Supergirl Season 4 Episode 12 Review: Menagerie

Supergirl takes on Valentine's Day in an episode that's fun but raises questions about the overall direction for the season.

Supergirl Season 4 Episode 12: Menagerie

This Supergirl review contains spoilers. 

Supergirl Season 4 Episode 12

It’s Valentine’s Day over on Earth-38 and everyone has love on their mind, though family seems to be a more apt theme for this episode. Alex hates Valentine’s Day and Brainy does research on it, both of which are very on brand, while James gives Lena a creepy portrait of herself sleeping. Kara has a few quiet moments that nicely display Supergirl’s ethos, when she asserts to Menagerie that she protects everyone, even the Children of Liberty, and when she reminds Nia that, “you’re part of my family now too, and all heroes are welcome.”

Much about this episode was fun and interesting, like the Valentine’s party and learning Brainy loves Raiders and hates snakes. Unfortunately, once again it seems like Supergirl is struggling with broader season-long arcs, sacrificing the characters in which it (and we) has invested in favor of making a sub-par plot work.

This episode also leaves a lot of loose ends, like Mr. Stewart’s wife who never got any follow-up about her husband’s disappearance and death, or the impact of the murder of the head of Alien Affairs by an alien-human simbiote. Surely that will have an impact on the social and political climate, and hopefully at some point, someone will bring up that Menagerie had an all-too-willing human host.

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Watching Kara go low while the Children of Liberty go high is wearing thin – do we really need to watch a repeat of the mistakes of the last few years on what is ostensibly a fun television show? I’m happy towatch Supergirl tackle politics, but there’s a sense of diminishing returns when the writing doesn’t live up to the lofty notions the show trotted out at the beginning of the season.

Ben Lockwood has gone full-on dark villain, telling his child to be a man of action and encouraging him to take up the cause of Agent Liberty. The feckless POTUS of course is more concerned with his polling numbers and lets Lockwood out once he finds out that Lockwood can’t be tried under patriot act, since it only protects humans. Meanwhile his compatriots complicate things for Supergirl and the DEO and then take all the credit.

Alex’s character development feels a bit lost as of late. Without her memories of Kara as an alien, we’re meant to think she has become a bigot, something the show has yet to sell. In a bit of bonkers TV logic, she also apparently took over the DEO to use that “stability” to create the personal life she wanted, meaning adopting a kid and finding a partner. Since when does a giant promotion ever mean more free time, more stability? Alex talks about feeling stalled in this episode, and it’s hard not agree with her.

Brainy gets some nice moments this episode, as he continues learning more about emotions and human life. I enjoyed watching his usual accidental bluntness and confusion, and his brief scene with Nia’s roommate was fun. But I would love to see the show dig in a bit more about why he’s confused and where he’s going wrong, like when he rushes past Nia grieving to get right to training, misunderstanding both her feelings and his own. He wants Nia to join his crime fighting family with Supergirl and seems not to realize how much of that is motivated by a personal desire to be around her, and is perturbed that statistics are failing him. The more Brainy is forced into these uncomfortable grey areas where statistics fail him and his own feelings confound him, the more interesting he is as a character.

Does Nia’s unnamed roommate (played by a scene-stealing Roxy Wood) serve a purpose other than to occasionally moving the plot forward? I love that there’s more than one trans actress on the show, but so far she seems to exist purely to say, “girrrrl!” and roll her neck, following in a long and racist tradition of black and/or queer sidekicks. She owns every scene she’s in, and I would love to see more of her, preferably with a name and some real character development.

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I know we’re supposed to feel something about the predicament James and Lena are in, but I just don’t. They’re a tough couple to get behind and this episode isn’t selling it. The inconsistency in both fo their characters – they seem to be taking turns with who has morals and can see a situation clearly – doesn’t make it any easier. The dialogue of the car confrontation sees designed to go out of its way to leave personal and gender issues aside and make the conversation solely about Lena selling her research to the government, which was probably a smart move, but the resulting slow pace of the conversation and overall lack of emotional fire from both sides doesn’t do much to help the situation.

Over in her regular prison (not a creepy black site), Menagerie’s human half receives a letter from Manchester black, who continues to be extra about his English-ness. And of course, it turns out the simbiote snake is more of a hydra, since her skin ripples with the movement of an alien under her skin just when the episode ends.

I have a lot of questions for Lena. Why was she rushing out of the country? It can’t simply be because she suddenly wanted to be a spontaneous, outwardly affectionate person instead of a rather staid and rigid one. And what has made such a smart woman so blind to what the government will obviously do with her research? This sort of willful ignorance requires a bit more of an explanation.

Keep up with all our Supergirl reviews and coverage here.

Rating:

2.5 out of 5