RTF TV Review: Supergirl – Season 2
By: Adam Basciano
“Season 2 finds Supergirl, Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist), teaming up with her cousin Superman (Tyler Hoechlin). Kara and James (Mehcad Brooks) decide they’re better off as friends, leaving the path for Mon-El (Chris Wood), the mystery alien from the pod that fell in Season 1, open to make a move on the Girl of Steel. Elsewhere, with the help of Maggie (Floriana Lima), Alex (Chyler Lee) accepts her sexuality; at the same time, Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath) rethinks her family loyalties.” (The CW)
Overall, the first thing I’ll say, is that the move from CBS to The CW worked wonders for Supergirl. The show gets to embrace its comic book roots to full effect After name dropping Superman in several episodes of the first season, even showing several instant messages between Kara and Clark, the show finally brings the Man of Steel on board in the form of actor Tyler Hoechlin. What I liked about Superman’s inclusion, was that the creatives behind the show, were able to highlight the reverence, and high standard both regular citizenry and the members of the D.E.O. have for Superman, without ever undercutting Supergirl. Winn Schott has a man crush on Superman and I swear, that character and actor acts and feels more like Jimmy than Mehcad Brooks. When Superman & Supergirl did work together, whether it being the Venture space shuttle, or saving the LuthorCorp building, Superman was their in assistance to Supergirl. As for Superman himself, it’s clearly more akin to the Christopher Reeve iteration of the character. As Superman, Hoechlin is confident, in battle, and very upbeat and welcoming to the people he interacts with and saves. Before anyone goes comparing him to Henry Cavil’s version, that’s unfair. as his Superman is at a different stage of his superhero career. Not only that, half the world, doesn’t know what to make of Cavil’s Superman. Hoechlin’s Superman is more seasoned and that experience, has shaped his perspective. As for the actor’s version of Clark Kent, he does do the bumbling routine, but it is clearly an act, It is far more subdued, then Christopher Reeve’s portrayal. I like to look at it, as a hybrid of Brandon Routh and Dean Cain.
I like that Superman’s multi episode appearance is seen as a great chance for Clark and Kara to get some family time in. The more experienced Clark Kent gives Kara tips on how to balance her civilian identity as Kara Danvers, with her superhero duties as Supergirl. Meanwhile, Kara tells Clark first hand accounts of life on Krypton. The relationship is give and take on both sides, they are treated as equals, even though Superman is the more well known, experienced and popular, of the two cousins. I like this a lot. With little moments of dialogue, the writers set up that Lex Luthor is in jail, serving 32 life sentences, for trying to blow up the fault line. This event that occurred in Superman (78), also occurred in the CWDCU. Superman’s guest episodes also features a one sided phone conversation between Clark and Lois, that infers their relationship to be more in line with the comics instead of the Richard Donner films. In these episodes, we also see an uneasiness between Superman and Martian Manhunter. That stems from the fact that J’onn is keeping kryptonite at the D.E.O. While Superman trusts his Justice League teammate, he’s worried that one of “Hank Henshaw’s” superiors will one day give the order to use it against either he or Supergirl. By the end of the second episode, they resolve their impasse and J’onn gets clearance from the President, to let Superman dispose of the Kryptonite. I like that Superman and Martian Manhunter have a pre-existing history and hope that is explored at some point, Superman returns to the show.
Superman’s appearance does serve to unearth and set up, the two major plot lines for the rest of the season. Supergirl and her cousin didn’t have to save the Venture space shuttle because of a accidental engine failure. A bomb was hidden in one of the airplane parts and purposely set off. When the DEO come to the realization that the explosive part was manufactured by a subsidiary of LuthorCorp, Clark and Kara quickly point the finger at LuthorCorp’s new CEO, Lena Luthor, who has replaced Lex during his incarceration. Lena is Lex’s sister and very similar to Smallville, is adopted. When Clark and Kara learn that Lena herself was supposed to be on that shuttle, they realize that Lena is being targeted for murder. The suspect we find out, is Lena Luthor’s step mother, Lillian Luthor, who runs Cadmus. With Cadmus, Lillian Luthor has a hand either creating, or bringing about comic book characters like Metallo and Parasite. With the exception of minor changes to fit the Supergirl continuity, these two characters are brought to life pitch perfectly with their comic book counter parts. What I really found refreshing about the inclusion of Lena Luthor, was that while they teased that she could have been a villain, it’s quickly brought to light, that she becomes an ally to Supergirl. In a way, the character played incredibly well by Katie McGrath, replaces Cat Grant, who is a no show for 3/4’s of the season. By contrast, Lex’s mother, Lillian Luthor is in full blown villain mode. You understand why she is going after Superman, and by extension, Supergirl. Namely because in her mind, the house of El was responsible for driving her son crazy, and ultimately sending Lex to jail for several life times. It’s an interesting parallel that in DC Films, the mother/son relationship drives both Superman and Batman to heroic lifestyles, while in Supergirl, Lillian Luthor is driven to darkness and villainy over what happened to her son.
When killing Supergirl and Superman fails, she kidnaps Jeremiah Danvers and forces him to create a virus, that when dispersed, would kill all aliens on Earth. That plan is also foiled by Supergirl, but not before revealing that the President of the United States, played by the true First Lady of Superhero TV, Lynda Carter is an alien. I so loved this bit of DC Legacy casting. I was so pumped up seeing Supergirl and our classic Wonder Woman actress, side by side, working together. When the virus plan fails, Lillian continues blackmailing Jeremiah, with the lives of Kara and Alex, forcing him to steal a list from the DEO, that documents known and suspected aliens on Earth. Meanwhile, she gets her cronies from Intergang to discredit aliens, by using alien weapons to commit crimes. She then has the aliens rounded up and along with discarded technology designed by Lex Luthor, she planned to load them into a space frigate that would then jump into hyperspace, exiling them to a world across the universe Supergirl completes the hat trick of victories, preventing the exile. This show, with the alien immigrant angle and their deportation, is clearly playing with the political climate occurring in the U.S. Specifically, in terms of immigration. The fact that Supergirl stops Lillian multiple times, is in part out of necessity but is clearly indicative of the producers, writers room and many of the actors and actresses, stance on Donald Trumps comments, thoughts and plans for immigration policies. I think, this show, given the character and her origin, has every right to comment on this particular issue and I’m glad they did.
The second main plot point of the season, concerns the pod that crashed to Earth at the end of season 1. The inhabitant of that pod, is comic book character Mon-El, of Daxam. Mon – El is the Prince of Daxam and on his home world, was a pretentious spoiled frat boy type. His parents Lar Gand and Rheah gave him the political duty of travelling to other planets and purchasing slaves for his kingdom, even though he disagreed with this practice. Mon-El landing on Earth, is directly tied to Krypton’s destruction. Debris from Supergirl’s dying home world, rains down on Daxam, causing severe destruction and casualties. To save his own ass, Mon-El steals the pod of a Kryptonian delegate, flies off planet and then eventually gets thrown off course, finding his way on Earth. When he awakes from stasis, Supergirl befriends him, and tells him Daxam is uninhabitable. Given that he and Kara have the same powers, save for flight, she mentors him in using his powers, training him to eventually become a superhero in his own right. My feelings on Mon-El went through phases this season. I hated the pompous frat boy that was the Prince of Daxam. I though his civilian identity, was too silly and aloof, which came off as very annoying. Mon-El training and bonding with Supergirl was great for me. He was vulnerable, honest and generally seemed good natured and heroic. The fact that Kara’s relationship to Mon-El developed from mentor and friend, to a romantic couple felt 100% believable. Far more believable then Kara and James Olsen last season. God, I’m so glad that didn’t stick. I also like that they showed Mon-El trying and failing, to join team Supergirl as a hero. I like that the showrunners decided to give him a season full of training and learning, so that when he dons his superhero costume in season 3, the moment will feel earned for the character and the audience. Also, well done to actor Chris Woods, for being rather versatile in his acting, to make me feel such a wide range of emotion towards his character.
Things get complicated for Mon-El and Kara, when a Daxamite mothership arrives in Earth’s atmosphere. The ships main inhabitants are King Lar Gand and Queen Rhea, Mon-El’s parents. They have come to Earth to retrieve their son, so the Prince can help them rebuild Daxam on another planet. When he tells his parents he refuses to return because he is in love with Kara Zor-El, a Kryptonian, his father, while apprehensive, understands his son’s choice, despite not being gung-ho about Kryptonian’s, given Daxam’s fate. Meanwhile, his mother is livid, dead set against it. Despite agreeing to leave without their son, Rhea betrays her husband, kills him, and assumes command of the ship and the people on it. She eventually opens a portal leading more Daxamite’s to Earth in a full scale invasion. Even though he is torn, Mon-El sides with Earth. Despite this, Earth is overwhelmed and outnumbered. The only recourse to save Earth, is to use a device that releases led into the atmosphere. Comic fans will know that led is toxic to Daxamite’s. So while this action kills Rhea and ends the threat, it also poisons Mon-El. To save his life, Kara convinces him to get into his Kryptonian pod, and leave Earth. This heartbreakingly ends Kara and Mon-El’s relationship. The last we see of him, he is travelling in space, through a wormhole. The “legacy” casting for Mon-El’s parents, is a 90’s TV fan’s dream. Hercules’ Kevin Sorbo plays Lar Gand, while Lois Lane herself, Teri Hatcher, plays Rhea. I was surprised at how cold, stoic, and evil Teri Hatcher was. It’s a total 360 degree turn from anything I’ve ever seen her in. Also, when she kills Kevin Sorbo, I actually shouted “OMG…Lois Lane killed Hercules.” That’s something I’d never thought I’d say.
A side subplot to the two main plots that I really enjoyed, was the introduction of M’gann M’orrz a.k.a. Miss Martian. In this iteration of the character, she is a White Martian, who rebelled against her race, after they began capturing and killing Green Martians. On Earth, she disguises herself as a bartender and works at an alien bar. When J’onn suspects her of being a Martian, she disguises herself as a Green Martian. In their loneliness, through the death of their people and home world, they bond, eventually falling in love. This is different then the comics and animation, where M’gann is thought of as J’onn’s niece. Though, in those iterations she’s a teenager. For the mythology of the show, I am perfectly fine with this change. Miss Martian actually saves Martian Manhunter’s life, after his powers are drained and he is wounded, in team Supergirl’s battle with Parasite. The DEO facilitates a blood transfusion between the two. However, the presence of white Martian blood in his system, causes Martian Manhunter’s powers to go wonky, and causes him to become more violent and angry. After running some tests, the DEO discovers white Martian blood was transferred to J’onn and they deduce M’gann is a White Martian. J’onn, betrayed by the lie and believing her to be a part of the group that murdered his family, finds her, demands that she reveal her true form and almost beats her to death. When she transitions to her human form, he stops, remembers why he has feelings for her and heals her, via a Martian Bond. This by the way, is essentially a Vulcan mind meld. Near the end of the season, M’gann is shaken by a telekinetic message from White Martians, who have found her and are coming for her. As a pre-emptive measure, she heads to the White Martian colony planet, intending to reunite with her rebel White Martians and overthrow the current regime. Martian Manhunter offers to go with her, she tells him this is a mission she must undertake herself.
Starting with the Martians, I must say that the visual effects on Supergirl, continue to be above par in this series. Season two’s effects are even better than Season 1. That is a bit surprising, since the move to The CW from CBS, likely means a lesser budget for the series. The flashbacks to Mars are so beautiful and the fact that both Martian Manhunter and Miss Martian are so comic book accurate, makes me want a Martian Manhunter solo series. Seeing Parasite in live action for the first time, was fantastic. His look reminds me of a mashup of The Blob and Slimer. He’s terrifying. In the use of Superman’s rogues gallery, television has one up on the movie series. Speaking of, the Shuttle save by Supergirl and Superman looked phenomenal. It looked almost as great as Superman saving the plane in Superman Returns, or his first flight in Man of Steel.
This season of Supergirl wasn’t perfect. In fact, there are aspects of it that I absolutely hated. Firstly, was James Olsen becoming Guardian. In the story James does it because he is tired of being saved all the time and is feeling useless. Truth is, James Olsen on this show is absolutely useless. Not to mention, Guardian conceived of by himself, with costume creations by Winn Schott, is a knockoff, a poor man’s mix of Arrow’s John Diggle’s persona Spartan and Batman. The other thing that annoyed me, is that for a show that prides itself on its Girl Power, they still have stereotypes about women on display. We see Kara and Lena at lunch, obsessing over which boy band was better, Nsync or Backstreet Boys. Fact, they both suck. Then, when their relationships go awry, we see Alex and Kara, curled up on a couch crying, watching sappy TV and eating Rocky Road ice cream. In a world where the Wonder Woman movie exists, these types of stereo types and troupes are a step backwards, in my opinion.
Overall, Supergirl Season 2 was a power upgrade over season one. More comic book inspired story telling and villains, with superior special effects, makes this series deserving and worthy of your time, if you are a fan of these types of shows, or Supergirl and Superman.