Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Supergirl 2x22 Review: "Nevertheless, She Persisted" (Heart of a Hero) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

“Nevertheless, She Persisted”
Original Airdate: May 22, 2017 

Supergirl has never shied away from references to politics or social issues. In fact, it tends to push them to the forefront quite frequently: feminism, xenophobia, political resistance, civil rights... They certainly allow their hero to fight more than just alien evil-doers, often tucking the truth of the real world around the fictional sci-fi forms of alien refugees and a violent wannabe-dictator with a persecution complex. They’ve stumbled a few times, and I can never quite tell how sincere the writers are about the topics they rip from the headlines (and the titles they rip from the headlines) but I always appreciate them trying.

And there is a failsafe, because even if the writers aren’t sincere, I never doubt the character of Supergirl’s sincerity. Fighting for Truth, Justice, and the American Way is not just a task for her Kryptonian cousin; Supergirl, through all the show’s ups and downs and occasionally iffy plotting, has never wavered from her role as a true superhero — not just in her ability to punch or laser-eye her opponents, but also in her outstanding empathy, heart, and optimism. "Nevertheless, She Persisted" is, at the center of it, about Kara’s innate heroism and desire to protect the planet she calls home, no matter what she must sacrifice to do so.

Also, it has some awesome fight sequences. Like, really, really awesome, you guys.


The first awesome fight sequence — in my opinion, the best fight sequence Supergirl has ever done — is between Supergirl and her cousin. Superman is under the influence of silver kryptonite, which causes hallucinations and paranoia, and he’s attacking Kara because he sees her as Zod, his most hated enemy. No clue why Rhea only used the silver kryptonite on Superman and not Supergirl. One of those old “because the script says so” reasons, I reckon.

Supergirl and Superman duke it out all over the Daxam mothership, then all over National City’s... town square? There’s a fountain involved, so that makes me think it’s probably the town square. A fight in a fountain, by the way, is an aesthetic I didn’t know could be amazing before Supergirl showed it to me in this sequence. Add in the fires going on in the background, some terrific fight choreography and camera work, cool editing, and the emotional stakes of Supergirl having to fight her paranoid cousin and... yeah, this fight is some impressive work.

It’s also exhausting work, as once Kara lands the knock-out punch on her cousin, she immediately collapses and wakes later in the Fortress of Solitude. Superman also wakes and recalls the fight, and there’s no hint of hurt ego when he tells his cousin that silver kryptonite doesn’t weaken Kryptonians and Kara beat him fair and square. Supergirl’s Superman is a good Superman.

After searching the Fortress’s database for information on how to defeat Daxam, Kara and Clark land on a thing called “Dakkam Ur,” an ancient challenge of “single combat before the gods” that both Krypton and Daxam respected. Kara calls Rhea out; Rhea accepts. Mon-El protests the fight, but Kara thinks it’s her best bet for saving Earth before the Daxam ships blast National City off the map, and her defeat of Superman means that she is officially Earth’s Champion.

The back-up plan is a device that Lena and her mother created from one of Lex’s weapons of Kryptonian doom. The modified device would saturate Earth’s atmosphere with enough lead to make it poisonous to Daxamites but harmless to humans. Um, cool plan and all, but isn’t Earth’s atmosphere full of enough awful as is? I don’t think lead needs to be added to the mix, no matter how much Lena and her evil mother insist that it’s harmless. And speaking of Lena’s evil mother — shouldn’t Lillian be in prison? I get that there’s an alien invasion happening outside and the police have bigger issues, but Lillian should not be able to walk around this freely.

Kara and Rhea’s fight isn’t as epic as the fight between Supergirl and Superman (maybe because there were no fountains involved?) but it’s still good and boasts a few surprises. For example: Rhea had no intention of honoring the sacred Dakkam Ur, and Daxam ships begin attacking the city, which means that others on Team Supergirl have battles of their own to wage. Also, Rhea’s blood is infused with kryptonite from the explosion of Krypton (do you think that explains her megalomania, or was she probably always like this?). Any punch Kara lands that draws blood weakens Kara.

You know how I said Lillian shouldn’t be walking around freely? Well she also shouldn’t have access to doomsday devices, even modified ones, because Lena tries to activate the lead device at first opportunity. Thankfully, Lena gave the remote to Supergirl before the device was even complete. Hey, Lena? This is not the first time you’ve had to double-cross your mother. I hope you remember this the next time she gives you a sob story about how much she wished she’d treated you more kindly.

Despite everything happening around her and the kryptonite poisoning coming from her opponent, Kara is still standing. Just as Rhea is about to deliver what she probably thinks is the final blow, Kara catches her fist and declares that Earth is her home, and she will protect it, sending Rhea flying. Even though she’s clearly defeated, Rhea won’t give up — she wants Daxam to take hold of Earth, and she’ll destroy every inch of the planet to make sure it happens.

Faced with no other choice, Mon-El tells Kara to use the lead device and chase every Daxamite — himself included — off the planet. Kara, because her duty is to the fate of Earth and not to herself, barely hesitates before she presses the button and activates the device. The Daxam forces return to their ships and flee, but Rhea disintegrates (wait, huh?). Mon-El stays behind long enough to say goodbye to Kara, and for Kara tearfully tell him she loves him.

Credit to Mon-El, his self-sacrifice is right and he’s adequately heroic throughout this episode. Things could have been done better, though. I always knew he would eventually turn into a hero (that’s what’s so boring about him), but his journey could have been made more interesting and less slap-dash if the writers had taken the time to allow him to evolve steadily, rather than what we got: a few episodes in which he’s a supportive boyfriend, but still not much of a hero, and then one episode in which he finally becomes a hero.

I suppose things are messy because the foundation of Mon-El’s character development is not a growing desire to help people or be a hero, but his connection to Kara. Mon-El doesn’t want to be a hero for heroism’s sake — he never has, and he never will. But he does want to be a hero for Kara.

But who wouldn’t want to be a hero for Kara Danvers? Unlike Mon-El, Kara Danvers is a hero to her very core. She’s an inspiring figure, willing to sacrifice what she thinks is her one and only shot at love to save the planet she calls home. At the end of the episode, Cat Grant tells Kara to feel her pain and keep going, because she’s on what Joseph Campbell calls a “Hero’s Journey.” She’ll soar right over her heartbreak and do what needs to be done, no matter what.

 Kara Danvers: Earth’s Champion, through and through.

Other Things:
  • Winn’s massive crush on Superman is wonderful. He legitimately mouths “I love you” at him.
  • Also great: Winn calling J’onn “Papa Bear” and run-sliding to hug him. Wow, I found Winn entertaining this episode, didn’t I?
  • Cat Grant has never seen Star Wars, you guys. Hee.
  • Winn telling Lillian, “I don’t like you,” was also funny. I think Winn is winning me over.
  • Cat Grant knows Kara is Supergirl, everyone! Rejoice!
  • Ridiculously, not only does James only make one appearance this whole episode (and NO lines), he isn’t even in his Guardian suit while given the task of protecting Cat Grant. Add in Kara completely forgetting she was in love with him last season, and this season has been so bad to James that if Mehcad Brooks decided not to return, I wouldn’t blame him.
  • The ending scenes with Kara flying up into the sky while an uplifting, on-the-nose song played reminded me a lot of Smallville.
  • Questions for next season: Did Mon-El go through a breach? What was the “it” sent from Krypton 35 years ago? Can Kara please take a break from romance? Alex/Maggie wedding?!


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