It’s back, ladies and gents. I know it’s been tough to get through the holidays without our regular fix of capes and cowls on the CW, but the shows we know and love have finally made their way back to the small screen. The tail end of last year saw the epic, four-part crossover between all four CW shows, as well as the defeat of the head of Cadmus, but as needed, the start to this year's half-season of Supergirl brings things back into focus…with middling success.
Let’s start with a bit of a preamble. Season 2 has been a bit of a struggle for Supergirl. It started off pretty well, but when Cat left, it felt like a part of the show died. In addition to that key departure, the entire dynamic of the show continued to change. Now, that’s not to say that change is bad. On the contrary, shows that strive for continuous change tend to be the strongest pieces of narrative out there. However, the result here has led to an overall disparate narrative that’s hard to cling to.
In Season 1, the group was a cohesive unit. Kara had her gang at CatCo, and her gang over at DEO, and each had a relatively strong through line that was connected by Kara. Nowadays, Kara has her story, Mon-El has his story, Winn and James have their story, Alex has her story, and Hank has his story. They intersect, yes, but they don’t contribute and cross-pollinate in a very rewarding way.
This has been the problem as of late, and it shows once again in this half-season premiere.
Episode 9 starts off with Kara accepting a job to help find a missing girl. Of course, this ends up being a not-so-average case wherein the girl named Izzy (played by episode director Kevin Smith’s daughter, Harley Quinn Smith) — along with many other missing persons — has actually been kidnapped and sent off to a planet for slave labor. Taking Mon-El along for the ride, Kara takes it upon herself to go to the planet and free these slaves. To add to the trouble, it turns out that when on this foreign planet, there is no yellow sun to power them, so they are left with a strictly human-esque level of power. Not ideal.
Kara is left with one last defining trait of hers: standing with resolve in the thick of danger against all odds. Luckily for her, when placed in a room full of demoralized humans, it proves to be enough. They’re able to escape, but not before we see Mon-El almost bite the dust. For some reason, one of the aliens let him live…but why? The real rewarding aspect of this episode came at the end, when Kara turned in her report on the human trafficking to Snapper Carr, her editor. He, of course, doesn’t praise her to her face, but waits for her to close the door behind her. This girl may be a reporter yet.
This episode has two main subplots — one, involving Alex’s love life and insecurity, and one involving Winn’s insecurity with actually assisting the Guardian. In all honesty, I feel like both of these are handled better than the main plot, as they're more emotion-driven than plot-driven. Alex bailing on her relationship after being flustered at work is actually pretty darn believable given her circumstances, and the way it’s handled works for the character's arc.
The real standout to me was Winn’s mini-arc. In a network where everybody in their mom ends up as a superhero, Winn’s reaction to almost getting shot was a breath of fresh air. Yes. That’s how a person who almost died would react. You can’t just strap on a suit, run out into the streets, and all of a sudden become a badass, as too many characters on CW shows do. Actually seeing him get cold feet for a while was a believable step that not enough characters have in these shows. Let’s just hope that we don’t see him getting into any major fistfights in the near future. While his resolve in helping people is great, it’d be unrealistic for him to know martial arts overnight.
Of course, perhaps the biggest aspect of this episode has to do with its director, Kevin Smith, best known for his indie films, podcasting, and general geek credibility. Per usual (he’s directed two episodes of The Flash), Smith does a more than serviceable job here, but as you’d expect from TV, the direction is largely invisible, and all in favor of the tone already set. When constricted by a pre-set style, as well as a script with minor narrative issues (in my opinion, at least), it’s difficult to really make your mark, so the only real telling moment here was when Harley Quinn Smith showed up on screen, delivering a serviceable performance.
On the whole, this was by no means a bad episode, but as mentioned at the top, its spread out narrative focus is, in my opinion, making the show more and more difficult to get into as time goes on. In Season 1, I felt a real sense of union between these characters. I felt like they cared about each other. Now, it seems like their relationships are just a footnote to the entire thing. It feels like the show is still scrambling to find its footing, and I hope it’s a problem they fix sooner, rather than later.
Do you agree with this rating? What did you think of this week’s episode of Supergirl? Let us know in the comments down below!