written by Dayna Abel and Cara Russell
SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT
I KNOW I SAID I WAS DONE BUT DAMMIT THEY BROUGHT THE PLOT BACK.
So as interesting as said plot was tonight, it’s the subtext that drove me to come back to reviewing tonight. “City Of Lost Children” is a meta-story about representation. I first had a twinge at the beginning of the episode watching a white cop following a black woman who, at that point, wasn’t doing anything. My first reaction was “this could get tone-deaf fast.”
But as we followed James along with the woman’s son, Marcus, we began to see a different tone. Marcus initially fears the Guardian, but the minute the mask comes off, Marcus sees someone like him. And it’s not just because James is a black man, but that Marcus specifically saw a black man who reminded him of himself and of his mother. J’onn even said it wasn’t just race, it was race plus inner characteristics. James, in turn, saw Marcus begin to emulate him, open up to him. At the climax, James helps Marcus find the strength to throw off Rhea’s control. Marcus looking up to James – “a hero without a suit,” as Winn put it – inspired his own inner strength.
It is crucial for people to see themselves reflected in the media they consume. Art has enormous power to influence and inspire. Not only does everyone deserve positive representation, but it’s important for majority audiences to see that. When Miles Morales became Spider-Man, one reader said it wasn’t just about his son seeing that he could be a hero, but so white people could see that as well. [NOTE: I Googled my ass off trying to find this quote – if anyone can find it, I’ll be happy to edit it in.] In an era of “othering” people not like us, it’s more vital than ever that we are able to see everybody as human beings capable of goodness – as heroes without suits.
* * *
This week on Supergirl, we finally have the answer to “where the hell is James Olsen” – but as all frogurt is cursed, this delight is tinged with an odd feeling that our titular character is getting shafted in her own show (again), as she takes a step back from the spotlight for James, Mon-El and Lena.
James grapples with the new knowledge that his role as the Guardian is perceived more as a threat than the protector role he wished it to be, by the very people he wants to help. While one can fully understand why a strange dude in a tin can suit showing up to clobber bad guys might be taken poorly, James is more concerned that he would be unable to be a guardian without being the Guardian – a thought made all the more absurd as we watch him dive into danger to save bystanders from flying hotdog carts, become a Big Brother to a refugee kid, and by generally being a kind and caring person, all without the benefit of a super-suit…but also without the glory that Superman or Supergirl get.
Meanwhile, Lena struggles to solve technical problems with her and Rhea’s new project – problems which she blames on her own shortcomings, rather than them being a normal part of the scientific process. Creepily, Rhea understands this, and has the opportunity to act the caring, maternal part while assuaging Lena’s guilt. As Rhea also murdered her husband for disagreeing with her on the parenting of their adult son, I find it difficult to believe she’s doing any of this out of genuine affection. While she does profess her fondness for Lena on several occasions, we can still see how much her “genuine affection” gains Mon-El. Lena is finally successful, inadvertently causing a local psychic alien population to short-circuit, and she ends up helping the super-gang stumble upon Rhea’s plan. A tense confrontation at the lab has Mon-El struggling with his feelings, and Rhea plays him like the abusive psychopath she is. I feel that even if you despise Mon-El, you can have a little empathy for him here, as well as wonder at the fact he survived that household at all without becoming completely and maliciously evil. It makes me wonder what revelations we missed out on with Lar Gand’s untimely demise.
Ultimately, we find that Rhea’s project wasn’t meant to assist with local humanitarian aid, but to transport every far-flung Daxamite ship to Earth, where she plans to take over the planet and enslave humankind (as Daxam has a history of doing, as we’ve seen earlier in the season). She transports Mon-El and an unconscious Lena to parts unknown, and I can’t help but hope that Lillian Luthor is about to appear with Cadmus as backup for a battle royale to determine the Worst Mom Ever. However, that crown probably still belongs to Alura, who let a planet explode. Either way, it’ll be an interesting episode in a week’s time!
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