April 18, 2016

Thoughts on Supergirl 1x20 “Better Angels”

Kinda exhausted today, so this one’ll be a bit all over the place (as if these things have any structure at all).

Right off the bat, how great was that Supergirl speech at the beginning?! A bit bloated, sure, but especially the second half of it where Kara is thanking the people of National City for accepting her and making her into who she is, that was awesome! I also loved that this once again proves to be a solid synthesis of what Supergirl and Superman are supposed to stand for, to by example lead us to be better people. This show overall has nailed that quality super well, and this speech did it again. Sure, the phones were a bit much; I could’ve done with a tighter speech too, but the point was a good one. Indeed, as I was watching it, I kinda got this not-so-subtle vibe from it that seemed to be commenting on the state of films and television shows nowadays, that everything is gloomy and dark and despairing, and there was one part in here that really hit that home:
When facing an enemy like this, it’s easy to feel hopeless. We retreat, we lose our strength, lose ourselves. I know. I lost everything when I was young. When I first landed on this planet, I was sad, and alone. But I found out that there is so much love in this world out there for the taking. And you, the people of National City, you helped me. You let me be who I’m meant to be. You gave me back to myself. You made me stronger than I ever thought possible. And I love you for that. Now, in each and every one of you, there is a light, a spirit that cannot be snuffed out, that won’t give up. I need your help again. I need you to hope. Hope that you can remember that you can all be heroes, hope that when faced with an enemy determined to destroy your spirit, you will fight back and thrive.”
As is often the case, Supergirl seems to be throwing some much-deserved shade at the DC Expanded Universe’s almost parody level of “grimdark,” offering up the point that to be a hero is to not lose hope or at the least lead by example to be a better person and to thrive on that. On a meta-level, the enemy that Kara talks about could be Hollywood’s annoying infatuation with making everything grim for the sake of it nowadays; the hope she speaks of an encouragement of audiences to not lose sight of what’s important in superheroes in the first place. And that seems to be the overall message of this show, to be a better person and to actually act like a hero.

The moments between Alex and Kara worked very well as always. Benoist and Leigh have great sisterly chemistry on screen and I really felt their bond this episode. Indeed, the cast as a whole is something that I don’t praise enough and I really should; everyone on this project, especially for this episode, feels genuine and real, pulling their weight and having a ball as they do so. Great chemistry amongst this team!

I really loved how Kara saved the world. Sure, the mechanics of the climax were a bit weird (that the military would just leave Fort Roz unguarded or unsecured besides cloaking it from prying eyes just seems like such contrivance for this episode and I didn’t buy it at all). But it did make for some sweet set pieces and seeing Kara lift that thing into space was great! The effects team, like the cast, again really put their all into this one it seemed like. Just some beautiful shots of Kara set against the Earth and space, just really great! I also like how this ties into the speech given at the beginning, too. She didn’t throw down with Non for very long, dispensing him fairly easily all things considered; instead, in total contrast to the DCEU, she removed the threat from the planet instead of keeping it on the ground. While this has been done before (recently in The Avengers, but plenty of other examples exist too), I love how there was no big explosion, no lives lost here, no collateral damage. She just hauls that thing into space and that’s that. It may come off as a bit clean, but maybe that’s what we need nowadays, clean solutions to our stories especially in the face of how unclean and messy our morals and ethics are today in the real world.

Amidst all of this there was a self-consciousness in the air given that season two hasn’t been officially confirmed yet, and that played both to this episode’s strengths and to its weaknesses. I think it helped push these actors to give the most of themselves for this, and that’s great. But it also made the writing team maybe too pleading.

See, I gotta say, for a finale, this was very strung out. By that, I mean that it felt like it wanted to be more packed than it was; it had a lot of pieces, but none of them moved very fluidly and setting the plots side-by-side as they did seemed to only exacerbate the seems. Add to that a lot of the dialogue was overwrought and too sentimental even for this, it really brought me out of the experience more than I’d’ve liked. That dinner scene especially, really that should’ve been one or two quips at most, but it just felt so on the noes and pandering. Didn’t like that at all.

Broad strokes aside, I’ll credit the episode this: it succeeds very well in its small moments, as most episodes of Supergirl have. While there were several this episode that didn’t work, that were too sentimental or too self-aware or both, a lot of them did go over very well. As I said, the Alex and Kara scenes worked well, and the scenes between Kara and Cat did their job well.

As for the big mystery of the pod at the end there, I don’t know. I like the theory that this is Power Girl; maybe it’s Superboy sent up by Cadmus to crash and make it looked like he came from space, or maybe he tried to steer it and crashed it himself. I like the Power Girl idea myself, but I guess we’ll see… maybe… provided we get a second season.

And oh my god, I really want this show to get picked up for a second season!!! There are so many great little moments that the writers and cast put into this show that with the right focus and appropriate amount of risk I think they could soar high and be amazing. As it is, the first season played it incredibly safe. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but just seeing how the show inched forward in little ways a part of me does want it to take that leap on a larger level. And I think it can! It’s all right there in the show!

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