Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Supergirl 3x04 Review: "The Faithful" (Clap Your Hands If You Believe) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

“The Faithful”
Original Airdate: October 30, 2017 

It’s becoming clear that this season of Supergirl is going to go to darker, more serious places than previous seasons have gone. “The Faithful” deals with issues of faith and how religious faith in the heart of one person might lead to peaceful reflection, while another person ostensibly following the same faith might turn dangerous. Although I prefer my Supergirl on the side of cheesy optimism, I can’t resent the show for treading this particular path, as Superman (and, by extension Supergirl) has a long history of throwing in these ideas about the thin line between a superhero and a god... when they’re not making stories about inept killer robots and turning Jimmy Olsen into a lizard man or whatever. Mixing the stupid with the mythical, folks: it’s the comic book way.


The episode opens on a plane, two years ago. A grumpy drunk guy is telling the stranger sitting next to him that happiness is a lie and his wife will probably cheat on him. He’s clearly going through some stuff, but still. Rude. Suddenly the plane is crashing and everyone starts to panic, and Grumpy Drunk’s sad, vodka-tinged life is probably passing before his eyes. Lucky for him, though, that this plane crash is the moment Kara Danvers became Supergirl. She saves the plane and is seen standing on the wing by Grumpy Drunk, who looks at her with complete awe. He saw her face, and now he’s a believer.

In the present-day, Sam is watching her daughter Ruby play soccer while also fielding some work phone calls and answering emails. A lady walks up to Sam and asks which player is hers, to which Sam proudly responds, pointing out Ruby, and returns the question. The lady doesn’t answer. Bad sign! Lady proceeds to tell Sam, in a lilting voice that screams “cult member,” that she and Ruby are chosen, then hands over a weird pamphlet. Really bad sign! I assume she skedaddles before Sam does the smart thing and alerts security that there’s a non-parent creeping around at the kids’ soccer game, handing out poorly designed literature and talking like a Stepford Wife.

Sam did take the pamphlet, though, since she carried it to her office, where she’s meeting Lena to sign some papers. Kara’s there too. Kara picks up the pamphlet because she recognizes the symbol on the front as a symbol for Rao, Krypton’s god and the name of its sun. She’s curious enough to want to investigate, and Winn and James are bored enough to tag along with her to the meeting specified on the flyer (the meeting time and location is the only thing specified on the flyer — like I said, it’s poorly designed). Turns out, the meeting is for a Supergirl/Rao-centered cult, led by the guy Kara saved from that plane crash two years ago, Thomas Coville.

Kara hosts a hang-out session with all the female characters on the show, including newbie Sam. I know the show really needed to integrate Sam’s story with the main plot and there’s probably no elegant way to do that, but Sam getting invited over to Kara’s place gives me the impression that we missed a lot of friendship build-up somewhere. Has anyone else noticed that this show is very “off screen” when it comes to friendships? Like, I buy that Lena and Kara are BFFs because Katie McGrath has charisma out the wazoo and chemistry with just about everyone, but a majority of the friendship between those two comes in the form of briefly-mentioned brunch dates. The same deal seems to be happening with Sam and all the other characters. Sam’s just in the friendship circle now. Drinkin’ wine, sharin’ stories, apparently adopting Alex, Maggie, Kara, and Lena as Ruby’s... cool aunts — wait, what?

Sam asks about Kara’s relationship status and Kara goes all sad and awkward because she is reminded of the Mon-El void in her life. I’m sure the same woe is brought about by other things that remind Kara of Mon-El, like unsweetened whole grain cereal, elevator music, and the color beige. Anyway, a fire engine siren saves Kara from further socializing with the odd woman who’s perfectly okay with four almost-strangers announcing themselves as her daughter’s adoptive aunts. Seriously, guys, that was weird.

The siren leads Kara to a fire and, rather than the usual panicked gratitude, the person Kara saves is just passively happy. His girlfriend shows up and Kara recognizes her as someone from the Rao cult and, yep, the fire was an initiation ritual. Kara is understandably angry, since the guy set the fire himself and could have hurt a lot of people.

When Kara confronts Coville about the unsafe rules revolving around his cult, he does the one thing no one else can do on this show and actually sees through the glasses Kara wears, recognizing her as Supergirl. To his credit, he seems genuine when he promises not to tell anyone about her identity, but the fact is that Coville is crazytown bananapants and nothing Kara tells him will stop him from worshiping his god (and Supergirl) exactly how he thinks they should be worshiped. Turns out, he thinks they should be worshiped via large-scale danger and terrorism, thanks to a bomb he fashioned out of a Kryptonian power source he got from the Kryptonian equivalent of the Voyager probe (which is, incidentally, also how he learned about Rao in the first place).

After the confrontation with Coville, Kara sits down for a now-rare conversation with James. I’m reminded why I used to like James before the show started ignoring him, as he does his best to comfort Kara and admits, in some ways, of having an almost religious faith in the Kryptonians on Earth as well. After all, Supergirl and Superman both save people when other deities might be no-shows, and they both provide a sense of security and hope in the people around them. James has a balance between sorta-worshiping Supergirl and Superman as otherworldly, protecting forces and recognizing their Earthly presence and, for lack of a better term, humanity — a humanity which Kara seems desperate to shun this season.

By contrast, Coville sees Kara as an indestructibly divine, a manifestation of the Kryptonian god Rao, and it’s that view of her as something other than mortal that nearly kills thousands. Kara flies to the rescue but the bomb he set with the intention of initiating even more people into his cult was, unbeknownst to him, laced with kryptonite, which both incapacitates Kara and allows her the opportunity to show that she is mortal and she bleeds. I’m not sure why this is a big deal, since Supergirl has publicly lost fights in the past, but it freaks out the cultists and they flee from scene. Coville is left behind to help Alex shove the bomb into the center of the Earth, thanks to a hole created by Kara’s eye-lasers. The day is saved. Coville is super arrested.

But he isn’t all that changed by his experience. Kara visits him in jail and he actually seems kind of nice when he promises to pray for her, as he thinks it’s Rao’s will for him to help Kara on her journey. He also echoes some of the stuff Kara’s been dealing with this season, including her lack of balance and questioning her own understanding of herself.

At the end of the episode, Kara turns to the Rao religion as she knew it back on Krypton, guided by the hologram of her mother reciting prayers. On the one hand, it seems like Kara is trying to meditate and find herself again — on the other, she’s turning more and more toward the Kryptonian side of her identity, which just reminds me of the troubled state she was in during this season’s premiere.

Other Things:
  • The inevitable Alex/Maggie break-up is sad but, considering Alex’s real desire to raise kids, not unrealistic. I’m at least thankful that the show is pacing it well enough that it won’t seem like it came out of nowhere when it happens.
  • Sam’s secretly a force for evil, btw.
  • There’s gotta be a counter somewhere for all the shows that have used the song “Hallelujah.” It’s probably in the hundreds.


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