February 22, 2016

Thoughts on Supergirl 1x14 “Truth, Justice, and the American Way”

So, okay, yeah, this COMPLETELY made up for last episode… kind of.

Thematically, this was handled loads better, actually capitalizing on its themes of morality and the lengths that Supergirl is willing to go in order to keep the world safe. It’s a great theme, and having her working with the DEO and bringing that strand into the mix was a good idea. There are two very substantive debates that Kara has with Jimmy about what she’s doing with the DEO, holding a bad man hostage without due process and ignoring his rights as a human. And that’s explored well here. Jimmy says that Supergirl’s methods bring her down as a hero, saying that doing the right thing is conflicting with doing what is morally right. And Kara’s rebuttal in the DEO headquarters is telling in that she almost seems to like taking the easy way out, as if she’s tired of being heroic all the time, and that’s understandable. Symbolically, Supergirl is the type to always believe in idealism, but by working with the DEO, she’s cooperating with a system that is not in concert with that idealism, and moreover, she’s realizing that humanity is not like that all the time, and by aiding them, she’s working from within a corrupt system in order to theoretically preserve a moral compass.

It’s a good dynamic to have, and I wish they could’ve done more with it, especially in developing the conflict between J’onn and Kara; it’s false conflict, sure, and maybe they don’t want this to overshadow the inevitable fallout between Kara and Alex, but it’s something that I think should be discussed more than in a quick coda. Still, the Kara/Jimmy scenes worked, and were by far the strongest points of the episode, and the theme itself is woven through the story in a tighter way than the show normally does things, which was refreshing.

I also like that not all of the Fort Rozz prisoners are bad people. Like a lot of people who are in jail, they’re just ordinary people who’ve gotten mixed up in bad things, but whose moral center remains optimistically good. It ties in nicely with the thematic overtones of the story, and helps Kara realize that justice does not mean executing everyone who has ever done something bad but rather recognizing their good nature in spite of that bad deed and have their punishment be equal in quality to the crime. Obviously, this is an extremely simplified version of the justice system… which frankly is too big and too complex a discussion to go into here (and I’m really exhausted anyway), but the fact that this episode even brought it up and hashed it out between the various characters was great, and having the Fort Rozz people and its guard serve as literal interpretations of the things being discussed helped to hug the theme more closely to the action of the episode.

The funeral scene was nice, in my opinion. Benoist again shows how she can just make the audience cry on command, even if what she’s saying is a bit too Christianized for my taste; I’d’ve loved for her to speak in Kryptonian! Alas. I also wouldn’t have minded a bit more of a punch to Kara’s emotions with regards to Astra’s death. Like, maybe they’re saving that for “Solitude,” but come on; Astra was the last of Kara’s blood that she had a personal connection to (besides Kal El… obviously), and to dull that knife here just seems like a step backward. Maybe the writers didn’t want that to overshadow the themes they were trying to push… but I don’t know, I think it would’ve been a neat line of thinking to explore deeper. But yeah, the funeral. Good stuff there; Krypton is in some parts of its culture, if not in all of its culture, a matriarchy, and I’m glad that Non was grudgingly respectful of Kara during this and kept his word.

Finally, I guess I should talk about the villain of the piece, the Master Jailor. I’m admittedly not familiar with him; my knowledge of Supergirl comes from this show, the DCAU, and the occasional Supergirl comic, so I don’t know him all that well. As such, I was confused as to what his power set is; that first fight was pretty good, though it got old quickly because I couldn’t tell what Kara’s main objective was in trying to stop him, like his weakness. Moreover, he’s a really one-note baddie. I mean, even for this show, this villain kinda sucks. It’s entirely possible I just don’t have an attachment to the character from the comics, so maybe that’s clouding my investment in him, but I don’t know, he didn’t really work for me.

Overall, I did enjoy this episode. Lots more meat to chew on here than in previous outings, a couple of great scenes with the CatCo people (Cat Grant’s confession scene was handled really well), and Benoist was awesome of course. It just felt a bit too rushed and that climax and coda especially just really needed to be slowed down; it felt like they wanted to end the episode three different ways but couldn’t decide which one to end on, so they just kinda jumbled all three together. However, thematically, it was one of the stronger episodes for this show, and I’m looking forward to next week as always!

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