This Supergirl review contains spoilers.
Whereas last week’s 100th episode celebration reminded us of all the things we love about Supergirl, “The Bodyguard” unfortunately does the exact opposite. A fairly dull hour that doubles down on Season 5’s worst narrative tendencies, there’s little about this episode that feels worth remembering or was even that fun to watch in the moment. (Save for a couple of moments we’ll be touching on later.)
The concept of anchoring an entire season of Supergirl around the evils of technology has always been a bit….well, questionable, at best. As much as we all love this show, it has a tendency to be a bit heavy-handed in terms of its narrative metaphors. And the terror of Big Tech is precisely the sort of story that needs nuance, not lines drawn around designated Good and Bad Guys. Unfortunately, the latter appears to be what we’re getting.
“The Bodyguard” is ostensibly about the long-awaited release of Obsidian Tech’s Platinum edition, a painfully realistic set of VR contacts that allows users to become whoever they want, whether it’s a rip-off version of Daenerys Targaryen or an Olympic-caliber athlete. But when Obsdian founder Andrea Rojas begins receiving death threats prior to the product launch, Supergirl must step in to keep her safe.
Cue Whitney Houston film title track here, I guess. (Look, Kara and Andrea have some great chemistry, is all I’m saying.)
The would-be assassin sends Obsidian a lengthy manifesto claiming credit for a murder Kara thwarts, citing the dangerously addictive properties of virtual technology and the ways in which it’s ruining society. Given that a person who holds these beliefs – that tech is bad and harmful, full stop – is at the very least an attempted murderer, one would think that Supergirl might want to posit a sort of alternate viewpoint about these tools, and the way that they can be used for good.
The show…doesn’t do that, and in fact, doubles down on all the ways that they can cause harm. From Lena’s experiments with mind control lenses to the fact that would-be terrorist Amy is attempting to destroy Obsidian because her love killed himself after becoming addicted to a VR lifestyle, there’s nothing about this story that’s subtle. Perhaps addition of a competing point of view wouldn’t have been enough to salvage this particular subplot – it’s heavy-handed to the point of absurdity. But it is something this overarching Season 5 plot desperately needs, at some point very badly.
Yes, there are plenty of people who reject the prospect of real human connection for a life that’s solely lived online. There are too many people who lose themselves to a false, overly curated virtual experience that bears little resemblance to real life. There are those who indulge their worst selves online, in whatever cruel, dark or sadistic form that might take. But that same technology is capable of bringing about incredible good – encouraging connections between those that might never have met otherwise, allowing more democratic access to information and methods of communication than ever before, and bringing the outside world closer to those that might have difficulties experiencing it on their own for whatever reason.
Yet, Supergirl addresses almost none of these issues, and even Kelly, who is theoretically the mouthpiece for the “good” side of the tech debate, has been virtually nowhere recently, popping up every episode or so for an obligatory scene with Alex and little else. And of course, there’s Lena, out here attempting to use technology to force humanity to be better people whether they want to or not, experimenting on National City’s prison population and beating herself up when she can’t reprogram the worst of human nature.
Of course, there’s a much larger and more nuanced conversation that Supergirl really needs to be having about Lena’s behavior and motivations. We’ve seen over and over again that her intentions are good ones, even though they’re expressed in a dangerous and potentially very destructive way. Somewhere, there’s a version of this story where Lena and Kara – or Lena and Alex, even Lena and Alexandra – talk out what it is that’s driving her so ferociously here, and really interrogates how tech can make our lives better, or if it’s just a tool that flawed humans will continue to do flawed things with.
Instead, however, we’re stuck with this Lex subplot, which only underlines how desperately Lena wants someone, anyone to take her seriously and believe in her. There’s something heartbreakingly sad that Lena has to turn to her sociopathic brother for validation that she’s not becoming evil. (Though really, girl, if you have to ask Lex Luther if you’ve gone dark you’ve already got your answer.)
Elsewhere, Kara agrees to a date with William, pretty much solely because she feels guilty over turning him down when he asked. Which, you know, is not exactly the love story I want for our heroine, but which appears to be the one we’re getting. The show has been pushing this particular pairing since the season’s first episode, shoving the two of them into every awkward romance trope they can think of, most of which seem to involve him being closed off or rude to her supposedly in the name of doing good. Perhaps that would have been something the burgeoning relationship might have been able to get past eventually (with a lot of work, mind), but then Crisis on Infinite Earths happened.
Now, William is a largely different person, with much less baggage and a completely different attitude. He’s suddenly solicitous and considerate, and the show seems so desperate for Kara/William to happen that it’s fully ignoring the fact that we all watched him be a jerk for half the season with our own eyes. An acknowledgement that this William literally isn’t the same man would probably go a long way, but it’s also impossible to ignore the fact that the show used Crisis as an attempt to reboot a love interest that really wasn’t working. At its heart, that’s a deeply lazy move. Kara deserves better – and so do Supergirl’s viewers.