Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Supergirl Episode 512: Back From The Future Pt 2

I know I am woefully late on this review. For some reason, this season, it has been near impossible for me to post weekly reviews of the Supergirl show. And that's on me. It also is a shame because I think this might be the strongest season so far for this show.

For me, there are a lot of things which have stood out about this season that have made it incredible. The turning of Lena, making her into a villain ... or at least someone misguided into thinking they are the hero ... has been the straw stirring the drink. Add in Lex and Leviathan and you have a plot driven season with strong stories to build on.

Add the incredible Crisis on Infinite Earths midseason event, resetting the stage of this world, and you have an almost blank canvas on which to scrawl your stories.

And yet despite that reset, more than ever, this season is leaning into the continuity of the show. We are seeing references that go back to the earliest episodes. Surprise guest stars and homages have made this feel like a true history. (This is even more evident in episode 513.)

This is still a show with a political viewpoint but unlike last year when it was driven home with the subtlety of a bus crash, this year it feels like it is story first. The messages are there but they are not the driving force. As I have said, I like stories with messages, not agendas that a story is built on.

Which all leads us into episode 512, Back From the Future, Pt 2, an episode which leans into the character of Winn, comments on his history, and gives us some closure. I have to say, it felt good to have Jeremy Jordan back on the show. I realized that I missed the energy he brought to the proceedings.

On to the episode.

We start out with a night out for Winn, Alex, J'onn and Kara.

We get some nice name drops about the Legion including Chemical King and Lightning Lass. And we learn that Winn's name is Computer Lad.

Would Computo have been better, especially given the 'I have a dark streak in me' history in Winn.

We also learn that Alex has put in spyware to try and keep her eye on Lex.

It seems Kara can't go a season with a possible love interest and this season that falls on the shoulders of William. Now that we know he isn't a bad guy, I guess Kara finds him charming.

And they work well together doing Toto's Africa on Karaoke night.

For me, it feels forced mostly because the character has been so boring that I can't imagine Kara would like him. Thankfully, before she can agree to a date, Kara is called away by an emergency at the DEO. Winn floats a 'sick grandma' excuse to get Kara out of there.

The DEO concern? The evil Winn has downloaded himself into the DEO system. And if he gets out of the firewall, he'll be able to roam the world wide web and wreak havoc.

As it is, he can control any smart device within the DEO walls meaning laser defenses and laptops are all potential weapons.

What I love here is Jordan's maniacal take on this version of Winn. It would take but a nudge to have pushed 'our' Winn into this evil version.

Our Winn knows this was his fathers dream. And it code he wrote. So he should be able to reverse engineer it into a kill code.

Of course, it would be easy to simply fry the server he was on with heat vision but the DEO's system is located on top of its power core. A heat vision blast and the whole block would go up.

That seems a bit extreme and more of a plot point than a reality.

Also, couldn't you just turn off the system and reboot? Let loose and EMP?

Regardless, the DEO goes into lockdown. Nothing ... not even transmission ... can go in or out. For now, the evil Toyman is trapped in a closed system.

 One thing that should happen is that all the smart devices ... weapons and tablets ... should be removed from the building. It seems like an easy task for Supergirl to pull off.

But ... on an analog phone ... DEO boss Lex Luthor call up Alex and says he doesn't want that tech off the premises. It is up to the staff present to round up everything and safeguard it.

It is classic Lex. It helps no one but himself, keeping his weapons (including Kryptonite deterrents) safe and sound.

To make matters even more intriguing, Lex then calls his erstwhile ally Brainy and tells the Legionnaire to get the code Toyman used to download himself into the Web. Lex wants to have that. Lex wants to be immortal.

And while he says he would use it to fight Leviathan, you know this is simply Lex wanting to live forever.

Let's not forget our subplots.

Lena needs Obsidian tech to implement her Non Nocere mind control device.

Luckily ... almost too luckily ... the Obsidian upgrade lenses cause toxic shock in users. Lena could use LuthorCorp tech to fix things.

But Andrea refuses it. Business and friendship rarely mix.

(The whole toxic shock thing is weird. Andrea eats virtual lobster and has an allergic reaction. That's crazy.)

 It turns out that an old school meter can find the Toyman code on the server.

Brainy volunteers (perhaps to ease his Lex mission) but is turned away. He is needed on the floor.

So Winn and Kara head off.

 But before Winn leaves, he confronts Brainy.

And he tells Winn that Lex did let this happen to get his hands on the code.

It is clear that Brainy isn't happy with his role here.

 Now schemes make strange bedfellows.

Lex and Lena actually seem to team up.

Lex will try to help Lena secure the Obsidian tech.

Now Lena might think she is the hero. But if Lex is helping you, you should rethink things.

By the way, Jon Cryer continues to crush it as Lex. And his interactions with Lena are always amazing!

Working their way down the DEO hallways, Winn pushes Kara on her liking William.

She knows that secrets are terrible and that starting a relationship with the Supergirl lie is bad.

He thinks a first date can't hurt. The reveal can happen if things go places. And the harmonizing she and William did on Africa shows that they are in synch.

UGH ... William is such a bore!

Ahh but then a nice new wrinkle.

It turns out when 'evil Winn' used the first Toyman's code, it somehow downloaded the original Toyman's essence into the system too.

As I said above, this season leans into history. So seeing the actor who played Toyman in season one back in the role is a nice nod. And hearing him tell our Winn that he can't believe the evil in the other Winn is interesting. He wants to help!

Too bad our Winn is still hurting. He hates his father. And he doesn't trust him.

 Then we get a little action sequence with Kara using the supersonic clap (a favorite of mine since the Earth X crossover) to smash some Toyman flying monkey bots.

Lex gets a bit creepy with Gemma from Leviathan by saying he saw her and had to pounce. Icky.

But then he recommends the two corporations ally themselves. He can help Obsidian with their toxic shock problem. And together they can prosper.

Even though Leviathan has played Lex in the past (remember Eve?) they agree.

Hmmm ...

Meanwhile Brainy continues to play both sides of the field.

He starts downloading the Toyman code for Lex and he erases Alex's spyware.

He says it is to protect Alex. But he did it behind her back and she is starting to get suspicious.

Hmmm ...

Lots of hmmms this season. That's a good thing.

 Kara and Winn finally make it into the server room and Winn then pulls out yet another deus ex machina, a device that allows him to enter the matrix. Why didn't he say that before??

Anyways, realizing that he might not survive this, the evil Toyman activates all the devices that could muscle their way out of the locked down HQ, including Lex-o-suits. Remember, if the code hits the outside world, Toyman will be free to do whatever he wants.

So Kara has to fly off to help Alex while Winn does a deep dive.

I love the chemistry between these two. And I love how Kara keeps telling Winn that people can change. Maybe the elder Toyman is good. It is time for Winn to get some closure.

 Inside the Matrix, Winn's father remains trapped in a DEO room. He can help ... if Winn trusts him enough to release him.

At first Winn says no.

And then ... we always wondered who wound win! Winn? Or Winn?

Turns out ... Winn!

That is, the evil Winn. He seems to have the upper hand against the good guy.

 Up top, the Lexosuits use K-energy to keep Kara at bay.

It is up to Brainy to become a decoy (hilariously yelling Leeroy Jenkins) so the rest of the DEO can work from the perimeter.

You have to love Supergirl refusing to leave the fight despite her own agony. She really is the hero here.

And then, closure.

The Toyman tells Winn that he has had time to think and reconsider. Winn is the best part of him.

Awww ....

One thing I have always loved about the show has been when the Danvers sisters team up.

In a nicely choreographed segment, with the camera moving around the two, we see them mop up the Lexosuits, back to back and side by side.


And then the old Toyman and the young Toyman fight.

With the two tied up, good Winn enters the kill code, erasing them both.

Finally, Winn has some closure about his past. And, more importantly, he was an inspiration for his own father.

There is nothing left but the wrap-up. And has been the usual this season, we get a lot of stuff to mull over.

It turns out Lena sabotaged Obsidian's tech so that she could get a hold of it. That's pretty evil.

The best line here was Lex chuckling when Lena said she was doing Non Nocere for the good of humanity. How often has Lex used that very line.

Hmmm ... if it walks like a super-villain and talks like a super-villain, it usually is a super-villain.

But then we see that Leviathan wanted the Luthors to get involved.

Who is playing who here???

Hmmm ...

 Alex can't stand working for Lex.

So she quits the DEO.

You think she'd rather be closer and watching. But I guess she can't abide the lying. So she's out.

Now that is a big change for her character and one that bears watching.

 Winn heads back to the future. But now he'll be called Toyman. He has redeemed the name.

 Kara turns down William's offer for a date when he gives her a gift for her 'sick grandmother'.

The relationship can't start with a lie.

So for that reason, she's out.


Brainy is right there!

And then Brainy delivers the Toyman code to Lex.

My only hope is that it is corrupted for some reason. That Brainy is planting a trap.

Because he can't side with evil to fight evil.

Overall this was a great episode. It gave us some closure for Winn, leaning into the show's history. And it nicely pushed the overall plots forward.

This Lena thing is simmering nicely. I am on board.

And again, apologies for the lateness!


Anonymous said...

You are generous. More than comic stories, I feel like the Arrowverse TV shows require accepting No Rules and No Logic to get through any plot.

Surely there was a way to write a Winn/Toyman story that didn't involve minds entering a wi-fi network. No? In all of television talent, there are no writers and producers who can come up with something more grounded?

Everything with Supergirl - and admittedly vastly more so with The Flash - requires a complete suspension of disbelief not just with the premises, which comics are also guilty of, but also with every moment of plot development and resolution.

I could not even begin to tell you what Non Nocere REALLY is, or what Obsidian really is, or for that matter what Nia's powers are. (Her powers are whatever any writer needs them to be to finish their script, I think.)

Sorry this is so negative. I'm just frustrated by the lame storytelling.

The good:

The callbacks are fun. It's wonderful to see Jeremy Jordan again. He's really terrific. And I'm ecstatic that Alex has quit the DEO.

While there's zero chemistry with William, I really liked their karaoke harmonizing. And Melissa got to act shyly like she can't sing, and gradually build up to her real voice. (But that was just 1 minute at most. So on balance, time spent on William is a painful waste. I'm just trying to find something good about it.)

Thanks for writing the review, and I'm sure someday you'll catch up :) !


Anonymous said...

What? Y'all want Mon-El Back? I seem to recall no one liked him either. Truth is, this is a gimmicky season, starting with all the good tech/bad tech so-so tech, but then again I like gimmicky...and I agree with T.N. to the extent that the writing is pretty ubiquitous everyones super-powers seems to fit the whim of the writer not the essence of the character themselves. Its less "The Berlanti-verse" and a lot closer to "The Bob Haney-verse"....the berserker writer of the bronze age DC "Brave and the Bold" Team Up title notorious for never ever doing any research on Batman's monthly guest stars. But at this point the show' ubiquity is the "price of doing business", I've learned to cope, its a small price to pay for the opportunity to "party with Melissa Benoist" every Sunday Night.

Scrimmage said...

I agree with the first two posters, TN and JF, especially regarding the inconsistency in the powers and abilities of several characters, which seem to vary as the storyline requires. Nia is the worst offender! I also have a problem, not only with the sheer number of aliens that are on the planet (I'd hoped some of that would've been cleared up in the Crisis), but also with the notion that EVERY SINGLE ALIEN SPECIES (other than human beings) apparently has some kind of “super power,” which is not only ridiculous, but it severely diminishes the uniqueness of the Star of the Show! Even more absurd is the idea that there exists some kind of “universal power dampening technology,” that works on ALL aliens, INCLUDING Kryptonians, reducing them to human power levels.

How exactly would that work? We all know Kryptonians process sunlight to convert it into almost unlimited energy, but other species might simply be telepathic, or have wings. Are we supposed to believe that those aliens couldn't communicate, or fly under the influence of these “dampeners?” It seems highly unlikely that there would be a “one size fits all” kind of off-switch for super powers, or that if such tech DID exist, that the Bad Guys wouldn't have made better use of it when confronting Super Heroes.

It's just another example of how TPTB have to find ways to reduce Supergirl's power levels in order for the Villain of the Week to at least have a CHANCE at defeating her, that is, when she's not offering emotional support to those villains, or other characters, using embarrassingly clich├ęd platitudes from crappy self-help books. To make matters worse, the show also has an increasingly annoying habit of relegating Supergirl to a supporting role on her own show. In this episode, Winn saves the day while Kara fools around with Drones, and K-powered Lex Suits.

The dramatically convenient ubiquity of Kryptonite in order to keep Supergirl neutralized is ANOTHER pet peeve of mine! Just how much of that stuff could've realistically found it's way to Earth, anyway? How much could Lena synthesize in a lab? Kryptonite should be more rare than the meteors from Mars, that have been found in the Antarctic.

Speaking of Mars...

I have no idea what they're doing with J'onn J'onzz. At first, I thought they were going for a makeover as hard boiled detective, an “alien-noir” kind of vibe, but now all of a sudden, he's playing “Oracle” to the Super-friends' version of the “Birds of Prey.” They even ripped off the Birds' Clock Tower Headquarters. What's up with THAT?

Brainy, Lena, and especially Lex Luthor are doing their best (worst?) to keep things interesting, but Lena's plan to virtually lobotomize the entire human race (and presumably all the resident aliens, too) into peaceful coexistence seems overly ambitious, even for an arch-villain's diabolical plot, while the shows' version of Leviathan has been far less ominous and threatening than in the comic books. As far as ancient, secret organizations go, the Masons are a LOT scarier! So are the Girl Scouts!Supergirl deserves a higher quality of villain than she's been getting, lately.

If I was to make one suggestion to the Showrunners on how to improve these stories, I'd simply tell them this...

“Let Supergirl BE SUPERGIRL!!

KET said...

A simple reply:

"Everything with Supergirl - and admittedly vastly more so with The Flash - requires a complete suspension of disbelief not just with the premises, which comics are also guilty of, but also with every moment of plot development and resolution."

Reads like a convoluted way of saying that one doesn't want a comics-based superhero show to be comics based after all.

Show has introduced post-Crisis elements that have shook up the usual status quo pre-Crisis. That's really all the 'plot development' one needs to deal with at the moment. This specious argument is EXACTLY the reaction that went down with comic book geeks after COIE happened in comics all those years ago...and trust me, I was there. The insular thought is always that 'logic' is somehow going to save oneself when all sorts of changes affect reality. But in a virtual world, breaking the rules of logic is what hacking is all about. Leeroy Jenkins!


KET said...

A couple more:

"It seems Kara can't go a season with a possible love interest and this season that falls on the shoulders of William. Now that we know he isn't a bad guy, I guess Kara finds him charming.

And they work well together doing Toto's Africa on Karaoke night.

For me, it feels forced mostly because the character has been so boring that I can't imagine Kara would like him."

That's because we've seen so little of William when he's not around Kara at the office. It's a common complaint about Kelly Olsen post-Crisis as well; but then again, this is merely the third post-Crisis ep, and the show always crams in a lot into its less than an hour time frame.

Season Four totally dispensed with romance for Kara, so it's merely a return to an ongoing theme from Season One, that Kara Danvers remains skittish about simply going out on a date. Pilot episode had her going out on a bad blind date, so one can't really blame her for having guy issues at times....but this behavior also fuels the online shippers, who keep presuming gay romance in in her future.

Frankly thought that the Kara-oke scene was one of the emotional highlights of the ep, as it gives Benoist another opportunity to mine her physical comedy prowess (with intentionally off-key singing).

"It's just another example of how TPTB have to find ways to reduce Supergirl's power levels in order for the Villain of the Week to at least have a CHANCE at defeating her..."

...and it's the usual BS about a potentially walking deus ex machina who's the lead character in her own ensemble series. If Supergirl always could do it all by herself, her motto of 'Stronger Together' just won't match up with the action. Thus there's no challenge for the superhero, and it also upends this season's poster statement, "United We Stand".

However, another glaring fact is that it's an ensemble series that simply HAS to give its lead actress some off-camera time. As writer Jay Faerber has said, times have changed for series television production since the days of The Rockford Files, when James Garner was almost always on camera. Even then, he physically suffered from series burnout in later seasons.


Anonymous said...

KET wrote:

"Reads like a convoluted way of saying that one doesn't want a comics-based superhero show to be comics based after all."

I am nothing if not convoluted :).

But I'm not sure I agree. I'm reading ~ 40 DC titles per month these days. (That's excessive, and I keep promising myself I'll cut back!) So evidently I'm ok with most modern comic book logic.

I feel differently about older comics, though. I don't enjoy much material older than the 2000s. I've picked up some Dollar Comics I just can't finish. So I guess it's clear where I stand :).

TV and film goes by so fast that it seems to me that some writers may be assuming that they can just throw stuff against the wall and no one except the YouTubers who put out the "1,000 mistakes in such-and-such" videos will catch or care about. I've heard this called "refrigerator logic" as in you don't really notice the plot problems till you get to the refrigerator, and then you think "Hey, wait a second... why did this or that happen?" And TV/film writers actually feel scorn for people who hold their work to that standard.

Ah, quoting from TVTropes:

"Fridge Logic has been the writer's-room term for these little Internal Consistency issues for a good while, as in "Don't sweat the Fridge Logic, we've got bigger fish to fry. We've only got 20 minutes left to work in three costume changes, a foreign language, and a weird wig." It refers to some illogical or implausible plot point that the audience doesn't realize during the show, but only long afterwards. This naming is highly subjective, since not every person follows the same train of thought. Some people will never even realise there was a problem, while others will call it a Plot Hole, since they already noticed the problem during the show."

End quote

But comics can be read at any speed, and pondered. The plot logic can be considered from moment to moment. You can turn back a page. I think they are more careful - though also imperfect, for sure.

The news is that DC is going to be hiring more TV and film writers to write comics - replacing their existing pros? I hope not. Co-existing is fine, though. I'd hate to see current writers lose their jobs. So we'll see where that goes.


Anj said...

I'll admit that often in this show, things could be solved with Kara simply using her powers. Why not physically disconnect the servers (instead of heat vision fry)? Why not simply turn the servers off?

But that show would probably get boring after a while.

And this was a show to give the Winn character some closure over his backstory.

At times, like with Grant Morrison stories, I just roll with it.

And has been said before, Benoist is too charming not to love the show.