Supergirl Season 2 Reviews: Episode 14, “Homecoming”
Get ready for complicated Danvers family dynamics, because the appropriately titled “Homecoming” has plenty. So many feels. This might be our favorite Danvers family dinner scene, up to Mon El’s terrible case of foot-in-mouth disease of course. Just give us a happy Danvers family! So get ready, you might need some tissue.
Mon El wakes up alone in Kara’s bed. She flies in with coffee, which Mon El drinks, and flowers, which he discards in a lampshade. He tries to get her to play hooky from her 3 jobs helping people. She asks him not to tell anyone at the DEO they’re dating because she doesn’t want them in her personal life right now. Mon El decides this means it’s okay to tell everyone they’re dating. J’onn tells them to go to HR to fill out paperwork because they’re now dating a coworker (We love him).
Winn learns of a DEO convoy that J’onn and Kara take out. They find Jeremiah inside. Mon El is suspicious about the timing and encourages caution. Jeremiah agrees and says Cadmus has a bomb created by the heat vision they ‘mined’ from Supergirl they plan on using to take out the alien population in National City.
Jeremiah advises Winn to track Kara’s heat vision signature to find the bomb. Eliza comes to the DEO; cue heartfelt Danvers family reunion! Mon El tells Kara not to trust Jeremiah because he lived with Cadmus for so long and may be a traitor. Kara chooses to see the best in Jeremiah. She invites Mon El to family dinner so he can get to know Jeremiah. Alex introduces Jeremiah to Maggie, and he’s super chill and sweet. J’onn and Mon El join them to make the circle (mostly) complete, but for James and Winn. Jeremiah asks to join the DEO to take out Cadmus. Mon El questions Jeremiah at dinner. Kara pulls him aside to confront him; he acts like a jerk, so Kara tells him to leave. Jeremiah gently threatens Mon El by telling him that he knows who Mon El is and Kara won’t like it.
Mon El invites Winn for a drink so get him on his side about Jeremiah. Winn agrees to help but only if Mon El is a decent person to Kara. Lyra joins them and gets all cuddly with Winn (it’s cute). J’onn gives Jeremiah a tour of the DEO and leaves him in the medical bay alone; Winn sees Jeremiah breaking into the DEO mainframe. He and Mon El tell Kara, who confronts him. Jeremiah explains he was looking at case files for the past 24 months to see what Kara and Alex had been doing. He apologizes, and Winn confirms that’s what he was doing. Alex gets mad at the trio. Kara tells Alex she wants to look at all sides. Alex blames Kara’s suspicion on Mon El and being in the ‘honeymoon phase’. Alex says Kara ought to trust Jeremiah if she’s one of the family.
Mon El interrupts Lyra teaching Winn to play darts to ask him for relationship advice. Winn urges him to listen to and respect Kara. News that they’ve tracked the bomb interrupts them. The Danvers sisters lead the tactical team but find an empty warehouse. In the DEO, J’onn confronts Jeremiah, who attacks him after trying to hack the DEO. Suddenly Jeremiah has a bionic arm (?). He knocks J’onn out, shoots up the computer he stole files from, and leaves. Thankfully, Winn hid a tracker on Jeremiah and the Danvers sisters interrupt the villain meet up in the woods. Cyborg Superman blows up a bridge, to occupy Kara. Alex chooses to chase down Jeremiah. Kara saves the train. Alex confronts her dad, who says he did it for her. He says she’s going to have to shoot him. Instead of giving him a nonfatal injury she lets him go.
Winn goes to find out what Jeremiah stole. Everyone in the Danvers family is justifiably hurt and disappointed. Alex is drinking and Maggie comes by and consoles her. Kara has a blanket burrow when Mon El comes by to ‘not talk’, and he actually listens to her for once. Winn calls to tell Kara that Jeremiah stole the DEO’s alien registry (wait…when did this exist?). Lillian and Jeremiah stare at…something scary that is probably designed to wipe out aliens. Jeremiah tells Lillian they had a ‘deal’.
Best Quote: “I love you and I’ve missed you every day, but I don’t know you anymore. And you don’t know me. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere, but this is going to have to be something new. I think we’re just going to have to learn each other again.”—Eliza Danvers
Thoughts & Feelings
So, the Danvers family. We have so many feelings. This episode struck a good tonal balance for the reunion. The Danvers women exhibited a full range of emotions from shock, to joy, to caution, and all of them fit the context. Dean Cain, on the other hand, does not emote much at all. We’re underwhelmed by his performance this episode. The Danvers ladies dance circles around him pathos-wise.
We love how this episode handled the ‘long lost family member arc’, especially compared to others we’ve seen. It didn’t gloss over how hard it would be to integrate a family member back after a decade. Eliza flat out rejects the feasibility of Jeremiah’s desire to make up for lost time. She understands that mentality doesn’t work. Her desire to start something new with Jeremiah, to relearn each other and their relationship struck us with it’s honesty. It’s not the most optimistic or celebratory story, but it’s real. And that’s what we love about Supergirl: when the writing is good, it’s very, very good.
Like J’onn. Oh god, Space Dad. That level of anger from him at Jeremiah’s betrayal was fighting White Martian levels. Like…the one person to accept him for who he was, who also saved him from Real!Hank, betrayed him. And he’s not just angry for himself. J’onn went out of his way to explain to Jeremiah what Alex and Kara mean to him, how they helped him become a better person and fight for justice instead of hiding who he was. Jeremiah didn’t just betray J’onn, he betrayed Kara and Alex. No way Space Dad will stand for that. The hurt and anger in J’onn on his daughters’ behalf hurts so good.
Plus, that Danvers family dinner was probably the sweetest Danvers dinner we’ve ever seen. We would have liked to see Winn and James there, both characters who have been a part of other Danvers family dinners in the past. Jeremiah would probably love to meet two of Kara’s friends who have been with her and Alex through the worst parts of the past couple years. Still, the undercurrent of genuine happiness throughout that whole scene only made Jeremiah’s inevitable betrayal (admit it, there was no way it wasn’t coming) hurt that much more. We have bruises on our sternum from that kick to the chest.
Of course, Mon El sticking his foot in his mouth ruined the mood. Every Danvers family dinner has to have a dose of awkward and/or uncomfortable after all. It might have been marginally funny if it weren’t both rude to the whole family and disrespectful to Kara. She’d just finished reprimanding him, demanding he ‘say something nice’ (which she shouldn’t have to do). She flat out asked him not to bring it up at dinner, but to spend time instead getting to know Jeremiah. As has been his pattern this whole season, he ignored her wishes and spoke anyway. And did so in such a way that he sounded jealous of Jeremiah’s privilege instead of concerned for the DEO.
Like we keep saying, if this were the first instance of Mon El ignoring Kara’s wishes or disrespecting her, we might be content with an “I’m sorry” and “I’ll do better next time”. But this is a pattern, a pattern that stretches all the way back to “Crossfire”, 9 episodes ago. It’s a pattern within this episode! He’d been disrespecting her since they got up. We suppose him wanting to wake up next to Kara is cute, but she has three jobs. All of which are saving people. And he doesn’t so much as ask her as blurt an entitled expectation. Ought she to feel guilty that she’s out saving people instead of lying in bed? And what is this “as long as your superheroing is done for the day” business? All we got from this supposedly romantic scene was that he has zero respect for her desire to save people.
After dismissing her gesture of romance out of hand, he flat out ignored her reasonable and meticulously explained request to keep their relationship secret. No matter how ‘cute’ they try to frame his lack of respect or how ‘culturally conditioned’ he is to throw parties when people hook up, He. Still. Can’t. Listen. Mon El’s failure to respect her wishes at dinner is less of a surprise than an expectation at this point. It’s really not funny anymore, or healthy. We’re tired of the message, intentional or not, that women are responsible for coaching disrespectful and clueless males into becoming suitable romantic partners.
A big part of the problem is pacing, which has been atrocious. They’ve failed to show any significant character growth for Mon El over 9 episodes. Every time he seems to take a step forward, he takes another one (or two) backward. Him getting actual character development now feels like too little, too late. The damage has been done in terms of investment and believability. Even if he has a great arc moving forward, we will have a hard time buying or wanting it. And that won’t stop us from criticizing what we’ve seen on screen thus far. Mon El finally learning how to listen to Kara and respect her ought to have happened before they started dating, not after he insulted her to her face and in front of the DEO last episode. And then spent another entire day acting the same way.
What makes it worse is that Winn was the one to finally make it all click. Frustrated that Kara yelled at him and sent him away, Mon El makes a totally justifiable decision to get advice from Winn, one of Kara’s dearest friends. Winn proves why we love him now by telling Mon El to let Kara protect and show off herself; she does a mighty good job of it just being Kara. Mon El’s response—“then what’s left for me”—reflects the persistence of Mon El’s paternalistic and stereotypically gendered approach to dating Kara. He’s the man, he should be the one protecting her, showing her off, bringing flowers, and he resents when he cannot fill that role. It also solidifies Gretchen’s (and Kylie’s) impression that Mon El shares similar character traits with Mako from Legend of Korra.
Anyway, Winn once again gives Mon El good advice to ask Kara what she wants from him and then listen and follow through. Great job, Winn! You’re a decent guy and we like you a lot. We can tell Lyra is pleased with you, too (you lucky boy). What bothers us about this is that Winn tells Mon El all the things Kara has been telling Mon El to do. The writers most likely meant this as a “Mon El finally figures it out” moment, which isn’t bad in itself (apart from occurring way later than it should have). But if Winn basically repeats what Kara herself has said to Mon El (multiple times and in multiple episodes, we might add), what’s different this time? Winn. The implication, intentional or not, is that this time, the message sticks because a man tells Mon El how to act, not Kara herself, a woman.
And his ‘progress’ is still minimal. Mon El has a palpable need for reassurance at every tiny step forward in the final scene supposedly showcasing him ‘comforting’ Kara. She still needs to coach him, and he still make it about himself. It comes across as ‘look at me being nice and listening to you!’, especially given how it was preceded with Maggie’s instinctive and effortless consolation of Alex. We’re beginning to wonder if showing these two alongside each other is meant to make Mon El look worse somehow.
The situation with Mon El reflects oddly on Kara’s character development. She’s had the exact same argument with Mon El now that she had with him almost two months ago. Even if he makes a change for the better now, the fact that she put up with this behavior for so long reflects poorly on her. She continues to take back and believe in a person who repeatedly lies, disrespects her, and does not acknowledge her agency. It’s great she stands up for herself when he acts that way. Yes! Yay! Set those boundaries! Her dialogue is well-written, and we love it. And, she has continued to date him despite the persistence of issues she has been upset with him about most of the season. That he repeatedly apologize for, promises to change about, and then never does.
She ends up coming off as wishy-washy, precisely because she keeps taking him back. Every time she lets him treat her that way, even when he apologizes and promises to change, she looks a little bit weaker. Her arguments fall a little bit flatter the inevitable next time she has to have them. And what guarantee do we have that this time will stick when no other time will? The main basis for their relationship thus far has been the tension and chemistry derived from their disagreements. We’re not sure we have faith that the writers won’t fall back on more Mon El asshole behavior to ‘spice things up’. Though maybe the upcoming Mon El prince of Daxam reveal will take the place of that.
One other point, Mon El being right in the end underhandedly justifies him being an asshole to Kara and her family. It’s okay that he acted that way, because he was right. Kara should have listened to him. He has good instincts, but is not a healthy emotional support for his girlfriend (*cough* Makorra). Yet, he knows how to have a non-dickish conversation about it, just look at the scene with Winn. Mon El made sense, was calm, and didn’t devolve into insulting behavior or being disrespectful. Is it really just impossible for him to be gracious to Kara when they talk? Intentional or not, what we’re getting here is that he has more respect for Winn’s advice and intelligence than he has for Kara.
All of these factors combine to make the romance between Kara and Mon El deeply frustrating to watch. Kara repeatedly having to spell out boundaries only to have them ignored again and again is not enjoyable content. If Kara were our friend in real life, we’d sit her down for an intervention: spell it out for him, lay out the consequences, and stick to them. He isn’t going to learn anything without consequences, clearly.
Another reason to dislike all this drama with Mon El is that it’s throwing more weight on the already strained relationship between Alex and Kara. We’re still pretty damn irritated that the writers had Alex tell Kara to go for it with Mon El, especially since Alex has witnessed most of his less-than-stellar behavior or has surely heard it from Kara. But Kara and Alex’s friendship hasn’t exactly been seaworthy this season. They have a big ol’ wedge between them that has just been simmering in the background for 12 episodes, and precious little attention has been paid to it.
We are glad that this conflict took a backseat when Alex was figuring out her feelings for Maggie. That was lovely, and required. But we’re approaching the back-end of the season and we still haven’t even really started to address Kara’s abandonment issues, which are clearly clouding her better judgment when it comes to Mon El. This has been a huge undercurrent through the entire season, but they’ve yet to do something of real substance with it. Time’s a’wasting, Supergirl. You are running out of time to wrap up this arc, if you intend to address it at all.
Alex has some issues simmering on the backburner as well. We’ve mentioned it in passing a few times, but it’s getting to the point that Alex’s drinking habits are really worrisome. Hats off to Chyler Leigh for nailing the portrayal, especially considering her personal connections to the subject matter. It feels like Leigh has a specific reason she’s portraying Alex this way.
Last season we had an explicit flashback to when J’onn saved Alex from a DUI by recruiting her to the DEO. This season, we have had a lot of shots of Alex working her way through a bottle of hard liquor by herself. She was absolutely hammered at Thanksgiving, and eagle-eyed viewers will notice that she stole the whiskey out of Kara’s freezer when nobody but the camera was looking. That’s in addition to all the wine she coiffed at dinner. And the beer Kara took away. She’s almost always got some form of alcohol in her hand unless she’s at work, and this episode she jumped up real quick when Jeremiah offered to make drinks.
At the end of tonight’s episode, Alex is once again wobbling her way through a bottle of hard liquor, alone. We don’t really know if she invited Maggie over or if Maggie just stopped by (we do know the Danvers sisters need to lock their damn doors, please!). We loved Maggie’s reaction. Her stopping Alex felt like a subtle way of displaying that Maggie understands it’s a maladaptive coping mechanism. She tries to get her to talk instead of drinking, and when that fails, she goes for full-on soothing nicknames and hugs. We take full offense that this was juxtaposed the scene with Kara and Mon El. These two situations were not even remotely analogous because Maggie doesn’t need Winn to tell her to listen to her girlfriend. She gets it.
Anyway. Back to Alex’s drinking. It has us worried because this is a deliberate acting choice on Leigh’s behalf, and likely a directional choice as well. If they are building up to something with this, we’re finding ourselves checking our watches. Once again, time’s a’wasting, Supergirl. You can’t just leave this hanging around in the open and not do anything with it.
Not that we want a PSA about alcohol. Considering how badly Arrow managed to flub a Very Special Episode on the same subject matter, we can understand the writers’ hesitance to commit to this as a canon plot. But you can’t deny it’s all there. Alex checks off an alarming number of the warning signs for alcoholism, and we are really hoping that the writers aren’t just going to let this float around in the background like it’s no big deal. This is a very big deal. This is something that honestly should have been inching its way into the plot five or six episodes ago. We want to believe this is actually going to go somewhere, but with the pacing being so horrendous all-around this season, we would put even money on it never being addressed at all due to time constraints.
Alex’s scripting in season 2B is really just one more example of a larger problem. The show has way too many balls in the air, and it’s dropping them all over the place now. Whether or not you are interested in the Mon El plot/romance (we obviously are not), you must admit it is a tight fit in a season that was already bursting at the seams with plots. We have the Alien Amnesty Act (we’ll get to that one in a little bit), the Guardian plot, the Cadmus plot, the Luthors Legacy plot, the Sanvers coming out plot, etc. etc. etc.
We’ve wasted 9 episodes of the season on Mon El that could have gone to fleshing out any of the other plots we already have going with previously established characters. We got M’gann for what felt like 30 seconds at best, who would have been an infinitely better use of this time than Mon El’s undeserved redemption arc. James’ Guardian arc could also have been smoothed out with more screentime, a plot that we very much wanted to work better than it did.
Look, we don’t actually know who’s fault it is that Mon El is such an attention hog, or why he was written this way in the first place. It’s probably not the network, because to be perfectly blunt this kind of writing is pretty typical of the other DCTV shows. He’s not the devil, he’s just a douchebag. In fact, he’s not even that atrocious of a douchebag, it just stands out more because of the type of show Supergirl used to be. It’s not that Kara isn’t allowed to have a love interest, but… you know. She had one. One that was much better than this.
We’re tired of him because he’s flipping boring, to put it simply. He’s boring and he’s stealing screentime from the half-dozen other plots that are much more worth exploring. We’re trying to be as professional and diplomatic as possible about this, but it’s kinda hard because he’s just… nothing. He has the substance of whitebread and holds up about as well under pressure. Elizabeth is still holding out hope he’s going to die heroically, but she will accept a demotion to tertiary character. Just fix this awful narrative detour and don’t make the same mistake next season, Supergirl writers, alright?
- Two episodes in a row without James 🙁
- Mon El’s “What a gentlemen” line was kind of weird. It almost felt like an underhanded insult.
- Seeing J’onn J’onzz fight as a Green Martian is so badass. We love him phasing through things
- I dig the fancy thumb drive they used, even if it I’m not sure it would work.
- We kind of knew that Mon El’s dad, the king of Daxam, would be a bad dude since he’s played by Kevin Sorbo.
- Why did Jeremiah’s bionic arm not show up on scans? Alex says something about nerve damage being extensive, but that begs the question of how they didn’t notice the big metal shafts in his arm while poking his nerves to assess the damage? We headcanon that it gives off fake X-rays.
- We have so many feelings about the casual way that Eliza calls Maggie “sweetie”.
- “There’s no man on earth good enough for Alex Danvers, so it would have to be someone like you.” Squeee! What a good dad.
- We also love how Maggie flatters herself when she says “Alex deserves the best”.
- I will never understand the “you’ll have to shoot me” false dilemma. Just shoot him in the kneecap, Kara will be back soon. That’s all you need to do. To be fair, Alex is still using that badass Noisy Cricket-esque gun she nabbed from the Slaver Planet, so a single shot would easily take off a limb. But she’s got to have a regular sidearm, right?
- Props for Dean Cain threatening Mon El. And Winn. Geez, this many people telling Mon El to be decent to Kara ought to say something about how unhealthy that relationship is. Everyone sees you jerkface!
- Whoever chooses Kara’s wardrobe keeps putting her in very…um…queer coded outfits.
- That railroad scene…*swoon*. We love seeing Kara be strong. It had an Atlas-like feel to it with the railroad tie on her shoulder.
- Oh, and we adore Winn/Lyra.
Pacing issues galore. We’re a bit confused by the existence of the National Alien registry. The last time this came up on the show was in Episode 3, where one of the villains opposed alien amnesty on the grounds that it would result in registration. So now this registry actually exists. And zero waves or fuss has been made by any of our characters. Which is, quite frankly, bullshit. No way Kara, J’onn, M’gann, Alex, or James would not notice this being put into place, much less store that list in the DEO. And do so without argument. We’re scratching our heads at how we’re meant to swallow such a huge jump forward in a plot we haven’t seen mentioned since Episode 3.
There ought to have been multiple and heated discussions regarding the ethics of an alien registry. In our Episode 3 review, we were hoping to have a full fledged discussion about that, given its similarity to the plot of the Marvel film Captain America: Civil War and the comic event the film was based on. We expected Supergirl to tackle the concept of creating an alien registry with greater depth and sensitivity, not fast forward to it’s existence to be used as a minor detail in service to a greater plot point. It ought to have been the plot point for most of this season, not a footnote.
And that has us thinking: what actually have we gotten out of the intervening episodes? We’re not saying cut everything. We got some great emotional beats and some lovely character growth. We wouldn’t lose the Martian healing arc for the world, or Sanvers. But, much of the Mon El and Guardian arcs from the past 11 episodes could have been cut, which would have made greater space to explore the social implications and complexities of xenophobia and alien refugees as Kara and the DEO took on Cadmus. Kara’s work with the DEO could have dovetailed with her and James at CatCo leading the media charge for truth and defending alien amnesty. Although they might have been able to fit the Guardian in this season, it really should have been saved for S3 James, as a CatCo arc for both him and Kara would have fit much better.
It all comes down to pacing. The pacing of the main conflict with Cadmus is as uneven and inconsistent as Mon El’s ‘growth’ arc. We have 8 episodes left in the season to deal with an arc that ought to take at least 12-15 to handle well. They just might be able to squeeze it in with what we have left, but the Cadmus anti-alien story really ought to have more room to breathe given its socio-cultural relevance in American society.
The show had a very excellent opportunity to be topical with its themes this season, and even we must admit they couldn’t have possibly dropped the ball harder on this. We’re currently living in a terrifying dystopian reality where travel bans are real, ICE is going AWOL, and a registration list for Muslims is starting to seem like an inevitability instead of a nightmare. The 3A plot for Supergirl is filled with narrative analogs for immigration and the immigrant experience in the US. This is such a slow pitch, Supergirl, why aren’t you swinging at it?
Sophomore seasons for television shows are often a bumpy ride. In addition to being a season 2 show, Supergirl also had to adjust to a network shift. We understand the logic behind a lot of the missteps this season, but we really want to see some concentrated effort on fixing these missteps going forward. If we must be stuck with Mon El, stop telling us he’s going to get better and actually make him get better. Of his own volition, preferably, though we suppose that would be arguably out of character for him at this point. We also need to take some pruning shears to the B plots in the future. It’s okay to save things for later seasons, guys. We would prefer it, actually.
Tune in next week for Alex being a badass, more complicated Danvers family dynamics, and Cadmus kidnapping aliens!
Images Courtesy of The CW
Fall 2017’s TV Successes and Disappointments
November is a fun time in television. While shows are winding down for their winter hiatuses and networks are picking up scripts or pilots for next year’s shows, they’re also ordering “back 9s” for new shows premiering each fall. That is, the 9 episodes to bring a 13 episode series order to a full season. (Though the first full season of a show can run as short as 16 episodes these days.) Getting a back 9 generally indicates high renewal chances if the ratings stay good enough for the network. Renewals and new show pickups are announced in May during Upfronts.
Upfronts this year was a weird time. The major broadcast networks picked up the least number of new shows in five years. 19 of the shows cancelled were one season and done. Though we’re only three months into the 2017-2018 TV year, I have a feeling next May will have similar results.
After all, of 19 new shows, only 8 received back 9s/full season orders. Only two of those have received second season pick ups thus far.
ABC’s The Good Doctor received a full season (18 eps) pick up after only two episodes. Its success is unsurprising because last year’s hit was a family feel-good (though very dramatic) show. I can’t speak to the actual content but it’s clear that somewhere, a lot of Nielsen families are loving it; its yet to move below a 1.8 in the 18-49 demo, which is the most important piece of measuring a show’s success.
There’s only been one other success not related to an already existing franchise, and that’s Fox’ The Orville which received a second season renewal halfway through its first season. CBS’ Young Sheldon, a prequel to BBT received a full season pickup after one special premiere airing, and NBC’s Will and Grace revival received a renewal before even airing its first new episode.
Everything else. No, really.
ABC had two “limited season” shows that if successful would have likely seen a second year. Unfortunately, the network pulled Ten Days in the Valley from the schedule, and will air its remaining episodes in December. The much maligned Inhumans just finished its season but with terrible ratings, barely making a 0.5, and on ABC nonetheless.
The network did give a few more episodes to Kevin (Probably) and The Mayor. This likely only indicates the need to fill airtime. Kevin‘s additional episodes give it a full season (16 eps) but The Mayor is finished.
Me Myself and I holds the honor of first cancellation this year, and 9JKL received three more episodes. That really only means the network doesn’t want to open the timeslot up yet. Consider it done, too.
Among the three dramas, two are very slight renewals. Both Seal Team (22 eps) and S.W.A.T (20 eps) received back 9s, but neither have ratings to call home about. CBS expects a 0.9 demo later in a show’s life, but not within six and three episodes respectively.
Wisdom of the Crowd’s ratings were subpar and with the allegations against lead Jeremy Piven, there’s no way the show was going to get a back 9. It didn’t even garner a mention in the first press article from CBS.
Sigh. Valor, one of four military/special ops themed shows premiered to a 0.3 (!) rating. Dynasty (also 0.3) on the other hand did receive a back 9, but the show is part of a deal with Netflix. Its renewal chances are dependent on the rest of the shows.
Ghosted and The Gifted were this network’s only other fall premieres. Though their ratings aren’t as exciting as other shows, both are firmly in the middle of currently airing Fox shows, and The Gifted will finish airing its 13 episode first season in January. Fox has yet to make an announcement on Ghosted so anything could happen. (Likely it’s done.)
Law and Order: True Crime, the lowest rated of NBC’s new shows, and The Brave just above it failed to receive back 9s. The former is a limited season show so a final decision won’t be public until May. A press release for NBC’s mid-season premieres states the same for the latter. However, Brave was always meant to be a back 9 contender.
With only 1 show per Big 4 “winning” the fall, and only 8 receiving back 9s, the network’s mid-season shows must succeed. NBC’s Rise, a mix between Glee and Friday Night Lights, should be an easy ratings win for the network especially airing after This is Us finishes its season. From one feel good story to the next. The CW has Black Lightning starting in January, which should also do well considering the amazing cast and The Flash lead in.
Otherwise we’re still waiting for announcements on the rest of the new shows’ premieres.
It’s also clear that the networks’ attempt at reaching certain audiences via its military/special ops shows fell short. Valor, The Brave, Seal Team, and S.W.A.T. all failed to bring in high ratings. No surprise if only one of the latter two receives a renewal, similar to when last year’s time travel shows all died except a last minute un-cancellation for Timeless.
Of course any one of the shows I marked as done could still conceivably receive a second season. That’s in the case of an across the board failure for spring premieres/shows past their first season. It’s clear live TV watching (what advertisers care about and thus what I care about) has decreased every year since Nielsen has calculated ratings. The 13% overall decrease in the 18-49 demo this year, however, is slightly more than the usual 5-10% decrease per year. So either shows need to be more interesting, Nielsen needs to expand its ratings measurement, or both.
Either way, mid-season shows must succeed or networks will be operating at major losses financially. Without inventive and entertaining pilots, 2018-2019 is just as likely to fail.
Image Courtesy of ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, and NBC
The Flash Shows How The Thinker Came To Be
After last week’s horribly boring episode, “Therefore I Am” comes to formally introduces everyone to the mystery that The Thinker is. We learn much more about the villain and his helpful partner, the Mechanic, but we don’t figure out his main goal. Still, a better The Flash episode as the show closes in on its fall finale.
This flashback ridden episode starts with a less than inspired Professor Clifford DeVoe, barely catching anyone’s attention during class. He is joined for lunch by his wife, Marlise, and Clifford whips out a design: a cap that could enhance his own intellect given Mrs. DeVoe can manufacture the device. In the present, we pick up from last week, with Barry and Joe interviewing the DeVoes.
Their first meeting seems to go well, as in nothing quite looked off from the DeVoes, but Barry is suspicious. Iris assigns all of Team Flash their own missions to dig deeper into Clifford just to be thorough. A new peek at four years previously shows Mrs. DeVoe had built Clifford’s thinking cap, but they would need a huge energy source for it. Thankfully — or should I say thinkfully —Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne is right on the verge of launching the particle accelerator.
Barry decides to pay DeVoe’s class a visit to ask him a few other questions and seize the opportunity to grab his mug for a DNA’s test. However, the test comes up empty as his genetic material doesn’t fit what one would expect from meta-DNA.
A new flashback goes straight to a scene from the pilot: the press conference Wells held before the launch. After Barry ran off to retrieve Iris’s bag, Mrs. DeVoe asked Wells questions as she is concerned about the safety of the accelerator. This scene is particularly interesting because Wells’s attitude is a nice throwback to him being a villain from the future. His compliments for DeVoe’s work come across far more as “big fan of yours, hope you wreck the shit out of Barry” than anything else. Nonetheless, despite Marlise’s warning that there will be an explosion, Clifford decides to proceed as planned with the charging of the cap.
As the accelerator goes off, the thinking cap definitely does things to Clifford, but he also happens to be struck by lightning. Marlise arrives and resuscitates him just in time to witness Clifford feeling “enlightened.”
The cringy part of the episode starts as the DeVoes go to Captain Singh to report Barry’s inadequacies as harassment. As this particular form of lowkey gaslighting usually goes, the people around Barry don’t believe his instincts and ask him to stop looking into DeVoe which, spoiler alert, we also know he won’t and it will backfire eventually. Very cringey, very cliché, and not particularly well scripted drama.
So, after Clifford got hit by lightning, he becomes a really fucking smart person. To prove that, the writers ask him to reveal who Jack The Ripper is — call me foolish, but I would have rather they tried to explain who the Zodiac Killer is to see if it is more believable than American Horror Story: Cult’s ill attempt at doing so. Nonetheless, he starts having a seizure on the spot.
At STAR Labs, Barry hears a buzzing from the Samuroid head and finds a camera inside. He goes to perform some late night stalking at the DeVoes and find Marlise leaving the house, which is super convenient. However, she returns literally 45 seconds after with a full load of groceries so Barry has to quit his sleuthing. Flashbacking again, a doctor gives Clifford a grim prognosis, as his mind is feeding off his body.
After Barry reveals he broke into their house, Team Flash fully flips on Barry’s idea that Clifford DeVoe is the actual bad DeVoe. To make matters worse for my enjoyment of television, the part where Barry gets scolded a second time by the police happens as Marlise brings pictures from the invasion to the Captain. Barry gets suspended for two weeks — and somehow is 100% surprised by the Captain’s decision to suspend him after he broke into someone’s house… — and also a restraining order.
Back at it, it’s time for another cliché: Clifford goes all infomercial as he falls from his wheelchair trying to grab a book from the fireplace. Mad at the world, he begs to die, but Marlise won’t let him. In fact, she even developed the machine that DeVoe currently to help him with his fatal disease.
Even with a restraining order, Barry goes to Clifford at his lecture hall and finally something interesting happens: cards on the table, the professor acknowledges everything. He knows Barry is the Flash. He exposes his backstory, how he became a metahuman, and how superior he is in terms of intellect in comparison to Team Flash. In fact, he is only telling him who he is because “he has nothing to fear.”
Now, maybe this is just me, but I feel like this would be the time for Barry to engage and tell DeVoe that he lowkey already knows how to defeat him? I mean, Savitar did tell him the name of the device. But he doesn’t. He mostly brags about defeating speedsters, which are nothing compared to DeVoe’s powers.
Back at STAR Labs, Barry tells everyone that Clifford confessed and NOW everyone believes him even without any additional evidence — silver linings? At least they believe him now. This ‘No One Believes Barry’ nonsense could have carried on for more episodes. Cisco comes up with the Thinker name as Wally arrives to help out with supervillain but, if we’re being honest, he probably won’t because Kid Flash has been utterly useless. I blame it on the writers.
Finally, the DeVoes go back to their secret base and Marlise has her villain attire (slicked back hair and a lab coat instead of natural waves and sundresses) back on. It sort of makes you wonder about the practicality of having a whole villainous wardrobe just for the thrill of it.
As Clifford starts shaking again, it is time for him to return to the device we’ve seen him in before. The coolest part is that I was right about his hair: the Mechanic has to literally rip his scalp off in order to connect him with a machine that feels too tight on his head. As the romantic he is, Clifford is even “allowing” West-Allen to get married because “what is knowledge without love?”.
Not a lot went down again, but better than last week’s by a mile. So now we gotta get ready for the wedding crossover next week and hopefully an interesting fall finale!
Images Courtesy of The CW
The Heart is a Lonely Manhunter (Rewatching Hannibal Season 1)
Spoiler Warning for Hannibal, Season 1
“At night I leave the lights on in my little house and walk across the flat fields. When I look back, from a distance, the house is like a boat on the sea. It’s really the only time I feel safe.”
—Will Graham, Hannibal 1×04
Confession: I am one of those people who watches a show and can’t quite accept that it’s gone. The show instead lives on for me internally. So, basically, do not tell me The Wire is gone. Nope. Nor Deadwood, The Sopranos, Parks and Rec, Justified, Veronica Mars, and a handful of others, just… for me, they’re not gone. The show’s still out there. Immortal. Ever-present. So, for me, yes, somewhere Tony still watches the exits. Somewhere, Raylan works out his inner demons. Somewhere, Leslie Knope is President. Somewhere, Dan and Casey are still wittily tossing out sports metaphors under Dana’s eagle eye. Somewhere, Veronica’s fighting for justice next to her Dad. And somewhere, Hannibal and Will are still embattled. Or engrossed. But they’re out there, somewhere, somehow. Living on, in a smarter universe.
Fellow fans of Hannibal will no doubt especially feel my pain on this. And as someone still deeply mourning the end of the show all these years later, I thought the best consolation might be to go back and watch the show from the beginning, and it’s been a joy, offering new nuances and moments galore. It’s been especially fascinating to be able to go back to the beginning, and most especially to see how far back Bryan Fuller and his talented team set up the relationships, conflicts, and inspirations on the show, which are present even in the pilot episode.
The Table is Set
The blood splashes in the credits, Brian Reitzell’s superb score surges ominously, and Hannibal begins. Boom. Grossness. Ooky murder victim close-ups. Dating taboos. Ships, ships, and more ships sail into the distant horizon (how were we ever possibly this young?).
Welcome to the world of Hannibal. So let’s drive right in, to episode one, for instance, and that beautiful first meeting of Will (a wonderfully twitchy Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal (a chilly, graceful Mads Mikkelsen). Where, if you watch closely, you’ll find extra enjoyment in all the little subtleties to Mads’s and Hugh’s performances—because they’re setting the foundation for every single moment to follow.
It’s all right there, the entire show. Hannibal’s focus and detachment, mixed with that strange fleeting tenderness. Will’s disgust, empathy, and fear that also mask his inevitable fascination and self-loathing. Cue the mental metronome as it sweeps ominously across the frame in red. We begin, and even within 40 short minutes in episode one, as Garret Jacob Hobbs dies, whispering, “See?” to a horrified Will, the table is set.
The finishing touch on this scene (that will echo back so tragically at the end of the season) is the fact that Hannibal, watching Will, seems to decide to save Abigail because it is something that Will wants. So he gives it to him, the gift of Abigail’s life, placing his hands gently on Abigail’s throat in order to save her. He further does this, I think, because for Hannibal everything comes down to power, because he can, and because it will tie both of those people to him in ways he wants to watch play out further.
But perhaps the nastiest trick he plays on Will here is his facade at the episode’s end, as Will enters Abigail’s hospital room to find Hannibal already there, holding Abigail’s hand as if he is not the monster her father was, but as if he is, in fact, the caring savior he pretended to be. Everything that occurs between the two men from here on out, occurs because Will mistakenly uses this image of Hannibal as a baseline. It’s diabolical and tragic.
Cat and Mouse
I think my favorite aspect of the rewatch is that I have changed my opinion slightly when it comes to Hannibal’s reactions and motivations. Upon a second viewing, most of the time, I now do think that Hannibal seems to play out his scenes with others as honestly as he can, at least, to a point.
I remember that I thought Hannibal was smirkier the first time I watched it; I felt like he was playing them. But now I actually think he’s weirdly transparent. I do think he likes and respects the team and genuinely (and quite quickly) grows to care for Jack and Will. It doesn’t mean he won’t torture them, mind you—Hannibal’s so warped that I truly believe he has no concept of how normal, non-psychotic people feel or demonstrate tenderness.
Shoot, for all we know Hannibal considers everything he does to poor Will in Season 1 to be nothing but simple foreplay. (“What are you complaining about?” I can imagine him saying to Will. “I fed you an ear!”)
Speaking of love, however, I most definitely missed how closely Beverly (played with subtle wit and tenderness by Hetienne Park) is involved with Will in many scenes the first time I watched the show. Her shooting range scene with Will in Episode 2 is terrific. Sparky and fun, on rewatch, it’s evident to me that Beverly likes Will. I mean, I think she like likes him. Which just adds to the tragedy of her entire arc.
Every bit as much as Jack and Alana, Beverly seeks Will out, to goad him, to study him, to offer support. She visits him several times (including in “Ceuf”) just to talk to him, for instance. And in the Angel episode (“Coquilles”), Beverly approaches Will again, offering help and asking him to confide in her; they interact closely once more in episode 6 (“Entree”). I’d really missed how close these two are in my first viewing of the show, and this makes Beverly’s devastation at Will’s arrest that much more heartbreaking to witness as season 1 moves toward its close.
The Wolf Visits the Sheep
In Episode 4 (“Oeuf”), in one of the best scenes across the entire show, Hannibal explores Will’s house. And I think upon rewatch this is just an incredibly rich and fascinating scene. Hannibal enters as a guest (and we later learn that Will asked him to feed the dogs for him while he was gone), and absently feeds Will’s beloved dogs, who adore Hannibal instantly. Hannibal, of course, feeds them what we assume is yikeshannibalsoylentsausage. Of course, he then simply wanders through Will’s home, and it is just sort of mind-bogglingly, quietly amazing to watch him do so. I think it’s easily one of the most naked moments for Hannibal in the course of the story. We get this rare opportunity to simply watch him study and react without the need to play the role of the guy in the human-suit that Bedelia calls him out on being.
As he enters Will’s home, Hannibal pats and feeds the dogs, then (in a poignant note for me as a classical musician) notes that Will owns a piano but that it is out of tune.
I found this moment lovely and subversively interesting for what it says about both men. Hannibal is a person who writes and plays music at a superb and virtuosic level, and who listens in the same way. Now he enters Will’s home and sees, unexpectedly, another fraction of his heart. Another realization, piercingly, that Will is like him. He is not alone. So yes, my favorite part of this scene is how Hannibal sees the piano and his glance lingers on it.
And right there, to me, I think is when Hannibal becomes a love story.
The Search for Connection
It’s not really about romance, to me, however, but about something more subtle and fragile—about recognition. Kinship. Fellowship. The pleasant, guilty surprise of bondage. Forget romantic love. Love’s less complex in this universe, and I’m not even sure it’s given anywhere equal weight. What the show is seeking and exploring, ultimately, is a dozen times more complex: the connection of equals, a speaking of souls. The mitigation of loneliness.
Hannibal as a character or person may not believe in love, but I’m certain that he (and the show) believes in soulmates. More casual viewers, I think, may miss that about this show. Hey, ship anything you want, any character combo that floats your boat. Seriously, I get you. I ship Hannibal and Will, at varying moments, with pretty much every adult who shares a scene, not least because Mikkelsen and Dancy both have chemistry with everyone around them.
But what Hannibal is ultimately about, to me, what sets it apart and makes it real genius… is loneliness. And connection. Hannibal seeks it, and is surprised and charmed to find it in Will, even in his home. We already know how much Will desires and fears the same thing.
And everyone else we glimpse, don’t they want that same sense that someone knows and understands them? Jack? Alana? Beverly? Every single cop, medical examiner, or killer we meet?
Of course. Cue drama.
Make Yourself at Home
So back to my point. I mean, Hannibal’s visit to Will’s home is fantastic. And pivotal. To me, it’s the core moment in their evolution as compatriots and friends and, perhaps, lovers. It’s so intimate.
Moving on. In his home visit for Will, Hannibal also notices a full outboard motor evidently in repair in Will’s living room (tellingly, later, in the “therapy” session with Hannibal, Will talks about his father’s work in boatyards from Biloxi to Erie).
Hannibal then checks out Will’s bureau and oh, Lord, gloriously, yes, there are the white tee shirts and socks, neatly stored, although I imagine the filmmakers simply cut out Hannibal’s full-body recoil at the sight. Hannibal then goes over to Will’s desk, looks through the magnifying glass there (nice subtext) then plays with one of Will’s fishing lures, carefully adding one of the feathers from the tray on the desk, before deliberately cutting himself with the hook he has just perfected. Then he licks the wound. And, yeah, it’s weirdly erotic.
This is also the episode when Will confesses to Hannibal, in one of the show’s most beautiful moments, that he only feels safe from a distance: “At night I leave the lights on in my little house and walk across the flat fields,” he says quietly. “When I look back from a distance, the house is like a boat on the sea. It’s really the only time I feel safe.” It’s yet another in a long line of beautiful boat references that help us to get to know Will that will also come back into play in later seasons.
Hannibal, potential anchor that he is, merely gives the tiniest hint of a smile. Because he is in control. He doesn’t need an anchor… or does he?
But although it’s fun to watch Hannibal become fascinated with Will, I forgot that Hannibal initially befriends Jack much faster than Will. Jack joins him for many more dinners at this point, actually. Jack and Hannibal become good friends, and Hannibal’s friendship visibly means something to both men.
Meanwhile, complicating those waters, is Will, of course. I mean, “Coquilles” is also the episode where Hannibal sniffs Will! And Will notices! It’s weirdly awesome. (Will: “Did you just… smell me?” Hannibal: “Difficult to avoid. I really must introduce you to a finer aftershave. That smells like something with a ship on the bottle.”)
I also love Will’s conversation with Jack here:
Will: This is bad for me.
Jack: I’m not your father, Will. I’m not going to tell you what you ought to do.
Will: Seems like that’s exactly what you’re gonna do.
Jack: You go back to your classroom, when there’s killing going on that you could have prevented, it will sour your classroom forever.
Will: Maybe. And then maybe I’ll find a job as a diesel mechanic in a boatyard.
Jack: You wanna quit? Quit.
Interesting that Jack smiles to himself as he says that. He knows Will can’t quit. When it comes to duplicity and hidden meanings, Jack is every bit as subtle as Hannibal himself. And he’s willing to do it because he’s willing to risk Will’s sanity in order to save lives—and because he’s also confident enough that he can see Will through it without harm.
Onward to therapy!
Episode 7 (“Sorbet”) is pure genius with its series of therapy sessions—Hannibal with Franklyn, Bedelia with Hannibal, Hannibal with Will. In each session there’s this tangible subtext of yearning and loneliness yet again: of Franklyn trying to impress Hannibal, of Hannibal trying to impress Bedelia, and then having a glass of wine with Will. There is something sort of poignant and lonely about Hannibal saying, “I have friends.” And we know who they are and how much he hides from them. (Note: I also think that it’s telling and important that Jack dreams of a mutilated Will in this same episode, as well.)
Episode 8, meanwhile, features one of my favorite exchanges between Hannibal and Will when Will says, “I feel like I dragged you into my world.” And Hannibal quite truthfully replies, “No. I got here on my own. But I appreciate the company.”
What’s interesting as I rounded out Season 1 here is the way Hannibal interweaves that loneliness I mentioned earlier as an almost palpable, touchable aspect of the show’s fabric. I was constantly struck by how solitary everyone seems to be in Hannibal’s world, how disconnected—a fact emphasized in many scenes by the show’s lighting, which is moody and dark, with characters illuminated in stark relief as if trapped onstage. Every major character also seems caught in a dreamworld now and then, as if mute on the most important level—speechless about the things they truly want—yet all are yearning, and all are quietly starved for connection.
Not just Will, but Hannibal himself, and even Jack, Bedelia, Bella, and Beverly. They all seem like characters seeking connection and safety. Alana is the only one who, to me, implies a rich external life elsewhere, and it’s interesting to watch her move in and out of all these other lives with so much ease, especially knowing what lies before her in later seasons.
One thing that really struck me upon my Season 1 rewatch was just how fantastic the actors are. I’ve talked about Will and Hannibal, but let’s just call out Caroline Dhavernas as Alana, for instance. She in particular is just wonderful, much stronger than I remember her being (and it really sucker-punched me when she goes to the car to scream and cry; at that point I realized then how much she did truly love Will). I also loved the chilly, gorgeous Gillian Anderson as Bedelia, and thought Kacey Rohl was amazing as Abigail Hobbs. It’s a performance where she has to walk so many lines in so many conversations, and Rohl was able to do that with a lot of delicacy and hidden nuance.
And then of course there’s Fishburne’s presence and gravitas, Dancy’s vulnerability and anguish, and wonderful Mads and just how much he’s able to communicate in every single graceful movement and microexpression.
While it’s hard to watch Will spiral downward in the final episodes of season 1, I do love the conversation in “Buffet Froid” (1×10) when Will is ill and floundering, and Jack is surprisingly warm and supportive:
Jack: Let me tell you what I think. I think that the work you do here has created a sense of stability for you. Stability is good for you, Will.
Will: Stability requires strong foundations, Jack. My moorings are built on sand.
Jack: I’m not sand. I am bedrock. When you doubt yourself, you don’t have to doubt me too.
Near the end, when Hannibal brings Bedelia the veal, what’s fascinating is that, in an entirely different awareness of context, I’d argue that she is absolutely aware of exactly who Hannibal is and of what (or who) they may actually be consuming. And before she does so, she unexpectedly and blatantly warns Hannibal:
Bedelia: You have to be careful, Hannibal. They’re starting to see your pattern.
Hannibal: What pattern would that be?
Bedelia: You develop relationships with patients who are prone to violence. That pattern. Under scrutiny, Jack Crawford’s beliefs about you might start to unravel.
Hannibal: Tell me, Dr. Du Maurier, have your beliefs about me begun to unravel?
The way she takes the bite, with her eyes on Hannibal, very slowly, implies to me that she is doing this deliberately, perhaps almost as an odd form of answer. Foreplay? Or communion?
The Last Bite
Every meal has a finish. And so we come to Will’s horrified, beautifully gradual realization of Hannibal as the real killer throughout episode 13 (“Savoureaux”), leading to the confrontation in Hobbs’s kitchen, the site of their first connection and mutual recognition:
Hannibal: At a time when other men fear their isolation, yours has become understandable to you. You are alone because you are unique.
Will: I’m as alone as you are.
Hannibal: If you followed the urges you kept down for so long, cultivated them as the inspirations they are, you would have become someone other than yourself.
Will: I know who I am. I’m not so sure I know who you are anymore.
There’s such symmetry in that final, raw and terrifying confrontation in Hobbs’s kitchen between Will, Hannibal, and Jack. And it’s awful to watch, to see Jack as adversary, to see Will led off as a criminal, to see him processed by the team (and to see their personal, anguished and angry reactions), and to then see Will locked up and facing Hannibal, who is of course still free and confident and smiling. And still there! Just on some level, you know, he’s still so creepily happy to see Will. To be a part of his life and world.
A caged Will is just more accessible, after all… more fun for Hannibal to play with.
Anyway, wow. I really loved taking another look at this first season of Hannibal, and what’s interesting is it’s my least favorite of the three, so I’m looking forward to the chance to rewatch the next two even more. Most of all, I’m so pleased to have found the show even more rewarding upon rewatch, not less. There’s so much detail to Hannibal‘s world that there’s always some new little treasure to notice.
What did you think? And what did I miss? And what do you think Will really smells like? I’m guessing Old Spice, sea salt, engine grease, and warm dog. Want to live on the edge? What does Hannibal smell like? My own guess on this is that he smells absolutely fantastic, like Italian cologne, fresh sage, and the faintest breath of electric wickedness…