Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E02 - 'The Last Children of Krypton'





The first season of Supergirl might have been somewhat inconsistent, but there had been a lot to like about the second season's first episode. There were the great moments of humour, and character-driven drama. There were a handful of genuinely exciting action sequences. There was a very entertaining portrayal of Superman, provided by Tyler Hoechlin. Most importantly, though, the episode also ended with a great set-up for the rest of the season, with the reveal that Project Cadmus was set to emergy into the spotlight – and that, through them, the hit-man, John Corben (Frederick Schimdt), would become the classic 'Superman' villain, Metallo.

John Corben hadn't been an overly impressive villain in the previous episode, of course – but, the thought that he would go on to become this much more formidable figure (a cyborg who, thanks to a Kryptonite power source, actually posed a significant threat to both heroes) definitely had potential. So, it was a promising set-up – although, to be honest, it wasn't one that I was expecting the series to return to, immediately.

But, then, that is exactly what happened with the second season of Supergirl – as the series clearly hopes to maintain that strong sense of momentum that the first episode was able to establish. With Metallo active, and with his sights firmly set on the Kryptonian superheroes, we have a great set-up for some of the best moments of 'superhero' action that we have every seen on Supergirl.

Honestly, it seems strange to me that, after the somewhat shaky action sequences and special effects work of the first season, we would see what appears to be a fairly significant improvement in both this episode, and the previous one – especially considering the reduced budget. But, so far, that seems to have been exactly what has happened. The Krytonian's various battles with not one, but two, Kryptonite powered cyborgs (since, it is not long until John Corben is joined by a second 'Metallo') are incredibly impressive – and, easily match anything we have seen on any of the CW's other DC shows, up until this point. It seems that this extra level of care, and attention to detail (as a means of countering the reduced budget), is just one of the many changes brought about by the change in networks – and, it's definitely one that I appreciate.

On a more personal level, Cat Grant's offer to, essentially, give her former assistant any job that she wanted at CatCo Worldwide Media seems to have backfired on Kara. Ultimately choosing to follow in her cousin's footsteps, and become a serious journalist, Kara finds herself almost immediately confronted by the disapproval of her new boss, Snapper Carr (Ian Gomez) – who, perhaps understandably, isn't too eager to mentor someone who was just given the job, rather than earning it. So, instead of the odd brand of 'tough love' support she so often received from Cat Grant, Kara will now have to endure the contemptuous apathy of someone who doesn't want her there.

While this is, obviously, a very different dynamic to the one that it is set to replace, at this point I'm not entirely convinced that it is going to amount to anything interesting. For one thing, this sort of dynamic (disapproving male authority figure giving a young woman, out to prove herself, a hard time) feels like a bit of a throw-back. Snapper Carr, himself, also feels a bit like a walking cliche, at this point – seeming to share some overt similarities with just about every other 'scruffy, hard-edged, journalist' character to ever appear on-screen.

Obviously, both the character, and the new dynamic, are elements that will be fleshed out in future episodes. I am just going to have to hope that they can evolve into something interesting – because, at the moment, I'm not feeling particularly invested in either.

But, of course, with Cat Grant set to leave her role as CEO of her own media empire (for reasons which, I'm sure, make perfect sense to the extremely wealthy), it is a change that clearly needed to happen. Obviously, any member of the audience who pays attention to this sort of thing would already know that the real reason for Cat Grant's oddly sudden departure, as she heads off to 'seek out new challenges', is the change in filming locations brought about with the change in network – and, Calista Flockhart's, perfectly understandable, unwillingness to follow the rest of the cast to Canada, on a permanent basis.

So, there's an obvious reason behind the character's departure – but, I still have to wonder how it all comes across to someone who isn't familiar with the behind the scenes details. Because, based on what we have come to know about Cat Grant, over the course of the previous episode, I can't say that her sudden departure, here, actually makes a whole lot of sense. It feels much more like a vague, and hastily written, attempt to justify her departure than any genuine sort of character development (which is probably exactly what it was, of course – but, the audience shouldn't be able to notice that).

Elsewhere, this was also an episode which, much like the previous one, managed to find room for a wide variety of great character moments. The scenes which opened the episode, featuring the team-up between Superman and Supergirl before Metallo was revealed, were very entertaining – as the two continued to build on the natural rapport that Melissa Benoist and Tyler Hoechlin were able to establish in the previous episode. The strong bond between the two was entirely convincing – and, it already feels like a bit of a shame that Tyler Hoechlin's Superman is only set to appear in a handful of episodes. Similarly, the lingering tension between Superman and the Martian Manhunter, regarding the DEO's possession of Kryptonite, provided Tyler Hoechlin and David Harewood with some great scenes, together. Elsewhere, Winn Schott's very overt adoration of Superman, and Superman's mildly bemused reaction to it, provided the episode with some great moments of comedy.

Alex, meanwhile, found herself caught up in an odd blend of jealousy and resentment with regard to the strong bond between Kara, her adopted sister, and Kara's biological cousin. With Kara's momentary uncertainty about all of the changes taking place around her leading her to wonder whether she would be better off spending some time in Metropolis, Alex began to feel as though her role in Kara's life was unappreciated. Obviously, this was meant to be a moment of sisterly tension that was intended to be addressed, and resolved, by the end of the episode – but, it came and went so fast that it didn't really leave much of an impression.

At this point, it has started to feel as though the people behind Supegirl are eager to take the opportunity to do a bit of 'course-correction' with James Olsen. First, we had the very abrupt manner in which the romatic sub-plot, between him and Kara, was brought to an end – with Kara coming to the conclusion that it may have been a mistake to rush into a relationship. Now, we have James's single scene in this episode, where it seems that he is being set up take over for Cat Grant, in her absence. Combine that with the fact that James's eventually transition into a costumed crime-fighter, in his own right, as already been revealed, and it seems as though Supergirl is going out of its way to turn James Olsen into the complex, and interesting, character that he should have been, from the beginning. Hopefully, it will work out for the best.

With the second episode, it seems as though this season of Supergirl is set to make the most of the opportunities provided by a change in network. I wouldn't go as far as to say that the series is 'reinventing' itself, since it still feels very familiar – but, it definitely feels as though there is a bit of 'behind-the-scenes' retooling taking place, as it is brought more in line with the CW's other DC shows. So far, the result of all of this has been two very strong episode, and a great start to the new season – and, it definitely leaves me feeling hopeful for the rest of the season.

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