Supergirl: 205 “Crossfire” Review
Reviewed by Ben McClure.
Crossfire, the fifth episode of Supergirl’s second season, has left me a bit puzzled. I wanted to like it, and for a long a time I was liking it, but then it feels like it lost its way a bit toward the end, and the climax fell somewhat flat. But the overall effect is positive, so I guess I will still have to call it a good episode.
One of the big problems that superhero TV has often had is the challenge of creating believable threats for our heroes. This is especially true for a lot of DC characters, whose powers are often “turned up to 11” – the Flash isn’t just fast, for example, but fast enough to break the time barrier under his own steam. And Superman isn’t just strong, he’s strong enough to move mountains. Consequently, for the villains to get the drop on the heroes, the writers & directors often rely on the trick of the heroes simply not being very smart. Instead of racing into a situation and disarming their foes before they can blink (which both Flash and Supergirl should be well capable of doing), they frequently stand a few meters away posturing, and making themselves an easy target for whatever death-weapon the villains have brought to the party.
Why do I mention this? Because, refreshingly, the first 2/3 of Crossfire actually managed to avoid this weakness, or at least to justify it. Kara happens to be present just as a robbery is taking place. She laughs about it, even feeling sorry for the crooks and their bad luck of doing this right in front of Supergirl. Her over-confidence feels justified, and so when the brutal Mr. Miner gets the drop on her with his Anndrannian Death-Zapper, we are as surprised as she is. This is followed by a great action piece—really well shot and edited—of Supergirl attempting to avoid this thing, but ultimately failing.
Then later in the story, she confronts these guys again. This time she does what Supergirl should do basically all the time: she disarms the guy and destroys his weapon before he can even aim the thing. It’s only because his accomplice has that weird gravity-nullifying ray that sends the police car shooting out of the atmosphere that he and his cronies are able to get away. As a bonus, the sequence of Kara rescuing the poor policeman is spectacular, both in concept and execution. This is the sort of grand jaw-dropping heroics that the show should be working on creating from week to week (and which this season it often has).
But then we get the ending, where Supergirl confronts the same villains, this time in the midst of a crowded party. But instead of doing the smart thing, she falls back to her bad habits: floating around nearby, making herself an easy target, and allowing things to get out of hand, even though she’s fully aware of how dangerous these guys are. Thus a big firefight breaks out in the middle of civilians (even Winn almost gets zapped by a blast from Kara herself!) and Supergirl only wins because of Lena Luthor’s machinations. Now of course, we can argue that if she actually used her powers smartly there would be no dramatic tension, but that is just an excuse for weak writing and / or poor direction.
As usual, there is a lot going on in the episode aside from the main action plot—really, there’s so much going on with the characters now that the show can’t even really fit everyone into the same episode. Last week, James was not present; this time he gets to shine while J’Onn is the one who is mostly absent. And James’ story is definitely a step up from what he’s had to do this season so far, as he struggles with his sense of purpose and his desire to make a difference. It’s predicated on the strange idea that the best way for him to make that difference is to beat up crooks with a baseball bat, and not say, to become a police officer or to use his position to influence public perception or anything normal. In the Supergirl world, becoming a superhero is almost like a valid career choice, even though there’s no indication of there being any aside from Kara, Clark and J’Onn.
Still the origin of (spoilers!) the Guardian gives James a lot more to do than he’s had this season so far, and Mehcad Brooks plays it well. His interaction with Jeremy Jordan’s Winn is a lot of fun and surprisingly meaty, considering the story is about a guy who becomes a hero after he’s scarred by the brutal murder of his camera right before his eyes.
Kara’s “mentoring” of Mon-El is the other storyline that gets lots of airtime this week, and it’s another one that starts off better than it finishes. The “lesson” that Kara has to learn about trying to force “Mike” to be too much like herself is a bit obvious, but it gives room for some funny bits at CatCo. Sadly, it also gives room for a joke scene with Miss Teschmacher (just about the show’s only female character who is treated as a negative stereotype) in the copy room that I’d say is altogether inappropriate for much of Supergirl’s younger audience. There is no reason that if you were going to include that moment, that it had to be visualized in such an obviously suggestive way.
Of course, the episode is also notable for furthering along the relationship between Alex and Maggie Sawyer, and especially hitting head-on Alex questioning her sexuality. It’s hard to read how well this is being done—Alex’s behavior has been so strange every time Maggie is present, almost like she’s a completely different character than we’ve had before. Perhaps that is part of the point, but it makes the storyline a bit jarring. Still, taken individually, Chyler Leigh is doing a good job as Alex, and Floriana Lima definitely has charisma as Maggie.
Finally, this episode does the best job we’ve had so far at making Lena Luthor feel like a real part of the series, showing us that she’s more than an insecure rich girl. The final twist revelation of her relationship to the creepy Cadmus lady (only guessable during this episode) is a good one. Tying in Cadmus with the Luthor’s makes a lot of sense in this version of the Supergirl story, and has the effect of making both threats more meaningful. I’ve been waiting for the White Martians to take center stage in this series, but if the menace of the Luthor’s can play out in a big enough way, then I’ll be content to put it off until Season Three.