This Supergirl review contains spoilers.
Supergirl Season 4 Episode 13
People make a lot of jokes about CW shows, especially the dialogue. I generally ignore it and think the network has a lot more to offer than people give it credit for, but episodes like this one make it hard. It seems that everything Manchester Black touches turns to over the top dialogue and on the nose references. “It’s a bad time to be a good man,” “I’ve got bigger fish to murder,” and, “we terminate prejudice with extreme prejudice,” were among the lowlights. And since the Union Jack shirt and belt buckle weren’t enough, he has a friend in a bowler hat with a cockney accent and sets his Heat-inspired meeting in – you guessed it – Manchester.
For some reason The Elite came with social media references that felt very “How do you do, fellow kids?” Menagerie complaining about a low angle shot at least felt in-character and legitimately funny, as opposed to cheerily chirping “like and subscribe!” and staging that weird coronation.
We are all over the place with the metaphors and references. Aliens have long been an analogue for immigrants, but in this episode we have a Grand Wizard KKK reference for Lockwood, Supergirl going Michelle Obama high when the Children of Liberty go Trump low, and Aliens as the Biblical Jews with Supergirl as their Moses. Some work better than others, but the cumulative effect feels messy. The kitchen sink approach to allegory isn’t generally a winning one.
Without a substantive story in its own right, it feels like Supergirl might buckle under the weight of all these allusions. Checking off a list of fascist and Trumpian references isn’t enough to make compelling television. For some viewers, Supergirl reached that point last season. I’m not opposed to it on principle, and some episodes have been quite successful. But this episode feels thin. Supergirl has to form her own path, but that has a serious case of telling instead of showing, and doesn’t feel like new material for her either.
Lockwood’s dilemma of becoming too “alt” for the rest of the “right” was interesting, if very overstated. It’s easier, though, to see the evil in someone who beats people with masks and tortures. Lockwood’s civil façade has always been the more insidious enemy, so I hope that continues with his new post.
I’m curious, though, why Supergirl lied to President Baker about destroying the satellite. If this episode was about figuring out how to make her own sway in a world that wants to force her to pick between two bad sides, why not actually make a stand? Lying to Baker and obscuring her ideals muddles the message of truth, justice, and all of that.
One way this episode excelled, though, was in the fights. It feels like forever since we’ve had a good battle on Supergirl, and this one gave us two. Manchester’s hallway fight in the prison was fun, even if the Brit in the bowler hat felt like a bit too much flair. The final fight felt like a long-awaited reunion, and Alex taking down Manchester was a highlight.
I enjoyed the little moments of Brainy hating on Kal-Ex, Seinfeld/Newman style. I hope we get more of that. Also welcome is Brainy training Nia in the Fortress of Solitude, which served as the de facto Super Friends HQ, since the DEO is no longer safe. I love seeing Brainy put his calculus up against her dreams, and the worried look on his face whenever it seems like she might best him. It’s always fun to see the Fortress and hear Supergirl say Super Friends.
James, who continues to barely be on this show, is gearing up to finally stop protecting Lena/being an unethical journalist. Better late than never I guess? I hope that plot gives him something to do, although I have a feeling this may be a situation where doing good journalism backfires, and results in escalated fears, Lena becoming some kind of Children of Liberty hero, or someone stealing Lena’s research.
Alex and Supergirl’s dynamic is much improved in this episode. Seeing the wheels turn in Alex’s head when Supergirl repeated something Kara said has me wondering if Alex will be the first person on this show to solve the very simple puzzle that is Supergirl’s true identity.
I’m hoping that a few of the seeds planted in this filler episode will bear more promising fruit. The fact that Haley was also out of the loop on Project Claymore means she might turn on President Baker. Alex has finally stopped believing that she and the government are one and the same, and that the government is trustworthy because she is. Alex getting back to her mutinous ways promises more fun.
J’onn’s quest to follow his father’s example feels like it’s overstaying its welcome, but perhaps now that he has fought again that plot will pick up some inertia. And finally there’s Lena, who apparently doesn’t trust the government either, but decided not to tell that to James and yet got mad at him for…also no trusting the government? Aside from how little sense that makes, maybe after shedding James, she and Alex can pick up the pace and breathe some life back into this story.