Monday, June 17, 2024

My Adventures Of Supergirl S2 E5 - Dark Supergirl ... Again!

My Adventures With Superman S2 E5 dropped this weekend. 

I had fears going into this episode. Big fears. Fears that Supergirl would be brainwashed, duped, or outright evil. Because as a Supergirl fan, I know that her character is often mistreated. She is used as a plot device. She is used to elevate Superman. She is not treated like the resilient hero she should be.

Now I know that there is a very good chance that at the end of this season Supergirl will see the error of her ways and end up being a hero. But seeing her evil or dark or manipulated has been done too often, has been done incessantly, and is really a tarnish on her character.

"Most Eligible Superman" has an ongoing plot of Superman being a contestant in Metropolis' Most Eligible contest, a plot that pushes the Clark/Lois relationship theme forward. 

But it opens with Kara now on Earth. I suppose her dressing like Android 18 from Dragon Ball Z is another hint of her character arc. After all Android 18 started out as a villain but also becomes a hero. 

On to more of the disheartening particulars.

Unsure about Earth, she walks into the middle of the street and nearly gets hit by an 18 wheeler.

Not missing a beat, she rears back to punch it and destroy it. No concern for the life of the driver, an angry look on her face.

Basically 2 minutes in, I knew that I better get ready.

Before she can destroy the truck, she is 'rescued' by Jimmy.

Looking to avoid Clark, Jimmy introduces Kara to some of the niceties of Earth, including ice cream. He assumes she wasn't allowed to indulge in things because of her parents and she confirms.

She has a 'strict father'. More on that later.

But the afternoon is fun with ice cream, hot dogs, playing with kids, butterfly gardens, and all the fun things about Earth.

We even get the fun trope pf the photo booth reel, showing the two connect.

I wouldn't be against a Kara/Jimmy relationship, an idea that has been toyed with now and then.

This Kara's temper and anger, her predilection to violence, again flares when she thinks that Jimmy is in danger.

No doubt that somehow this relationship is going to be key to the resolution of Kara's storyline. 

More on that later too. 

Kara admits she is looking for her cousin. She heard the beacon. 

Her 'father' didn't want her to come but she came nevertheless. She wanted to experience a world where people are free to do what they want, experience what they want.

But the time has come for Jimmy to face Clark. And Jimmy knows Clark will be at the Metropolis' Most Eligible contest as Superman.

There, seeing Superman stammer on the stage, surrounded by the inane contest trappings, Kara loses her temper.

And now we finally see the true Kara.

She calls Kal a disappointment.

She thinks he is a joke.

She thinks he is a lap dog serving as entertainment n Earth.

This planet has made him soft.

And so he has a choice.

Join her in conquering the planet. Or kneel before the new Kryptonian empire.

When Superman refuses, asking to talk to her, she dons the evil armor and attacks.

In her helmet, she hears the voice of her 'father telling her to attack Superman and bring Kal to their ship. At one point, with innocents in danger, she pauses but her father pushes her.

What unfolds is a very very DBZ-style anime fight which ends with Superman knocked out and flown into space by Kara.

Thus ends the plot synopsis.

And now all the things.

We are shown two Karas here. The one that loves ice cream, easily befriends Jimmy, doesn't seem to like her strict father, wants a world with freedom, and pauses when innocents are endangered. It sets up a core that is truly good and thus opens up a redemption arc.

But the other is the tired trope of Dark Kara. 

The one that is duped by her 'father' into being a vanguard to planetary invasion. The one that attacks her cousin, belittling him before battering him unconscious. The one that is baseline angry and quick to attack. The one that is not only being manipulated by someone but whose actions WILL be manipulated by Luthor showing how evil the heroes are.

So who is the 'father'?

I don't think it is going to be Zor-El, although evil Zor-El has existed a couple of times.

It could be Brainiac.

It could be Darkseid.

The fact that I easily found examples of Supergirl being manipulated let's you know it is an overused trope.

Redemption will happen of course. I am sure that some point Jimmy will be threatened and Supergirl will realize that her 'father' is wrong.

But we didn't need another duped, evil Supergirl story. We really didn't.

I don't need dark Supergirl to shine a light on Superman.

And I don't need Supergirl to be used by Lex as someone to be feared even if she ultimately redeems herself.

I had fears about this show.
They were all confirmed.
It is hard being a Supergirl fan sometimes ... most times. 


Anonymous said...

Josie Campbell is not just credited as one of the developers, producers and showrunners, but also has writer credit for this episode. The comics hero she has been writing for a while is Mary Marvel, who she characterizes pretty much how I think you'd like to see Kara written. In fact every time I see her version of Mary in the comics, I think "isn't that who Supergirl used to be, before they aged Supergirl up and made her into a cursing drunk?"

Apart from what the comics editors want, a hypothesis is that Campbell doesn't want to be guilty of writing two very similar young women heroes - so Mary gets a bright treatment, while Kara gets dark. It's an easy trope to fall into, considering how well it's been established by now.


SG Fan said...

I'm going to respectfully disagree here, Anj.

I agree the 'dark Supergirl' trope has been overdone, but in this case it feels like this is not an aspect of her character, but a result of the environment she's been in. First, unless they clarify otherwise next episode, Kara was also sent off as a baby it looks like. So, likely she was found by Brainac or whoever, and thus not given the full story.

I think we can see from her chat with Jimmy that Kara had does have desires more than just what she's been indoctrinated with. As she and Jimmy had very similar desires to explore and as we saw enjoy life. So, it tends not to bother me as much as this will be part of her arc for the season, and she's going to likely become more of a true reflection of herself.

Having watched the first season, and seen Campbell handle Kara in the Legion of Superheroes animated movie, I've got faith Kara will come out OK in the end. If I'm wrong I'm wrong, but IDK I feel it's a little too soon to be a bit doom and gloom with it.

Just my two cents.

Anj said...

SG Fan,

I completely agree with you that this is environment and she is being duped. I know, in the end, we'll see the 'real' Kara and that she'll be a heroic figure.

What I wish is that she just came into the show as a young good person wanting to be heroic and not have to go through this 'i am being duped' story. Why does she have to be a pawn in an evil scheme AGAIN!

Anyways, I think I said in the review that I know in the end this will turnaround. I just was hoping we wouldn't see this take another time.

Thanks for comments!

Bostondreams said...

Well, I admit to being wrong in my comment last week. But I do believe we will see a face turn sooner rather than later!

Dick McGee said...

Maybe they'll at least slightly surprise us and "struct daddy" will be Mongul? He's got significant history with Kryptonians in regular continuity, isn't entirely unknown, and is one of fairly few DC villains who could reasonably hope to bully even a young and unsure Kara without getting his head punched off.

Still, this "duped by an authority figure" nonsense again? And why is it always a male authority figure? At least "strict mother" would be a little bit of a change of pace if we really have to see yet another variant on this story.

The Wandering mind said...

While I Respect you as a supergirl fan and believe that you entitled to your opinion,I have to really disagree with this take. I get that we as lovers of Supergirl have been burned before, but I Have faith and trust the creative team on this show. I already see signs that while she was raised by zod/brainiac she is conflicted. She's definitely gonna be a hero soon.I know they wouldn't have made so much pains to show her looking concerned about the people and feeling guilty.Hang in there.

Martin Gray said...

‪I agree wupith you Anj, it’s so depressing, unimaginative and boring ‬

Anj said...

I have no doubt ... NONE ... that Supergirl won't come out of this as a hero. That this is someone manipulating her. I even guess why she'll snap out of it.

What I am saying is that this story of her starting out as a dupe of a villain and fighting her cousin has been done before. And it is a creative choice.

She doesn't have to start off as a villain and turn around. She can start out as a young hero.

I have faith about the end. I'm just sick of having to live through this trope again to get there.

Anonymous said...

As annoying as it is to have a dark, manipulated Kara, after seeing it time and time again in the comics, I think we have to remember this is a cartoon, and thus directed at a mass audience. And that audience doesn't know nor care one iota about the comics. As far as the masses are concerned, there's already been several years of happy, hopeful Kara in the form of Melissa Benoist, so - after a taster in the typical Snyderverse trainwreck that was the Flash film - a moody Supergirl is a new, hot take. We as fans of course know it's anything BUT new, but for Joe Schmoe, it is.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sick of seeing Edgelady Kara too, but I'm almost inclined to think the Powers that Be are thinking, "You had nice Supergirl in her own show - be satisfied you got that."

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that "Dark Kara" is a cliched and fundamentally dumb plot twist. Here's the question I would pose as a follow on to that. If you were going to introduce Kara into the show, what would be the best way of doing it? Would it be to simply have a 1959 style intro where she jumps out of a rocket and proclaims that she's Clark's cousin, or would it be something else? It seems too simplistic for Kara to just show up and instantly be a loving relative to Clark, particularly given that she has no familiarity with either Earth or humanity. Introducing her this way helps to establish that Brainiac or whoever has brainwashed her is a serious threat; that Lois and her father aren't wrong for being suspicious of Krypton; and above all for establishing how incredible the Kents' influence was.

This version of Kara is basically what Clark would have become had the Kents not raised him to be a good person. In that sense, while it's disappointing that the writers chose to introduce Kara via as a dark version of herself, the specific way they've chosen to do so has two huge positives over other depictions of "dark Kara." The first is that Kara's darkness is not treated as an end in and of itself. It's clear that turning Kara into a villain is a way for the show to highlight what Clark might have become if the Kents hadn't raised him to be good, or if in adulthood he didn't have people such as Lois and Jimmy to help keep him grounded. This version of Kara essentially serves to show what happens when Kryptonian powers are combined with social isolation and a lack of ethical direction.

The second positive point of this portrayal is that "dark Kara" isn't treated as the most authentic representation of who she is. Think about the three most notable modern representations of a dark Kara: Jeph Loeb's idea that Kara has a literal "Dark Supergirl" lurking in her subconscious; the New 52 version of Kara who ended up becoming so rageful that she joined the Red Lanterns; and the miserable drunk "from "Woman of Tomorrow" who Tom King claimed lived her whole life in pain. What unites all of those wretched takes on Kara is that they act as if misery and anger are the core of her character, and in turn a dark take is just giving the audience a truthful take on the character. By contrast, it seems that Campbell and the show's other writers are implying in her scenes with Jimmy that her capacity for joy and wonder over something as simple as trying ice cream for the first time reflects who she truly is. To the extent she's violent or contemptuous, it seems that she only is that way because somebody has brainwashed her rather than because she's an inherently angry or hateful person.

If that's the case, I'm willing to forgive this show for dabbling in "dark Kara" nonsense, because the way her relationship with Jimmy displays a fundamental sense of joy and wonder seems to indicate that the show's creators do understand that Kara is ultimately an upbeat, sympathetic character. They've already shown with Clark that they get what makes the Els super isn't so much their power as it is their willingness to use that power for good. As much as the appeal of the fantasy of Superman, Supergirl, et. al. revolves around wonder over spectacular powers, it also revolves around believing that people vested with absolute power would use it purely to help other people and better the world around them. In this episode's moments of affection between Jimmy and Kara, the show's creators have shown that they get that's what truly makes her capable of being Supergirl. I am therefore cautiously optimistic, because if the show's creators build on the foundation of this episode's sweeter moments, they could deliver the most truly "super" animated Supergirl since the demise of the DCAU.

Martin Gray said...

But as I think Anj was saying earlier, that’s just using the introduction of Supergirl to advance Clark’s story. So the audience gets the first impression of Supergirl as an angry, unstable character, able to overcome her programming only when she’s in the presence of Earth guy Jimmy. And ice cream.

Anj said...

Thanks Mart,

I just keep asking why does this have to be the entrance.

I am not a writer. So asking me how I would bring her in is tough. I am not saying I could do it better.

That said ...

The whole thing now is that Clark feels alone, an outsider. Lex is playing up the alien part of him. So have Kara arrive on Earth without the brainwashing, so happy to meet family after being lost in space.

She is TRULY a stranger in a strange land. She is alien and looks at Earth as alien. She therefore shows Superman that he is actually a man of Earth, not an outsider. He is able to teach her about the planet, mentoring her while making him realize Lex is wrong. We end with a speech where he declares Earth his home planet.

You want action? Bring Brainiac to the planet. He followed Kara's rocket without the brainwashing history. Kara knows him and hates him (canon). Or Kara is wondering how Superman can still live on this technologically backward world when alien tech and civilizations are out there.

You can play up the story without the 'Kara is duped' angle. I'm just tired of it.

But yes, it is way better than the life of pain Tom King gave us.

Anonymous said...

A simple perusal of the credits reveals who her "father" is. Sorry, but have ALWAYS detested the Kara/Jimmy pairing in all incarnations...

Anonymous said...

Just as well I don't have this platform I guess, it's remarkably predictable and repetitive that Kara starts out the pawn of some Awesomely evil entity...literally she is a ten megaton plot device and nothing more.
Oh and I hate the character design, but then anime has always been a tough sell for me.


Steve said...

You inspired me to come up with a different, more positive conflict for Kara's arrival: Her ship jumps erratically due to a fault in design she can't fix. When she arrives at populated worlds she uses her knowledge of Kryptonian tech to uplift each world before moving on in her search for other survivors and finally ends up on Earth. She's delighted to find the rumored other survivor and that he's family but she's stuck in the mindset of improving life. That's your conflict with Clark, resolved when he gets to see helping against threats they can't handle is fine but she has to stop hamstringing other people's efforts to grow and improve themselves.

Anonymous said...

Independent of anything going on with Kara, I noticed that this is the second time Hank Henshaw has appeared on the show as a human astronaut. I'm curious to see if he eventually follows his comic book counterpart's narrative trajectory, and if by extension we'll see at least some hint of him being Cyborg Superman before the end of this season.

Bostondreams said...

Having seen the latest episode, it is both worse and better than feared. Kara committed genocide on a planetary scale on at least three planets, but was clearly under mind control when doing so. But she looks to be the key to saving her cousin from Brainiac and she won't be playing an antagonistic role, I think. She's going to be a hero, and I suspect we will find shrunken cities that will help allievate some, not all, of the obvious guilt she feels.

Anonymous said...

The Kara/Jimmy relationship twist really surprised me. I can't put my finger on why, but I got the impression up to this point that the show was eventually going to reveal that this version of him is gay or bisexual. That would have been fine as long as it was just treated as a normal thing and the show didn't try to make some really ham fisted, dated point about homophobia or got excessively self-congratulatory about being "bold" enough to feature a same sex relationship.

One thing I will say though is that this version of Jimmy being in a romance with Kara is potentially creepy because of his obsession with aliens and other supernatural phenomena. That's something I'd like to see the show address, because I felt Clark took Jimmy's obsessions a bit too much in stride and never really bothered to ask if Jimmy is friendly to him because he likes him or because he has a weird fascination with Clark's alienness. Once Kara learns about that side of Jimmy, I would like to see her confront him about that and force him to admit if he wants to be with her because he appreciates who she is or because he's fixated on what she is. I think the fact he liked Kara before knowing she's an alien indicates the former and means the denouement to such a scenario would likely be them continuing on with a reaffirmed, affectionate, respectful relationship. Still, it would be good if that kind of a confrontation was both a way for Jimmy to become a little more self-aware and grounded, and for the show to make a wider, non-hamfisted point about how a pre-occupation over a person's born traits can cause people to feel that others aren't fully appreciating the breadth and depth of their character.