Supergirl Season 5 Episode 4 Review: In Plain Sight
Kara begins putting the Leviathan pieces together, as James finds his next mission in a moving Supergirl.
This Supergirl review contains spoilers.
Supergirl Season 5, Episode 4
Good job, Jay Faerber & Jess Kardo, aka the writers of this episode. “In Plain Sight” represented Supergirl Season 5’s best episode yet, seamlessly juggling the slow burn Leviathan arc and J’onn’s family drama with the aid of some stellar character work, while also giving James Olsen the caliber of departure storyline he deserves.
J’onn’s worst nightmare.
After J’onn’s discovery last week that he was the person who wiped Malefic’s existence from the Martian collective memory, our favorite Green Martian is living in his own personal hell, which is to say: he is in incredible pain, and he is not lessening the weight of that burden by confiding in anyone about it—not even when the topic comes up directly.
J’onn’s discoveries about his brother’s motives are incredibly relevant to the mission Alex, Supergirl, and Brainy’s mission to capture Malefic, but J’onn can’t bring himself to tell them the truth about his brother’s motives, so scared is he that it will change how they see him. As is so often the case, the cruel thoughts J’onn is having about himself are so much worse that anything his found family would actually think let alone say out loud to their loved one.
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When Malefic incepts Alex, Male-Alex confronts J’onn with the truth, and his worst nightmare. Alex calls him a monster, leaving him to believe that J’onn’s worst feelings about himself are true. While I don’t like to see conflict within this family, Alex’s confrontation would have held so much more emotional weight if the words were honest. While I don’t think Alex would ever view J’onn as a monster, I do think Male-Alex’s anger about J’onn’s fear-driven selfishness over not telling others the truth about Malefic would have been understandable.
J’onn fears the reaction of his family because he is understands that what he did was terrible and wrong. And by continuing to lie about it when that withholding of information is affecting the mental state (in Alex’s case, who is blaming herself for the danger Kelly has found herself in) and safety (in all of their cases, given that Malefic is specifically trying to turn J’onn’s family against him because of the nature of J’onn’s betrayal) of his loved ones is another bad decision. Family can be angry with one another without removing the promise of love and support; this would have been a good opportunity to explore that nuance with Alex.
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That being said, the confrontation scene between Male-Alex and David was still heartbreaking, mostly because J’onn thinks it is real—and because Chyler Leigh and David Harewood act the hell out of it.
The “confession” scene between J’onn and Kara is also quite good. While it doesn’t have the space to breathe that the Male-Alex/J’onn one did, nor does it reach the emotional heights, it is allowed to be much more emotionally-nuanced because Kara is in control of her feelings and actions.
“But you remember now,” Kara tells J’onn when he worries that what he has done is unforgiveable, and has not only cost him his relationship with is brother, but his relationships with his Earth family, too. I like that she doesn’t tell him that what he did was OK, but she assures him that that one action is not all that he is, and that he still has the power to help his brother. To make different choices. It’s an incredibly powerful, underrepresented message: that we can make mistakes and still have the choice to be good, but also that we must take accountability for the ways we have wronged others, and try to atone when and where we can.
William Dey’s crazy wall.
Surprise! Supergirl was faking us out with Toxic Jerk William Dey. It turns out his soup kitchen identity was the true William all along!
This all comes to the light via some excellent journalistic (and astral-projecting) work from both Nia and Kara, the latter of whom follows William to Mexico to find out what the fishy reporter is up to. Turns out he has been undercover for two years, investigating a “criminal conspiracy bigger than Al Capone” (whatever that means) that he seems to think the Rojases are at the center of. Presumably, this is Leviathan, though that word is never used.
While William asks Kara to quit this line of investigation before she gets hurt (ha!), I think we can all agree that Kara is going to go full-tilt in helping William get to the bottom of this, using the many resources at her disposal. And, frankly, William’s investigation just got a heck of a lot more promising because of it.
In addition to spilling seemingly every single detail about his previously super secret investigation in the Rojas’ criminal empire, William also goes on a compliment attack, praising Kara’a journalistic skills and integrity like this will be his last chance. We get it, William. She’s a talented writer. (We get it, Supergirl. You want Kara/William to be a thing.)
In an effort to keep Kelly away from Malefic, Kelly and James return to their hometown (because Malefic would never think to look there?), which is where they moved when their dad died. They find Calvintown apparently much more economically-depressed than when they left it (um, what was it like before—it doesn’t seem to have any industry), and weirdly surprised by that reality. Were they never curious about what was going on in their hometown? This would have been easy to explain away with a line like, “I knew times were tough in Calvintown, but I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten…”
How bad has Calvintown gotten? Hilariously, there are abandoned cars everywhere—like, a weird amount of abandoned cars. Also, a soup kitchen that is so sad that it doesn’t even have its own building; people just ladle out soup in a parking lot.
While I may be poking fun at some of the ways Supergirl tries to show the economic instability of this town, I appreciate the effort the show is taking to engage with the reality that not everyone in Supergirl’s world lives in National City, which seems to be an affluent city with lots of opportunities for the people who live there. It also calls into question the idea of: who has the privilege of being saved by Supergirl, and her team.
During James’ goodbye speech, he notes that he has been saving the world from his corner office, which denotes a degree of self-awareness that, while he has been spending him time being a Good Person™, he has never before considered giving up a certain degree of privilege and comfort to do so. It’s a pretty nuanced, honest, and relevant point for a CW superhero show to be making.
James’ decision to buy the Calvintown Gazette is not only a fitting departure for his character, who speaks about wanting to live “amongst the people” again, but also an inspiring example of how privilege can be used to make real difference. In a less nuanced portrayal of corruption and the acceptance that allows it to continue, newspaper guy Nelson would have been more villainous and less sympathetic. Instead, he points out that, unlike James, he didn’t have the resources of CatCo or Supergirl to back up his idealism. Intention can only get one so far if you don’t also have the resources (time, energy, connections, money) to turn it into action.
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I will miss James Olsen as a series regular, as will everyone at the bar. Supergirl hasn’t always known what to do with him, as his start as Kara’a love interest initially proved, but his unique flavor of heroism, different from everyone else on this squad, has been a welcome addition to Supergirl‘s message about what it takes to make a difference.
Between her commandeering of Eve’s body for Hope and now her capture of Malefic, Lena is truly going down a dark path. It’s especially hard to watch when we also have scenes of her interacting lovingly with Brainy, Lena, and J’onn.
J’onn’s “I promise I will never let anyone hurt you again” is honestly heartbreaking.
Malefic chooses to switch to speaking English to J’onn, which is honestly probably a logistical decision (people don’t like to read subtitles when they can help it), but #theauthorisdead so I am going to analyze this, and assume it is because Malefic rejects his Green Martian origin.
“When the ones you love turn their backs on you, that’s pain…”
That was a rally cool shot of Kara dive-flying to catch a bullet.
Brainy drops into a professional conversation that he has a broken heart. I am somewhat envious of his ability to just be himself, even though he is currently lamenting that very same quality.
William has a stock photo wife, which is honestly kind of hilarious.
“I would never let anything happen to her.” “You can’t promise that.” Little moments like this interaction between J’onn and Alex about Kelly were one step beyond cliche in a way I really appreciated.
“You do what you need to do to feel safe, but I’m not giving up on Brainy.” I love that J’onn validates Alex’s feelings that she needs to protect herself and the ones she loves, while also disagreeing with her tactics. Again: nuance!
J’onn does have something to atone for, but he also isn’t responsible for Malefic’s actions.
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shopowners as lacking empathy
“Hey, you really could have hurt that lady.” Lol at Supergirl’s commitment to pretending not to be Kara.
It was fun to see Supergirl/Kara not only outside of National City, but in Mexico.
People being individually incepted by Malefic feels like a preview of what’s to come if Lena succeeds in her plan.
“Nobody risks their neck for anybody around here.” This hasn’t been my experience of financially-insecure regions. In fact, I feel the exact opposite.
“It’s a racket. Cops, judges, lawyers. Every one is in on it. They keep the prison full, the prison keeps their pockets lined.” I appreciate Supergirl’s attempts to use Calvintown as a microcosm for some of the messed-up-edness of America’s prison industrial system, but making this seem like a regional problem instead of a systemic problem that affects the entire country is misleading and problematic.
“Look, Brainy, I know you haven’t asked for help, but you’re getting it anyway.” I don’t want Lena to be evil. I wish we had a bit more insight into where she is at in regards to these interactions with her friend group. Like, how much of this is an act?
Lena’s look this week was quite great.
“Journalism’s about fighting for the little guy. You taught me that. It’s your job to point out corruption, so what the hell’s going on here?”
That newspaper employs 30 people? Ha! Yeah right.
“I’m just glad someone made it out of this town, and I’m glad it was you.” Damn Nelson has some good lines.
Simon, the teen moppet who acts as James’ quasi-kid figure, feels so plot device-y. I am being emotionally-manipulated here, but for a worthy cause and I don’t hate it, which is basically the Supergirl brand.
“J’onn. Meet me at the planetarium. Come alone.” This line made me laugh. I want to visit a planetarium just so I can invite someone in this manner.
J’onn crashes an educational film about the Green Martins. Awkward.
At first, before you find out Malefic has incepted the crown, I was like: Do these poeple think Male-Alex and J’onn’s confrontation is part of the presentation?
“I’ve lived on Earth for 300 years, and I never really found true peace, and I believe it’s because of what I did to you, Malefic.” As far as apologies go, not the best start. Protip: When apologizing, you don’t want to talk too much about yourself.
I like that Alex trusts Kelly to find Malefic and doesn’t try to take her agency away in the name of protection.
Supergirl keeps the bomb blast contained by cuddling it with her cape, which is #PeakSupergirl and I love it.
“Do you trust me?” “Yes.” (Also, Alex, wearing an iPhone bomb, doesn’t really have a better choice in this moment.)
J’onn accepting that Malefic is back in the Phantom Zone felt a little out-of-character to me.
“True character reveals itself in times of hardship, and I know who you really are.” Alex, to J’onn.
“You are now officially a Superfriend. We have t-shirts. And a handshake. I’ll teach it to you.”
“Stop trying so hard to figure things out, and just be still and listen.” Great advice.
“My feelings are springing out and I can’t seem to find a little box to contain them.”
Interesting that Kara chooses to confront William as Kara, not Supergirl.
“Sergio is Interpol, undercover, he helped me get her out.” Whoa, way to just casually blow Sergio’s cover, William.
“Because that jerk was a lie. An identity I put on to keep everyone at CatCo from wanting to get to know me.” Dude, just politely decline invitations for after-work drinks and delete all of your social media accounts.
“Your articles are honest and smart. I could never write the way you write … I have craft. You have art.” One-sided compliment battle!
“You know how to work a camera?” “Like on my phone?” “No, like a real one.” Burn, James Olsen.
I would watch Jimmy Olsen’s Calvintown spinoff.
“Don’t call me Chief. It’s Jimmy.” *Sobs.*
“I’m not your enemy. In fact, I think we can help each other.” Maybe Malefic and Lena can find the family in one another that they never found in their biological families, and learn a path to love and forgiveness that curbs their desire to enact their own suffering on the world around them! Probably not, huh?
Kayti Burt is a staff editor covering books, TV, movies, and fan culture at Den of Geek. Read more of her work here or follow her on Twitter @kaytiburt.