written by Dayna Abel, Jason Froikin and Cara Russell
SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT
JAMES OLSEN ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR GODDAMNED MIND
I’m tempted to make that the entire review, I really am. James has spent the majority of his adult life around heroes – his veteran father, who passed on a sense of duty to his son as well as a love of photography; Superman, who became James’ best friend and mentor; and now Kara, who has been many things to James since the show’s beginning. It’s absolutely understandable that James would want to be a part of all this heroism.
What is not, however, is the way he’s going about it. I cannot for the life of me believe that I’m siding with Winn Schott, but I stand firmly by his initial objections. Winn had a very good and long list of objections – that James didn’t have superpowers, that he could end up dead like his father, and more importantly, that there is no shame in fighting with knowledge. Brains over brute force is a thread in many shows I’ve enjoyed over the years – from the Scooby Gang on Buffy to Doctor Who to Caitlin and Cisco over on The Flash. It’s very, very easy to feel useless when you’re surrounded by people who make courage look effortless, but James is in danger of losing what makes him special in an effort to become something he isn’t.
On the flip side of that, we have Alex coming to terms with who she is. Her realization that she’s attracted to Maggie and that she’s very likely a lesbian was beautifully portrayed by Chyler Leigh, running the gamut of emotions from denial to panic to, finally, admitting the possibility to herself, even if she can’t quite say the words. There haven’t been many portrayals aside from on Ellen where we truly see the struggle of accepting one’s own queerness. But it did finally click for Alex when she admitted she simply never enjoyed heterosexual intimacy, that she simply wasn’t wired that way. And then she met Maggie Sawyer and had to come face-to-face with the way she obviously was wired. It can be incredibly scary, but I’m confident that Alex’s friends and family will be there for her, just as she will be there onscreen for those in the audience who need her.
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This week’s Supergirl could have been a stand-alone episode. Because of its wild swings from light comedy to edge-of-your-seat drama, it felt like it could have been a full-length movie, albeit rapidly paced for being compressed into half that length. With so many new and underused characters, they all took the spotlight in this episode: Mon-El trying to adjust to Earth society, Lena Luthor finally doing more than just making occasional appearances, and Maggie Sawyer simultaneously opening up and providing a little guidance. It’s a lot to cover, and a lot to summarize in three paragraphs.
The comedy portion mostly surrounded Mon-El not only trying to fit into Earth’s culture, but also dealing with the shock of no longer being royalty and having everything handed to him. I’m sure problems caused by that aren’t entirely over yet. The other half of the comedy portion turned serious later on, as Winn dealt with the fallout of James’ decision to become a vigilante, and ultimately decided to help him do so. The laughs there won’t end, however, because although Winn’s decision and commitment to James’ cause was serious, the two are essentially a comedy duo, and that won’t stop anytime soon.
There was a hard-hitting side to this episode, too. Alex’s confusion and indecision about herself, and her being a little afraid of it, was probably most serious, since it mirrors a lot of real people’s experience with the same. There was also an honest conversation about why allowing advanced weapons that can hurt aliens is a bad thing – because the people who hold them can’t be trusted to control themselves enough not to turn them on humans. And an overriding theme throughout the episode was that everyone needs to be allowed to find their own path, and follow it. As long as it’s reasonable, Mon-El.
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While I was expecting something more relevant to events happening in the USA this week, I can’t say I’m disappointed that the topics in this week’s episode led by example in the absence of an inspirational speech.
In a nutshell, Mon-El begins working at CatCo as James’ new intern (failing with roguish charm, as one without any sort of support or instruction would do), James himself begins a career in vigilantism (aided by Winn, who is still the most gullible link), Alex discovers she’s attracted to ladies, and we also get a few explosions courtesy of the continuing fear-based propaganda sent from Cadmus. With Mon-El and James, it is notable that both encounter resistance intent on changing their behaviors or core instincts, but both come to be accepted as the individuals they are, and supported as much as Kara-the-wholesome-girl-next-door can towards Mon-El-the-playa, and as much as Winn can for James. As we’ve heard before, they’re stronger together, but as we know here in the frosty north, we’re stronger together because of our differences, not in spite of them.
The other standout is Alex’s slow descent into suffering sapphism. Maggie gets dumped by her nameless girlfriend between episodes (a rather refreshing breakup for LGBT couples) leaving Alex in the clear to move in and try to cheer Maggie up. While Alex may have convinced herself it’s just in a platonic I-really-like-you-old-buddy-old-pal way, Maggie sees things differently, and calls Alex on it. Falling far short of a “very special PSA” episode, Alex begins to question the veracity of Maggie’s claim, and eventually comes to the conclusion that a person removed may have a better perspective to get a read of things. While it isn’t the “just make out already” result some may have wanted, it’s some quality representation and I’m satisfied even if the only resolution this week is that Alex admitted to herself and to Maggie that she’s not quite arrow-straight. Honesty is after all, a highly desirable trait.
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