Monday, 14 November 2016

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E05 - 'Crossfire'

So far, I have to admit that I'm not overly convinced by Cadmus, as the primary villains of the second season of Supergirl. Their methods, based on what we have seen so far, just don't seem all that well thought out. Their leader is coming across as a fairly bland and one-dimensional villain. And, the 'propaganda' videos that we have seen so far come across as cheaply produced nonsense. At this point, I'm just having a hard time believing that they are actually capable of getting the people of National City behind their 'anti-alien' agenda – and, this episode doesn't do much to change my mind.

Here, for example, the secretive organisation's entire plan seems to revolve around giving dangerous alien weapons to human criminals – and, in allowing those human criminals to cause chaos in the city. The idea behind the plan is, obviously, to inspire a general sense of panic which could, in turned, be directed into a more focused fear and distrust of the alien visitors who brought this technology to Earth – but, the whole thing still feels incredibly counter-productive. I just don't understand how plan that involves a gang of human criminals using alien technology was ever supposed to turn anyone against aliens.

There was just never really a moment in which I was able to buy into the idea that this plan had any real value – and, as such, I was never able to bring myself to feel invested in the episode's central conflict. It also doesn't help much that the leader of this gang, Chet Miner (Alexander Cendese), is every bit the bland and one-dimensional villain that his supplier is. Honestly, there was never really in which he felt like a plausible threat – even with the highly advanced weapons he had access to. Although, I do have to admit that the weapons, themselves, allowed for some very entertaining action sequences.

So, the central plot-line of the season's fifth episode felt like a bit of a mess, to me. It just wasn't something I could bring myself to feel invested in. But, fortunately, it was not the only plot-point at play, here – as, the episode also features some very interesting developments for certain members of the supporting cast.

Alex, for example, suddenly found herself questioning her own sexuality, when she was confronted by the possibility that her feelings for Maggie might be more than simple 'friendship' – and, I have to admit, this whole character arc might have been the episode's strongest element. The way in which the writers managed to take what had seemed like a fairly clear weakness for Alex's characterisation throughout the first season (that being her complete lack of any sort of social life, beyond the occasional 'night off' with her adopted sister), and use that to provide something of an explanation for this new development in her life was actually quite clever. Thanks, in large part, to a very well delivered monologue at the end of the episode, Alex's realisation that she may actually be gay doesn't feel at all sudden, or gratuitous. Instead, it manages to become just another chapter in an evolving story – one focused on a closeted gay woman who had never been able to come to turns with the true reason why her past attempts at relationships had never worked out, until she was confronted by it. Even if that wasn't the original plan for her character, the fact that the series was able to reach this point, in a way that actually feels entirely authentic, is very impressive.

Unfortunately, the same can't really be said for James Olsen, and his sudden desire to become a costumed super-hero. The main issue, here, it that there hasn't been any previous suggestion that this is a goal that James had any real interest in pursuing – so, it seems to come entirely out of nowhere to have him suddenly be so willing to hurl himself into danger, in this episode.

There is some sense behind the idea, of course. This is, after all, 'Superman's Pal' Jimmy Olsen – a man who has, presumably, already spent a few years being dragged into all sorts of wacky adventures before Supergirl even began. He's clearly an important character – and, one who really should have a more important role on the series than he has had, so far. But, at the same time, the series has never really handled the character very well – and, it certainly hasn't done much to capitalise on his pre-existing status as Superman's closest friend, and occasional side-kick. Still, as someone who has often felt that James Olsen should have a much more important role on the series, I am prepared to forgive the awkwardness of this sudden transition, providing that it leads somewhere interesting.

Mon-El, meanwhile, ranged from endearingly goofy to almost insufferably smug, and back again, as he attempted to settle into the new life that Kara had arranged for him. There were a handful of amusing scenes here, sure – but, overall, this whole sub-plot didn't really add anything to the episode. For one thing, Kara's final realisation that she needed to let Mon-El make his own decisions, rather than trying to turn him into a male version of her own 'civilian' identity (complete with his own pair of unnecessary glasses), felt like the sort of lesson that she really shouldn't have needed to learn. By the end of the episode, we still don't know what role Mon-El is actually intended to play, for the rest of the season – but, he does seem to be settling in, at least.

So, overall, the season's fifth episode is one that had its fair share of both strong and weak points. The conflict at the heart of the episode felt weak, but it did provide some entertaining action sequences, at least. Alex's development was something that felt natural and 'real', and was very well done – but, James's own development seemed to come out of nowhere. It was great to see Lena Luthor, again – and, I am definitely enjoying the genuine sense of ambiguity that surrounds her. But, the absence of J'onn J'onzz and M'gann M'orzz was a little disappointing.

The weakest element of the episode (and, I suppose, of the second season, as a whole), though, would have to be Cadmus, and whatever it is that they actually have in store. So far, I'm just not convinced that they are, in any way, the threat that we were led to believe they would be – so, hopefully, that is something that can addressed, in future episodes.

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