Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Review: My Adventures With Superman S2 E8

The eighth episode of the second season of My Adventures With Superman, titled 'The Death of Clark Kent',  came out this week and was another interesting episode, perhaps opening up a door for a better ending for Supergirl than I have been expecting.

My reviews of this show have been an interesting exercise for me. I actually am enjoying the show as a whole with its wholesome foundation, its somewhat darker plot themes, and it's anime twee-ness. It is a crazy mix. 

There is no doubt this is a small town Superman with small town beliefs and a very earnest approach to helping people. Superman is that wholesome protagonist that the whole show is built on. But the themes of the show are ones of isolation, persecution, and loneliness. This season has Superman truly questioning if he fits in on Earth and it is amplified by Luthor and the government turning the people against him. 

Add to that, you have the Brainiac/Supergirl story. Brainiac wants to recreate Krypton. He wants to convince Superman that he doesn't belong so he can use Kal. And he has been using Kara this whole time. It means that Superman is going to have to choose Earth. Kara is going to have to reject Krypton, at least the vision of it Brainiac has been filling her head with. 

But mixing anime cuteness and wholesome 'aw shucks' Smallville with genocidal Supergirl's and depressed, isolated Superman and keeping it cohesive is tough. I think about the movie Thor Love and Thunder which had Jane dying of cancer, a god-killing being kidnapping children and threatening to sacrifice them mixed in with ludicrously bad humor attempts. It didn't work. 

Somehow this show is pulling it off. I'm enjoying it overall. 

I still wish Supergirl had a better backstory ... but the truth is that might come to pass. On to the particulars.

Last episode had Superman brought to 'Kandor', Brainiac's fortress. 

The episode opens up with a pretty big new piece to the puzzle. Brainiac's Kandor is falling apart. It won't be able to sustain his AI for much longer. He needs a new body. And he wants Superman.

To accomplish this goal, he'll use 'The Black Mercy', a sort of virtual reality device that will allow Brainiac to not only see Superman's memories but change them, show them new ones. Using 'Black Mercy' as a term is a loaded one for comic fans, one we'll see play out later.

But I have to ask, why wait to find Superman? Why not download himself into Kara who he has been manipulating for her entire life?? He needs a stronger body. Why not Kara's Kryptonian body? 

This is the one question I can't easily answer in my head. If Brainiac is dying, which it seems he is, why wait in hope of finding something better. Unless we learn he couldn't do it to Kara. But that will be a harder thing to answer since we have seen him control her so thoroughly.

Meanwhile, Lois and Jimmy grabbed a jumpship to find Superman. Instead they run into Supergirl.

While Lois seems to hate Kara for being the 'evil cousin' who brought Superman to Brainiac, Jimmy is clearly in 'like' with her. The two are crushing on each other heavy.

It's a fun pic here with Lois clearly peeved at the meet-cute dialogue she is hearing here.

But this is where you have to walk that fine line. We have seen Kara with the evil eyes, saying Earth made Kal weak. We have seen her, while mind-controlled, slaughtering worlds. Moreover, she has seen herself doing it. Last week, we saw her sobbing in space. So to suddenly downshift to cutesy talk seems a little jarring.

Also, get used to Jimmy and Kara facing off like this. Because this budding romance gets some time devoted to it.

One of the main plots is Lois feeling extremely guilty for breaking up with Clark just as all this anti-Superman stuff bubbled up. And everyone is calling her out on it, even Kara.

It strengthens the Lois character as now she is willing to do anything to help Superman, from robbing STAR to heading into deep space and potentially fight Supergirl and Brainiac.

I think this show gives us a very good portrayal of Lois.

Meanwhile Kara begins dealing with her guilt over what she has learned she has done. (Nice pic here showing her looking into the mirror at her own guilty conscience.)

But she still thinks that Brainiac isn't evil. She thinks her 'father' must be malfunctioning. 

Brainiac taps into the central core daily, a time when his drones are off-line so off to Kandor they go.

But before the arrive, Jimmy wonders what Kara will do after Clark is rescued. She only knows the life of the warrior for 'father'. But he knows she has choices.

The show runners love this shot of the two facing each other and lovingly looking.

We knew Supergirl would be breaking away from Brainiac before the end of the show. So this idea that she has some freedom is a nice way to build on her eventually leaving.

Then on Kandor, the two face each other again. This time, before Kara goes off to talk to Brainiac (and Jimmy tries to find Clark), Kara tries to tell Jimmy she likes him. But she stammers.

I wouldn't mind a Jimmy/Kara relationship for Season 3 (if there is one). They would be a nice contrast to Clark/Lois. Jimmy and Kara would be all cutesy and heart symbols floating around. 

Throughout the episode, we see Brainiac picking apart Clark's memories.

He finally reaches the Superman II villain realization. Superman cares about people. He loves Jimmy and Lois. 

But Clark also worries about not belonging. 

These also are a sort of clip show for the first season.

Jimmy and Lois are a source of Superman's strength. But they are also a weakness Brainiac can exploit.

Because now Brainiac knows how to get under Clark's skin, to worm his way into his psyche. Brainiac can change these memories now to weaken Clark's resolve.

Suddenly Clark is assaulted with phony memories of Lois saying how much she hates Superman. 

At first, Clark can dismiss these as fake. But over time ...

Lois and Jimmy see evidence that the satellite is in disrepair, proving Brainiac's earlier statement that the place is falling apart. 

This puts a sort of timeline onto Brainiac's plot. 

We finally get the showdown between 'father' and daughter.

Brainiac talks about Kara disappointing him. How she didn't follow his orders. That she became less compliant and cooperative the more she grew. How he had to take control.

And here is the big key to this. We know Brainiac can alter memories now.

Could that memory Kara has of killing the planets be faked? Could they have been planted by Brainiac to use to further manipulate her? Or guilt her into following orders?? 

Perhaps ... just perhaps ... Kara will remain a bit innocent.

Because if she still killed everyone, then we really have a plot point we didn't need. She could have scoped out these worlds for Brainiac and not know he blew them all up. She didn't need to be a killer.

The mental battle inside Clark's head picks up. Brainiac finally shows Clark the real memory of is rejecting him. That isn't faked. That isn't a twist.

Clark does do his best in mental combat.

In the real world, Kara hears how Brainiac wants to download his essence into Clark. She finally rebels.

So it is a two front war. 

Clark mentally against Brainiac. Kara physically against Brainiac. But Brainiac is powerful.

Inside, we see Clark give into the Black Mercy. Suddenly Clark is a young boy in a loving family on Krypton. 

Giving Clark a life on Krypton is a very nice call back to the original Black Mercy story by Alan Moore.

Brainiac takes over Superman's mind and body.

And pummels Kara.

We've already seen Kara dress like Android 18 from DBZ. 

So I can't help but wonder if her defeated position is a nod to Yamtcha's death pose.

I hope so.

When Jimmy pulls out Green K, Brainiac opens the satellite's airlock and sucks Jimmy, Lois, and Kara out.

Luckily the Brain and Mallah save them. Hands on a spaceship? Holy Supermobile!

Kandor blips away, presumably to Earth to take it over?

There is one hope. Lois palmed the a Black Mercy. 

She'll head into Clark's mind to try and save him. Who better to bring Clark to his senses than her.

So the Kara Redemption arc has taken a big step. She knows she has choices. She knows Brainiac isn't malfunctioning, that he is evil. She knows he forced her to kill. 

And we enter into a Superman destruction arc. Earth is already afraid of him thanks to Lex. Now he'll show up as Brainiac and starting busting things up. Interesting. 

Lois also has her arc, realizing how much she cares for Clark and willing to lay her own life on the line.

I am liking this show. I can only hope that the worst part of Kara's origin are scrubbed away as fake. I still think she could have been introduced in a way that didn't make her the villain's tool. But maybe, just maybe it'll all end up ojy.


Dick McGee said...

"Hands on a spaceship? Holy Supermobile!"

It's a cute callback for comics fans, and for anime fans it has a hint of Outlaw Star's grapplers too. If there's one thing that show did a great job of, it was proving that yes, sticking arms on a spaceship could be very cool indeed.

IIRC one of the Thunderbirds remakes did the same thing with Thunderbird 3.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much committing to these reviews. The emotional weight behind possibly a Courasant style world of Euphorix (typically having 100s of billions given the DC Omega Men runs) seems lacking. She seems more upset about the memory wipe itself rather than being a weapon.

Assuming he's putting a lie within a lie about her destroying the world's would be odd. I want to assume the potential motherbox they found earlier could act as Dragon Balls.

Anonymous said...

I think the reason Brainiac doesn't download himself into Hara is that he sees her as too weak to be worthy of him, whereas Superman apparently gets extra powers in situations of stress that Brainiac is fascinated with.
Overall I agree with you. I am really enjoying the show, and Kara's backstory is my only pet-peeve with it.
Well, not really the only one--I also am not a fan of a lot of the Krypton stuff. Which you'd think should be a bigger problem for me, but it somehow isn't.
I love this Clark, I love this Lois, I love this Jimmy, I love this Perry, I like a lot about this Kara... it's near damn perfect!

Anj said...

I get why he would chose Clark (with new stronger powers) over Kara when given the choice.

But Kandor is falling apart and he is dying. And Kara is right there. And pretty powerful. His waiting in hopes of finding something even better when he has a pretty compliant, controllable Kryptonian seems odd.

SG Fan said...

Enjoyed the episode and I think it reinforced those parallels I see with Kara and say Seven of Nine from Trek. With Brainiac talking about how he had to take more and more direct control of her, to do what he wanted. So it's clear she's not what he wants her to be, and now freed of that (again like Seven) can explore her own identity.

Why Brainiac didn't take her over? Unsure, agree it's a bit of pickle since she is right there. Maybe because he couldn't suppress her consciousness like he did with Clark? We'll see if it gets addressed or not.

Lot of big set up for the finale and I'll admit, IDK if I'm a fan of fulfilling Waller and Lex's BS by having Brainac Supes attack Earth. Not that I think it's a bad story choice but IDK with recent events in the real world, kind of tired of seeing bigoted and hateful people get 'wins' and I feel like this is giving Waller and Lex a 'win' even when for sure Supes with Lois help with snap out of it.

Still happy with the season and looking forward to how things play out.

Anonymous said...

Nice review. Before I begin, I would like to note that season 3 has been greenlit, so there's no doubt about seeing more of this iteration of Superman and his world beyond this season. I think if you're looking for the show to absolve Kara of a role in the genocide of the planets that Brainiac conquered, you're going to be disappointed. The very last scene from the first season features what's now identifiable as Kara in her full combat armor hovering with Brainiac's robotic avatar above a destroyed planet as the gateway to Earth that they used for the invasion from the end of season 1 closes. That seems to have been a scene that was happening in reality, not an implanted memory. The very real Thanagarian mural from episode 6 also seems to explictly show her rather than Brainiac's avatar killing their warriors. Taken together, I think the show is thus going to make it canon that Kara's body was used for Brainiac's genocide.

Two points are worth focusing on instead. First, this episode made it clear that Brainiac can actually completely hijack somebody's body and control it, which is almost certainly what happened with Kara. While that might still disappoint you because it leaves the narrative choice of Kara's form being associated with genocide intact, what it means is that Kara did not in any way choose to do this, has no post hoc justification for it, and was never aware of it until Clark helped her snap out of the brain fog Brainiac had her in. Because Brainiac had total control of her body and mind during these episodes, all of this was really done by them alone. In that sense, these incidents should be treated as comparable to ones where villains try to use shapeshifters, robots, magic, or other illusory devices to try to make it appear as if a member of the Superfamily has committed a crime (e.g. Waller's current use of deepfake footage in Absolute Power to frame the Superfamily and other heroes for murder).

The other point is that it's clear that Kara is not crushed by grief or trauma as a result of Brainiac's use of her as a living weapon. She seems to correctly realize that Brainiac alone is responsible for that because of the way he completely commandeered her body and mind. That's a very positive development because a possible narrative turn the show could have made would have been to make Kara miserable and/or mentally unstable over this. Instead, Kara's affection for Jimmy, her protection of Jimmy and Lois after getting thrown into space, and her desire to rescue Clark seem to indicate that her character is going to be defined by more positive emotions such as love, protectiveness, and compassion, leavened with some of the cute awkwardness and playfulness she's exhibited around Jimmy and Clark. She does get angry or sad of course, but the point is those emotions are transient and don't define her portrayal. We aren't going to get a Tom King Kara who wallows in despair and bitterness, and while this Kara will definitely be furious with Brainiac we're most likely also not going to get a New 52 style Kara who is constantly angry and picking fights with everybody when she's not miserable and lonely.

Beyond that, I think Kara wasn't permanently take over by Brainiac for one of two reasons. One is that they were about to do that, but then discovered Clark and decided at the last moment that they would be a more powerful vessel than Kara. The other is that Brainiac implies Kara has been highly rebellious, repeatedly protesting his choices to obliterate planets. It's possible that Kara's innate rebelliousness is so strong that Brainiac can't actually permanently override her consciousness. One possible way of resolving this issue may be that when she gets to Clark's ship on Earth and dons the blue suit, the Jor-El AI or possibly a Zor-El AI might have a satisfactory explanation (incidentally, her meeting a Zor-El AI and realizing her true heritage would be a great character moment for her).

Anonymous said...

Ill get an IP ban for this but....given the many real world events going on(especially the recent assassination attempt) simple brushing over deaths of billions for fanservice has no place in stories of hope nor a backstory for a hero. I won't ramble. I'll end here. Love you all.