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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Supergirl S2E19: Alex

Series 2, Episode 19

I heard people lamenting about how Kara's personality seems to have done a one-eighty in this series, and I would really like to disagree -- and for some episodes, I can! In her crossover with The Flash, she was definitely back to her normal self. In the first two or three episodes of this series, she was fine as well. In her interactions with Snapper, and just in general in the last episode, she was definitely in-character.

(I suspect that this is also why Kara/Lena has become so popular as a ship, while Kara/Mon-El has gone over so badly -- I mean, apart from the fact that Mon-El has the personality of a potato on a good day, and the personality of a spousal abuser in waiting on a bad one. Kara seems more in-character when she's playing off Lena, and less in-character when she's playing off Mon-El. Being around Mon-El seems to instantly denature her, probably because Kara as introduced in the first series would not be able to tolerate Mon-El for more than six seconds.)

Episodes like this one, however, make arguing that Kara hasn't had a massive personality transplant difficult, because this episode is built on a forced interpersonal conflict that makes zero sense for either Kara or Maggie.

Lena always looks so flawless, I'm very jealous.

As the episode starts, we are given our main character conflict for the episode: Maggie is unhappy that Kara is saving people from regular criminals, and Kara is unhappy that Maggie doesn't think she's awesome.

It's bizarre, because Kara has never really been indicated to be the kind of person who can't cope with criticism -- she's not thin-skinned, after all, she worked for Cat Grant for a whole series. Maggie telling her that Kara jumping in to save every criminal isn't a good idea shouldn't have prompted her to fly off the handle like she did, and it feels jarring and petty that she did.

Moreover, Kara's argument is that she doesn't need to be careful or talk things out because she can just swoop in and get the job done -- which flies in the face of character development she had in the first series about solving problems without her powers, using her status as a symbol to resolve issues peacefully.

How does Kara have time to put on her Supergirl lipstick during this whole saving Alex thing?
I suppose she does have superspeed.

But ultimately, the idea that Maggie would sulk and brood and eventually explode over Kara saving several people's lives is also absolutely bizarre. Maggie's known that Kara is Supergirl for weeks now, and this has literally never even been hinted at as a problem. But even if Maggie did have a problem with it -- and the show tries to thinly justify it by saying that sometimes criminals use the Supergirl Defense to score a Not Guilty verdict, claiming they were arrested by a vigilante using excessive force (and if that's so, why has J'onn never mentioned this? Or Clark? Snapper? Jimmy? Alex?) -- then I don't buy that she wouldn't just be able to have a calm conversation with Kara about it.

And yes, obviously an episode needs some kind of interpersonal conflict, but it's important that those conflicts make sense for your characters, because otherwise you're taking a wrecking ball to your audience's suspension of disbelief.

As the rest of the episode -- involving Alex being taken hostage, and Maggie and Kara rushing to save her -- unfolded, I found myself totally detached from it all. The opening ten minutes had had an almost Brechtian effect on me, reminding me in no uncertain terms that I was watching a television show with a very rigid structure (interpersonal conflict is introduced >>> larger conflict is introduced >>> in trying to help the characters only make things worse >>> both conflicts are resolved, with the characters learning a lesson), and immediately I stopped caring about anything that was going on. It had no stakes anymore.

Maggie's passive-aggression face.

So, having spent six-hundred words talking about the first ten minutes, were the remaining thirty any good? Yes, more or less. The concept of 'someone without any superpowers kidnaps Alex, and the team has to deal with this problem that they can't just punch or heat-vision away' is actually a pretty compelling one, and I'm not against the show having Kara and Maggie team up. This episode had the potential to be something really good, but it was built on a rotten foundation.

Next week, it looks like we'll be getting the culmination of this whole plot with Mon-El's mother. Maybe Mon-El will die! We can only hope. Either way, it seems like it's going to involve Rhea taking control of children across the world, as some kind of massive middle finger at Supergirl for taking Mon-El away. That will presumably leave the final two episodes for dealing with Cadmus, although in all honesty this series would have felt far less cluttered if Cadmus was just the main antagonist, and this whole thing with Mon-El's sai-wielding mother was never a thing.

1 comment:

  1. I want everyone to know that 'Mon-El's sai-wielding mother' is not something I ever want to have to write again. You hear me? Never again.