Supergirl: 209 “Supergirl Lives” Review
Reviewed by Ben McClure.
The mid-season premier of Supergirl’s second year, Supergirl Lives, bursts into action with a dramatic but inconsequential scene where the Girl of Steel must dodge and overpower thieves armed with rocket launchers. It’s flashy, but forced—like the show is trying to come up with a way to kick-off the episode strongly while avoiding spending too much time or energy on the sequence.
Sadly, the episode never really breaks from this limitation as it goes forward.
In fact, it’s hard not to watch this episode and and feel like the whole series is struggling with its overall direction. The main plot is fun but whenever Supergirl herself is off-screen, the supporting cast seem to be floundering for a reason to be there. Really, after so much time was spent in the first half of the season arranging all the elements of the series into new positions, it’s kind of impressive that the show has managed to avoid having any of set up to do anything interesting.
Or maybe it’s just that the interesting stuff is not capitalized on. This week, no mention is made about Cadmus and its machinations, about M’gann and her unjust imprisonment by J’onn J’onzz, or even about the whole alien xenophobia thing. The worst of all is the way nobody talks about Jeremiah Danvers…something which really should be dominating everyone’s time and attention, but is always treated as an afterthought by the writers.
What we get instead is the awkward business with Winn having a near-death experience which causes him to declare he can’t help James be the Guardian any more. It’s all very simplistic, with no mention of the fact that the reason Winn almost died is that he treated fighting a violent criminal like it was some sort of game. It’s an unfortunate step backwards for the character considering that previously he was the voice of reason in this partnership. Maybe if Winn had a moment of self-realization about his own arrogance—the same thing he challenged James about—it could have been a good moment of development. As it is, he just gets scared and then later beats up an alien with a rock, thus overcoming his fear and instantly undoing his personal crisis. It’s clunky writing that barely achieves “by-the-numbers” status, and is only somewhat salvaged by some funny dialogue from Jeremy Jordan.
The other subplot that gets a bunch of airplay is of course Alex & Maggie’s relationship, as it is the one storyline that the series seems determined to focus on every single week. Just like the business with Winn & the Guardian, it’s an awkward fit for the show and actually a step backwards for Alex’s character. She used to be a confident person with clear goals, but now she’s become a bit flaky and rather dependent on romance for fulfilment. Really, it’s hard to imagine what Maggie sees in Alex when she so obviously treats their relationship as some sort of juvenile fantasy.
The main story is a bit more engaging, with its big epic space fantasy vibe, but it’s an epic space fantasy on a small-screen budget, where the story is kept on a limited stage and we never get all the good stuff. The story attempts to give Kara an inspiring moment of heroism, with her determination to rescue the prisoners even though she has no powers, but the storytelling is so slight and shallow that the whole thing fails to make any sort of impression. Melissa Benoist continues to shine earnest enthusiasm, but the quick pacing of the story means there’s never really a sense of high stakes to things.
This is too bad because the premise holds lots of promise. A fuller story (maybe a two-parter?) about Kara trapped on a planet with a red sun could have been amazing, putting the character through her paces and giving us a situation which really defined her as a hero. As it is, all we’ve got is some fun banter between Kara and Mon-El, a few hints about some trouble Mon-El is going to be in later, and Winn’s nerd-talk about not being a “red shirt”. That’s fun to watch, but not really enough to get excited about.