Season One, Episode Fourteen – “Truth, Justice, and the American Way”
By Molly Jane Kremer. As the title likely suggests, Supergirl‘s latest episode sheds some light on interesting ethical questions. It hones in on the morality we tend to project on our heroes, and places its focus on the consequences of taking shortcuts on the way towards justice.
But mostly, it focuses on keeping a human being – even if they are a major-league baddie – locked up against their will with no due process, or any other semblance of jurisprudence. (It’s something, you know, the staff of S.T.A.R. Labs should look into.) The DEO has had Maxwell Lord locked in a glass tank for the past couple episodes, but it’s been long enough in Supergirl’s world for Cat Grant to actually come to suspect foul play. It takes Jimmy giving Kara a pep-talk/reality check for her to realize that, hey—locking a dude up in the DEO’s basement? Maybe not be such a cool thing to do.
It’s certainly more political commentary than I thought I’d ever see on Supergirl (even if it’s ten or so years past being topical), but I’m glad they’re trying to delve into more interesting, moral complexities. And all this talk of the necessity of being morally above any questionable behavior could be a subtle dig at the idiotically loose ethics of Man of Steel. Or not. (But I’d like to think it is.)
WHAT WORKED: This week’s episode doesn’t necessarily score feminist points in the antagonistic relationship between Kara and the newly introduced Siobhan Smythe (Italia Ricci, sadly sans the character’s Irish accent). But this episode—written and directed by women—greatly emphasizes the supportive and caring relationship between Kara and her adoptive sister Alex, and serves as a balm for the harsh depiction of Kara’s (newly hostile) work environment. Supergirl needs this great example of women helping each other up instead of tearing each other down, so at least the ickiness between Kara and Siobhan can be countered with Alex and Kara’s positive relationship as sisters.
WHAT DIDN’T: I really don’t like that Kara and Siobhan have become rivals for the same job. As a character who often talks about the difficulties and hypocrisies involved in being a modern woman, I find it off-putting that it’s Cat who perpetuates a harmful cliché in such a childish manner by pitting the two women against each other. Society, and pop culture, tries to propagate the idea of constantly competitive women instead of showing them finding common ground and working together. To force a character as steeped in compassion as Kara into catty one-ups-manship is extremely disappointing. Within all that, Siobhan is muuuuch more obnoxious than she needs to be, but it’s just Supergirl‘s occasional habit of playing to the back of the room. It’s CBS, after all. I just wish the show didn’t have to remind me once an episode.
Watching Jimmy rediscover his journalistic integrity on the balcony while chatting with Cat was one of the episode’s best scenes, and Mehcad Brooks puts on a fine performance for most of the episode. It’s only at the end, when Jimmy uncharacteristically asks Kara to let him tell Lucy about her secret superpowered identity, that I raised an eyebrow. It’s a ridiculous thing to have him ask her, and exceedingly selfish of him—if being involved with someone wearing an “S” got you in trubs last time, maybe you should avoid people wearing those big red capes, instead of asking Kara to endanger her family and other friends by revealing her identity? Way to perpetuate unnecessary drama just for those last seven episodes, Supergirl. It feels like sloppy storytelling, and an easy way to wedge in Lucy’s (possible) descent into becoming Superwoman.
Kara: “I’m not upset.” Winn: “You just broke your phone.”
J’onn: “We could be dealing with an interstellar bounty hunter.” Alex: “You don’t think…?” J’onn: (pauses) “No, no, if he were in town, we’d know.” Sounds like they were talking about one helluva bastich. Maybe even… a Main Man.
“When you have more power than any human army on earth, you have to be better than this.” Jimmy, momentarily talking some sense.
“Ooh, I’ve wanted to catch a corrupt cop ever since we binge-watched ‘The Wire’.” – Kara. Hey, don’t bring Herc into this.
BEST MOMENT: Though it looks like we’re far from finished with freak-of-the-week episodes, Kara’s first fight with the newest baddie — The Master Jailer — was incredible. The choreography was intense, and the inclusion of Master Jailer’s chains as a weapon meant the entire sequence could go in new and creative directions. Kara appears increasingly formidable in fights, as though she’s incrementally learning how to better hero. It’s a great, and rewarding, sight to see.
EPISODE’S MVP: Jimmy Olsen had a captivating arc this week, even if it was marred by the aforementioned decision to have him ask Kara to reveal her identity. He and Cat get to have an enlightening heart-to-heart on the office balcony (it’s fun to see the two actors together, and to watch them discuss their journalistic exploits), and James gets to mull over the moral quandary the DEO has found itself in. (Not to mention the one he just walked blindly into.) His and Kara’s talk at the DEO contained some of the smartest and most interesting commentary the show has had so far: I hope the intelligence level of this part of his plot is a harbinger of things to come.
– Originally—in his various pre- and post-Crisis versions—Carl Draper was a regular human dude who was very much into (you guessed it) jails. Pre-Crisis, he even grew up in Smallville with Clark and Lana. (Check out his super-rad onesie, complete with a black and white jail-bar print. Now that’s what you call an intimidating villain.)
– “No one escapes the Master Jailer!” But what about the Master Baiter? I hear he’s good at handling tough situations. (Sorry. Sorrysorrysorry. I couldn’t help it.)
– Funny that Jimmy would be so passionate on the matter of confining Lord without due process, when over in Central City, where they have a whole bunch of bad guys and gals locked up in cells in the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator, NO ONE EVER BRINGS IT UP.
– “I thought masks were only big in that other city.” – Kara. Was that trying to be some sort of ambiguous allusion to Gotham City…? Bleh. Easy and boring reference.
– “I’m the kind of hero who believes in doing what needs to be done to keep the world safe.” Kara’s reply here had me cringing that we’d see a dip into Snyder-esque shit territory. Instead I was pleasantly surprised. Thanks for being the better piece of comics-related media, Supergirl!
– Personally, I’m pretty ding-dang sad that this Siobhan is no longer Irish. And also that the writers have decided to make her such a butthole. Ah well, at least it’ll be extra enjoyably cathartic when Supergirl smashes Silver Banshee’s face into the sidewalk…
– But seriously. How many bad guys are locked up in S.T.A.R. Labs’ Pipeline on The Flash right now? It’s definitely more than ten, right? (Whatever the number, there’s at least one prisoner who has died on their watch. — Ed.)
8 out of 10
Next: “Solitude”, soon.
Before: “For The Girl Who Has Everything”, here.