Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E09 - 'Supergirl Lives'

While the second season of Supergirl has felt like a fairly significant improvement over the first, in a variety of ways, there have still been some elements that proved to be somewhat disappointing. For one thing, despite the potential that it had seemed to have, Cadmus ultimately proved to be very underwhelming as the antagonists for the season's first arc. Along similar lines, it has a source of some frustration, for me, to see this series continue with the tradition of featuring so many underdeveloped, and essentially disposable, 'one-off' villains. Also, it soon became painfully obvious that the writers still don't have any idea of how best to use James Olsen – with his sudden transition into the costumed vigilante, Guardian, feeling less like a logical progression, and more like the writers' last ditch efforts to salvage a mishandled character.

Of course, even with its weaker elements, Supergirl has still managed to become a series which, more often than not, manages to be genuinely entertaining – thanks, in large part, to a cast of genuinely likable characters, and the quality of the performances given by those cast to portray them. This is especially fortunate when you consider the fact that the season's ninth episode, returning after its mid-season break, does unfortunately seem to quickly fall into the same routine.

Here, for example, we have a fascinating new threat in the form of an intergalactic slave trafficking ring currently set on acquiring healthy human specimens – and, a significant new challenge when both Kara and Mon-El find themselves temporarily stripped of their powers beneath the red sun of an alien moon.

It is definitely a great premise on which to base an episode, with a great deal of potential for genuine tension. But, unfortunately, it was also a premise which quickly proved to be more than a little underwhelming, in practise. For one thing, in a manner very similar to so many of the past threats our heroes have been required to confront, the whole concept just came across as somewhat underdeveloped, when subjected to any real scrutiny. The alien doctor responsible for running the whole operation (James Urbaniak) is barely given enough screen-time to qualify as a fully realised character – and, he isn't even named, on-screen. The surprising reappearance of Roulette (Dichen Lachman), last seen running an underground alien fight club earlier in the season, doesn't actually add much to the episode – especially considering that she is not given the opportunity to do much more than gloat and look smug. Honestly, by the end of the episode, I was still unsure about what her role in the whole operation actually was.

Then there is the slave trafficking operation, itself, which managed to come across as oddly small-scale for such a high-stakes enterprise – thanks, in large part, to the way in which the inevitable 'escape and rescue' action sequence, which brought the episode to its end, was staged. In the end, it all just felt a little too easy – and, I was left wondering whether the whole premise would have been better served by a two-part story (or, at least, by reducing the amount of screen-time devoted to the episode's sub-plots).

Fortunately, there is still a fair bit to enjoy about this episode's primary plot-line, in spite of these weaknesses – with the entertaining rapport between Kara and Mon-El, in particular, being a clear high-light as the two find themselves caught up in such a dangerous situation. Mon-El, in particular, also undergoes some genuinely strong character development throughout the episode, as he finds himself increasingly won over by Supergirl's commitment to doing what is right, and increasingly determined to follow her example.

It was also genuinely fascinating to get another look at a Dominator, so soon after last year's big cross-over event – with the alien's interest in acquiring human slaves seeming to hint at an interesting future development. Then, of course, there is the continuing mystery of Mon-El, himself – with the episode offering clear evidence that there is some dark secret from his past still to be uncovered.

Elsewhere, the episode also found the time for a little more focus on James Olsen's continuing exploits as Guardian – although, in this case, the emphasis was placed much more on his partner, Winn Schott. After a close encounter with a dangerous criminal left him injured and shaken, Winn seems momentarily determined to quit – believing that he is ill-suited for that sort of field-work. It was a fairly obvious character-arc, of course – one that was clearly intended to end with Winn having the opportunity to confront, and overcome, his fears (which is, of course, exactly what happened). But, it was also a character arc that was played very well by Jeremy Jordan.

One aspect of the episode that I genuinely didn't appreciate, though, was its treatment of the continuing romantic sub-plot between Alex and Maggie – which, given how well-handled this has been up until this point, came across as a particular shame. Here, though, we have Alex seemingly willing to abandon the relationship entirely the moment it seems as though her new-found 'happiness' has, somehow, kept her from there to support her adopted sister. While I understand that it is a part of her character, at this point, that Alex just doesn't actually have much experience with romantic relationships (and, that this could go some way toward explaining her seeming immaturity, here), the whole sub-plot still came across as an ill-conceived attempt to add some more emotional drama where it wasn't really needed.

The season's ninth episode may have been one that was, unfortunately, led down by yet another example of the typically underdeveloped villains that seem to plague all of the CW's DC related content, but there were still more than enough positive points to keep the episode from being a complete failure. Of course, at this point, it is actually the hints at some dark mystery from Mon-El's past that I find to be the most interesting – and, I am definitely hopeful that this will lead to some interesting developments in the future.

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