If you’ve been following Tom and I tearing into Supergirl each week here at Loser City, you’ve probably wondered where this breakdown has been for the last few days. I had something sketched out after watching the episode but life gets busy. And then the election happened, and I had basically zero drive to write about Supergirl, especially when so much of the villains’ rhetoric since the show began feels like it’s lifted from Trump talking points. But sometimes it’s helpful to feel like the forces of good are going to win in the end, even if it’s just for an hour, even if the requirements of a modern superhero narrative necessitate that the forces of good not walk away unscathed (because “realism” or something).
Tom was a bit disappointed in last week’s episode, and I can’t say that I blame him. “Superhero fight club” really shouldn’t be a thing that comes across as dull, and yet here we are (has anyone written about the awkwardness of the two Martians being people of color and being forced to fight to the death?). While the episode’s A plot wasn’t particularly well executed, it advanced the Alex / Maggie romance and developed Mon-El a bit more, both of which lead into Episode 5, “Crossfire.”
After missing her cousin’s arrival on Earth by decades, Kara finally gets to take on the role she was sent here for: to care for and protect an alien stranded among humans. Rather than caring for a baby Kal-El, though, she’s left with a twenty-something party animal (see: tearing up National City with Winn last episode) who is far more interested in his coworker’s advances than the pile of paperwork on his desk at CatCo. Odd Couple-like hijinks ensue and play out in the most predictable way, but it’s been a while since Supergirl Learned Something (TM). I’m not about to begrudge the writers embracing a trope, especially when it seems to leave both Kara and Mon-El as more fully realized characters. They aren’t living together yet, but let’s be real, that would add all kinds of Wacky Hijinks if one or the other tries to date and is 100% in line with the tone of the show.
This episode feels like it’s a trio of tropes stitched together around a few more typical superhero narrative moves: After the Kara / Mon-El Odd Couple, Alex’s coming out narrative is taking much longer than I think anyone expected it to, and Jimmy went from pining for Kara to managing CatCo to wanting to suit up like the Arrow crew in no time (because he can’t deal with always being the sidekick). Add in Lena Luthor appearing suspicious only to earn the trust of our heroine and Cadmus funding street-level thugs with mysterious off-world tech (in a way that bears a striking resemblance to Intergang arming themselves with Apokolips weapons in the Superman animated series and comics), and it almost feels like the writing room grabbed a handful of old comics and went all Burroughs on them. The performances sell it, though.
Jimmy Olsen struggling with impotency as a sidekick might not fit at all with other incarnations of the character, but Mehcad Brooks delivers it well. While he’s in a position of power at CatCo, he spends his days behind a desk. Jimmy’s life as a street-level photographer may not have been superheroic, but it still put him in the city and in the action. He can stand up for his employees – like he did for Kara against Snapper Carr – but being detached from the action seems to have taken its toll on him.
Melissa Benoist continues to have a sincerity about her that makes it impossible to doubt the hope and optimism that literally saved the world last season, and Chyler Leigh is 100% believable as a big sister. Though it feels like the writers are meandering with Alex coming out, it allows Leigh to believably struggle with the realization that she never questioned her sexuality because she grew up in a place where straightness was treated as the default. Though Floriana Lima doesn’t have much screen time this week, her Maggie Sawyer is believably heartbroken while simultaneously reinforcing that Alex’s experience is not uncommon and that there’s a mutual attraction – Lima is still the strongest addition to the show.
Except for Jeremy Jordan’s Winn Schott simultaneously identifying a Science Gizmo while mispronouncing “muon,” the rest of the cast is similarly impressive, and the writers managed to stitch all of their stories together well enough to propel the overarching narrative forward while satisfying the rather simple “gang with advanced guns” plot. It’s what a serial show is really supposed to do, let plot be the skeleton on which skilled crew build interesting characters, and it still does “superhero” better than most of the comics on the stands.