written by Dayna Abel, Jason Froikin and Cara Russell
SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT
I’m conflicted about “Supergirl Lives”.1 Before I get into the meat of the review, I promise I liked this episode. I liked the action sequences, I loved Alex firin her laz0rz and casting Holy, and that smile on Snapper’s face after Kara was out of sight was wonderful. Mon-El is still boring as hell and needs to go back to Whiteboytopia, but nothing’s perfect.
So let’s talk about fear and anxiety. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have a couple of nasty anxiety disorders on top of flat-out agoraphobia. I also have very, very slight PTSD from Hurricane Katrina that makes me fearful of thunderstorms and high winds. I’ve been on medication for anxiety since 2005. When Winn – my god, I’m actually going to talk about Winn – had a near-death experience while helping James out on the street, the trauma from that moment left him near-paralyzed with fear. That’s PTSD. Guy had a gun in his face and he was about to die. That’s gonna leave a mark. Winn screaming “just stop!” at James, insisting that he can’t go out on the streets anymore, was actually a great character moment for Winn. What irked me was that he got over it by punching an alien in the face and went right back to being insufferably obnoxious. Are you kidding, writers? God forbid you’d give the man a fucking story arc or something. It’s also pretty bad that this episode portrayed PTSD as something you just get over with a little confidence. Get the entire fuck on out of here with that.
The more I dwell on that, the more I hate the whole thing there, so let’s move on to Alex’s fear. This one’s a lot more relatable – Alex has always defined herself as the responsible one, the one who has to make sure everything is okay and that Kara is protected. She herself said it was as if she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. It goes beyond “protecting Kara” with her, though. We’ve heard her talk about how she pressured herself to be perfect at everything – perfect grades, perfect job, perfect sister, perfect daughter. Because of this, she feels like taking even a moment for herself is inherently selfish, and she’ll be punished if she’s happy. That’s so sad. From a storytelling perspective, on the other hand, that’s the good stuff right there. Maggie seems like a zero-bullshit kind of woman, so hopefully she’ll be able to help Alex deal with that baggage. If Alex can’t move past it, it might just cost her a relationship. Would that all characters on the show be imbued with such depth and emotion.
* * *
The long hiatus didn’t disrupt the rhythm of Supergirl one bit. I was able to start watching this week’s episode and pick up with the characters’ lives right where they left off. What I found interesting is the show’s writers took this opportunity to create a jumping-on point for people who are new to watching the series. If you take a close look at the episode, it could very much stand in for an introduction.
I point that out because people being sold into slavery is an important issue, but it’s light fare compared to the usually much deeper issues on Supergirl. It opens up a brand-new subplot that will no doubt cover the rest of the season. It also introduces the concept of Mon-El becoming a superhero, which is a quite terrifying thought, considering his usual attitude.
And once again, Kara’s so-called “secret identity” is the worst-kept secret ever. It makes me think…alhough having a job like the rest of us makes her seem more grounded and honest, maybe in these modern times, a famous Kara Danvers who everyone knows is Supergirl isn’t such a foreign and scary concept. After all, we live in a time when ordinary people are made rich and famous by doing nothing more than documenting their lives on Youtube. And unlike previous incarnations of Supergirl, this one’s friends are more than prepared to deal with her fame. It could actually work.
* * *
After a lengthy mid-season hiatus, Supergirl is back and taking us by storm. Or at least, I feel that’s what they meant to do, but I’m not quite feeling it. The world is a very different place since we last saw the Girl Of Steel, and the flying, four-color heroism feels a little out of sync. A little less on-the-nose relevant, a little more off-tune. A little more safe.
I still can’t tell if it’s just me, as I watch Alex navigate her budding relationship with Maggie (so important to see on-screen), Mon-El choosing to become a hero instead of having it forced on him (an improvement), and Winn discovering he’s an officer instead of a redshirt (this will surely suck for James, but it’s still great for Winn). For all of these, I still see Kara asking permission to be a reporter as well as James sticking to the background as he lives out his double life as Guardian. I miss Cat Grant desperately. I even miss Max Lord, whose machinations and smug face added an arcing continuity there doesn’t seem to be time for this season – the small teasers aren’t adding up steadily enough to maintain tension, and the hiatus didn’t help.
And yet. For all the grievances I can muster, I can’t think of another program that is doing the things Supergirl is still accomplishing. Where else can I see an adult realize she’s gay, and work through it with her girlfriend? Where else can I watch a black man be a street-level hero and be normalized without being painted as a thug or given a prison backstory? Where else can I watch journalism be an honorable profession where one works for truth and justice? Where can I see someone who is stereotyped as a good-for-nothing just because of his homeland become valued (c’mon guys, don’t let me down here!)? These are the heroes we need right now, for those coming up in a terrible world where the path forward is dark and full of danger. Even if they may not be the heroes I always want.
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- hi conflicted about supergirl lives i’m dad