois. We live in great times!

Away from the crowd, Kara confesses to Winn that Psi uses fear as her weapon. Kara discusses the quiet, about being cut off from everyone. It is probably doesn't help that Kara is probably living through that fear now.

And she doesn't want J'onn or Alex to know because 'they'll worry'. That seems a bit forced just to move the plot forward. Why would Kara hide that?

But seriously!

Gayle Marsh from Skokie! On the small screen!

Back at CatCo, Lena pushes Kara on her frequent disappearances. Lena assumes it is because of Mon-El.

In a line just loaded with potential, Lena says that she can tell when someone is lying to her.

While this conversation starts out with Lena reaching out, Kara ends up snapping at her friend. Suddenly Lena's defenses go up. She bristles and tells Kara that her behavior is unacceptable as an employee. This is a quick turn which reminded me that Luthor's don't like to be crossed.

Maybe we are going to get a some hints of a heel turn by Lena??

When Kara hears that Psi is robbing another bank, she runs into the elevator and gives is the classic shirt rip.

But in the confined space of the elevator, Kara panics. It reaches such a point that she has to bust through the elevator shaft to escape. (Hope she knows how to fix that stuff?)

It is an interesting scene. Psi isn't there. This is all Kara, a panic attack. It is triggered by the elevator, mirroring the small space of the rocket. That is fascinating.

At the DEO, Winn confirms that Psi wasn't responsible for Kara's reaction in the elevator.

When Kara leaves, Alex knows something is up. I love love love this scene. Without saying a word, Alex stalks Winn, staring at him, knowing Kara was saying something important to Winn in secret. Almost like a snake stalking prey, Alex burns her eyes into Winn until he cracks and spills his guts.

Seriously, I wish Chyler Leigh would get some Emmy notice. Just brilliant acting.

And part of that is her range.

Hearing about Kara's fears, she shows up at Kara's apartment. She hears Kara praying in Kryptonese. (Maybe it is a 'I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear' Atreides-like mantra?)

And then she gives Kara a little pep talk. Fears don't define you. Kara's actions define her. 

Kara talks again about how she feels this civilian life is broken. The Lena stuff is awful. And now if Supergirl is helpless, all feels lost.

Alex reminds her sister that they always have each other. They hug.

Oh my, I forgot how important these scenes are to the show. Thanks for bringing them back.

Eventually, Psi attacks again. A deus ex machina DEO telepathy shield doesn't work (thankfully! No easy answers here!).

And then we learn what Kara really fears. She fears that Mon-El is dead. She thinks she sent her love to his death. We head back into the rocket but now not in that first person view. We see Mon-El in the pod, battered by meteors, ultimately exploding. Benoist completely sells the anguish she is feeling.

Again, Alex arrives and tells Kara that she saved Mon-El. She didn't kill him. Armed with that knowledge, not fearing she killed him, Supergirl is able to face Psi, immune to those fear attacks, and headbutts the villain into unconsciousness.

I do like Psi's indulgent speech about how fear cripples everyone. Yael Grobglas really showed this restrained, smug malevolence. I hope we see her again.

Nothing left but the wrap-up.

I glossed over a subplot where Ruby thinks Sam has powers because of last episode's waterfront rescue. Sam shows she doesn't (at least not unless provoked). I wondered how the single, unemployed mother could afford an unbelievably spacious, impeccably decorated house in the burbs but it turns out she will be running LCorp while Lena is at CatCo. Lena introduces her to Kara.

I wonder if somehow Ruby is going to die and that will bring about the Reign transformation. I'd hate for a kid to die as a plot point.

Meanwhile, Kara and Lena patch things up.
James and Lena still act cold to each other.

And we see that Alex and Maggie have differing opinions about having kids. This is a big deal and something you would think they would have talked about before. It contrasts how the DJ/band argument from before ... played up as an almost deal-breaker ... is such small potatoes. I wonder if this is an excuse for Maggie to leave for a bit. Maybe she needs to think about things.

We end with another sister scene, this time watching the Wizard of Oz! I love that Kara loves old movies.

But the last shot is a great cliffhanger. J'onn gets a message from M'gann. He has to get his ass to Mars.

Overall this was another solid episode. There are great character moments. We have some hints about season plotlines, like James/Lena and Sam's powers. And Psi was delicious.

The big hook is the Kara character stuff, how she is still healing and still hurting. And the Alex stuff melds in just as well. These two need each other. I love their scenes.


Anonymous said...

Good episode. I especially liked the use of a member of Supergirl's Rogue's Gallery. I'm sick of that "Supergirl has no villains of her own! That's because she has to steal Superman's one" garbage!

It's a credit to Kupperberg's run the fact that those villains keep popping up. I can't tell the same thing about the nobodies Kara fought during her Adventure Comics days.

I hope we see more of Psi and more classic villains. Come on, showrunners, give us Satan Girl, Nightflame, Kraken, Lesla-Lar!

Although there're some glaring plotholes -or elevator-holes- the show has definitely improved after the past season. Let's hope the showrunners keep up the good work and it translates into good ratings and a renewal.

Anonymous said...

Hey I like thoose nobodies from her Adventure Comics Run!!

No love for "Vortex" rassfrassa millenials grumble grumble!

Y'know everytime J'onzz tries to shield a core cast member psychically, it fails....every time Win hands a gadget to Kara that will help her carry the day, said technology fails completely.
Its just a show-trope thats all....:)
Oh and one word of warning, Benoist can play the hell out of anything, she has depth and range and seems made by divine providence to bask in TV's chill blue glare....but the showrunners are starting to depend a little bit on her ability to sell "big emotions" fear unhappiness joy easily. ST-TNG had this problem, by season seven they were addicted to giving acting challenges to Patrick Stewart, that can lead to clunky writing (or in this case clunkier writing than we are already getting)....just sayin;.
Okay so maybe we need to start counting the "Mon El" whinging, I'm up to two...anyone else?


Anonymous said...

"Hey I like thoose nobodies from her Adventure Comics Run!!"

Some of them were good or had potential: Nightflame, Nasty, Starfire... Sadly, a lot of them had no personality other than "generic overlord alien obsessed with conquering worlds for some unspecified reason" and posed absolutely no threat to the Maid of Might, which it's because they didn't return.

I'll give Gur this, though: he came up with an actually clever plan.

"No love for "Vortex" rassfrassa millenials grumble grumble!"

I'm nearly 37. :(

My first Supergirl comic was a Superman Family issue -I mean issue #180- and I watched the movie in the 80's, even though I wasn't a big fan back then. Ironically, I think it was because of the movie that Supergirl will always be cousin Kara to me. After all, my first exposure to Batman was the 60's show, and Barbara Gordon is THE Batgirl to me.

"Okay so maybe we need to start counting the "Mon El" whinging, I'm up to two... anyone else?"

I don't know, but if it's true Mon and Imra are in a relationship, you may run out of digits soon.

There's a rumor that Lightning Lad has been cast and he'll be in a relationship with Kara. I hope Garth indeed makes an appearance, but... Kara and Garth? WHAT? And can we stop with the "EVERYBODY must hook up with someone else" silliness, please?

KET said...

"But in the confined space of the elevator, Kara panics. It reaches such a point that she has to bust through the elevator shaft to escape. (Hope she knows how to fix that stuff?)"

Probably...similar to fixing the collapsing building structure in last season's second episode.

"Although there're some glaring plotholes -or elevator-holes-..."

More like an inconsequential that seems intentionally left in for some viewers to pick nits with. James can just cover up the problem with an "Elevator out of order" sign and Kara will repair it later....since she probably also did it during "Human For a Day" in the 1st season.

BTW, some BTS trivia: Melissa Benoist divulged that she had filmed those disorienting close-ups of Kara herself, with a special camera mount.


Anonymous said...

I really like that Miss Teschmacher is in the show. I wonder if she will turn out to be a Lex plant.

Thay said...

Thanks for the review, I really gave up watching Supergirl but I continue to follow some reviews, I saw in another place that it seems that they are building something romantic between James and Lena ... did anyone notice this in the episode?

Lena became my favorite character in the show in season two and it's good to know she's not being used as a punching bag for other characters.

Anj said...

Thanks for great comments.
I don’t mind the elevator shaft break. But even one line like ‘sorry , I fixed it’ would’ve helped.
I think there is tension between ajames and Lena. But I didn’t read it as romance.
Two very good episodes so far.

KET said...

"Lena became my favorite character in the show in season two and it's good to know she's not being used as a punching bag for other characters."

True far, Lena has been a great character add to the regular cast...but she's also got that Luthor name, which James has an uneasy history with from his time in Metropolis. It should be VERY interesting to see how this new business arrangement unfolds.


Anonymous said...

Agreed - two very good episodes in a row. Is this the first one you've given a letter grade to? :)

I enjoyed the self inflicted elevator panic attack and breakout. It was a writting highlight for me as well.

The balance of SG/Kara to her supporting cast and to the villains seems right. It never seemed right in season two. I hope some stability comes to the cast of the show and the use of supporting villains and characters. Eg: I love Winn (and even Mon'el) but don't over use them. Jimmy is okay - Jimmy plus Guardian is too much. Alex should be a key secondary and maybe J'onn, Lena, and Stephanie as second tier.

Scrimmage said...

At last! A Supergirl episode free of any heavy-handed politically tinged rhetoric. I'm sure it's just a temporary respite until the show's resident punching bag, Morgan Edge returns, but I'm going to enjoy it while I can.

As is true with any superhero story, it can only be as good as the quality of villain, and this week, the bad guy... um, girl, Psi was up to the task of providing a real challenge that Supergirl couldn't simply punch her way out of. The episode benefited from that balance, as well as an excellent performance by the actress with the alien sounding name, Yael Grobglas. That's a name straight out of “The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.” Slartibartfast, anyone?

Unfortunately, the script never lived up to the potential of this new character. There were spaceship sized plot holes, precious little character development, and loads of unanswered questions like:

How did Psi get her powers?

Why would a powerful empath like Psi waste time robbing banks? Infamous, real life bank robber, Willie Sutton answered that question by saying “That's where all the money is,” but since Psi didn't even bother to conceal her identity, it's hard to see how she could've ever enjoyed her ill-gotten gain.

What did she need so much money for that she would risk, not only exposure, but possible death, and likely imprisonment? Perhaps that's a story for another time.

Meanwhile, after Psi easily turned Supergirl into a quivering blob of Kryptonian jelly in their first encounter, Kara said “... she took me by surprise. It won't happen again!” but it DID, over and over, it seems. Right off the top of my head, I can think of a dozen ways Supergirl could've taken down Psi quickly and efficiently, once she realized the nature and the extent of her powers, and NONE of them have Supergirl just standing there in front of the enemy, flapping her gums, and letting Psi take the first (mind) punch! Most of my solutions involve super-speed and a fast-acting sedative, or even a sonic-boom handclap to knock Psi out at a distance, but I suppose that would've been too easy.

As it was, the final resolution was both confusing and disappointing. I think we were supposed to believe that Kara could withstand Psi's mindblasts because she no longer feared that Mon-El was dead because of her decision, thanks to Alex's little pep talk. Ugh! Spare me the “After School Special” sentimentality and platitudes. I would've written an equally saccharine, but more plausible solution where Winn suggested that the only thing that can block Psi's fear induction would be focusing on nothing but “happy thoughts.” Kara could've overcome her fear by remembering all the silly, stupid, funny things that Mon-El did (and there were a LOT of them) that made her laugh, and eventually fall in love with him. Wouldn't that scene at the end have been great if every time Psi hit Supergirl with a close range blast, she just laughed harder and harder? Finally, when a defeated Psi asked Supergirl how she resisted her powers, Kara could've said...

“Because I finally realized, I've got nothing to fear from you. Haven't you heard? I'm SUPERGIRL!”

And THAT'S how the Girl of Steel SHOULD'VE saved the day! Oh, well. I guess I'm just going to have to pretend that's how it happened.

Scrimmage said...

As for the various subplots, I simply don't care about Alex and Maggie's relationship. I don't care if they have a DJ or a band, or if they have kids or not, or even if they get married or not, mainly because Maggie isn't a very attractive woman, OR an interesting, well-developed character. She holds Alex back, and diminishes the character. When I saw them squabbling like a couple of old hens, in the middle of the DEO, I thought “What the hell happened to Alex's professionalism?” I'd rather see her kicking some ass in a kryptonite powered exoskeleton, than acting like she's auditioning for the title role in the lesbian version of “The Taming Of The Shrew.”

So Lena bought CatCo, and James' masculinity is once again threatened by the presence of a strong woman. Wake me when any of that means something.

As for Lena's presence hampering Kara's ability to take off at a moment's notice, welcome to Clark's World! Perry White overlooks Clark Kent's frequent disappearing acts because he knows when Clark comes back, he'll have a great scoop for the Daily Planet. Being “super” productive on the job buys a lot more credibility than whining and moping, and disrespecting the new boss. Kara's just going to have to find a nice, private storage room to change in, and for Pete's sake, she needs take it easy on the poor elevators.

I'm not sure who Sam is supposed to be, or who she'll become, but I hope the catalyst for her transformation is the death of her idiot child, Ruby. Sheesh! Couldn't they at least have cast an attractive, or perhaps TALENTED young actress to play the part of Sam's daughter? The next time Ruby changes expressions will be the FIRST time! She obviously doesn't take after her hottie mother, and her father probably looks like the gone, but not forgotten Snapper Carr. Absolutely horrendous casting!

Next week's “Mission To Mars” promises to be a CGI-heavy episode, which is usually accompanied by a paper thin plot, and very little character development. Maybe this will be the exception to the rule, but I'm not getting my hopes up.

Scrimmage said...

By the way, I believe Lena called Miss Tessmacher by her first name, "Eve" not "Tess," didn't she?

I also thought I saw some subtle, sexual tension between James and Lena. I'm up for James doing anything (including his new boss) that doesn't involve the word "Guardian."

Anj said...

Thanks for continued comments.

1) Yes, I shouldn't have 'graded' the episode. Line removed. Old habit from the comic reviews.

2) Yes, Lena called her Eve. Line edited.

3) I don't mind the Alex moment in the DEO. It seemed like the 'we're getting ready to work' part of the day, those 5 minutes before a shift where people BS with each other. I mean, why is Maggie there.

For me, that Band/DJ thing was only there to set up the 'real' difference of opinions - kids! This whole Maggie/Alex thing has been a bit whirlwind. It still surprises me that Alex didn't know this.

And I don't mind the wedding talk either. If Lucy and James were getting married, I'd expect similar talk.

Anonymous said...

Somewhat late to the party, but while it was still an enjoyable episode with, to quote one of the comments from the
last episode, Supergirl large and incharge -- her busting out of the elevator shaft, the fist to the ground and "Up!
Up! and Away!" scene, and the final headbutt DEFINITELY tops the list -- it wasn't without it's bumps and bruises.
Definitely loved how Melissa B portrays everything she's thrown emotions-wise and sells it like water in a drought.
I have to credit the writers they did give something interesting to Kara to be afraid of -- thinking back to the
Blackest Night comics and the the time Kara and Damien crossed paths with Scarecrow : LOTS to torture Kara with
emotionally but rather cliche. Being claustrophobic and haunted by her trip from Krypton I can get behind. Somewhat
humorous would've been spiders or clowns... but I'm glad they played it straight :)

I worry the Kara & Lena scenes whether this is the catalyst that sends Lena down the dark side or not -- PLEASE
PLEASE PLEASE let it be Not! -- though having Lena eventually find out, accept and remain on Team Supergirl after
finding out her identity. BONUS if TPTB do that!

I personally read different with the Jimmy scenes -- namely whether TPTB are again running out of interesting things
for him to do. Last season, he was head of Catco and moonlighting as Guardian, but more the latter than the former;
the position's reversed now this season, but I don't know if much can be milked from it or not. We'll have to see what
the future brings.

As for Samantha / Reign herself... yeah, my mind snaps at her being Kryptonian, unless I do some wierd mental gymnastics
of being genetically engineered. And yeah, hope it isn't the death of her daughter that's the catalyst that sends her
off the cliff either.

See everyone next week!


KET said...

"As for the various subplots, I simply don't care about Alex and Maggie's relationship. I don't care if they have a DJ or a band, or if they have kids or not, or even if they get married or not..."

Well, there's a whole lot of other viewers that DO care about what happens with them, and they make up a key portion of the show's overall viewership by now. They're also more vocal about their love for Sanvers than other Supergirl fans have been in generral lately, so you might want to back off on the RW BS and bizarre attempts at re-writing the show for awhile. Because it's still not working.


Anonymous said...

"Well, there's a whole lot of other viewers that DO care about what happens with them, and they make up a key portion of the show's overall viewership by now. They're also more vocal about their love for Sanvers than other Supergirl fans have been in generral lately, so you might want to back off on the RW BS and bizarre attempts at re-writing the show for awhile. Because it's still not working."

RW BS? What is that "RW BS" thing you're talking about?

And who is trying to re-write the show? He's not trying "re-write" anything. He's merely told he's not interested in that relationship (perish the thought!). So what I don't get what he's doing what apparently is "still not working". Not caring for Danvers?

Oh, and that key portion of the show's viewership? They've claimed over and again they don't care for Supergirl but solely for Sanvers, and they've been bullying actors and screenwriters and claiming for Supergirl being cancelled since it was known Floriana is leaving, and they call homophobic whoever disagrees. So it looks like that relationship subplot was a mistake because it drew droves of lunatic shippers who look to damage the show.

Martin Gray said...

Oh I’m so behind!

I’ve said it before... Kara is the worst employee. She’s pretty much stealing her wage at this point. And it’s not as it Lena hasn’t proven herself trustworthy again and again - Kara should be honest with her, or sign up full time with the DEO!

Lena is pretty much my favourite character at this point, I especially love it when she tells us about Life With the Luthors. Mind, Chyler Leigh was utterly adorable when she shuffled across the carpet towards Kara.

I don’t see Lena turning corporate on Kara as necessarily presaging a heel turn, it was entirely appropriate. She’s a sharp woman, so she was giving Kara the treatment she logically demanded.

Having Psi on screen is amazing. The actress was terrific but heck, why have her with the same hair as Kara. OK, asking for the comic book black crop might be a bit much, but she could be Melissa Benoist’s sister. I’m dying to know why Gail Marsh from Skokie, Illinois snapped.

Didn’t Argo figure into this version of Supergirl? It surprised me when she was talking about blasting off Krypton, watching Krypton die.

And I love Vortex! I’m nearly 102!

Oh, and showrunners, please remember to cast only women Scrimmage finds attractive...