Supergirl: 208 “Medusa” Review
Reviewed by Ben McClure.
I came into the most recent episode of Supergirl, Medusa, with a lot of high hopes. The previous installment had set up a bunch of cool situations that I was eager to see progress. How was J’onn going to deal with his forced mutation into a White Martian? What was evil Hank Henshaw doing in the Fortress of Solitude? How were things going to develop between Kara and Mon-El?
And then Medusa got started, and we jumped into a strange scene over Thanksgiving dinner with the pleasant return of Helen Slater as Eliza. Alex in particular acts especially oddly, which I gather we’re to chalk up to the changes she’s been going through. And before anyone can actually talk about anything, the meal is interrupted by a swirling time vortex. Even though I knew about the crossover with Flash and the rest of the CW superhero shows, I somehow forgot about it and had no idea what was going on.
Nevermind, it turned out to be unimportant to the episode anyway. Things finally get started properly with a decent sequence between (the confusingly named) Mon-El and the (badly named) Cyborg Superman. It’s a good scene and I thought we were in for a strong episode, but sadly the quality couldn’t sustain all the way through.
I’ve written before about how much I’ve enjoyed the breezy pacing of Supergirl this year, and I thought the fact that we were already into the first Medusa attack was a good sign, but too quickly it got out of hand. The story blazed through too many story beats, not just for the episode but for the series as a whole. Suddenly, the Medusa threat is resolved, Lillian Luthor is thwarted and maybe arrested, Maggie wants to be with Alex (jettisoning whatever plausibility that story had), and J’onn turning into a White Martian is a non-issue.
It’s too much. Supergirl is fantasy, but we want the characters, the relationships and the story to have authenticity. What we got this week were a string of some decent moments, but flitting by at such speed that nothing felt natural and that all the story resolutions we were given felt forced. In the process they sacrificed loads of stuff that could have been developed, or at least explained.
Why did the Kryptonian security android suddenly attack Supergirl? I suppose Henshaw reprogrammed it, but how did he do that? How indeed did Henshaw know what “Medusa” was in the first place? Why did Medusa affect every non-Kryptonian out there…except humans? What’s going on with M’gann? Unlike last week, J’onn never seemed to be going crazy because of his mutation, so did he really just lock her up for no reason but her ethnicity?
Sure, some of these points will probably be revisited in future episodes (some of it may not), but the show isn’t giving me reason to have faith that the writers are thinking this stuff through. It’s giving me flashbacks to the first episode of the season and the train-wreck of James & Kara’s break-up. Comics and TV have for years learned the art of spacing out the rise and falls of varying subplots, but Supergirl is acting like its hand was being forced by the big multi-night crossover taking place (which is what happens in comics a lot). Except that in this case all the shows are made by the same creators. And the crossover isn’t happening on Supergirl anyway.
The most glaring oversight of the week was the failure to address M’gann’s imprisonment, but the weakest part of the show is how it has handled Lena Luthor. All the way through this season there’s been a complete failure to establish or justify the friendship Lena feels for Kara, and now all her strange personality shifts are just as abrupt. She becomes furious at Supergirl for suggesting her mother might be evil in spite of how broken her relationship with her is. And if she’s faking helping her, why keep up the ruse when there was no one there but her mother and Supergirl? She’s just lucky Kara didn’t superspeed her way in and break her wrist or something before she could press that button.
There are so many more dumb moments, but let’s not spend all our times dwelling on frustration.
Now, what would be cool is if they eventually showed us that Lena doesn’t liked Supergirl because of her mistrust for aliens or super-powered people, but that she’s simply motivated to surpass her, rather than to destroy her. So for example, she wants to be the one to stop the crooks with the super-weapons, she wants to be the one who stops Cadmus. That would be genuinely interesting character development, and it may be where they are heading. But the fact of the matter is that while I’m writing this, I’m not making guesses about the character; I’m making guesses about the writers. And if I’m having to come up with explanations to make sense of what they are doing, that’s not a good sign.
But there are good things about the episode. The fight between Kara and Henshaw starts off with a great moment of Supergirl saving a security guard before moving on to a smartly choreographed battle (before having an unsatisfying ending, unfortunately). We also had the Hank vs. J’onn fight that I was hoping for, which was also pretty good. And David Harewood does a great job playing a J’onn who thinks he is dying. Also, the idea of Kara becoming disillusioned with her parents is a good one and is taking the character to an interesting place.
Most of all, I continue to like Mon-El, and his interaction with Kara. The scene where they are playing Monopoly is especially cute, as his insistence that he doesn’t like her “that way”. Of course, things speed up in this subplot as well, but at least it’s excused by his delirium, and used in the end not to get them together or to break them apart, but to just stir up the question of their future in Kara’s mind.
So in the end, it’s not a bad episode in and of itself, but it represents quite a range of underwhelming developments for the series as a whole.