[Review] Supergirl Episode 4×19: “American Dreamer”

written by Dayna Abel


Openness and honesty would have solved so, so, so many unnecessary conflicts in the Arrowverse so far, and I’m happy to see that Supergirl finally proves that point in a fantastic, densely packed episode.

Nicole Maines and Mehcad Brooks get my “MVPs of the Episode” award, playing out two very important stories.

James’ arc is about how our minds can rewrite our own history, along with an exploration of the effects of severe trauma and PTSD. This was touched on previously in the Season Three episode, “Triggers”, which centered Kara’s fears. We see James struggle to reconcile his memories of his father’s funeral with what actually happened. He’s guided through this with his sister Kelly as his anchor, finally coming to terms with the source of his trauma and giving him a point from which to start moving forwards.

Azie Tesfai as Kelly is a great addition to the cast, giving James a more realistic bond with a family member rather than the romantic one he had with Lena – something that never quite clicked for me, although it had its moments.

Over in the A-plot, Nia (as Dreamer) is interviewed by Kara on national television. As a daughter of both a human and an alien, Nia bridges both worlds and is able to appeal to each. The interview is positive and earnest, and we see how Nia’s really blossomed under Kara’s guidance, echoing the Cat/Kara relationship from Season One.

The hugely important message of the interview is the importance of recognizing everyone’s intrinsic humanity. One of the cornerstones of fascism is spreading fear of “the other,” the ones who don’t look or talk or worship like you do. Dehumanization and othering are critical to the success of bigotry, and confronting those fears by way of actually getting to know the people meant to be dehumanized is a powerful antidote.

The seeds of this are also planted in Ben Lockwood’s son George, who is shocked to discover during a raid that one of his best friends is an alien. George chooses to side with his friend rather than his father, and his eyes begin to open to the destruction his father’s brand of hate leads to.

After the interview has aired, Ben tries to shut Dreamer down, but she is a living message of hope who lights a fire under several denizens of National City. Some DEO agents openly defy Lockwood, Brainiac 5 realizes he’s in love with Nia, and James stands against Lockwood like an impenetrable wall of righteousness. Lena, inspired by Dreamer’s courage, finally confesses to Kara that Lex helped her develop the Harun-el serum. Kara immediately forgives her and casts aside Lena’s fear of losing the only person she can trust.

Fear is a powerful thing. It is incredibly difficult to confront, but this episode shows how it’s worth doing just that. Hate has its roots in fear, and we as humans fear what we don’t understand. Knowledge is the root of empathy, and empathy is what will ultimately be needed to turn the tide towards hope, both in the show and in real life.

Supergirl airs Sunday nights at 8 Eastern/7 Central on the CW. Dayna can be found on Twitter @queenanthai.

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