Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Supergirl 1x12 "Bizarro" (A Strange Thing, Mystifying) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

Original Airdate: February 1, 2016

I was really curious about how the Supergirl show would handle Bizarro, since it's difficult to balance how "iconic" Bizarro is with how absolutely nonsensical it is. Seriously, a Bizarro-Super is just a chalky-faced, rather dimwitted version of whatever Kryptonian it's duplicating. It talks like Tarzan (or, as Kara says in this episode, Cookie Monster) and, for some reason, has some opposite powers — fire breath instead of freeze breath, for example. I think comics usually make them clones of Superman or Supergirl, but other times they come from alternate dimensions or the planet "Htrae." Yeah, that's "Earth" backwards. Look, people, I've told you that the Silver Age was weird and you have to ignore the stupid or you'll never get past it.

But mostly, I wondered if throwing Bizarro into the mix was going to be an unfortunate bit of fanservice — a single-episode enemy with very little impact on the characters or the rest of the season. I wondered if it was just going to be a case of the writers going, "Hey, even non-hardcore Supergirl or Superman fans would recognize this — we should throw it in." I'm happy to say that those worries were unfounded — while there was definitely some winking to the audience going on in the episode, they still managed to create something that seemed to influence the characters and the season's story arc. Supergirl used Bizarro to really emphasize their hero's innate compassion, by having her empathize with her strange clone and recognize Bizarro's worth as a living creature almost immediately.


Last week we left off with Kara and Alex watching not-Supergirl on the news and being baffled because, hey, that's not Supergirl! When this week's episode starts, they still don't quite know who the person on the news was but they know she was causing problems and Real Supergirl is getting blamed for it. The only person who doesn't seem to want to blame Supergirl is Cat — because she subconsciously still connects Kara and Supergirl together and she's developed a soft spot for Kara? I like to think so. Or, it could just be a better business move for CatCo to go against the grain and not blame Supergirl for stuff. It's probably that last thing. Ah, well.

It actually doesn't take long for Bizarro and Supergirl to meet face-to-face. When they do, Kara is confused by the fact that this person definitely has her powers — at least as far as flying and invulnerability go — as well as her face, and isn't a robot or even, it seems, a Kryptonian. She raises the possibility of cloning to Alex and Hank, but it's shot down immediately because the clone wouldn't have been able to age that quickly. Really? Aliens and superpowers and super advanced robots exist, but you guys don't think someone could get around that snag in cloning? Seems rather closed-minded, considering all the impossible things you people see constantly.

Bizarro is not really a villain. I mentioned before that the Bizarros are usually pretty dimwitted, but I wouldn't go that far with Supergirl's version. This Bizarro is more naive than actually stupid, and a lot of the trouble comes from her inability to trust what's right and what's wrong. Her method of dealing with this, it turns out, is to kidnap people — first Kara (while she was on a date, in a scene I found so unintentionally hilarious) and then James Olsen — and threaten them with bodily harm. Kara deals with Bizarro just fine but James is a lot more, um... vulnerable? Since he's human and whatnot.

But James does manage to stall for time by delivering a very nice speech on why he loves Kara (kudos to Supergirl for having a love interest confess their feelings so matter-of-factly, by the way — and even though I'm certain a lot of what James said was just him trying to talk for as long as possible, I don't doubt the sentiment behind his words) and Kara rescues him from the not-so-evil opposition. Unfortunately for everyone, the DEO operatives have to take Bizarro down in order to save Kara's life and then, later, put her to sleep to... stop the pain, I think? Kara's not happy about it since, as I said in the intro, she recognized that Bizarro was just a victim of the circumstances into which she was "born" and the true villain of the story was actually...


Maxwell Lord. Ugh, you are the worst. I don't even love to hate Max Lord. I just hate him. He's slimy, megalomaniacal, smug, and awful. He has absolutely zero redeeming qualities and even his supposed "humanitarian" motivations seem like tacked-on afterthoughts. I don't believe for a second that Maxwell Lord wants to protect humanity. He doesn't care about humanity beyond what he thinks humanity can do for him. He's a manipulative sociopath who has determined that he's not only above the law, but above morality as well, and I really just want Kara to heat-vision his face off so I can stop seeing it on my TV screen.

This is really his Villain Episode. This is the episode in which the show stops trying to be sly about whether he's up to something for personal — evil — reasons, or if he's walking that road to hell that's paved with good intentions. There's no way that Maxwell Lord's Frankenstein plot to create and brainwash an unsuspecting, superpowered naif — whose body started out as someone else's, by the way! — is anything other than nefarious. I still can't figure out if this is what the show wanted to do, but there's no way that viewers could watch this episode and come away from it thinking that Maxwell Lord is anything other than the villain. I realize that Lord is an anti-alien xenophobe and our hero is an alien so we're definitely not supposed to agree with him, but in the beginning I got the impression that we were supposed to find him ignorant, but possibly well-meaning. Not anymore!

Lord built Bizarro from comatose humans and mixed in some of Kara's DNA, harvested from the arm of that robot she defeated back in episode with the Red Tornado android. He then brainwashed Bizarro into hating Kara and creepily caressed her, so add that onto the list of Things That Make Maxwell Lord Really Gross. When Kara and the DEO find out that he's most definitely behind Bizarro — who is, while naive and possessing of sentience, basically a super-weapon — they take him into custody and lock him in one of the DEO's supersecret plexiglass prisons and basically tell him that no one will ever find him. But you know what? He still won't stop being smug about everything, from knowing about the Supergirl/Kara identity to threatening the Danvers family.

Seriously. He's the worst.


I touched on some of the personal stuff going on in Kara's life a bit, but I think it actually deserves a more prominent section of the review than a couple throwaway sentences. This episode sees Kara really come to terms with the fact that her life is complicated, and she can't just go on dates with cute boys who don't know she's Supergirl. She tried going on a date with Adam and ended up having to go save lives in the middle of it, so she offered a rain check and they went on a second date. But then Kara was kidnapped by Bizarro.

See, this is usually a huge part of the superhero story: the complications that arise in the personal lives of the hero. Supergirl hasn't focused on it a whole lot because Kara's two main love interests, James and Winn (though, since Kara's pretty adamant about not being interested in Winn, we probably shouldn't count him) already know her secret identity. There hasn't been a lot of fuel to the Cliched Relationship Drama flames. The inclusion of Adam — with the added bonus of Adam being the son if Kara's respected (almost idolized) boss — changes it, and makes Kara deal with the idea that her romantic life will have to take a backseat to her role as the city's hero.

I'm glad that the show doesn't throw this plot thread at us constantly and saves it as an "occasional" thing. I also like that the ramifications of Kara's breakup with Adam don't just affect The Romance — it also affects Kara's relationship with Cat, who seemed to want to develop more of a friendship with her assistant so long as Kara and Adam were involved with each other. After the breakup and Adam leaving town because of it, Cat wants her dealings with Kara to be strictly professional — not an easy task for Kara, whose habit of trying to help the people she cares about isn't something she can easily halt.

Kara’s a compassionate hero who leads with her heart, rather than her head a lot of the time (see: last episode, when she sent a personal letter to her boss’s son and signed it with her boss’s name, all without her boss’s permission) and I have a feeling that not being able to have the almost-friendship she was working toward with Cat is going to affect Kara more than she lets on.

  • Maxwell's opening monologue to Bizarro is sooooo douchey. Ugh. And he makes her call him "My Lord"? He's the worst.
  • "We could probably rule out an alien shapeshifter. Unless there's something you [J'onn] aren't telling us?" "The skirt was surprisingly comfortable, but no."
  • Cat's Kara/Adam shipping is kind of adorable. I know it's because Kara dating Adam kept Adam local, but still.
  • Boy am I glade Winn's hissyfit didn't last more than one episode.
  • The level of jealousy coming off Winn and James when Kara says she has a date: stratospheric.
  • Everyone still thinks it's so impossible for anyone to figure out Kara is Supergirl. Literally a pair of glasses, people. Not that tough a nut to crack.
  • I liked the scene with James and Winn drinking at work and bonding over their feelings for Kara (other than Winn's "friend zone" mention) but I'm not sure why — maybe because it's two dudes talking about a girl for a change? A reverse Bechdel failure?
  • "There are so many threats out there." Haaaaaa, even Kara's wondering what's up with all the villains they have to deal with in a single season.
  • Who wants to bet that Cat's ordered Amber Alert for Kara was for "Keerah Denver"?
  • Mixed feelings about Kara getting involved with, and then breaking up with, Adam within the span of an episode. On one hand, I'm glad they didn't draw out a probably-doomed relationship. On the other? What a quick romantic arc.
  • "Why did you bring me here?" "Supergirl loves you." "How do you know that?" Yeah, James just accepts it. Fair.
  • Quite a speech from James, though. Making up for his lack of screentime in recent episodes, maybe?
  • Post-episode nagging question: How did Bizarro know Kara liked James? That doesn’t make sense.


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