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Supergirl’s fifth season finally starts to get somewhere


Picture: Diyah Pera (The CW)

TV ReviewsAll of our TV critiques in a single handy place.

Looking back, it’s clear that the mid-season placement of Disaster On Infinite Earths was a reasonably large hindrance on Supergirl’s potential to create streamlined narrative momentum for this scattered, tech-focused season. There have been intriguing concepts and sturdy character moments, however it hasn’t actually added as much as one thing larger than the sum of its components. A minimum of till tonight. As an episode, “The Bodyguard” is a wonderfully tremendous hour of style TV. As a part of a season-long arc, nonetheless, it looks like a decisive shift in the correct course. “The Bodyguard” lastly makes some plot strikes I’ve been wanting this present to make for some time now. And although it’s irritating that it’s taken us 14 episodes to get right here, it’s a reduction that Supergirl truly appears to have a plan for all of the disparate themes it’s been laying out this season.

That begins with Alex’s new job (unpaid internship?) as J’onn’s associate at “The Tower.” Ever since J’onn quit the DEO at the end of season three, I’ve been waiting for Supergirl to go all-in on the idea of him becoming a private investigator. It turns out all he was missing was a partner. The P.I. realm is such a perfect fit for both of these characters—what with Alex apologizing to sources she’s roughed up in the past and kicking in doors just for the thrill of it. It’s great to see J’onn and Alex paired together again, and Alex’s anxiety about carving out an identity outside the DEO is a welcome new character arc for her.

J’onn and Alex’s first mission is to do recon for the big threat-of-the-week: An alien terrorist with an anti-VR manifesto who is threatening the launch of Obsidian Platinum and planning to assassinate Andrea Rojas. Kara enlists J’onn and Alex to look for the assailant while she’s busy serving as Andrea’s personal bodyguard for the day. And since William is shadowing Andrea as a reporter, that gives Kara a chance to see him in a new light (and for him to officially meet Supergirl for the first time too). Meanwhile, the official launch of Obsidian Platinum gives everyone a chance to weigh in on the season’s big tech themes.

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Photo: Diyah Pera (The CW)

Admittedly, I’m kind of grading on a curve with the some of these storylines. I don’t think the VR lenses have been a particularly great hook for the season, nor do I think Supergirl has quite made up for how disastrously it first introduced William. But accepting that those things are here to stay (at least for now), I think “The Bodyguard” does a solid job developing them further. Kara sees a softer side of William as he respect her boundaries and then opens up to Supergirl, all of which makes her willing to take the scary first step of accepting his date request. Elsewhere, the conversations about virtual connection versus real-world connection offer something at least a little bit meaty and timely. Plus Andrea’s passion for her company and its work is better articulated here than it’s ever been in the past.

The weakest part of this episode is its villain, who is eventually revealed to be Amy Sapphire (Camille Sullivan), an alien immigrant whose husband died by suicide after becoming addicted to Andrea’s VR tech and its ability to recreate their homeworld. Amy’s ultimately a rather perfunctory threat (although it’s nice to see a TV show fridge a husband to give a female character motivation for once). But I enjoyed the climax where a de-powered Kara has to talk Amy down using kindness and empathy rather than superior force. It’s a very Supergirl approach to stopping crime. Kara eventually helps Amy realize that her obsession with taking down Obsidian is just as damaging as her husband’s addiction to the tech itself.

The obsession angle of Amy’s story dovetails nicely with the Lex/Lena subplot as well. Kara’s ultimatum from “It’s A Super Life” hasn’t dissuaded Lena from her work, since she still believes what she’s doing is for the greater good. But it’s made her more cautious about ironing out any potential flaws to ensure there’s nothing for Kara to pick apart. After several successful animal trials, Lex encourages Lena to test Project Non Nocere on some actual humans over at “the cute little prison” they own. (The test subjects are technically volunteers, but this still feels like it’s crossing some ethical boundaries.) Though Non Nocere successful calms the rage of the most violent prisoners, it inadvertently awakens a sense of violence and revenge in those who have been wronged—like Lex’s meek former cell neighbor Steve Lomeli (Willie Garson).

To her credit, the mishap is enough to make Lena question whether her work has gone too far. Is she deluding herself into thinking she’s helping people when she’s actually hurting them—like Lex did when he turned the sun red to stop Superman? Using their newly softened relationship to his advantage, Lex convinces his sister that her problem isn’t delusion, it’s that she’s just too obsessed with what Supergirl thinks of her. According to him, it was his Superman obsession—not his violent megalomania—that really brought him down.

Photo: Diyah Pera (The CW)

Supergirl isn’t generally a show that aims for subtly, but it’s doing some great work in demonstrating Lex’s emotional manipulation without underlying it. While Jon Cryer made for a fantastic Lex Luthor last season, this post-Crisis version of the character is even more fascinating. He’s less overtly evil in his aims and more humane (or at least seemingly humane) in his methods. His manipulations are so subtle that Lena doesn’t realize just how much he’s isolating her from her friends, getting her to doubt her own instincts, and creating a situation where she relies solely on him as her ally and moral compass. Those are all textbook examples of emotional abuse and manipulation.

Lex is hoping to take a similar approach with Levithan. Stumped as to how to get access to the group in order to deploy Brainy’s Toyman-inspired “morality code,” Lex decides that the carrot is better than the stick. He aims to make himself invaluable to Gemma Cooper, first by offering up Supergirl as Andrea’s bodyguard and then by leveraging his do-gooder social clout. He offers to become the public face of Obsidian, which neatly weaves together the Leviathan, Andrea, and Luthor threads into one central narrative. With Kara, Alex, and J’onn hot on their heels, and Brainy and Lena as wildcards, it finally feels like the arc of the season is starting to take shape. Better late than never.

Stray Observations

  • In another nice moment of thematic cohesion, Brainy calls up one of the alternate versions of himself for a chat, which helps clarify where his headspace is at and makes those alt-Brainys feel less like a random throwaway subplot.
  • J’onn gives Alex a Martian tool called the “Hand of the Soldier,” which can transform into any weapon she wants it too. Right now it appears as her trusty gun, but I imagine Supergirl will have a lot of fun playing around with Alex’s new all-in-one arsenal.
  • You can’t say Supergirl doesn’t commit to a bit with the opening dragon fantasy sequence that turns out to be an Obsidian Platinum simulation
  • Andrea’s Acrata powers are activated for the first time in the post-Crisis universe, and her shadow teleportation continues to look very cool.
  • Dreamer’s big hero moment is a delight, and I’m excited that next week’s episode looks like it’s going to focus on Nia.
  • Alex heroically saving Kelly during the attack on Obsidian was the most chemistry I’ve ever felt between Chyler Leigh and Azie Tesfai.
  • Melissa Benoist and Chris Wood recently announced they’re having a baby! Congrats to them.
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