Thursday, May 4, 2017

Supergirl Episode 219: Alex


Supergirl Episode 219, titled 'Alex', aired this week and was another episode which focused more on the characters and less on the main storyline of Daxam's impending invasion. The main arc isn't completely ignored, a crucial piece is definitely put into place here. But this is about how important Alex is to this universe.

Alex is kidnapped and we see how that effects Kara. We see how that effects Maggie. And we see how that effects J'onn. Alex is an important figure in all of their lives - sister, girlfriend, and daughter respectively. And when she is put in peril, we see just how much Alex is the rock these characters rely on.

One of the underlying themes of this episode is seeing how different Maggie and Kara's methods are in delivering justice. Maggie is a 'by the book' detective, following procedure, and using her interrogation and investigative skills in a deliberate manner. She is aware of the long game and doesn't mind playing it. Kara, on the other hand, is a 'fly in and rescue' sort. She doesn't wait, she acts. That plays out well with this sort of over-confident Supergirl we have seen this season.

And while there can be times when either method are needed (in fact that plays out a bit), these women are a bit entrenched in their style. And the friction that arises when they disagree impacts Alex who loves them both. It gets a little awkward.

I also have to applaud Chyler Leigh as Alex who not only plays the personal moments extremely well but also shows how resourceful she is as an agent. You see why Alex has her position in the DEO.


Lastly, I love that the writers throws long time fans some Easter Eggs. It makes me happy.

On to the episode!


The difference in Kara and Maggie's approaches is put on center stage in the first scene. We see Maggie embroiled in a long negotiation with bank robbers who are holding hostages. She has been at it for 17 hours. And then Supergirl crashes through the roof and flies out with the robbers in hand. The standoff is over.

That night, Maggie and Alex have Kara and Mon-El over for dinner. When Mon-El says National City doesn't need cops any more (way to go!), Maggie shows her frustration. She was about to end the standoff peacefully. Supergirl ending things opens up an easy defense. Maggie worries about excessive force and 'vigilante justice'. Kara says anything could have happened while Maggie talked to these criminals. Supergirl ended things with everyone safe. That is a win!

In one of my favorite moments of the season, Kara says Supergirl stands for 'hope and help and compassion', clearly restating the ethos that Sterling Gates added to the legend in Adventures of Supergirl!

This difference - nuance versus action - is the key to this episode. With both Maggie and Kara steaming, Kara storms off. Alex chases her sister to try and smooth things over. And it while chasing Kara that Alex gets kidnapped.


The next morning, both Maggie and Kara are worried that Alex is missing. And Kara gets a call from Alex's cell phone. The kidnapper says that if a career criminal, Peter Thompson, isn't freed within 36 hours, Alex will be killed. And he knows Kara is Supergirl so he knows she can do it.

The DEO cannot find Alex's subdermal tracker. There is no hint of where she is in the picture sent to Kara. Supergirl and the DEO won't negotiate with terrorists. And while plenty of people know Kara is Supergirl (and what a long list - the Danvers, Lillian Luthor, all of the DEO!), the best lead is Thompson.

At the prison, Thompson is a smug guy in for life. Hank, Maggie, and Kara ("a fed, a pig, and a journo") interrogate him. He claims to know nothing about who could have kidnapped Alex. And this frustrates Kara to the point where she lashes out, denting the table in frustration. There is that lack of nuance. Maggie was willing to get him talking but this truncates the talk.

But he actually doesn't know. J'onn read his mind. He doesn't know.


Luckily, Winn was able to comb the prison files and discover that Thompson has a son named Rick Malverne. Supergirl knows this guy. She grew up with him in Midvale!!

She dashes to his apartment and sees computer screens with Alex. He is the kidnapper. Grabbing him and threatening him doesn't work, even the red angry eyes of death. He won't be intimidated. Brought back to the DEO, somehow Rick is impervious to J'onn telepathy (I have to roll with it).

Rick gives a bit of backstory. In a nice nod to the first season, we see the scene where a young Kara rescues a woman and baby from a car wreck. The boy Alex was with was Rick Malverne! He saw Kara use powers. So when Kara moved to National City and Supergirl arrived, Malverne put two and two together.

And he turns out he has a sad backstory.  He lived alone with his mother in Midvale. And she was physically abusive. His father, while a criminal, rescued him. Took him away, raised him, put him through college. And now Rick will rescue his father just as he was rescued.


Still, despite this back story, Malverne is an oily sort of sociopath. You never feel sympathy for him.

Can I just say how great it is that there is a Supergirl show with Dick Malverne!!!


While not sympathetic, he is smart. He has been planning this for years, to the point of having stalked the Danvers. He knows their patterns. He knows their secrets. And he isn't fooled when J'onn tries to imitate Rick's father. He knows about the Martian Manhunter as well.

He is a worthy foe.


As for Alex, alone in her cell, she digs out her subdermal tracker and hooks it up to the electricity of the cameras. That pings the DEO. They can now track where Alex is. When informed, Malverne seems awfully relaxed. His cool exterior makes Maggie cautious. She tries to stop Supergirl from running off but there is no stopping Kara.

Flying to the site, it turns out it was a fake out. Malverne anticipated that move by Alex and had the signal routed to somewhere else. And when Supergirl flies in, it dials back the time from 24 hours to 4 hours. Alex's cell starts to fill with water.


Once more, Kara's decision to rush in backfires. Maggie angrily yells at Kara, saying she should have listened to the career cop.

The cell filling with water is very very reminiscent if not a straight rip-off of the killer's methods in the Jennifer Lopez movie The Cell.


Malverne sits smugly, knowing his endgame has been activated. He allows Alex to talk to her family.

First Alex tells Supergirl that she cannot deal with Malverne. Supergirl, as a concept and person, is bigger than just Alex's life. I love that sense of sacrifice in Alex.

But the real power in this scene is Maggie and Alex talking. Alex, fearing she is going to die, wants to tell Maggie all the things she hasn't had time to say. But Maggie won't let her. They are just starting. There are so many 'firsts' they need to have - first vacation, first dog. It is a wonderful scene. And Floriana Lima really shows her range, crying into a laptop screen, but selling all these emotions.

With death looming, Maggie loses it, lashing out at Kara. As Alex's girlfriend, the person who 'let her be herself', Maggie should have been listened to. Suddenly, Kara realizes this isn't a problem she can punch. 

Meanwhile, there is a good subplot with Lena and Rhea. Rhea pretends to be a Earth scientist who wants Lena's help to make matter transporter gates (like the one used for Slaver World) all over Earth. She plays up a magnanimous reason.

Lena is pretty savvy, seeing through Rhea's acting, and proving it by tricking Rhea to out herself with the LCorp alien detection device. Rhea talks of dysfunctional families and her desire to get home. She says the gate could help Earth and help her get back home. Initially Lena says no but then she agrees.

One thing here is that she initially calls Kara to get her take on this offer. But Kara is too busy with the Alex problem. I guarantee this is going to come back. If Kara had the time to talk to Lena, maybe the deal wouldn't be struck. Kara promised Lena she would always be there. I am sure the gates are going to be used to bring in a Daxamite invasion force. This could be the wedge which splits Kara and Lena.

As usual, Katie McGrath kills it. She could kill a man with her little sneer.

Remember, Alex is an important part of lots of people's lives.

Kara and Maggie continue to argue about what is right to do. And Kara is scared that she is going to fail and Alex will die. J'onn tries to comfort her. But he is just as effected. I loved this moment. This is a family.


With an hour left, Malverne realizes that Maggie might be the one to actually act. Maybe she is key, not Kara.


And then there is role reversal.

Maggie adopts Kara's methods, breaking into the prison to spring Thompson. She is pro-active.

And Supergirl arrives and adopts Maggie's methods, talking to Thompson and using nuance and influence. She says Rick will forever be damaged if Alex dies. Rick talked of love and rescue. Now it is time for the father to do the same.

Thompson thinks of a place where Alex might be being kept. And sure enough, it's right.

I like this turnabout. Maybe Maggie and Kara will understand each other a bit more now.


Time is up but Alex, who had made a floatation device out of her pants, is able to buy some seconds by breathing in the air in the pants! Those seconds prove important as Supergirl and Maggie just arrive in time to save her.

There is nothing left but the wrap up. Maggie and Alex profess their love for the first time.

J'onn casually mindwipes Malverne. Maybe a bit too casually?

And Maggie says she and Kara were a good team. But I don't know if I agree. If Thompson didn't know where Alex was, she'd be dead.

Overall, I like this episode a lot. The inclusion of the Gates' motto alone would make me love it. But the in depth look at Alex's importance, the Easter Eggs, and just the suspense of the ticking clock had me on the edge of my seat.

That said, there is bunch of things I just need to accept - Malverne's ability to thwart J'onn telepathy, the casual mindwipe, the 'good team' which I might call lucky, and Supergirl acting more like a brute wanting to bash everything was a little tough to swallow.

With just three episodes left, we have to turn to the Daxam plot. Time to don the Legion ring!

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good episode, but with several shortcomings you very accurately pointed out.

Personally I am a bit disappointed. I've complained over and again about the show lifting heavily from the Superman mythos as ignoring Supergirl's own mythos. At last -at last!- the show-writers bring another member of Supergirl's supporting cast... and they turn him into a psychopathic, scheming villain?

Sigh.

I guess I'll have to tell myself that it is good that a live-show lays down that Kara grew in Midvale, Dick Malverne was a childhood friend and her motto is "Hope, Compassion and Help". Better than having her living in Smallville, adopted by the Kents.

So... Dick Malverne has been written out-of-character, but Mon-El wasn't a party guy either.

By the way, some "fans" are still complaining about Mon-El hogging the plot and sidelining Supergirl! I'm not a Karamel supporter and I don't care for how the show has handled the Daxamite hero, but the Mon-El hate is getting annoying.

I really, really hope that Lena doesn't go evil.

And I hope we see the Legion soon!

aa3on said...

“…and Supergirl acting more like a brute wanting to bash everything was a little tough to swallow.”

I definitely agree, Anj. Did Bruce Wayne colour his cape, put on a blonde wig and take a trip to National City? Although Supergirl has been more than reckless with her powers this season, I didn’t think for one minute she would be going around breaking people’s bones and dishing out concussions. And when Maggie pointed this out to Kara, Kara didn’t even flinch with regret for her brutal methods (nor did she express empathy (which is a trait of a compassionate character); during the first season’s episode Human for a Day Kara broke her arm; she knows the pain). And then Kara said that she stands for hope and help, and Compassion? This couldn’t be more contradicting.

I can’t remember what you were reviewing, Anj, when you pointed out a page of dialogue of Superman telling Batman: ‘then we need to shine brighter.’ I loved that line so much! And I definitely agree that the more optimistic superheroes should shine brighter rather than become more violent simply because society is becoming more bloodthirsty.

This episode seamed an odd time to address Supergirl’s brutality when there was no lead up whatsoever to suggest that she was ever being brutal, reckless yes, but brutal? It was a great story, but it had no foundation. To be honest, given Kara’s learning curve in this story, I wonder if this episode wasn’t from a script intended for much earlier in the season. Or, given that Kara learned restraint makes me think also that this story would’ve actually been far better suited to the first season of the show when Kara was still learning how to be Supergirl.

Still, it was nice to see Kara learning and growing, but the timing of the specifics just seamed out of place. As I said, great episode, but it did absolutely nothing to give me confidence in the show’s writers, there’s just been no sense of balance at all this season.

Anyway, sorry for babbling on. This is just my take on it. I speak only for myself. Once again, I appreciate the platform, Anj. And a great review by the way!

Anonymous said...

Um I know this is gonna sound dense, but when did Lillian Luthor learn Kara's secret ID? Because shouldn't she use that info to coopt her daughter Lena or at least "Out" Kara Danvers to the world as part of her xenocleansing agenda?
Again another well acted ep, but I'm a little confused that Rick could block J'onn's telepathy but cannot apparently withstand a mindwipe.....as for SG's old BF being jobbed out as a villain, he was on track to be her faithful stalker when TDNAOS was scheded to morph into Superboy-Supergirl "Double Comics....and then COIE # 7 went down.
In sum a good ep thought adorned with the usual klunky writing that I've come to associate with the show, I've decided that writing Supergirl seems to be a big and ongoing challenge for the Berlantiverse creatives I just have to roll with it.
As for the finale, I am still hoping that MB busts TH in the old snoot, but my suspicion that the season will end on a "legit cliffhanger" of the old school.

JF

Anonymous said...

Hey Anj, great review and great episode except for the "failure of suspension of disbelief" parts regarding
how Rick knew all that from Kara and Alex's past, and Team Supergirl working to get Alex back. This may just
be me, but I felt Supergirl was alittle too passive / mild in her reactions and treatment of Rick -- I'm not
saying Supergirl of all people should follow through with carbonizing or beating Rick to a bloody pulp, much
as he deserved it, but something like a few superspeed trips up to 10,000feet or so hanging upside down has
been shown a couple times in the comics to be effective in eliciting information from those who are resistant
to giving it to the S Shield in the first place, and I think within the characterization of the Supers
previously. Instead, we got the part Rick realizing and belitting Supergirl, saying she can't do what it
takes to get the job done.

I heartily second it speaks volumes to the actors abilities in the first place to sell the emotions their
characters were feeling throughout that sold me this episode -- shouts out again to Melissa B, Chyler L,
Florina M, David H, et al -- and as detrimental as it may seem to others I've interacted with on and offline
about the whole AlexxMaggie romance, after the end of the episode I want them to be happy and have a life(time)
of firsts together!

I have to admit I initially missed the "hope" part of the "hope, help, and compassion" line... but watching
it again, MY INNER COMIC GEEK EXPLODED! I hope Sterling Gates watched and heard that, proud of what's he's
been and done to Supergirl! Kudos again to him!

I also had to love the "look, up in the sky!" line at the beginning... surprised no one had noticed that or
pointed that out.

As for the missed opportunity in Kara talking to Lena about (Queen) Rhea... well, can only see where it goes
from here. I'm STILL going nuts trying to figure out her endgame -- my latest theory is not to get back
to Daxam (as she claimed to Lena) but as a means to transport an invasion army to Earth with the Durlans and
Dominators. Would also fit in with her comment of "I'm not done with this world"... but that still leaves open
how Zod and Cadmus fits in? Still going to be an epic finale, but may be a alittle too hard to follow after
that point with so many people and factions onscreen.

Speaking of Zod, has anyone taken a look at the latest pics of the shooting for the finale? Great to see
Tyler H / Superman again... what worries me is there's scenes of the Supercousins battling (again)... I
thought we were over this?!


Regards

KET said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KET said...

"Rick gives a bit of backstory. In a nice nod to the first season, we see the scene where a young Kara rescues a woman and baby from a car wreck. The boy Alex was with was Rick Malverne! He saw Kara use powers. So when Kara moved to National City and Supergirl arrived, Malverne put two and two together."

There's a little more to his story than what he revealed. Rick was also the 'blind date' that dumped Kara in the very first episode of the series...and moments later, she flies off to save her sister from the sabotaged airliner. So yeah, Rick probably did the math well before Kara donned her "S" family crest.

"Can I just say how great it is that there is a Supergirl show with Dick Malverne!!!"

Well...actually, since he's named "Rick" instead, there's always the chance that the show runners could bring in a "Dick Malverne" who's a more sympathetic and likable background character later on.

Given all that, Kara did deserve to be straightened out by Maggie in this episode, as she has mostly been a 'leap before one looks' type of heroine from the beginning. Some of that rash emotionalism does come from her sister though, as Alex has often flown off the handle whenever Kara would get into trouble on her own, so it's a sibling turnabout this time around.

KET

Scrimmage said...

It seems clear that the writers intended to present Kara with a problem she couldn't solve with her superpowers, but ironically, Supergirl DID wind up saving the day by punching something... namely the glass tank Alex was drowning in. Unfortunately, that's just about the only "super" thing she did in this whole episode, mainly because the so-called “menace” this week was nothing more than Alex's non-powered former classmate named “Malverne” which is a better villain's name than he deserves.

How could this fool afford to stalk Kara and Alex “for years” and set up all these high tech “death traps” and diversions? It seems to me it would've been much more effective if he'd spent all that money, time, and resources on getting his father's conviction, or his sentence overturned or reduced. Heck, it probably would've been cheaper for him to go down to the Alien Bar and hire some supervillian to bust his dear ol' Daddy out of the slammer, while keeping Supergirl from interfering by threatening to reveal her secret identity. THAT would've made more sense than kidnapping a federal agent, and giving Supergirl a ridiculous THIRTY-SIX freakin' hours to figure out a way to find and save Alex.

This was an exercise in writing an episode around the “ticking clock” trope, where the villain goes to needlessly elaborate lengths to achieve his nefarious goals, as opposed to a more direct approach. This show reminded me of the old Batman TV series, where the bi-weekly cliffhanger had Batman and Robin caught in seemingly inescapable death traps, which turned out to be EASILY escapable by the start of the next episode.

So many problems with this story... so little time.

Why put the cameras INSIDE the tank, where a superspy like Alex could make use of them?

Why couldn't the DEO, with all its resources and technology, track the source of those video signals from Malverne's room? From the looks of his apartment, it's hard to believe his “off the shelf” computer equipment could thwart Winn's technical wizardry. He hacked an alien spaceship in five minutes, for Pete's sake! Malverne taking on the DEO is like the Best Buy Geek Squad beating the NSA!!

That's almost as ridiculous as Rick “somehow” being able to prevent the Manhunter from reading his mind. It seems it's not just Supergirl whose powers and abilities are varied from week to week as needed to advance the plot, it's EVERYBODY! Of course, that's the same challenge that comic book writers have been struggling with ever since they couldn't decide if Superman could only “...leap tall buildings in a single bound,” or if he could actually FLY!

I expect a certain amount of moralizing in a superhero story, which are essentially morality plays of “good vs evil,” but I'm really getting tired of the way this writing staff seems to feel it's their duty to teach their viewers a weekly lesson on how we should all “learn how to get along,” or “see things from someone else's point of view.” Save that “caring and sharing” stuff for the Afterschool Special! It's fine as subtext, but they were REALLY hitting us over the head with the contrived conflict between Maggie and Supergirl.

And when exactly did Maggie learn that Kara and Supergirl were one and the same person? I don't recall that conversation taking place. Did I miss something while FF-ing her scenes with Alex? It also bugs me to no end that apparently the WHOLE DEO knows that Clark Kent is Superman, since everyone around there always openly refers to the Big Guy as “Clark.” If you ask me, I think it's time for J'onn to do a little Spring Mind Wiping.


Scrimmage said...

Rhea and looks more like Lena's mother than Lillian. Why do unanswered questions like “Does Rhea have a cell phone and a credit card?” bother me so much? That's all I could think about when she told Lena she had made dinner reservations at some fancy-schmancy restaurant. How did she know about that place? Intergalactic YELP? Where did she buy her Earth clothes? How would she know the difference between Neiman-Marcus and the Gap?

I'm fascinated by how quickly Rhea has “assimilated” Earth culture, and can blend in so effortlessly, something her son struggles with constantly. Apparently, Mon-El gets his brains from his father's side of the Royal Family. And, besides being Super-HAWT (naturally, since she's played by the spectacular Terri Hatcher) what powers does Rhea have, and are they the same as Mon-El's? I've been asking that question all season, and have yet to get an answer.

Between last week's disappointing episode, and this misstep, the show is in a two week slump. Hopefully, they'll get things back on track next week.

aa3on said...

I like the old Batman TV series.

KET said...

Some replies to some questions:

"Rhea and looks more like Lena's mother than Lillian. Why do unanswered questions like “Does Rhea have a cell phone and a credit card?” bother me so much?"

It shouldn't since the DEO can impersonate the FBI with merely a flick of their badges.

"That's almost as ridiculous as Rick “somehow” being able to prevent the Manhunter from reading his mind. It seems it's not just Supergirl whose powers and abilities are varied from week to week as needed to advance the plot, it's EVERYBODY!"

J'onn's sudden inability to read Rick's mind did seem to be a too convenient hand wave to keep the plot running. However, since Rick had figured out that J'onn would attempt to impersonate his dad in advance, then he probably had some kind of dampener in place for the Martian anyway.

As far as Supergirl herself goes, the writers have been smart enough that they have avoided turning Kara into a Mary Sue who can solve anything at any time. That would make for a really boring show if she could do it all with nary a thought.

"Why couldn't the DEO, with all its resources and technology, track the source of those video signals from Malverne's room?"

Winn had trouble tracking the signal through an electronic maze of dummy accounts, IIRC. It's kind of a similar excuse the DEO has been having locating Cadmus operations through much of this season.

KET



Anonymous said...

I have a theory based on "Alex" that at season's end the big emotional sacrifice will be Mon El's forced departure into the future presumably, thus Supergirl's heartbreak will be contrasted with Sanvers' ever strengthening relationship...which in turn perhaps foreshadows a darker tone for Kara come season three.
I could be wrong....I don't like or dislike Sanvers per se, its just not all that interesting to me, its nothing new in a sci-fi superhero show, they are both decorously cute lesbians and represent no great breakthrough on US Television. People get all exercised about them mostly on entirely political grounds....that having been said, Alex's drinking THAT is interesting to me, its a corrosive human flaw and none too easily resolved (no tech in the fortress of solitude can remedy it I guarantee you) if you want a storyline with lots of possibilites thats the one to back IMHO.

JF

KET said...

"I have a theory based on "Alex" that at season's end the big emotional sacrifice will be Mon El's forced departure into the future presumably, thus Supergirl's heartbreak will be contrasted with Sanvers' ever strengthening relationship...which in turn perhaps foreshadows a darker tone for Kara come season three."

It's an interesting theory. Benoist did cite "Falling" as one of her fave Season One spisodes, because it put Kara in a dark turn, which made for an interesting characterization contrast. Melissa's recent roles outside of Supergirl have been going darker and more controversial as well (such as the Waco mini-series that she's working on right now, opposite Taylor Kitsch as David Koresh, and Michael Shannon as FBI negotiator Gary Noesner). We'll have to see what transpires with Queen Rhea's overall plotting... :)

"I could be wrong....I don't like or dislike Sanvers per se, its just not all that interesting to me, its nothing new in a sci-fi superhero show, they are both decorously cute lesbians and represent no great breakthrough on US Television. People get all exercised about them mostly on entirely political grounds."

Actually, Sanvers is more of a phenomenon that is resonating heavily among shippers on social media platforms, especially young women who can relate to the delicate, soul-searching experience. This is why this year, Supergirl was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Drama Series....which is also in keeping with Supergirl comics in the past, which GLAAD also cited as well.

KET

Anonymous said...

And I'm glad for those awards don't get me wrong, I just hear the other voices out there thats all, and I stand by my comment Maggie-Alex aren't really groundbreaking in a meta sense....but then I feel sure they'll still be there in season five long after Mon El is gone and we are trading "Brainiac Five" or "Derek Ames" casting ideas....
:)

Let me reiterate, I want Helen Slater in this show as a full cast member....she exudes serenity we could use that on TV today....

JF