This Supergirl review contains spoilers.
Supergirl Season 4 Episode 18
Supergirl works with her allies, Alex and Lena, while they investigate Lex and build up a few more in Col. Haley, incarcerated free speech activist/journalist Steve Lomelli (a forever charming Willie Garson). Meanwhile. Alex and Kelly Olsen share a moment, Alex takes on Ben Lockwood, and Nia teaches Brainy a lesson while he weighs an important ethical choice. It’s a whole lot of connective tissue on this building episode that handles the fallout from the Red Daughter terrorist attack and sets up the final stretch of episodes for the season.
There was a time after losing Mon-El, when Kara felt like her only real value was as Supergirl. She tried to bury herself in the work of a hero, leaving her human cares and ties behind as much as possible. This episode felt like a coda to that. Over the course of it, we saw Supergirl realize that fair or not, her image has been tainted. She’s no longer a symbol of hope and trust, and her presence as Supergirl can do more harm than good. But it’s not all bad: she can still help people as Kara Danvers. A reporter is a valuable person to be, and she’s done work that has helped people.
A huge benefit of Otis Graves in this incarnation is that there’s finally someone who can go toe to toe with Supergirl. I’m glad his explosion was only a temporary situation – he and Supergirl’s prison fight was far too much fun to be a one-off. I don’t remember him ever making nearly this many pop culture references, but I suppose now is as good a time as any for him to acquire a schtick.
Thankfully, Supergirl has finally figured out what to do with James Olsen. He continues his journey to confront his post traumatic stress disorder with the help of his sister and a therapist, who teaches him a very real grounding technique. Unfortunately, his therapist probably wasn’t taught how to handle Harun-El-related hypervigilance. Thankfully, regardless of their relationship status, James realizes by the end of the episode that Lena is the only one who can help him. There’s a lot of that going around lately. It’s a good thing, too – he’s got enough story and characters to support him, but connection James and the Harun-El back to the main plot feels like a good move this late in the season.
I love how so far, the writers have chosen to take PTSD symptoms, like being way too aware of your surroundings to the point of it being debilitating and turning the dial up to an 11. Underneath his alienlike symptoms is the very human rationale that because he’s a strong hero who others rely upon, James feels like he should be strong enough to get through it without assistance, not unlike the way many soldiers or first responders feel when coping with PTSD after a life-threatening attack. Even if/when the Harun-El situation is resolved, James will need to work through the emotional realities, regardless.
Brainy had a substantial journey in this episode, one that had sufficient substance to be worthy of the screen time he gets. Sometimes it feels too easy for him to slip into being a utility player since he’s such a good straight man and walking expositional device. Instead, like all of Brainy’s best episodes this season, he was faced with a scenario where all the intellect and computing power in the world was insufficient to solve a problem. As much as I’m sure the writers appreciate having a deus ex encyclopedia on hand, he’s so much more interesting when he’s forced to abandon his genius and muck around in his feelings and “intestinal conjecture,” like the rest of us.
Brainy’s dilemma served as a nice counterpoint to some of the more grating, on the nose political references. While it makes sense to hear Supergirl lamenting, “doesn’t the truth matter?!” and it’s probably true that Lex is a “consummate gaslighter,” it feels painfully like the old Monty Python sketch – know what I mean? Supergirl has always been more than happy to make a political point, which I generally enjoy, but it struggles to make those points have meaning and feel like anything more than the reproduction of headlines and hashtags.
Consider instead the experience of watching Brainy determine that the Alien registry was a likely target and debate whether to delete it. For one thing, it was a story, rather than a shout-out. While we all know the real-world analogue (and its historical equivalents), it’s more interesting to watch Brainy’s take on it, injected with his brand of fish-out-of-water pop culture humor, and contextualized with his disagreement with Nia about meddling with the future. The dismount was a little rough (I don’t think he needed to start speechifying about his own heroism, and if he did then someone at least should’ve made fun of him for it) but it was more effective than so many jokes about the president tweeting.