March 28, 2016

Thoughts on Supergirl 1x18 “Worlds Finest”

There’s been a lot of buzz about this one, and the marketing and sneak peaks have been more overt and numerous than normal! I for one was really excited about this, and I think it did a good job overall. There are problems to be sure, but the sheer enjoyment factor and novelty of having a crossover like this does overshadow those somewhat.

Also, just as a quick disclaimer, I don’t watch Flash. I’ve heard it’s quite good, and based on Grant Gustin’s performance here I am now even more inclined to give it a go, but yeah, I have no prior knowledge of the show besides what I’ve read about and heard, so this was, for all intents and purposes, my introduction to the Flash character.

As with most any Supergirl episode, the strengths come from the cast and the character-based scenes and dynamics that pepper an otherwise run-of-the-mill story. I liked Kara’s and Barry’s interactions a lot. The interviews and behind-the-scenes stuff made this feel like everyone involved was not only putting their best foot forward (exemplified quite well in the finished product), but also that they seemed to really believe in this project, wanted to have fun with it, and genuinely cared about what they were doing. This is in contrast to the recently released Dawn of Justice, wherein everyone seems to sleepwalk through a grim and depressing script. Supergirl’s been pretty hoss about throwing shade to the DC Expanded Universe’s darker take on the lore, and this episode is no exception. The fun factor and enjoyment that the script and the actors and the director imbue into this episode just makes how dark the DCEU is that much more bizarre, and it’s nice to see a crossover where two superheroes get along and are just genuinely happy people who know how to work with each other. Remembering to have fun seems to be this episode’s point, if it has one at all, directed at the DCEU.

Barry Allen has good chemistry with the cast in general too. His interactions don’t feel forced or shoehorned in like I was afraid they’d be; sometimes in event episodes like this, the script and the actors can come across as being too aware of what this is out of universe, but everyone handles the event with a subdued giddiness which I liked a lot! Melissa Benoist and Grant Gustin are great on screen together, their obvious off-screen friendship and professional acting history seeps through and just gives the whole thing more verve and life that pumps up an admittedly weak villain-of-the-week story.

There are some good scenes that feed naturally into the wider narrative that’s been going on throughout the last few episodes of Supergirl too. Kara reflects on how she’s tried to win back the city’s trust to no avail, and Barry points out that she’s forcing the solution with her too-quick, one-and-done solutions, when she needs to slow down and cement herself as a hero again. I like this exchange because it serves as side-eye at Man of Steel and especially to Dawn of Justice, but even more importantly, it could be a conscious recognition by the writers that they’ve tried to force storylines and arcs onto the show itself when it was doing just fine anyway. Does this signify a change coming for the narrative of the show? I’m not sure, but given the ending for this episode, I’m confident that the writers are pulling the show back onto a more solid track, recognizing that they have good ideas that are worth exploring. And I like too that this seeming admission was worked into the episode itself, but again didn’t feel obnoxious in its inclusion.

The best scene in the whole thing for me was when Kara saves the helicopter from destruction and all the civilians rush over to her aid when she collapses. It gets kinda over the top after that, but even then, the spirit of the scene was good! It reminded me a lot actually of Spider-Man 2, when Peter stops the train and all the people step in front of him to defend him. Just, scenes like this make me smile because they serve as a reminder of who Supergirl is fighting to protect in the first place, and having the populace rally around her seemed again like a conscious effort on the part of the writers in reassuring audiences that the show itself is now going to pick up steam. Very well done.

Finally, the looming romance between James and Kara comes to a head, and it’s good! I liked this coda actually a lot more than I thought I was going to; I felt it eased us nicely back into the Supergirl episode/universe proper, realigning us to the show without Flash there, and brought back the season bad guys and gave us a good cliffhanger. I hope to God the writers can deliver on this one!

The things I didn’t like? Most definitely almost everything having to do with the villains. Siobhan’s story is okay but hamstrung by a weird origin that felt like they wanted it to be true to the comics but also align with the more light tone of the show. The origin comes out of nowhere and goes nowhere, serving its purpose only but without much of a follow-through. The only good moment for me was her turning against Winn, a moment that worked because the two characters had had chemistry built up over the course of several episodes. And Winn’s own character gets to shine a little bit as he pleads with Siobhan to be a better woman than her father was a man. It was some great acting and good interaction! Livewire doesn’t work here very well; I understand what they were trying to do by having the villains team up as well as the heroes, but this character never gelled with me in her introductory episode and doesn’t add much to this one either. Her fight with Flash is brief and confusing, more of a fancy light show than anything, and honestly she was the weakest character in this episode. The motivations for the two villains was also poorly set up; not a fault of this episode exactly (Siobhan’s hatred always seemed petty at best to me), but the script hinged on previous setup too much instead of expanding that further to give us a greater sense of why these two women would go so far. This was akin to Eddie Brock’s hatred of Peter Parker in Spider-Man 3 for me, just taking things way too seriously and for very little payoff.

Those problems aside, however, the episode flows pretty well. The novelty factor is certainly at play here, and if I watch this again later on down the line, I might feel differently about it without rose-colored glasses on my face. But for now, I enjoyed it. I’m sure I’d enjoy it even more if I were watching Flash also, but perhaps this is to the show’s benefit, signifying that even someone like me who doesn’t watch Flash found himself enticed by the Barry Allen character. I think this was a success in the same way Sam Wilson’s cameo in Ant Man was a success, though done much better than that: this was fun, enjoyable, and smile inducing, but was marred by a script that relied probably too heavily on that instead of standing on its own with the Flash as an enjoyable addition. An enjoyable episode to be sure, which was refreshing after this weekend’s terrible Dawn of Justice movie. Everyone behind this project felt like they put all their passion and energy into this, and to paraphrase Christopher Nolan, if I’ve seen that you’ve put that much time and energy and that much of yourself into a picture, I’ll probably respect you for it. I know the difference between a project that tried its best and didn’t quite make it and a project that just didn’t try at all. “Worlds Finest” is clearly in the former category (indeed perhaps a tier or so above it), and I’m so happy about that!

Looking forward to the next episode of course! Coming in on the last leg of the season! Expectations are high!!

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