Thursday, September 2, 2021

Supergirl Show 609: Dream Weaver

Supergirl episode 609, titled Dream Weaver, aired this week and was a pretty solid episode dealing with a couple of 'real life' stories as well as setting up an interesting plotline regarding the presumed big bad for the back half of the season.

Of all the CW DC shows, Supergirl has definitely veered the most into social commentary. We have seen individual episodes about racism and gun control, whole seasons about immigration, even discussion on isolation via technology. I applaud the show's approach as it makes Supergirl stand out against the others.

At times the execution of these arcs has been a little bit too preachy or over the top. Sometimes things got a little cringey. It felt for me like the topic surpassed the story and so as a whole those episodes didn't work. 

This episode was the opposite. There are social issues being explored here. The corrupt nature of some prisons is here. The overcrowding of the social services system, leading to some unsavory behavior of workers is here. We clearly get what the show is trying to say. But those are baked into the story. None of this came off as a sermon.

A lot of that has to come from the fact that those plots make up about half the episode. The other half is Nia still dealing with the death of her mother and how she is willing to make a deal with the devil to try and move past that. With the space given to Nia, the other plots have to stay tight, without overly long monologues. 

And we finally get to see Supergirl in action, albeit briefly. She even uses her most powerful weapon, a speech about hope.

So far so good for this back half of the last season. On to the details.

We start out in a nightmare that Nia is having. This scene gets repeated throughout the episode.

She is walking through a dark, misty, moonlit forest. She sees her mother in the distance, an owl on her mother's wrist. As she runs to her mother, her gown gets caught in brambles. Birds swarm and attack her.

The fear rouses her from her sleep.

But before she awakens, we see that somehow Nyxly is there in the dream as well.

It is a well done scene with nice moody effects.

I also find this obsession with Nia about closure with her mother to be an interesting one. Her mother passed on a couple of seasons ago I believe. Nia has been improving and growing all along. I suppose she has never really dealt with her grief and guilt over it.

 With Kara back, game night is in full swing. 

Alex and Kelly are just crushing everyone else in what looks like some version of Taboo. The most obscure references lead to correct answers. They even quote Frozen together. Even the rest of the crew think they are stinkingly adorable. I'm glad. Alex deserves some happiness.

Now I don't exactly know what Kelly's job is but now she looks like a child therapist. She is being called into a foster home to help a young alien child who can manifest EMP powers.

It is sometimes amusing to me to think the first season was Kara wanting to date Jimmy. Now Alex is dating Kelly. I suppose a Danvers/Olsen pair was destined?

At CatCo, Andrea doubles down on wanting there to be more stories about the Superfriends and their personal lives. 

She is willing to do whatever needs to be done to get their attention. An S-shield light shined in the sky (a la the Batsignal)? One of her reporters throwing themselves off a bridge to get saved (shades of Silver Age Lois)? It is all possible.

CatCo has somehow gone from #8 in the ratings to #3. She wants more.

I do have to chuckle at this old school cardboard display of what she is hoping the team will find out. Really? This looks a bit like a school project.

But the questions are intriguing wondering about fun, secret identities, and partners ... all things we see routinely on this show. But Brainiac 5 listed as a shapeshifter?

Kara gets called away by J'onn.

There has been a string of truck thefts in National City. It looks to be the work of an alien gang. We hear about Metalomites (sp?) who can rend metal with their minds. And there is also an Obscuran in the gang, who can make things invisible.  

When checking the manifests, it becomes clear. This gang is gathering a lot of material to build a giant bomb.

I thought the wide shot here was nice to show the scope of the truck site. It also was just nice to see Kara and J'onn in costume, standing next to each other, talking about the clues and the case. It has been a while. 

I think all of us fans knew how lucky we were with Melissa Benoist as Supergirl. But she just exudes Kara on screen.

 Kelly meanwhile heads to the foster home where her patient Joey Davis is living. This is a home for alien kids with powers. There are any number of kids with power-dampening cuffs running around, including the cutest moppet named Esme. There is no doubt in my mind Kelly and Alex will end up adopting this girl.

The foster mother seems like a kindly old woman who has to use the power dampeners to keep the house running and intact. I suppose I get it, a toddler who can blow things up might not lead to a peaceful environment.

As for Joey, he is in his room sulking but reading Captain Carrot. He has good taste in comics!

He has been temperamental and anxious because his brother Orlando is in jail. His brother was put in jail after he robbed a convenience store to try and have enough money to keep the two of them housed and fed. The last time Joey visited his brother, Orlando looked sick, as if he had been using his powers too much.

The underlying story is obvious. If the system could somehow support Orlando and Joey better, such that they had some security, than he wouldn't have needed to rob a convenience store. If hadn't needed to rob the store, he wouldn't be in jail and Joey wouldn't be in a state-sponsored home. If Orlando wasn't in jail, he wouldn't be being forced to use his powers dangerously.

But this isn't beaten into us. You can trust your audience sometimes.

Kelly goes to the Watchtower to discuss her concerns.

Supergirl knows that the prison Orlando is in uses a very promising work release program to help the prisoners learn a craft and get out of prison and back into society.

Its a small scene. But once more I was just thrilled to see these three, standing around, Kara in costume, discussing their concerns and getting a plan in place. Crazy how much I missed this sort of stuff.

As I said, we see the Nia dream play out throughout the episode.

Again, we see the darkness, the mother with the owl, the dress caught in the brambles, the birds attacking Nia..

Except this time, before the birds rouse Nia, Nyxly appears and chase the birds away. 

Somehow Nyxly has become trapped somehow in this dreamscape and she needs to escape. I guess we have to roll with that. How did Nyxly get trapped in here of all places? She was riding the spaceship out of the Phantom Zone when the heroes rescued Kara.

One thing I do like his how Nyxly is able to entice Nia into helping her. Nyxly just wants to go home. She wants to be reunited with her family (like Nia). She knows that Nia can manifest her dreams in physical space so perhaps she could free Nyxly. And lastly, if she is freed, she would reward Nia by bringing Nia's mother back to life for one day. 

She implores Nia to trust her ... almost too much.

But before any deal can be struck, the owl the mother has been carrying swoops in and scares Nyxly away. This wakes Nia up.

 Kara and Kelly head to the prison to interview the warden Wyatt Kote. The warden is quite proud of his 'Second Chances Program', a work effort that is changing the lives of these prisoners. He says all the right words. He sees 'the person' not 'the crime' and wants to help. In fact, we learn that Kara had interviewed him about this in the past and was quite impressed.

But then he seems to withdraw. He won't let them visit Orlando. He'll take care of everything. He'll investigate.

I like that Kara can tell she is being given the brush off. She'll find Orlando.

I like that we learn this episode how Kara has covered this before. One it shows her journalistic history. It also shows how she can become disillusioned that all good things might become corrupted.

 She tracks Orlando out of the prison onto the work release bus. But he is separated with a few others into a different van. 

She follows him in her Supergirl costume. At a power plant, she sees multiple aliens get out of the van. A metalomite who can bend metal. An obscuran that can make things invisble. A dynopmorh and a toradine who can make force fields and shoot energy. And, of course, Orlando, a Zeltarian who can EMP. 

J'onn shows up, having traced an alien energy signature. They see the crew break into a truck to steal nuclear waste. They are making a dirty nuke.

When the heroes try to intercept the crew, the aliens attack. I don't know how an EMP can become a concussive blast. But Orlando is able to slow the heroes down enough so the cop can get the prisoners back in the van and drive off. The obscuran renders them invisible.

It is clear that these prisoners are not necessarily willing participants in this. They are being forced, at gunpoint, to commit these crimes. Now part of me thinks they could easily overpower this cop and go to the press themselves. I mean, they did just beat Supergirl and the Martian Manhunter. But I won't think about that too long.

 Kara is disheartened when she hears the Warden on the television talking about how these prisoners overpowered the police officer and have escaped. 

She knows that isn't true and is going to head back to talk to the Warden more.

Hmmm .. perhaps fake news needs to be added to the topics covered in this episode.

Later at the prison, Kara and the Warden have a more heated discussion. He pretty much denies all the allegations she is making about the prisoners robbing trucks and building bombs. Moreover, he tells her not to print her story. It will ruin the good program he has set up here which is helping the prisoners. But you can read his body language. He's dirty.

 You know what else I love on Supergirl? Balcony scenes. Always of high importance.

Kelly admits she is having a hard time because she feels powerless, especially in the context of being in this group. Maybe she shouldn't have involved Supergirl and instead went through proper channels. 

Alex does a good job here, bolstering Kelly.

Kelly is strong and smart. She is a protector. She overcame her fears. And everything that she has done regarding Joey has revealed all the corruption and threats. She should be proud of who she is. And she belongs there.

I have always been a big Alex fan. I like her sort of mentoring here, having dealt with feeling powerless near Kara herself.

Back in the dreamscape, Nyxly again tries to persuade Nia into helping her.

Nia knows all about imps and how they can't be trusted. And to add another layer, the owl that attacked Nyxly this time lands on a nearby tree branch and starts spouting some wisdom!

It tells Nia not to follow the words of others. It says that wisdom lies in seeing through things, not at things. Pretty standard fortune cookie stuff.

But Nia knows owls are symbols of wisdom and truth so she again sends Nyxly away. 

William and Kara continue to try and figure out this prison robbery scheme. He knows someone who can dig into the warden's finances.

But their actual journalism is interrupted by Andrea who once again asks them to go out and find the Superfriends and write a puff piece.

Finally pushed to frustration, Kara asks who cares about ratings.

Andrea reminds her that without ratings, there is no job. Kara needs to think about eyeballs and bottom lines.

I don't know if I can completely wrap my head around Andrea who wants both meaningless stories, ratings and eyeballs, but also trustworthy, hard-hitting news. I know those things aren't mutually exclusive but she can't ask for edgy news and silly stories about what heroes do for fun.

 Kelly heads back to Joey's home.

He is clearly upset about Orlando and his powers are manifesting. Kelly sees the foster mother pull out a device which triggers his dampener cuffs, painfully.

When called on it, the woman is all smug. She has worked the system. There isn't anyone else who wants to take care of these kids. So Kelly can do whatever she wants.

Again, we know about the strains on the Social Work departments in many states, how underfunded they are. So people like this woman can stick around.

William's investigation shows that the Warden owns multiple houses, fat bank accounts, and offshore holdings! He is dirty. And it seems like all the money is shunted to him through shell corporations of Intergang (run by Bruno Mannheim!).

When Kara talks about the dirty bomb, the Warden denies knowing that the prisoners were making weapons. But he was more than happy to get the money.

Supergirl and J'onn end up tracking the alien signatures and track them down. Kara easily takes out the crooked cops who are planning to tie off the loose ends and kill these prisoners. So good to see Supergirl actually do something super.

But when Supergirl says that she knows what the prisoners have been put through and that she wants to help, they attack.

They have been lied to. They have been mistreated. Who can they trust?

They outright say that the system doesn't care about them. Minimum wage isn't enough. Social services isn't enough.

She responds. It's not an outright hope speech, but she does speak earnestly. 

She knows the system can fail those less fortunate. She knows that she will make sure their voices will be heard. But she also knows that if they run, they will be hunted all their lives. 

They have to trust her.

And they do. 

Again, these are issues that effect people on this world being told through the lens of alien exploitation. I get the allegory here. But the story comes first.

 It's all done but the wrap up.

William interviews Supergirl after the situation de-escalates. She says that the system is broken when the powers that be abuse their power. She asks that the prisoners forced to do the robberies be shown leniency.

Back at CatCo, look at how happy Andrea is. That is a Supergirl piece AND good journalism.

Thinking about the story, Kara is a bit crestfallen. This is one iteration of a huge problem. William needs to remind her that when Supergirl speaks, people listen.

Meanwhile, Kelly stole the security footage of the foster home and gets the foster mom arrested.

Orlando is pardoned and reunited with Joey.

And cute Esme says she knows Kelly's secrets. With a name like Esme, she has to be a telepath.

 Feeling confident about her sneaky way of exposing the foster mother and knowing that the community needs help, Kelly decides to be the Guardian.

James knew that Kelly would want this and so left the armor with Alex.

We have a new Superfriend.

How long has Alex been holding on to it!

Nice addition. And a nice way for Kelly to overcome her fears.

But the episode ends the way it started, in Nia's dream.

Once more, Nyxly pleads her case. Nia misses her mother. Nyxly misses her family. If Nia frees Nyxly, Nyxly will resurrect the mother. And Nyxly promises .... like really promises ... that she will go straight home to the 5th dimension.

Before the owl can try to talk Nia out of it, Nia blasts it.

She is all in. She agrees to help free Nyxly. She has taken the bait.

So overall this was a good issue telling a good story. I mean, every criminal has a sympathetic backstory and every policeman, warden, and social worker is crooked. But it played out well and it wasn't too preachy or talky. 

And it is good to see Kara in action both as a superhero and a reporter


Anonymous said...

I loved this episode. Esme's delightful moxie alone would bring this to the season's best episode, but it was solid all the way.

One huge issue though: Last season, last half. What is Kara's arc?

Dreamer has an arc. Alex and Kelly has an arc. I don't really see a seed of an arc for Kara yet. Time to start building Kara's final epic.

Professor Feetlebaum said...

This was a good episode. I've missed a number in this past year and need to catch up.

Not sure how I feel about Kelly becoming the new Guardian. Do we really need MORE costumed heroes on this show, especially now that it's winding down? I wonder if the producers are setting things up for some possible spin-offs.

I do like the reference to "Super Friends".

Finally, something I noticed as I read this review, that I missed while watching the episode. Joey and his older brother Orlando. A possible reference to Joe Orlando, who edited the second half of Supergirl's Adventure Comics run? Or were the writers thinking of Steve Orlando? Or were the names just randomly chosen?

Anonymous said...

"The Owl of Minerva Flies at Dusk", Friedrich Hegel.

Meaning that we only have the most penetrating insight into a particular era when it draws to a close, as this show indeed draws to a close. For the first time since the pandemic began I felt that Supergirl had some control & agency over her own plotline, she was out chasing bad guys until the b-plot more or less seamlessly intertwines with the a-plot at the 28 minute mark, how I wish this had been the norm rather than the exception. Granted, there were the usual plot holes but as our host pointed out above, nothing seemed forced, trite or deliberately sidelined The Lead...its all so desperately needed I could almost call it a late rally for Supergirl, but for my trademark caution :)
So why does Bruno Mannheim wanna blow National City Sky-freakin'-high anyway? Is he envious that until now it's been a "skirt's game" in the race to destroy that fictional metropolis? He wants a piece of what Rhea, Astra & Reign all had going on...I myself am waiting for a Assassin named "Bob Oksner" to try and snuff Alex :)
And anyway, Supergirl's most powerful weapon isn't her inspirational speechmaking, it's that almighty haymaker uppercut she deployed against that corrupt prison guard...hit him so hard Superboy Prime Felt It in the Pocket Universe :)
As for Kara's endgame arc, I'd really be happy if there wasn't one, if she just came thru in triumph and then flies off into the sunrise intent on another day of Super Deeds...
I suspect they have to get her out of the narrative to figuratively make room for "Superman & Lois", which would also give said show a chance to intro their own Supergirl/Powergirl type I dunno.


Anj said...

Good question about Kara's arc.

No signs of her Phantom Zone trauma in this episode. I thought that would be her arc, having to overcome those memories.

Whatever the arc is, it ends somewhere with Kara ... gone? This is the last season. The CW hero-verse can't have her exist on Earth and yet not be name-dropped or be part of the conversation.

So does she end up on Argo? In the future? And how does her arc put her there?

Anonymous said...

To be honest, to have Supergirl fly off to Argo so she can knock boots with Mon El (presumably, it'd be like Berlanti to intro a new love interest for Kara in the last ten minutes of the finale) and live out a depowered life making a little sexist and patriarchal, even by my highly elastic standard. I don't think MB would go for that, but who know how much leverage she has over that process at this point?
Running off to the future at least holds out the prospect of continuing her mission as a heroine as a Legionnaire no less...and tantalizingly, she'd out from under the shadow of her foster sister Finally:) So I'm all for that....
As I said, I'm all for an anti-finale where she just goes on, being Super and being Supergirl but I think the contradictory and uneven continuity of the Berlantiverse can't handle that....


Rob S. said...

I know the remaining time on this show is tight, but maybe Kelly will be taking over the orphanage for super-powered kids. It'd be a great way for the modern Guardian to get a "Newsboy Legion"!