Supergirl Season 2 Reviews: Episode 9, “Supergirl Lives”
The hiatus is over! Supergirl is back! You have no idea how ready we were for this. Elizabeth and Gretchen were practically vibrating from excitement all day yesterday. Our happy, hopeful space family is back, and we’re so freaking happy we’re not going to do a long introduction. They don’t need one anyway.
Silly jewel thieves in a black van think that a rocket launcher will stop Supergirl (they didn’t see the crossover, apparently), and The Guardian and Winn pick up a few stragglers. Winn is injured during the struggle, and is very shaken from the experience. Kara is in a funk because she’s not helping enough people. She invites Alex over to celebrate, but Alex can’t go because SHE HAS A GIRLFRIEND. MAGGIE IS WEARING ALEX’S T-SHIRT BECAUSE SHE SLEPT OVER AT ALEX’S APARTMENT. ALEX IS SUPER HAPPY AND ADORABLE. THEY JOKE ABOUT CALLING IN SICK. (Is this fanfic? Are we dreaming? Someone send help because we might not be breathing anymore). Kara and James bicker over who really saved the day while Snapper looks grumpy (We’re so glad he’s back. We missed CatCo). A woman comes in asking for help finding her missing teenage daughter Izzy. Mon El is a (bad) bartender who dishes out (bad) advice.
Maggie helps Kara with the missing person’s case (omg, we’re so on board with this). Menacing Lab Coat Dude takes an unsuspecting young man through a portal while Roulette oversees it all. Kara teases Alex about how happy she is. Kara and Mon El track down a lead; Mon El is super awkward (he should not be allowed to talk). Lab Coat turns out to be an alien, and Kara decides to go through the portal to track down Izzy and the other missing people. Mon El joins her on the other side of the portal, on a planet with a red sun, and the portal closes before they can leave. Sucks to be Kryptonian/Daxamite right about now.
Winn justifiably blows up at James since the latter seems more concerned with fighting baddies than that Winn got hurt and could have been killed on their last mission. Kara and Mon El are captured. Alex and the DEO discover the portal; Kara and Mon El’s captor turns out to be a friendly alien who tells them they’re on a slaving planet called Maldoria. Kara and Mon El turn themselves in to find the human prisoners only to come face to face with Roulette. Alex freaks out and blames herself for Kara being missing (like a good Martell); the Dominators buy Kara and her fellow slaves. Winn admits he’s scared to go out after being hurt helping the Guardian, and Alex gives him a pep talk. Mon El is annoyed by Kara being hopeful, but Kara gives him a dressing down about being a hero for others’ sake. She then shows him how it’s done by refusing to give ground before the guards.
The slaves revolt and lock Roulette and Lab Coat in the cell. Winn geeks out about being in space, while Alex and the DEO storm slaver’s moon city. Kara lead the way out and the Dominator protects Mon El from being harmed and bows to him. Winn beats up an alien and mans the portal while Kara blows up an alien ship and frees Izzy after Alex tosses a sun bomb. The friendly alien, Jo, comes along with them. Kara stands up to Snapper. Winn teams back up with James. Alex opens up to Maggie about feeling responsible and never being happy. MAGGIE KNOWS ABOUT SUPERGIRL BECAUSE SHE KNOWS ALEX WELL ENOUGH TO KNOW SHE ONLY GETS TORN UP ABOUT KARA. (Seriously, we’re dead.) Mon El decides he wants to be a superhero. Creepy ladies from “Medusa” show up looking for Mon El on slaver’s moon, and they shoot Lab Coat after he tells them Mon El is on Earth.
Alex: “And then Supergirl went missing and I just, I blew a gasket and…”
Maggie: “Because Supergirl’s your sister.”
Alex: “What are you talking about?”
Maggie: “Come on. Look, I know you. The only person you get that torn up over is Kara. Plus, the glasses don’t help.”
Alex: “I always said that too. It’s kind of ridiculous.”
Thoughts & Feelings
Our wonderful Kryptonian puppy is back to helping people, and it was 95% worth the wait (guess who the 5% is. We dare you.). Who else would have a mild existential crisis because they stopped too many bank robberies instead of helping actual people? We really appreciate that the writers chose to make her next story one about mothers and daughters. Her belief that there is nothing more important than a mother finding her daughter fits into her character arc and is significant given her history. She has a complicated relationship with her biological mother, which Season 1 intimately explored. In the wake of finding out her father’s involvement in bio weapons last episode, it is no small thing to have Kara grasping onto a mother/daughter bond. It’s a mark of how far she’s come since wrestling with Alura In-Ze’s mixed legacy in S1.
Plus, the theme fits more broadly into the importance of mother/daughter relationships on the show. Alura/Kara, Eliza/Alex, Cat/Katherine, Supergirl has never shied away from exploring mother/daughter bonds, both positive and negative. Putting one at the center of a human trafficking investigation fits within the broader focus on female relationships. It also highlights the tendency to undermine female concerns in our society, both in situations like these and in the medical field for example. Kara goes out of her way to emphasize the importance of a mother’s concern for her daughter in the face of Snapper’s grumpy indifference. They’re a dime a dozen to a media mogul, not a story. Only Kara forces him to see that it is a story worth exploring. She follows her heart, and he’s damn proud of her for it, though he’d never let her see.
It’s also great seeing Kara be such a supportive sister. (She’s honestly the biggest Sanvers shipper of us all, and it’s freaking adorable.) Alex has spent so much time supporting Kara’s life and choices in S1 and S2, that seeing Kara giggle over Alex having a girlfriend and Alex having post ‘sick morning’ glow makes us as giddy as Alex. It’s a huge step in her arc that you can only appreciate if you’ve seen all of S1. Side note, this is the first time sex has come up in a context where Kara is not only not horrified but actually happy. We have a feeling she’d probably not freak out if she walked in on Sanvers the way she did with Winn/Siobhan and Mon El/Miss Tessmacher, to be honest. Kara is so happy for Alex, you guys. Seriously.
Also, we really, really love it when normal humans stand up for Supergirl. It happened in Season 1 and it happened again tonight. It’s beautiful. If there is a superhero trope that will bring us to instant sobs, it’s this one. Ugh. So good.
Now onto the 5% we told you to guess about: Mon El. For all those out there tempted to talk about Mon El’s ‘learning how to be a hero arc’, we’re not all that into it. Specifically, we’re not super happy with the implication that Kara (a coded minority/refugee character) has to suffer so that Privileged McWhitebread Mon El can learn how to be a decent person. We’re glad Kara might finally get a chance to be the mentor she missed out on being with Kal. That’s awesome. Yay, Kara! But when too much focus is put on Mon El ‘learning how to be a hero’, we honestly can’t avoid the implication that Kara’s suffering was the immediate catalyst, and that makes us uncomfortable, especially when you consider what a banal, kind of awful person Mon El is.
Mon El spends the majority of his time being either useless, sexist, otherwise douchey, awkward, or all four. And he’s not awkward in a fun way either because it usually is connected to him being sexist or douchey. Are we really supposed to find it cute that Mon El doesn’t know how to take a hint and refuses to listen to Kara telling him to buzz off? It’s actually kind of stalker-y. She rightly points out that his refusal to listen to her cut them off from the DEO when she told him to go get help. And he blithely dismisses her frustration with a “Welp, too late now”. Are we supposed to be charmed by the fact that his contribution to Kara’s very interesting story about visiting other planets was a gross comment about how the magic crystal planet was a great place to take a girl and get in her pants? We can’t even with this.
Did we also mention he’s kind of useless? Sure, he knocks down an alien that was going to jump Supergirl. We’ll give him that. Then again, maybe we won’t because the only reason he was there in the first place was because he ignored Kara’s direct order to go get Alex and the DEO. What else did he contribute this episode? Nothing. The lazy ass took his second day off of work (who does that?). He refuses to listen to Kara more than once. He tells her to stay out of trouble (what?) and then shoves that in her face again when they end up in prison. When she tries to inspire the prisoners, he tells her to stop being hopeful because not helping people staying safe is better. He then stands by as she gets tasered and saved by the others. Mon El is one of the most useless characters on the show, and we might forgive him that if he weren’t such an entitled dillweed who doesn’t understand the words “no” and “get help”. That’s not ‘Goofus’, that’s ‘dickwad’.
Fine, we’ll say something nice about him. He’s the designated “I have a bad feeling about this” character this episode, which we liked. We appreciate when at least one characters says “yeah, maybe don’t go there”. It’s a nice trope. Not enough to justify having so much Mon El, but we want to prove we can appreciate a Mon El scene if he’s not being useless or douchey.
We also need to mention that Daxam had slaves, which Mon El acknowledges, so Krypton had at least some legitimate reason to feel snooty about them that’s not prejudice/culture clash. Based on other things Mon El has said about this home planet, the implication seems to be that slavery funded the partying ways of the upper classes on Daxam. Yes, Mon El also said he disagreed with it, but you can totally disagree with something verbally while doing precisely jack all to help fix the problem, or worse participate in it because ‘that’s just our culture’ or ‘that’s just how things are.’ Remember that this is also the guy who found it perfectly reasonable to allow a woman to do all his work for him because she “wanted to please him”. Which is to say, that he’s not a paragon of virtue for not believing people should be treated as chattel. In fact, everything else we know about him seems to imply the exact opposite.
Let’s take a few seconds to remind everyone that Mon El is the prince of Daxam (or, at least, all the clues point that way, and there were a lot of clues this episode). He is an authority figure with an incredible amount of power. Him saying ‘I don’t agree with slavery’ becomes even more of a hollow statement than at face value, because we know he would be one of the few people on his planet and in his culture who could do something about it. Obviously an abolition movement cannot be launched in a weekend, but a paltry denial of support for slavery just isn’t enough from this character for us to think of him as a remotely good person. As we stated above, his treatment of women on earth and his general demeanor doesn’t really support his assertion that he has a problem with servitude if it benefits him. He’s a lazy, dumb, directionless, self-centered, sexist pig. Elizabeth has a few more choice words for him but she’s trying to cut down on the swearing in the new year.
If it feels like we’re being a little unnecessarily harsh here, good. Elizabeth has previously been willing to give him a chance, especially in the first four episodes of the season where he was reasonably benign. If this mentorship arc had started five episodes ago when they had first seeded it, maybe we’d despise his character less. But he is, in every conceivable way, a terrible and selfish person. He doesn’t deserve to fetch Kara’s coffee, let alone work at her side along with real heroes like Alex, Maggie and J’onn.
Basically what we’re saying is we can’t wait for Mon El’s lead allergy to make a second appearance so they can lock him in the phantom zone far away from our darling Kara Danvers. He is storytelling dead weight hanging off the neck of this show and he needs a hail mary course correction or he needs to go.
On to the joyfest happy gaysplosion that was Sanvers. Happy. Sanvers. Times. Like, we can’t underscore enough just how important it is that we got so many of the things we got: 1) Alex says she has a girlfriend, (as does Kara) and the word ‘girlfriend’ is being used with wild abandon! 2) reference to sex/sleeping over, 3) Maggie in Alex’s shirt, 4) Alex and Maggie get to be happy, 5) they joke about calling in sick (and then call in sick), 6) Alex had an after-sex glow that Kara noticed and was happy for her about. It’s like every single m/f romcom trope come to life. Either that or we were transported into fanfic territory, which isn’t the first time we’ve felt this way about Sanvers. Ali Adler and the rest of the writing team really know how to cater to their wlw audience by giving them what they never thought they’d see on screen. Also, Gretchen needs to say that she and Kori totally called domestic Sanvers. *high five*
If we had to keep turning around in overwhelming joy before the hiatus, this week’s episode sent us hiding under blankets. We’re not quite sure what it is we’re feeling, but boy is there a lot of it. Joy? Validation? Hope? Comfort? Inspiration? We’re going with ‘all of the above.’ It’s overwhelming to watch because it’s all so natural, and it now exists in genre fiction, not just in media that is specifically made for us. It is also still a dominant arc within the show, commanding more screen time in half a season than most wlw romances get in the full run of a show.
We’ve talked before about how the scripting and acting of the Sanvers scenes is really exposing, and this week’s episode doubled down on that. It’s a good kind of exposing, a validating kind, but it is still really new and overwhelming to watch. Our hope is that this becomes normal enough that it is no longer quite so… ‘much’ to watch emotionally. It is, and always has been, a very true-to-life depiction of an adult wlw romance with a predominantly happy tone. We’re just not used to it, is all. We hope to get used to it going forward this year!
While the domestic bliss is wonderful, it’s short-lived. Alex completely shame spirals out of it once Kara goes missing, but that’s not all that surprising. She’s new to being a wlw, hasn’t been in a relationship in over two years, and has a shit ton of baggage about protecting Kara from her childhood. This isn’t a sign that they’re doomed or going to break up, it’s a normal hurdle for these two women, especially with Alex’s history. It felt very much like a normal (and inevitable) bump in the road for these two. Like several other factors of this relationship, we totally called it, and we’re glad it’s being handled so quickly rather than being obnoxiously dragged out.
We do love that Alex calls out the fear every wlw has that if they’re happy for a second, their world will fall apart. Real talk folks, the scene were Alex talks about how she’s always felt so responsible and that whenever she did something for herself, it blew up in her face? Gretchen feels this deeply in her soul. Up until this past year, that was exactly what life felt like. It’s too real, and such a normal feeling when you’ve had enormous responsibility and maturity thrust on you coupled with a need to focus on someone else’s well being. Yes, life happens and nothing stays happy forever, but when you’re not used to acknowledging yourself or your own happiness, that first Bad Thing™ that happens once you do so can feel like karma. And the easiest thing to do is call it inevitable and run away because you’re Doomed and Can Never Be Happy.
Elizabeth feels this deeply as well, especially with the feeling that the second you allow yourself to be happy, the rug is going to get yanked out from under you. When you are someone with this state of mind, it is incredibly difficult to just relax and feel safe. It burrows under your skin and quietly works to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading you to make exactly the same impulsive mistake that Alex made. It’s hard to watch in its realness, but wonderfully done. It’s probably also why watching the happy scenes was so difficult for both of us. It feels unreal (in a good way).
And all of this is incredibly difficult to emotionally navigate, even before you start adding in how fragile wlw relationships can feel, especially if you’re new to them. There’s an ephemerality to them, a fear that they’re going to end badly (gee I wonder why). We can’t fault Alex for her fear that Kara disappearing was the world punishing her for focusing on herself for once, especially given her family baggage. We also can’t fault her for the unspoken fear that Maggie might end the relationship because of the Kara situation and Alex’s lack of forthrightness about Kara being Supergirl.
We’d also like to take a minute to praise the DC gods that Maggie figured out Kara/Supergirl. She’s a motherfreaking detective. We would have been annoyed if she didn’t get it. Also? It saves Alex the struggle that James had in Season 1 about trying to forcibly out Kara to simplify his love life with Lucy.
That being said we are hoping for a quick scene where Maggie pulls Kara aside and lets her know, woman to woman, that she figured it out and that she will keep that secret safe. It’s a small thing, but we’d say it’s necessary to avoid ambiguity in the future.
Back to Sanvers. You know who else we can’t fault? Maggie. Since we first met her on the show, she has been broken up with and called all sorts of names. She’s also made it clear that she’s had other difficult relationships in the past. We honestly can’t fault her for being overly cautious about Alex, especially about Alex pushing her away for no specified reason. Maggie literally just got out of a relationship that ended with the other women calling her ‘borderline sociopathic.’ If your last girlfriend says she never wants to see you again, then your current girlfriend says “she can’t do this now”, thinking a breakup is imminent isn’t unreasonable. Especially if said current girlfriend is new to the wlw dating arena. Maggie, true to form, turtles up over it, and is very clearly bracing herself for the inevitable. Her tone of voice went from hot to cold real quick, and it sent Elizabeth into a shipping panic for the last third of the episode until the fight was resolved. Call us paranoid, but we have good reason to be.
All that to say, we’re willing to give Maggie the benefit of the doubt and understand that the situation she’s in is difficult. There’s no right or wrong here, and we’re glad the show didn’t try to paint it that way. These women have their own baggage they’re bringing to the relationship and they’re working through it like adults: talking about it and being honest. We hope we get more Maggie Sawyer backstory after this. It’s desperately needed.
Also, that hug after they make up? So intimate. Even more intimate than kissing, we would argue. The show does a very good job of teasing out the precise type of physical connection required for an emotional moment. Not just with Sanvers, either; Kara and Alex’s interactions are most notably wonderful in this way. But the hug between Alex and Maggie, once again, feels so real, and a part of that is probably helped by the fact that they’ve kissed onscreen a few times. The hug is used in addition to more ‘traditional’ romantic queues, not as a substitute. This is actually sort of new territory for genre fiction wlw couples; we can’t wait to see where it goes next.
The Guardian was a minor arc this episode, and mostly focused on Winn, which was nice for a change. We’re so glad he got a chance to call James out and express his fear of getting hurt. As the guy in the suit (and a large, muscular man), James doesn’t understand that being a superhero can be frightening because it’s dangerous. Winn experiences that danger first hand, calls out James, then gets a chance to face his fears with Alex and the DEO. And geek out on another planet. Like, J’onn’s “Martians can’t go to Maldoria because of air quality reasons” is an obvious plot device, but we don’t mind so long as it benefits nerdy Winn. He’s a precious dork. Also a terrible liar. No way anyone believed he was mugged.
James continues to disappoint with the execution of his arc. We get what the writers are going for, in theory, but in practice, it’s executed almost as poorly as Mon El’s. The elephant in the room is how he finds time to run CatCo and be a superhero when Cat Grant slept 3 hours and her day still left little room for going to parties, much less staying up late fighting crime. The unintended implication is that James is better at her job than she is, which is…both wrong and very frustrating. Anyway, James is using his position as head of CatCo not to help people or spread hope (like Cat did), but to shove The Guardian stories in Snapper Carr’s face. He’s using his position of authority to rep himself. This is gross. He seems to care more about the glory than about helping people, which is even more pronounced when Winn calls him out for coming to praise himself instead of check on Winn’s health.
Again, we get what they’re trying to do with James, but it feels off tonally. He’s too entitled about it, too vain. He’s too focused on himself instead of other people. But maybe that’s the point? He and Mon El acting as foils of each other’s ‘hero’s journey’ as they each learn how they’ve prioritized themselves? We don’t know. Maybe they’ll go that route. It could work. Only if the writers do, it would feel like James was being sacrificed to service Mon El’s arc, which we’re already leery of with Kara and Mon El. It’s unpleasant to feel like a white male character’s arc is being centralized over a woman and a black man, especially when some of the producers keep pushing Mon El as this big, important, meaningful character we should care about. You know who we already cared about? James and Kara.
Alex owns an orange shirt that says Hello Sunshine on it. This is a fantastic piece of information to have.
- Melissa Benoist has really started nailing the wirework, especially her landings. They look fantastic.
- Snapper has his own version of the ‘Pick Two’ Conundrum: Coffee, Danish, Five Minutes Peace and Quiet. We desperately need more of him in our lives.
- Roulette in that red dress. Damn. We haven’t seen the last of her maybe? (We sure as hell hope not).
- Alex said she has a girlfriend. ACK.
- Why did Mon El find it necessary to correct himself when he said ‘Gods?’ We feel like there is a piece of worldbuilding missing here.
- Do humans have powers on red sun planets? Like reverse Kryptonians? That would be cool.
- Winn is the king of sci-fi references this episode with both Stargate and Star Trek (the red shirts). He’s such a fucking nerd. It’s the best.
- Winn x Alex is brotp
- Fist bumps aren’t really romantic chemistry. Just saying.
- Elizabeth also has a ‘snitching crinkle’ between her eyes.
- A+ Zoolander reference (“I’ve got the black lung”). Alex is such a nerd.
- Can we all appreciate that Maggie’s “Always happy to help a Danvers” may have been a sex joke?
- The portable sun was f*cking amazing.
- “Now you’re thinking in portals!” See, this is how you do referential nerd humor. Make it plot relevant and have it delivered from a character who believably understands the joke. Don’t just mash together ‘nerd words’ into alphabet soup and put a laugh track over it.
- The Thanagarian Snare Beast joke is a nod to the infamous Superman Lives script editing fiasco that Kevin Smith was involved in a number of years ago. If you have never heard the story of the Superman movie starring Nic Cage that thankfully died on the vine and never saw the light of day, please treat yo’self to part one and part two.
We should probably mention that no one brought up the holes in reality from “Medusa”, nor did Kara talk at all about going to another dimension to fight Dominators, only to find them slaving in her own dimension. Kind of weird, but we’re not entirely surprised that such a massive crossover event caused some wonkiness in the plot. Elizabeth did not notice the plot holes, shockingly, as she is usually the obsessive frame-by-framer type, which is once again a testament to Supergirl’s level of audience immersion. Supergirl was The Fandomentals’ 2016 Show of the Year, and it is continuing to live up to that legacy in 2017. We eagerly anticipate where our favorite show takes us next.
Tune in next week for the return of Livewire!