Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Supergirl 3x02 Review: "Triggers" (Panic! At the Crime Scene) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

Original Airdate: October 16, 2017 

My feelings on this week’s episode of Supergirl are a bit all over the place. “Triggers” has some strong acting, an okay villain, and excellent Danvers Sisters moments, plus some character growth for Kara. Unfortunately, half the episode is taken up by a plot involving the mother and daughter from last week’s waterfront attack and the daughter might just be the most insufferably moronic child character I’ve seen in a long, long time. Also, Kara’s character growth is stamped with the words “MON-EL” because heaven forbid she make any significant strides as an individual — it’s all about the Mon-El now! Everything ties back to him. All her strong emotions revolve around him. His loss is the reason why she’s going off the rails.

What terrible luck I have that Mon-El is ostensibly gone from the show, yet I still have to write about how important he is to the show. I had no idea someone so bland could have such staying power. It’s like I’m being haunted by unseasoned mashed potatoes.


The episode opens with another song like last week, this time poppier and set to a montage of various characters waking up in the morning — Alex with Maggie, waterfront super-mom Samantha and her daughter Ruby, and Kara, alone. I’m not really sure why waking up alone is such a big deal when Kara and Mon-El were only dating for, what, a month before he was shoved into a spaceship? But I suppose it’s a reminder to Kara that Mon-El is gone, and that she was the one who sent him away. That last bit is significant for Kara’s emotional arc later on.

More than previous seasons, I think Kara is straining under the balance of her human life and her superhero alter-ego now. Even though last week’s episode ended on a positive note regarding Kara's outlook on life, it's clear that her heart just isn't in anything that's not being Supergirl and saving people. Which is why she skips out on work immediately, even though the alert she gets from the DEO is a general alert, not an emergency. Considering that Kara's new BFF Lena was starting her run as owner of CatCo, it's especially notable that Kara simply didn't want to stick around. What a shame, because she missed out on the weird tension between Lena and James. Is the show going to make them a thing? Like, a romantic thing? Because as much as I’d like to see more screen time for the both of them, I don’t really want that.

Kara shows up just in time for an actual emergency alarm to trigger: a bank robbery in progress, being performed by a metahuman named Psi who has the ability to cause fear and panic in the people around her. Pretty easy to rob banks when all the people in your way have assumed the fetal position. Kara initially assumes that she’ll be unaffected by whatever powers Psi has, but alas! Supergirl is just a susceptible to fear as regular humans, and she finds herself panicking in a bank vault until Maggie comes in to talk her down and haul her back to DEO headquarters.

A medical evaluation tells us that Kara is mostly fine, but that she just suffered through what sounds like a claustrophobia-induced panic. Significantly, Kara dismisses the idea of claustrophobia as a “human problem” and brushes aside the fact that she used to have claustrophobia as a child. This, coupled with a panic attack she has in an elevator later (which she dismisses as something she’s too “strong” to succumb to) clues me in on the social subject clumsily stitched into the plot of this episode: stigma against panic attacks and anxiety.

Another Psi robbery pulls Kara away from her job again, and it’s revealed that even J’onn can’t psychically match this new opponent. Psi toes the line between threatening and slightly mad and it’s a pretty good mix, to the point where I wish the episode had taken a bit more time to explore her and her backstory. All we know about her is that she loves money.

I know I’d be a heck of a lot more interested in seeing more Psi than I was in seeing more of Samantha and her daughter Ruby, whose personality is more in the “too dumb to live” vein than the “narratively interesting” one. Unfortunately, half the episode’s screen time is split between Kara’s story and Samantha’s story — and half of Samantha’s story is used up by her daughter, whose obsession with her mother having superpowers leads her into all the danger.

Example danger: Ruby wanders off to a pizza place that just so happens to be in the vicinity of another one of Psi’s robberies. Rather than running away when she notices a wrecking ball randomly slamming down on buildings (the driver of the machine thinks it’s full of snakes, by the way), she texts her mom to come save her and then walks directly into the worst part of the chaos. Seriously the dumbest kid, I swear.

Throughout the episode, Kara has been dealing with the fears triggered by Psi during every attack. It started with the claustrophobia, then turned to Kara’s last memories of Krypton and her mother saying goodbye to her, and then flying through silent space toward Earth. It’s a perfect build-up of Kara’s fears — her fear of abandonment, the deep-set loss she feels over her family and her planet and everything she’s ever known, and the horrifying experience she must have endured at just thirteen years old, floating through space and not knowing if she would make it to her destination but knowing with utter certainty that she could never go home... and then in the final fight against Psi, it’s revealed that Kara’s previous fears were just a mask over her true deep, all-consuming fear of having killed Mon-El when she sent him away on that ship.

And, okay — thinking to might have killed someone you love? Totally terrifying, I get it. But does that really eclipse Kara’s personal experiences with genuine, horrifying events? Like, say... the loss of an entire planet?

Furthermore, the way they finally deal with the panic/anxiety Psi causes is “mind over matter” which — hey, Supergirl? My anxiety medication begs to differ on that front. But I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume your underlying message here wasn’t that mental health issues can be solved by pep talks and positive thinking, even if your fear-based psychic villain gets defeated that way. Considering the earlier conversation between Kara and Alex, in which Alex explains that panic doesn’t have to define the people who experience it, I think the show is coming from a genuine place. That makes up for a lot.

Anyway, it turns out that Samantha is taking over for Lena at L-Corp while Lena’s working at CatCo. So that’s her role in the show answered for. Also, Samantha didn’t get to show off her superpowers while saving her daughter this week because Kara swooped in to stop a wrecking ball from crushing the little girl just before confronting Psi for the last time, but she finds a crowbar in her garage (because everyone has a crowbar, right?) and attempts to bend it. It doesn’t bend. I kinda wish the show wouldn’t release so much info in promotional materials, because this scene would’ve been intriguing if I didn’t already know Samantha is an alien.

Next week: J’onn has to go to Mars!

Other Things:
  • Mon-El chose the oddest section of Romeo and Juliet to underline for Kara: “The Brightness of her cheek would shame those stars—” he didn’t even finish it! The sentence continues on the next line! He found her cheeks to be the most notable and beautiful thing about Kara? You could’ve compared her eyes to heaven but you chose her cheeks, you weirdo.
  • “Winn, I saved your life!” “Yeah but like, so has everybody else here.” I can’t believe how much I’m starting to really like Winn.
  • Definitely do a DJ over a live band for your wedding, by the way. J’onn is 100% correct in his reasoning.
  • Yeah, I know that Mon-El is alive and stuck somewhere, but I really wouldn’t put it past him to not contact Kara simply because he found an entertaining vacation planet and is too busy sipping space margaritas.

1 comment:

  1. Umm...Just my thought. When you said this

    "thinking to might have killed someone you love? Totally terrifying, I get it. But does that really eclipse Kara’s personal experiences with genuine, horrifying events? Like, say... the loss of an entire planet"

    Yes. Kara lost her entire planet. But she didn't have any hand on that. That doesn't mean that the pain is lesser. But with Mon-El, look forget about what you feel about this character because like or or not, it's a canon!...anyway, with Mon-El, Kara put him in the pod. Kara sent him away to the unknown. Kara will be the one who is responsible for whatever that happens to him. Yes, what she did was necessary. But knowing Kara for the last two seasons it's not a surprise that she is blaming herself. The pain that you might have killed someone that is close to you breaks you. And Kara is someone who wouldn't kill her worst enemy. So go figure.