Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E19 - 'Alex'

While the second season of Supergirl has been a fairly significant improvement over the first, in a variety of ways, there are still a handful of lingering issues which have yet to be resolved, or even addressed.

First, there is the lack of any truly compelling villains. There is, also, fact that we still don't have any sort of coherent, over-arching, plot-line to carry the season toward its final episode. Then, there is the way in which certain member of the supporting cast, particularly Maggie Sawyer and James Olsen, have been poorly handled by the writers – with Maggie finding herself stuck in a very familiar, and very thankless, 'love interest' role while James is pushed further and further into the background.

There is also the small matter of Kara, herself – though, personally, I've always tried to think of her occasional moments of unlikeability, where her stubbornness gets the better of her, as a deliberate character flaw, rather than a failing on the part of the writers. So, while it is very tempting to list this among my issues with the season, I have also held on to my belief that it was something that would eventually be addressed.

Considering that these are among the primary issues I have had with Supergirl, over the course of its second season, it was very interesting to watch as the nineteenth episode seemed intent on tackling each of them, head-on – particularly when it comes to Kara's occasionally irritating behaviour.

Not only does this episode manage to bring Maggie into the spotlight, in a way that makes good use of her own unique skill-set, but it is also able to take Kara's occasional reckless stubbornness and turn it into a source of genuine drama. And, best of all, it is all centred around a villain who, in contrast to so many previous 'one-off' villains, is actually able to make a genuinely strong impression. Along with that, the episode also features a sub-plot which finally gives us a clear impression of the direction of the rest of the season – meaning that the final few episodes should, hopefully, manage to achieve a sense of focus that so much of the season, up until this point, has lacked. It's still a bit of a shame about James Olsen, of course (he doesn't even appear in this episode) – but, I suppose we can't have everything.

With the focus of the episode's primary plot-thread being placed on the kidnapping of Alex, and a plan to black-mail Kara, the episode is also able to set up a very interesting moral dilemma for the cast. Rick Malverne (David Hoflin) is a former school-friend of both Alex and Kara's who, it seems, has managed to uncover Kara's secret – and, who now plans on using that information to force Kara to break his father out of prison.

With such a strong motivation, and a great performance from David Hoflin, the episode is able to establish Rick Malverne as a genuinely interesting figure, very early on. Also, the fact that he managed to become such a legitimate threat to Supergirl simply through careful planning and preparation, made him a genuinely compelling figure, too.

Sure, you could argue that the extent of his preparations did border on implausible, at times. How, for example, could a relatively ordinary young man ever have had the opportunity to uncover so much about the inner workings of a secretive government agency? And, how could this same young man ever have had the opportunity to teach himself how to resist Martian Manhunter's telepathy? Those are perfectly legitimate questions, which the episode doesn't even attempt to address – but, at the same time, neither really spoilt the episode, for me. Obviously, we were just meant to assume that he had been busy over the past year – and, in the end, I was perfectly willing to just go along with that.

At heart, of course, the true focus of this episode was on watching Kara and Maggie being forced to rely on each other, as they worked to rescue Alex – and, there was definitely a lot to enjoy about that dynamic. The opening sequence of the episode, in which we saw something of Maggie's frustration with Supergirl after she rather heavy-handedly involved herself in a hostage situation, did a good job of establishing just how damaging Kara's recklessness could be – with this theme going on to be explored throughout the rest of the episode. With Kara slowly being forced to realise that she can't simply rely on her own strength, as her anger and aggression instead only seems to make the already tense situation worse, this episode seems to mark an important moment of character growth that actually felt well-earned.

Alongside this primary plot-thread, this episode also picks up in a plot-thread began in the previous one, with the tentative alliance formed by Lena Luthor and the Daxamite queen, Rhea (Teri Hatcher). We still don't know what Rhea is planning, of course – but, considering her turn toward outright villainy in her last appearance (where we saw her murder her own husband), it is certainly not going to be any good. While the details of her plan are being kept from the audience for now, the strong rapport that was established between Lena and Rhea proved to be very entertaining. As things stand, at the moment, it seems as though Lena Luthor is set to become the innocent victim of Rhea's manipulation, as the Daxamite offers alien technology in exchange for access to L-Corp's resources – but, it should be very interesting to discover whether this is truly the case, over the next few episodes.

In all, this was just a very entertaining, and very interesting, episode of Supergirl. Hopefully, this is something that can be maintained over the next few episode, as we approach the end of the second season.

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