We’re back with another episode of Supergirl! Storylines are brought back, escalated quickly in ways that don’t make sense, and then give us a glimpse of the Kara we’ve desperately missed. Elizabeth is still on vacation, so Kori’s here to break it down.
Well, that was a lot. Supergirl has a tendency to give us filler episodes that don’t really amount to much besides some character work, and then there are times it feels like we’re trying to throw in everything but the kitchen sink. “The Fanatical” episode was the latter. From James’ renewed focus as the Guardian, to Thomas Coville’s cult rearing its head again, to Supergirl and Lena, to Ruby/Alex/J’onn/M’yrnn, to Mon-El, to, well, you get the idea. I’m just going to go down the list and hit each plot thread because otherwise, this episode is a bit of a Gordian knot.
Supergirl has tried to figure out what to do with James Olsen for three seasons. It’s something Elizabeth and I have been critical of in the past because he feels the least incorporated of all of the Super Friends; the writers seem to take more of the “let’s throw plot spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks” approach with him. I like James, even when I’ve been very frustrated with him. This season has done a somewhat better job of utilizing him, especially with his relationship with Lena Luthor. That said, his gig as the Guardian has been a mixed bag, and I’d still like to see him join the Legends crew and get some time to really focus on him as a hero and not James as head of Catco moonlighting as Guardian, because this is Supergirl still and that’s really more her gig.
Now we’re adding racism into the mix and honestly, the dialogue here isn’t badly written. I was worried it was going to be hamfisted and about as effective as Arrow trying to tackle Black Lives Matter. No, the problem comes in when the show fails to distinguish that as a black vigilante he’s far more likely to face “shoot or handcuffs first” over “take in alive and question” than his white counterparts like Oliver Queen. Black Lightning does a far better job of framing this based on race than via the vigilante aspect only.
Because here’s the problem. Being a vigilante period is not going to endear you to the local constabulary. We already had an episode with James last season when Maggie expressed her annoyance at Guardian and then wanted him brought in because of a copycat vigilante going around and extrajudicially killing people. Every single tenet of comics and real-world logic tells us that law enforcement, no matter how corrupt or how straight and narrow they are, do not like vigilantes with only a few exceptions (a la Jim Gordan). Literally, Arrow just had a massive trial with Oliver over his Arrow identity as a vigilante. So while I appreciate James’ story about being handcuffed as a child, and I think this is a timely topic, this would have benefitted from more thought and nuance, rather than being limited to a one-off episode. Still better than the horrific Arrow and BLM episode, though.
Speaking of James, though, what kind of writing has been going on in his relationship with Lena and consequently her relationship with Supergirl? This is a massive, bizarre case of “this escalated quickly and for no reason.” Last episode I was a little more on Lena’s side as she vented her frustrations with Supergirl in the elevator to Kara. It should have been a good set up to get back to Kara having to juggle her identity as Kara Zor-El, last daughter of Krypton and protector of Earth, and Kara Danvers, Catco reporter and best friend to Lena Luthor.
The speech was a good kick in the pants for Kara, which was what I’d thought the writers intended, but when Supergirl goes to apologize to Lena she’s completely and utterly stonewalled. Lena, like, I’m with you on being angry at that betrayal of trust. But Supergirl is owning up to it and apologizing and, I don’t know, she’s saved your life countless times and has been one of the few people to openly back you in the face of your family’s crappy history, so you completely nuking that friendship over that seems like waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay overkill? This is a massive escalation that feels like we’re trying to cram several seasons of buildup into one mistake, and honestly, it makes Lena look really bad.
Moreover, Kara rightfully goes to ask James what the hell he was thinking in telling Lena that Supergirl wanted him to spy on her. I applauded James refusing to follow the order, but in hindsight—and now seeing that Lena is a “you mess up once and you’re dead to me regardless of the fact you’ve literally risked your life for me” type of friend in show canon—that seems like a monumental mistake. He could have just refused to do it and not told Lena. Now it seems like we’re implying that Lena going bad is going to partly be down to James’ bad judgment call?
Which, I would be more sympathetic to James here, but when Kara asks him why he told Lena his reaction is “but she’s friends with Kara!” NOT THE POINT, JAMES. Also, for all of his pontificating on what it will mean to be an openly black vigilante, he’s still advocating for Kara to keep her identity secret and just, come on writers, at least be consistent.
Anyways, we do see the return of Mon-El as Mike, and at least that was fun?
Not so fun is this dragging out of Mon-El and his feelings for Kara. At this point it feels like the only person still conflicted is Mon-El and dude, you dated her for six months tops, you’ve been married to your wife for years, and you’ve had ample opportunity to gain closure on this old relationship. Why is this still dragging out? I’m seriously starting to ship Imra + divorcing your ass + her getting with Kara at this point. Neither of them deserves to be saddled with your indecisive ass right now.
Now for the main plot with Coville’s cult. We do get some information about the WorldKillers, and his remaining followers are in need of some serious counseling if they think creating a new WorldKiller is a good idea. I can’t imagine how painful this is for Kara to see one of her few remaining links to Krypton and something that she can still find comfort in, completely perverted and warped. The cult is a good idea plot-wise and honestly, should have been used more this season, but alas.
That said, this was an absolute shining moment for Kara as a hero as she deals with Olivia (Sofia Vassilieva). It was a peek at the Kara I fell in love with who in the face of said utter perversion of her religion and culture, in the face of another unspeakable danger, dug deep and returned that hurt with compassion and empathy. I want more of this Supergirl again, who stood as a stark contrast to Bat-Arrow and the more all over the place Flash. I hope this is a sign of that return.
Over in the C plot, Alex has a lovely thread going with Ruby, who is understandably utterly freaked out and terrified she’s going to go bad and hurt people too. Again, the Arias’ don’t deserve any of this. But it’s a lovely look at Alex’s potential as a parent herself, and it’s a nice tie-in for J’onn and M’yrnn. I can’t shake the feeling that M’yrnn has an expiration clock countdown for this season, and I’m not ready for it. Hopefully, I’m wrong, but if not, prepare for a review full of tears.
Next time on Supergirl, oh, hey! Alura’s not dead! Wow, this is going to suck for Kara. I really hope the DEO has a roster of licensed therapists on their staff list.