Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E06 - 'Changing'

Supergirl takes a somewhat unexpected trip into the realm of science-fiction tinged horror in the second season's sixth episode – with its introduction of its own version of the comic-book villain, Parasite.

Initially introduced in a very entertaining homage to John Carpenter's classic horror film, The Thing, Parasite certainly had the potential to be the series's most genuinely frightening villain. Even his early scenes had plenty of that classic paranoia, as the audience was left with little certainty about whether it was the alien parasite, or the human host, who was truly in control.

The human host, in this case, is Dr. Rudy Jones (William Mapother), an initially well-meaning scientist, specialising in the effects of climate change, who seems to be driven to violent extremism once he falls under the influence of the alien creature. So, with Dr. Jones now intent on hunting down, and brutally killing, those who have hindered his research in the past, it seems fairly obvious that he needs to be stopped – though, with his actions clearly being driven as much by the alien parasite infecting him, as his own desires, it seems just as clear that he is a man in desperate need of help.

Of course, things takes a rather drastic turn for the worse when the parasite's ability to feed on the energy of whoever it comes into contact with allows the creature to gain the upper-hand over both Supergirl and the Martian Manhunter – draining the energy from both super-powered beings and, in the process, transforming into something much more monstrous. So, with Kara and J'onn out of commission, it seems as though now would be the perfect opportunity for both James Olsen and Mon-El to step forward, and to become the heroes that each is clearly destined to be.

Honestly, while the two characters were obviously being set up to reach this point, eventually, the manner in which the season has gone about pushing them both toward becoming heroes still strikes me as a little strange.

For Mon-El, I think that my main issue is with the way in which the decision has been taken away from him – with Kara seeming set on suggesting that him becoming a 'super-hero' is practically a moral obligation. Sure, Mon-El has been portrayed as almost insufferably smug, and definitely a bit full of himself. But, he has also never been portrayed as a 'bad' person, in any way – so, this episode's suggestion that he is, somehow, both selfish and a coward for being reluctant to use his powers in the same way that Kara does felt a little heavy-handed, to me. I think that, rather than have him, essentially, be shamed into becoming a hero, it would have been much more effective to have him reach this point, on his own.

The main problem with James Olsen, on the other hand, is that his sudden desire to become a costumed super-hero just doesn't come across as very convincing – and, the reason for that is that, up until this point, we haven't actually been given any indication that this is something he wants, or would even be suited for. The reason for that, of course, is due to the simple fact that James Olsen has actually received very little attention since the series began – beyond his participation in the previous season's somewhat irritating 'love triangle' plot-lines, at least. So, what should feel like a triumphant development for an important character actually ends up feeling more like a somewhat arbitrary decision made to keep the character relevant (or, allow the character to finally be relevant – depending on how you feel about his role in the first season).

Despite all of that, though, I do have to admit that the first scene of James Olsen in his new 'Guardian' armour was very impressive. Sure, it was a little strange to see Mon-El be so quickly up-staged in his own first attempts at super-heroism, as the two separately came to the conclusion that Parasite needed to be stopped, but I would have to argue that James Olsen just needed that moment of heroism more than Mon-El did (also, Mon-El has been so insufferably smug, over the past few episodes, that being knocked down a little might actually be good for him, in the long run).

It did also, at first, strike me as a little strange that James would be able to hold his own against Parasite so effectively (even considering his new suit of armour) – but, in the end, I was willing to put that down to Jame's own previous, almost entirely unexplored, experiences alongside Superman (there was also a one-line reference to James having a black belt in some form of martial arts, in the previous episode, to add a bit of extra justification).

The way in which we got to this point felt very rushed, and more than a little messy – but, now that we are here, I do have to admit that I am interested in seeing what the rest of the season has in store for James Olsen. Perhaps more than any member of the cast (besides Kara, of course), James Olsen is the character who seems most deserving of this transition into heroism.

It's also difficult to deny the fact that Parasite, once transformed, would have to count as easily the most impressive CGI creation we have seen from the CW's DC-inspired content, so far. Sure, the transition felt a little abrupt, and it was a bit of a shame to see the 'human' element of the character seemingly stripped away entirely – but, the grotesque monstrosity that the cast found themselves fighting, here, was impressive enough to make up for that.

On a much more personal level, it was more than a little disheartening (though, I suppose, also depressingly realistic) to see Alex slowly begin to come to terms with her own sexuality, only for her renewed sense of confidence to crumble, almost immediately. Her sudden urge to 'come out of the closet' had, of course, been motivated almost entirely by her romantic interest in Maggie Sawyer – but, Maggie, whether do to a genuine lack of interest or simply to an unwillingness to enter into a relationship with that amount of emotional baggage, had been unable to return Alex's feelings. It would have been too easy, and much too predictable, for this entire sub-plot to end on a high-note, for Alex. So, this would have to be one of the rare cases in which angst-ridden relationship drama actually is the better option. Also, this new development led to some genuinely great scenes for Alex – both with Maggie and, later, her adopted sister.

Of course, while all of this is going on, there is also the latest development concerning J'onn Jonzz and M'gann M'orzz – as the Green Martian's encounter with Parasite leaves him in desperate need of a blood transfusion from the woman who is, of course, actually a White Martian. The history between the two races has already been hinted before now, of course – but, with this new development, we are certain to have these issues explored in a much more detailed, and much more personal, manner in the future. It is definitely something that I am looking forward to.

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