Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Supergirl 1x20 Review: "Better Angels" (Hope Springs Eternal) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

“Better Angels”
Original Airdate: April 18, 2016

The term “better angels” has popped up a few times on Supergirl, usually as a way for one character to implore another character to do good, so I thought them naming the finale episode after it was a nice little touch. It follows the trajectory that Supergirl set itself upon, with an emphasis on the lighter side of superheroes in media rather than the dark, gloomy, angst-ridden stuff we keep seeing over and over again. An appeal to one’s “better angels” is to turn toward the light rather than the dark, to act altruistically rather than selfishly, and to – here’s the watchword of the episode  – hope, rather than falling into despair.

Supergirl’s execution of its primary message was… to be honest, it was kind of messy. The pacing of the episode wasn’t stellar, the action was misleading, and the speechification was coated in a thick layer of delicious, delicious cheese. But, with all that said, the bonus points I give for this superhero show actually allowing their hero be a hero – a self-sacrificing, hopeful, good, honest hero – balance out the bad enough that “Better Angels” comes off seeming better than it technically is.


The fight between Kara and Alex we were promised at the cliffhanger last week amounts to a few thrown punches and Alex getting talked down by her mother. Yes, that’s right: the all-powerful, unstoppable force that is Myriad – which was so terrible and unspeakable that Kara’s hologram AI shut down when she mentioned its name – can be averted by a motherly talking-to. Did no one on Non and Astra’s team think to test this thing against all possible retaliation? Myriad is basically a Care Bears villain, except at least the Care Bears usually shot their opponents with rainbows or whatever. This Kryptonian super-weapon fell apart because of pretty words.

And speaking of pretty words: the team needs to snap everyone else in National City out of their Myriad stupor, so they’re prepping all the pretty words! More pretty words than you could ever imagine! With the help of Maxwell Lord and CatCo’s broadcasting facilities, Supergirl and Cat Grant get the plan they’d briefly mentioned last episode up and running. Kara speechifies into the camera about what she thinks of Earth and the people of Earth while a still image of the Supergirl logo fills every computer screen. So, yeah – the all-powerful threat of Myriad gets taken out by a still JPG image of the Supergirl logo and a very eloquent speech. Clearly, Myriad is that bully who’s only tough as long as you don’t fight back – or, I suppose a better metaphor would be that bully who’s only tough until you offer to give them a hug.

I have to fess up, though, and admit that Kara’s speech was basically everything I want from a Kryptonian hero – Supergirl, Superman, is doesn’t really matter. I’ve always liked the idea of these Symbolic Heroes, who are formed out of a belief in the good of human nature and defined by the affection that the Kryptonians have for their adopted planet of Earth. Kara monologuing about her love of the people in National City? About her faith in human free will, individuality, and spirit? I’m on board, people. Cheesy music, over-repetition of the word “hope”, deus ex machina save and all.

Since Myriad is conquered within the first five or six minutes of the episode, there are – of course – repercussions and new troubles to deal with for the rest of the finale. Indigo and Non (who are apparently a couple? Indigo calls him "my love" so… when did that happen, exactly?) plan to take over the universe because that’s what villains do and they’re both incredibly unoriginal. Everyone who had been affected by Myriad gets turned into ticking time bombs, as indicated by their splitting headaches and Maxwell Lord flat-out telling them that heads will be exploding soon if they don’t find a way to stop whatever Myriad-related signal Non & Co. are releasing.

Okay, uh… head explosions are the problem now. Got it. It was Alex first, then it was mind control, and now it’s head explosions. Have I mentioned that the plotting and pacing of this episode isn’t the best?

Maxwell Lord shares some science: Myriad gets into the brain, allowing for the mind control. Increasing its frequency, with the waves already implanted in the human neural tissue, will super-kill everyone infected with the signal. “That’s like using an uzi on a mosquito,” says Maxwell Lord, proving that his metaphors are as terrible as his personality. Pretty sure using an uzi on a mosquito is a very ineffective way to kill a mosquito, dude. Still, it’s clearly a problem.

The good news is that the source of the Myriad brain-explodey signal could be found and stopped. The bad news is that no human can go near the signal, both Superman and J’onn J’onzz are injured or otherwise out of commission, and it might be a suicide mission for even Supergirl to attempt – especially if she has to do it on her own. Ever-tenacious, Kara accepts the possibility of her demise as something she’s willing to risk if it means saving her city and the whole world from the Non’s nefariousness.

Even though Kara asks Maxwell Lord to keep the slim chance of her survival – and the impending cranial explosions of everyone in the city – a secret so that no one worries, she goes around and basically says goodbye to all her friends. Hey, Kara? You don’t think your gloomy declarations of friendship and thankfulness might make a few people suspicious about the fate of you and/or the world? Because if one of my friends came up to me and started talking about how much I meant to them, I would assume one of us was dying. Just saying: play it a little cooler next time, would you?

Maxwell Lord and DEO techs manage to locate the source of the Myriad signal and, by extension, the “home base” of the Kryptonians. It’s in Nevada, which makes no sense until General “Angryface” Lane exposits that the U.S. government had just, you know, left the alien Fort Rozz spacecraft in freaking Nevada because it was too heavy to move. What in the world, General Angryface? You couldn’t have informed the DEO and Team Supergirl of this fact earlier? He knew perfectly well that they were looking for the hideout of Non and his followers, and he didn’t think that maybe Non would take shelter in the crashed ship?

Of course there’s a big battle between Kara and Non – well, the team of Kara and J’onn J’onzz against the team of Non and Indigo – and it’s happening as the Myriad signal increases, adding a serious ticking clock element to the episode’s ending. The battle between Non’s team and Kara’s team is actually a good one (poor flying effects that make the Kryptonians look like cartoon characters notwithstanding), but Supergirl doesn’t make a habit of emphasizing action over emotion. The real finale lies in the way that Kara bravely steps into her role as one of Earth’s heroes – the only hero available to them at the time – and accepts that beating the bad guys and saving the world might mean dying in the process.

After winning some laser-eye fighting against Non and J’onn literally tearing Indigo in half, Kara realizes that the Earth still isn’t saved because they can’t stop the signal. She carries the Fort Rozz ship out of Earth’s atmosphere, since it’s the only way to make sure that the signal is too far out of range to hurt the humans on the planet below, which saves the world… But then Kara’s stuck out in space, with no air and no atmosphere and no way to get back home again.

Until we see Alex in Kara’s Kryptonian pod, coming to the rescue! How’d she get there so fast? How’d she get Kara on board without sucking all the air out of the pod, thus killing Alex instantly? Shut up – this is a comic book show, and we don’t have to explain anything! Kara’s alive! Alex is alive! Everyone’s alive, except for that redheaded lady that died last episode whose name I still don’t remember even though I’m pretty sure they said it earlier! Woohoo!

And then, in the middle of the celebration going on at Casa de Kara, another spaceship lands and Supergirl and J’onn go to investigate. We get an inside-the-pod POV of Kara looking down in wonder, before cutting to black. What could be in the pod?! I’ve got my fingers crossed for Krypto the Superdog.

  • Cat calls Supergirl her “protege” and damn it, show, why couldn’t you have revealed that she’s known about the Kara/Supergirl thing this whole time and was just pretending to fall for the double-Kara trick? It really makes no sense for Cat to think of Supergirl as her protege without the added context of knowing she’s Kara.
  • I kind of love how much of a dork James is about Kara kissing him? Like, I’ve got issues with the whole love triangle nonsense they’ve tried playing throughout the season, but what if it had just been this the whole time – just two awkward, dorky people being awkward and dorky and clueless around each other because neither one really knows how to deal with the friends-to-romance relationship? Wouldn’t that have been a breath of fresh air in a media world overrun by love triangles?
  • We get to see Superman’s boots! How exciting!
  • “Thank you for being such a great friend. Always.” Yeah, Winn’s such a great friend! You know, except for that one time Winn shamed Kara for not wanting to make out with him and then acted like it was all her fault for several days afterward. Great friend! Always!
  • Kara kissing J’onn’s forehead is the actual sweetest thing.
  • “What the hell’s in Nevada?” “In my experience, mediocre buffets and regret.” Okay, your snark wins this round, Maxwell Lord.
  • “Take the other cuff off of the Martian.” “I got it.” Then he breaks the handcuff like it’s made of tissue paper! J’onn is the coolest, you guys.
  • I’m pretty sure physics say that you can’t hold up a huge object by one tiny point without it collapsing but… whatever. You go, Kara.
  • Cat, I know you’re well-intentioned and all, but giving Kara a windowless office and no pay raise is a terrible promotion.


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