Supergirl: 202 “The Last Children of Krypton” Review
Reviewed by Ben McClure.
There’s a tendency for the second episode of a new series to function as sort of a “second pilot”, a restatement of the overall premise and themes of the show, to nail down what the program is all about for all the viewers who are still finding their feet. Now, Supergirl is not a new series: we are in the second season. But as we talked about last week, things have changed so much since last April that tuning into the show now is almost like watching a something new.
But, it turns out that Supergirl wasn’t done rebuilding its status quo last week, as there are plenty of ground rules are still being established this time around in The Last Children of Krypton, this week’s instalment. This time, the emphasis is a bit more on plot and action, with less of the to-ing and fro-ing of Kara figuring out her life direction, her job, and her relationship status. This is to the episode’s advantage, as it can focus on pushing the main story of the season forward, with all the business with Cadmus. And yet, even as it is probably a better episode, it is somehow less memorable.
Maybe it’s because in the last one the introduction of Superman was such a big deal. Every moment he was on screen worked really well, and proved to us that it’s possible to show this character as something other than an angst-filled teenager, a mopey deadbeat dad, or a disenchanted & tortured outcast. This week, Superman is still there, and the character continues to work, but he’s beginning to feel a little in the way. This is an episode that has a lot going on, and it struggles a bit knowing where its focus is supposed to be.
There is a lot to enjoy, though. There’s the big montage of the super-cousins racing around and enjoying their powers, stopping a fire and foiling a bank robbery. There’s some genuine super-powered smackdown fights against the two Metallos. The show is doing a great job keeping up the super-powered spectacle side of things, with lots of cool images heroes flying and using their powers, which is as it should be (such as the moment, for example, where Kara catches a bullet with two fingers). Even J’Onn J’Onzz gets in a good action scene. It feels like the CW, where Supergirl now finds its home, has embraced that aspect of the premise with a bit more relish than we saw last year.
Last week, half of the supporting cast were reduced to small roles, and so this week they’ve each been put purposely more in the center of things. Winn, for example, gets some fun stuff functioning in his new job and gushing over Superman, and he even gets to be the voice of reason to Alex. Hank gets to have some good conflict with Superman (eventually coming to terms), and even gets to go full-on Martian Manhunter and fight bad guys, which is always a treat.
But it’s Alex who gets the best treatment. There’s multiple extended action scenes which are doing their best to establish Alex as both the Black Widow and the Ellen Ripley of the DC TV universe. She also carries this week’s emotional subplot, with her sense of losing purpose in the wake of Clark’s presence. It’s not as trite as I was worried it was going to be, but it doesn’t ring completely true, either. She really feels like her whole life has been a giant sacrifice to protect Kara? That seems like a bit of an overstatement, with her going on about how her whole life has been a big sacrifice to help Kara. Surely her sense of satisfaction in her work has come from more than just that?
Regardless, it’s in her argument with Kara that we get the episode’s most insightful comment. Alex says to Kara about Superman: “Does he understand that he abandoned you with us? Do you?” The scene moves on immediately after this but it’s definitely an idea that should be explored further, with Superman, Alex, the Danvers and Kara.
And it’s not the only place where we see that Superman has the same sort of ambiguities that anyone might have. His argument with J’Onn J’Onzz about whether kryptonite should be kept at the DEO has no clear right answer, and Superman comes across as a bit petty in the way he reacts. He even blames J’Onn for the problem, in spite of the fact that he himself is the one who appears to have cut off their working relationship. Later events seem to justify his position, but it’d be interesting to see Superman forced to confront his mistrust in a later story. It’d also be great to see the differences between he and Kara over other idealogical questions, as long as the show could resist the temptation to make it based on him being over-protective or some such cliche.
Speaking of Kara, is Supergirl still the star of this show? Does she have anything to do in this episode? Well, yes, quite a lot, really. But as I said she does get a little lost in the midst of other things. Probably her most interesting bits are saying goodbye to Cat Grant (who leaves, surprisingly, to do nothing in particular) and working with her new boss, Snapper Carr. Snapper is obviously quite different to Cat and so it allows the show the freshen up Kara’s work life and keep everyone on their toes. Ian Gomez does a good job in the part and is able to create an adversarial relationship with Kara that is completely different from the one she had with Cat Grant had in the earlier days of the show. No idea why he’s called “Snapper” in this continuity, though (unlike in the comics where he was hip-talking finger-snapping mascot to the Justice League).
In spite of all the fun, there are weak spots in the episode. In fact, a lot of it seems kind of awkward:
- Superman and Supergirl confront Metallo while he is moving a bunch of cases onto off the back of a truck…for no particular reason. Well, maybe to distract them, so that his companion can attack Metropolis…also for no particular reason. Metallo threatens to kill Supergirl at this point but doesn’t actually try to do it, choosing to wait until later when she is more prepared.
- It’s a little silly that the DEO has a super-suit that makes Alex almost as strong as Supergirl–that seems like the kind of thing you should be pulling out more often.
- Why are they making such a big deal about Clark being near or far away and Kara moving to Metropolis? These guy fly at super-speed. Surely, paying a visit and hanging out together is as easy as it is for me to walk down the block, right?
- Is Jimmy Olsen, an art director with one year’s experience, really the best guy to become the new president of CatCo Worldwide Media?
- And what in the world is Cadmus supposed to be? If it’s a government agency, then why are they acting like a bunch of hackers? Oh well, I suppose that will probably be explained later on.
Still, it’s a good episode. And all its weaknesses are worth it for the scene where Superman and Martian Manhuter fly to the Fortress of Solitude together, talk about Krypton and loss, and consult Superman’s robotic majordomo to scan a mystery element. That is exactly the kind of stuff I’ve tuned in for, and my only regret is that the scene doesn’t also involve the rest of the Justice League weighing in with their response to the present crisis.
In the end, now that this two-part “re-pilot” is over and Superman has flown home, it’s probably time for things to get “back to normal”. Presumably we’ll find out what that “normal” means next week, but I suppose it will involve Kara reporting on something and dealing with her new boss, the DEO facing a new threat, and Supergirl again being the most memorable part of her own show.