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We Can Be Heroes, Er Superheroes?

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Supergirl Season 2 Reviews: Episode 10, “We Can Be Heroes”

She’s baaaack! That’s right, Livewire has returned to Supergirl and we couldn’t be more thrilled to see her. We (Gretchen and Elizabeth) think that Livewire is an excellent nemesis for our girl in blue, even if it makes us miss Cat Grant more (*sniff*). Plus we get all the space family feels. And M’gann. Our precious M’gann. And Sanvers fluff.

Awwww

Quick Recap

Training montage with Kara and Mon El (the new DEO has some sweet training facilities); yay Kara getting to be a superhero mentor! Maggie and some fellow officers find some baddies Guardian left in a trash pile, but James got shot taking them down, so Winn tells him it’s time to tell Kara. M’gann has a seizure in her cell, but when J’onn goes to check on her, she screams until the glass shatters and faints. Alex agrees to run tests and J’onn is totes not worried about her okay? Livewire is in therapy—it’s not helping. A guard frees an inmate and they both attack the therapist to get to Livewire. Alex tells J’onn that M’gann is dying psychologically and asks him to do the mind meld to save her, but he refuses. Kara complains about Livewire to James, who advises Kara against letting Mon El help her. They see Livewire attack the NCPD on one of his monitors in his office, only when Kara and Mon El arrive it turns out not to be her after all. It’s the guard and inmate. Kara tells Mon El to protect the cops, but he chooses to help her instead. Thankfully, the Guardian shows up to protect the cops. When he’s knocked out, Kara takes off his helmet to discover James underneath. Cue the awkward confessions. James explains that he was never meant to live in Superman’s shadow, but Kara wants to protect him because he’s human. James points out that Mon El put people in danger and that Kara should not get to decide who gets to be a hero. Kara says she’s going to stop him.

You’re right, Livewire. Mon El’s ‘supersuit’ was rather blah. Why did he have orange tinted glasses?

Back at the DEO, Alex reminds J’onn that M’gann helped him, but he doesn’t want to help her because he might end up forgiving her. Kara confronts Mon El about his recklessness and asks him point blank if he’s doing it because he likes her. He denies it. She goes to find Livewire, who we see in the next shot is strapped down in a chair in some basement with Lab Man. At the DEO, security footage tells them Livewire was captured, not freed, and Winn lies about knowing where she is so he and James can track her down themselves, only Mon El overhears.

J’onn attempts the mind meld with M’gann with Kara and Alex to support him. M’gann is trapped in her memory of the day she broke ranks. J’onn processes her experiences with her, forgives her, and brings her back (cue ugly sobbing). Livewire learns that Lab Man is making copies of her to turn into super soldiers. Guardian shows up to rescue her? Capture her? Mon El joins the fray. Winn calls Kara to rescue the boys, whom Lab Man had taken captive. She rescues the boys and frees Livewire. Livewire and Kara team up (!!) to take down Lab Man and Kara lets Livewire go to spare his life. J’onn threatens to fire Winn if he ever lies again, but not before complimenting him and Guardian. Kara decides she can’t support James and Winn putting themselves in danger, but she won’t stop them. M’gann tells J’onn that White Martians are coming to get her. Mon El confesses his feelings for Kara but understands she doesn’t feel the same way and wants to move on.

Best Quote: “Forgiveness isn’t something you give to somebody who’s hurt you, forgiveness is something that you give to yourself.”—Alex Danvers

Thoughts & Feelings

We’re going to start with our fave Kryptonian puppy. Tonight felt…off. Gretchen’s initial reaction was ‘out of character’. Since when does Kara tell human beings they can’t be heroes? After talking about it, it felt more clear to both of us that what she actually means is that humans can’t be superheroes, as in they are soft, squishy, and mortal. Kara’s dialogue seems to support this theory, but it is just that; we are not in the writers heads, unfortunately. But she did have an “I’m a hero, powers or no” scene last episode, for heaven’s sake. Turning right around to tell James he can’t be a hero because he’s a human didn’t make sense, especially when viewed in the context of the rest of the season.

By the end of the episode she sounds more like what we’d expect. She doesn’t see the need for James and Winn to put themselves in danger when she already saw them as heroes doing what they were doing before. Which is precisely what we’ve been saying this whole time. James’ and Winn’s decision to be superheroes flies in the face of the show’s message that “we can be heroes” without needing to be superheroes. And if James doesn’t want to be the guy behind the desk maybe he should quit Catco so someone else can give it the attention it needs.

At the same time, Kara literally just found out that her two best friends were lying to her for months. She knows what aliens and bad guys they faced. She knows they could have been hurt or killed. Of course she’s going to overreact a little and feel protective. Not to mention that she almost lost J’onn, M’gann, Mon El, and the entire alien population of National City in “Medusa”. And, you know, she lost her planet. Losing people is a sore spot for her, as is people lying to her. Remember dealing with that all of S1? Alex, her mother, J’onn, her father—none of that has gone away. Alex did try to warn James about Kara not taking lying lightly, yet he chose to keep lying anyway. But really, James shouldn’t need to be warned; it’s not like he wasn’t there when all of this was going on in season one. He remembers how Kara reacted. He shouldn’t need Alex to spell it out for him.

As if that weren’t enough emotional struggle for Kara in one day, she gets Mon El confessing his feelings for her. She’s been here before. That pained look on her face (which Elizabeth felt deep in her soul… Like same girl. Same.) was most likely her reliving what happened with Winn in S1 when he said he had feelings for her and she didn’t reciprocate. Girl can’t catch a break. Every single male her age on the show has been a romantic interest. This isn’t entirely surprising, as Kara is a warm, happy, intelligent, beautiful woman who lights up the world like sunlight. But as far as tropes go, this is yet another one that desperately needs to get its sticky fingers off our favorite show. Can we just cool it for a while with the gentlemen suitors? Please. Kara doesn’t need a romantic interest right now. Give her a break from men throwing themselves at her please. And then maybe make Supercorp happen. Or Superwire. Or Superlane. Obviously we have a slight bias here, but we mean this genuinely: we don’t care if the wlw ships never sail, we are just 200% over Kara having to beat off romantic suitors with a stick. Let her live.

Speaking of Mon El, lordy where to even start tonight. He continues to not listen to Kara like a petulant child, even after she tells him multiples times to protect the cops and leave her be. Were this a one time deal, we might be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he’s ‘overcome’ with feelings. But this is a pattern with Mon El. No matter how frequently he professes to care about and for Kara, he refuses to respect her. Because part of respecting her is learning to let her ‘no’ be ‘no’ and her ‘go away’ be ‘go away. He’s not being romantic, he’s being a paternalistic asshole. Then he tries to convince her that him kissing her is all in her head. Yay gaslighting. So loving.

We were hopeful that the final scene would be him coming over to apologize and admit he wasn’t ready. But no, we get yet another scene of a young man word vomiting his feelings onto a clearly uncomfortable Kara. Hats off to Melissa Benoist for nailing that deeply uncomfortable body language; she looks ready to crawl out of her own skin just to get out of the conversation. We struggled to get through this scene the first time through because we were deeply worried it was going to end with a kiss; it was genuinely distressing to watch.

The conversation also entirely misses the point. The issue was never that he lied about kissing her (or lied about remembering, though these are both their own separate issues. Don’t think for a second we are cool with either of these things). It was his lack of respect, his failure to listen to her, his apologies and promises to do better that never amounted to any visible change in his behavior toward her. Those are the things Mon El ought to be apologizing for, in addition to lying. His monologue amounted to “sorry I lied about kissing you and didn’t listen to you, but I like you, so it’s fine. And hey, I know you don’t like me so let’s just move on. Teamwork!” At least we got an awkward high-five out of it.

More awkward that the fist bump last week.

This ‘lol he’s so awkward’ persona and goofy culture clash antics don’t make up for his selfishness, and quite frankly they are getting more grating and unbelievable by the minute. We are both 200% done with this plot that wore out its welcome six episodes ago. We desperately hope this episode is the end of it. Yet again, we dare to dream.

On to the good end of the feels spectrum: J’onn and M’gann. Gretchen has been desperate for this interaction for weeks, and it lived up to all of her expectations. There is so much potential for impact in the story of forgiving someone partly responsible for the death of your race and culture. Our only frustration is that it didn’t get more screentime over the season. Supergirl is about forgiveness and second chances.

Tonight, J’onn faced his anger and hate and it felt honest and true-to-life. His initial resistance to helping her because she’s a war criminal evolves into his reluctant admission that he doesn’t want to share his good memories with her. The mindmeld is an incredibly intimate and vulnerable act. J’onn does not want to open himself up that much with his enemy. But it’s more even than that. The vulnerability goes both ways. She would see him, but he would also see her. And he doesn’t want to see her as a person, someone with the potential for both good and evil.

“I don’t want to forgive her…hate becomes your reason for living when you’ve lost everything that you love. If I find that there was some good in their kind. If I don’t hate her…”

…Then what does he have left? That’s the unfinished sentence. He doesn’t want, or even know how, to give his hate up without losing a piece of himself.

Yet deep down, he already knows that she is not who she thinks she is. He knows that she risked uncovering her own identity to save his life. When prompted by Alex, he begrudgingly admits that he ‘suspects’ the truth of her helping his people on Mars. You’re not fooling us, space dad, you know. Which is what makes this arc so compelling; J’onn is fighting himself, his instincts, his fear, and his very reasonable hatred of the race that committed a genocide of which he is the sole survivor. His resistance is compellingly raw and very real. We’ve both felt this way at some point about people who have hurt us.

It makes his choice to help M’gann that much more moving. His tenderness in reaching out to her while she was reliving the day she broke ranks broke us. He let her be honest, be in pain, be vulnerable with him. She confessed both her greatest act of compassion—saving a Green Martian child—and another that probably causes her great inner turmoil—killing her own people. She’s baring her soul to him, and in that moment, he reaches out to her to bring her back. He could crush her, but he chooses compassion instead. Rather than let the pain and trauma win, he chooses empathy. It’s one of our favorite stories to see told, so excuse us while we go ugly sob in the corner for a while.

Can we also say how triggering it must have been for him to be there? This is literally his worst nightmare. Yet, he willingly stays in a memory that causes himself great pain to help bring her home. J’onn uses pretty classic therapy skills with her, too. He reminds her that this is a memory and they’re safe. He asks her questions and reminds her what is true. Both Sharon Leal and David Harewood act the shit out of their scenes this episode, too. M’gann has so much internalized guilt (ugggh, kill us). Protect M’gann M’orzz and give her happiness 2k17.

That brings us to the Guardian. And hoo boy do we have a lot to say. First off, James has a point about Mon El. Everything he says about Mon El not being heroic, about him being selfish and reckless is absolutely true. And we do feel bad for him that Kara overlooks the Guardian, who could actually be a good team-member for her, in favor of Mon El. Who isn’t. We don’t disagree often on Supergirl, but we do have enough of a difference of opinion on James’ arc to warrant us briefly unfusing to talk about it individually.

***

Gretchen: I’m less vociferous in my dislike of the character. I see it as wasted potential and a glaring example of remarkably poor attention to detail in the writing. There seem to be multiple aims with this arc: 1) give James a superhero journey, and 2) give him an arc that brings him into more contact with the DEO since Catco is being de-emphasized. While I am ambivalent about the first, it could have worked in theory. Maybe. I still can’t decide. There’s too much toxic masculinity wrapped up in it’s execution that I can’t distinguish that from how it could have been done otherwise. The second is a reasonable aim and one that I laud. They’re trying to keep James from being sidelined, though I could think of better ways to have done it.

However, the choice to drag out the Guardian arc to 10 episodes was poor. It dragged the season down and stole valuable time from other important arcs. If they had given us this conversation between Kara and James in episode 4, I would have been much less salty about how this played out. The other poor writing choice was to script James in such a way that he came across as vain, self-aggrandizing, and arrogant. His confession that he did this to help people rings hollow when he’s pitching articles about himself to Snapper. It was entirely in line with the James of S1, but not with his scripting this season.

And that’s why, to me, this is less about hating the character and more about being frustrated with the poor writing choices that led to the character assassination of a character I was emotionally invested in up until I saw where this arc was going. I’m disappointed and frustrated with the writers, not the character. And I do kind of see what they were going for, especially after tonight. That doesn’t make it’s execution not complete shit, though. Because it was. I see what they intended, and they utterly failed to bring it to life for me. I’m not entirely done with him though. There is window of opportunity left for me to salvage his character from it’s assassination, but it’s rapidly closing. Come on writers, do better.

***

Elizabeth: At this point I can’t stand James and I’m counting down the seconds when he’s on my screen. While everything that he says about Mon El is objectively true, the fact that it’s coming from his mouth really kneecaps the impact. Almost everything he says to Kara in this episode is blatantly, ridiculously hypocritical when viewed in the context of his actions this season. Who he is now is completely divergent from who he was last season, and that is nobody’s fault but the writers. They took the character in this direction, and I’m sorry but I have to judge his merits based upon what he does on screen, not the idealistic version of him that can be constructed from his previous season’s characterization.

Even if I give him the benefit of the doubt and go along with the idea that this is how he feels like he can best be a ‘hero’ (and this is canon, guys, he says it outright), it doesn’t change the fact that he lied to Kara every step of the way despite there being no real compelling reason for him to do so. James pushes to have his own stories run by Catco, he bullies Winn and manipulates him into helping him, and he delays telling Kara the truth for episode after episode, even after promising both Alex and Winn he would come clean. He never does come clean. He gets caught, and then still has the audacity to act like he has a leg to stand on.

I know that we don’t want to lose James for a multitude of reasons that we’ve discussed before: MOC protagonist, his season one persona was amazing, his relationship with Kara is interracial, etc. But that James is gone, guys. This James is not a good character. I am furious that they destroyed his character, but that’s what happened, and I don’t know if this can be course corrected. I am feeling that cold rage in Kara’s eyes when her and James had it out in this episode.

Even on a second viewing, I feel the same way: I could not possibly be further away from James’ side of things, and if this is the path he wants to take then I’m not on board. You want to be a hero, James? Then find a venue that doesn’t already have a literal God protecting it along with a perfectly competent police department. Go run with Sara Lance for a while or pack your bags for Gotham, because National City does not need vigilantes.

***

We’re back. Ultimately, the problem isn’t that Kara ‘gets to decide who gets to be a hero.’ Really, the problem is that both characters are using the word ‘hero’ when they actually mean ‘superhero.’ This show used to be very good about making this distinction, but it completely dropped that with this episode and with most of Guardian’s arc. Did we not spend the entire first season and a big part of this one reinforcing over and over again the idea that being a hero has nothing to do with vigilantism and superhuman feats? So why are they conflating this language now? It undermines so much of what this show has stood for for two and a half seasons, and we’d like that to end.

Winn has been a bit of a yoyo personality the last few weeks. He called out James then turned around and teamed back up with him last week. His decision to (once again) lie to Kara so that he and Guardian could take out Livewire came way out of left field, too. We found it profoundly out of character the first time through, to the point that we was wondering if we had accidentally dozed off for a few minutes and missed a major plot beat. Upon second viewing, Winn’s motivation doesn’t seem any clearer. Is there a scene missing here where Winn explains himself? Because as it stands, it makes it seem like he’s mad at Kara and is doing this out of pettiness. Not that he’s necessarily above that, but it seems… unearned and unseeded. Your mileage may vary, but we were left feeling icy cold about this turn of events.

Livewire was pretty awesome, though. Kori may have made Gretchen into a Supergirl/Livewire (Superwire) shipper over the past week (it didn’t take much tbh, the joys of being a multishipper). This episode didn’t help with that at all. We can see them seeding a potential frenemy team up where Livewire helps Kara take down a bigger baddie. Come on, Livewire already has nicknames for Kara. That’s ‘names’ plural. And did you catch Winn’s “maybe she’ll turn all her girlfriends evil again”? We’re taking that as Livewire confirmed sapphic/wlw.

We really appreciate Kara calling her Livewire instead of Leslie, in the end, too. She might not think of Livewire as she perceives herself (as a ‘god’) but she’s willing to meet her partway there and respect her desired nomenclature. She respects Livewire’s new reality, a neat little queer coded interaction that’s even more meaningful in light of Alex’s recent arc. And at least Livewire listened to Kara. Sheesh. She could teach Mon El and Guardian a thing or two about how to communicate.

We got less Sanvers tonight and guess what? That’s just fine. They’re being cute and betting on Kara’s superhero antics. They banter. They got vegan ice cream. Not every episode is going to be focused on them, because there are other characters. Would we rather have Alex’s grossed out vegan ice cream face than see Mon El be a dillweed? 1000%. Maybe next time.

Randomness

  • “Behold ye mighty and despair”, nice Ozymandias quote Winn
  • Maggie and Alex placing bets on Kara’s superheroing is everything
  • The Sanvers lean is so cute.
  • We’re not sure if Kara knows that Maggie knows her secret identity, but we dig the awkward. Please give us Kara going out of her way to keep it secret while Maggie just snerks, and Alex feels bad, but also finds it funny.
  • Is Maggie vegan?
  • Ep 10 of S1 was the episode where Winn confessed his feelings to Kara and she turned him down. Is this an intentional parallel?
  • The “nasty woman” joke made us giggle
  • We wished they had mentioned Cat, just once would have been enough.
  • Curious that Mon El didn’t have an allergic reaction to being that near Guardian’s entirely-made-of-lead suit. Perhaps it has to be in his body?
  • It was really satisfying to see Mon El and The Guardian captured. Really satisfying.
  • We love Livewire’s sass; she has some great one-liners. Chief of which: “Y’know what I love? Little boys who think they can do a better job than the woman who’s an actual superhero.” Preach it.
  • No, Mon El, you are not the other superman.

In Conclusion

Overall, the episode was fine. It had a pretty equal mix of excellent, mediocre, and frustrating things. It’s mostly a filler/set-up episode for next week’s Martian invasion anyway, so we’re not that fussed. Every show has it’s ‘fine’, even a show that’s as overall excellent as Supergirl. The reliable excellence does mean episodes like this stand out a bit more, though. And it wasn’t horrible by any means. Space family is everything. Literally, everything. We’re hoping M’gann is fully team Super now, same with Maggie, who was hanging around the DEO like she belonged there. Cute, domestic Sanvers fluff is such a breath of fresh air when we’re frustrated with the menz on the show. Give us more of Alex and Maggie placing bets on Supergirl and talking about going over to each other’s places.

But the brilliance in the space family parts, and even the little bit of Sanvers cuteness, really shines an exposing spotlight on the rougher parts of the writing. Supergirl has never been a stranger to uneven writing issues, but this episode is probably the strongest example of this dissonance. It’s not bad, but it’s not anywhere close to what the show is capable of. We expect better.

One of the main problems with the writing inconsistency sits with how much Mon El’s storyline clashes with the otherwise subversive and fresh content the rest of the show presents. It feels so odd to have this bland, boring, obnoxious white guy and his trope-filled plot standing next to the Sanvers romance, Lena Luthor’s quest to do good, the space family dynamics, and the complex drama of James’ Guardian plotline. We keep asking ourselves: What is Mon El doing here? What meaningful content does he contribute to the plot and/or the characters that could not be done with another character, and done better?

We said last week that he is dead weight hanging off the plot’s neck, and this week is just more of the same. That ending scene in Kara’s apartment was excruciatingly long and just plain uncomfortable to watch. How many other things would we have loved to have instead of this albatross of a tropey, boring romance? Yes, Kara rejected him, but that may not stick. By God we hope it does, but we have no way of knowing; it could still develop into a real romance. And if it does, the Supergirl team is going to get some angry letters from us.

This is nothing against the actor. He plays the role well, at least. It’s more that the character is tired and bland, not that the actor is bad at playing him. We’ve given Mon El a lot of slack this season, but we are on the bleeding edge of our patience. We nearly had a heart attack when Kara lurched forward a little bit at the end of their conversation as if she might go in for a kiss. While it’s funny to see a ‘Straight Bait’ in the wild, we want it off our favorite show. We feel about as awkward around “Where’s My Hug” Mon El as Kara does. We’re halfway through the season, guys. He had his chance. We’re just over it. We’re so done. Please please please get him off our screens for a while and show us more of the characters we actually like.

Still no mention of Cadmus or the Luthors after “Medusa”. This isn’t the first time Supergirl has dropped a villain thread for a couple episodes to be taken up later (just look at Astra and Non in S1). But it would be nice to know how the Luthor ladies are doing right about now. Sneak previews tell us that the Luthors will be back with a vengeance in a couple of episodes, but of course we want it right now. Like right now. Can we have it beamed directly into our brains? We’d totally sign up for that.

Also, everyone really needs to stop having superhero conversations in public. We’re pretty sure everyone in National City knows who both The Guardian and Supergirl really are but they all pretend they don’t.


Images Courtesy of The CW

When not working on her degree or at her actual job, Elizabeth pursues her true passion of complaining at great length about pop culture on the internet. She serves as a Managing Editor for The Fandomentals. You can find her on Tumblr, Twitter and Steam @ohemgeelizabeth

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Mon-El is Supergirl's Kryptonite - The FandomentalsMxyzptlk's Antics And the Gift of A Sanvers Valentine's Day - The FandomentalsUgly Sobbing (and a Bit of Griping) About The Martian Chronicles - The FandomentalsJoseph PayneCaleb Recent comment authors
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Guest

The tonal inconsistency with Mon-El vs. everything else in the show is jarring. I mean…the show’s all about people deciding to be their best selves. In this episode alone, let’s look at it. M’gann reflects on her decision to break ranks. J’onn saves M’gann, a White Martian, with empathy. Livewire teams up with Supergirl, her “enemy”, in the name of taking down a greater evil. In the scope of this season. Kara Danvers (not Supergirl, Kara Danvers) struggles to get her feet back under her after her mentor moves on to other things. Alex comes to terms with a part… Read more »

Matthew
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Matthew

That time Livewire said “Oh, I’m not gonna kill you” had me have a flashback to when the Joker said that (accompanied by a “I’m just gonna hurt ya really really bad”) so that wasn’t very cool. The episode redeemed itself by playing a Benjamin Francis Leftwood song for the Mon El/Kara scene, which, yes, I also thought they were gonna kiss. Also, I kind of feel bad watching that scene because my best friend told me he had feelings for me which weren’t reciprocated and eventually he stopped talking to me altogether despite us having to see each other… Read more »

Kaelula
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Kaelula

I still fail to understand what is Mon-El contributing to the show. There is no altruism in his cause or he’s in a well-written (and deserved) redeemption arc or even in a journey of self-discovery. The rest of the characters in this show meet these requirements. Mon-El basically admitted that he is doing the superhero thing because he wants to impress Kara (and to be with her) and not because he wants to protect the population of National City and turn his powers into something good. All he’s done until now was motivated because of Kara or to indulge his… Read more »

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[…] To find out what we think of it, head on over to The Fandomentals! […]

SuperYakGirl94
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SuperYakGirl94

I saw a post (http://ultranos.tumblr.com/post/156613799336/whats-his-purpose-im-inept-at-reading-into) suggesting that Mon-El is actually serving as a foil to Kara, so his purpose is really to highlight her qualities by contrasting them, which is a perspective I hadn’t considered before. I still dislike him, but I think the main reason why is because of his romantic interest in Kara, and my fear that the writers are going to pair them romantically. I think that if he weren’t romantically interested in her, I’d actually be more okay with him. I really wish he weren’t training to be a hero since he really doesn’t want to… Read more »

XanDany
Member
XanDany

I’m with both of you on James- I have this conversation with my friends all the time- What happened to James of season 1? Why couldn’t his storyline this season be a MOC struggling to head the multi-national corporation? I think that would have given some fantastic story opportunities. But no, instead we have literally EVERY SINGLE male on the show trying to be a superhero. And don’t get me started on James and Winn lying to Kara for so long. It just got me angrier every time they were on screen. I like Mon-El as a funny character- when… Read more »

Bo
Member

It’s really a shame that running CatCo wasn’t enough for James. It also carries the unfortunate implication that running the company, which we saw Cat Grant drive herself into the ground doing, somehow didn’t require the same commitment from a man like James. I would love if they do a “CatCo is failing” plotline because of James’s actions.

XanDany
Member
XanDany

That’s a really good point- a lot of Cat’s character was about how she had to put her personal life aside to build up the company- and i mean, granted James literally fell into it, but it should still take SOME work to upkeep, right?

JoPayne
Member
JoPayne

I think a “CatCo is failing” arc is EXACTLY where they’re going, and blaming it on James’ neglect for his actual work responsibilities is the perfect way to go. It would also provide the perfect opportunity for Cat to swoop back in, terrify everyone and right the sinking CatCo ship.

Drowmonk
Member
Drowmonk

So that last scene with Mon El and Kara in her apartment was really hard to watch as you said. It’s also problematic, in that Mon El was waiting for her to get home, removing any choice she may have had not to have this conversation right then. Then add in how uncomfortable Kara looked the whole time, and Mon El really not understanding what he did wrong, and you have a disaster of a scene. I watch a reactor on Youtube (Torchwood boy) and he’s a KaraMel shipper, and he was urging her to kiss Mon El in that… Read more »

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[…] than anything, J’onn’s and M’gann’s relationship drove this episode in an organic way after last week. J’onn’s forgiveness of M’gann was the most poignant moment last week, and we weren’t […]

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[…] reaches acute levels when Mxy dresses and styles himself as another Superman, just as Mon El did in “We Can Be Heroes”. Like Mon El did with James, Mxy argues Kara needs an equal to her powers. He calls Mon El a thug […]

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[…] protective paternalism and repeated failures to listen to or respect Kara’s agency. Episodes 9, 10, 13, and 14 all include at least one example of Kara giving Mon-El point-blank instructions that he […]

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Honest Conversations and Unfortunate Insensitivity on Cloak and Dagger

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Content Warning: This review discusses suicidal ideation and attempted suicide, as depicted on the show. 

Last week’s episode of Cloak and Dagger ended with Tyrone and Tandy together and finally ready to discuss why exactly they have new superpowers insistent on bringing the two of them together.  Both their lives have been tossed upside down, and the only consistent thing in the tragedies of both their lives is each other. Maybe it’s time to sit down and talk about it? That’s exactly what “Call/Response” did this week. Unfortunately, to mixed results.

cloak and dagger church

Time to Talk

“Call/Response” continued Cloak and Dagger’s attempts at interesting episode structure by weaving together forward plot momentum in and out of the previously mentioned conversation between its heroes. This conversation lasted through the entire episode as Tandy and Tyrone hashed out what their powers are, what they do, how they experience them, and what their dreams from last week meant for each of them. These two had a lot to talk about.

For a good 90% of this conversation, I liked the direction of it. The honest and open-ended nature was refreshing. For the first time since they acquired their new powers, they held nothing back regarding what had changed, what they were going through, and how it affected them.

It moved both characters appreciatively forward. Even better, you could see how the conversation positively affected both in the scenes from the next day, when both acted on everything they discussed. Cloak and Dagger thus did a good job timing subjects of conversation with next-day action. Like you’d expect, these scenes were not exactly subtle about it, but so long as the point is made what does that matter?

Through their conversation, Tyrone and Tandy finally started acting against their instincts. They challenged their perceptions of the world. Tandy made an honest effort to learn about her mother’s boyfriend Greg and found out he was genuinely interested in her mother and trying to help. She made an effort to embrace the hope she always rejected before. Her experiences have shaped her towards cynicism in everything. Life is a giant scam where everyone uses everyone else to get ahead, and you see this in her own method of making money. For her to open her mind to the possibility of Greg proving her wrong was a significant step forward.

Tyrone faced his own challenged perceptions, naturally based around his brother’s murder and murderer. He considered Tandy’s argument about his place in the world and where his privilege truly stands, as well as the destructive path his actions led him down. The failed trip to the police station was one important step, but the truly important moment was his field trip with his father to Otis’s old Mardi Gras Indians stomping ground.

(By the way, add another cool twist on New Orleans culture to Cloak and Dagger’s credit.)

Through this trip, Tyrone found new perspective on his father and brother, as well as his own anger. His father stressed the importance of finding a channel for his anger. And he might have found his way via the suits the Mardi Gras Indians create, and the taking on of his brother’s unfinished suit. Tyrone needs this outlet and focus for his anger. He struggled with it throughout the first three episodes, even to the point of trying to shoot Detective Connors.

Even better, all this character development provided the biggest plot movement yet.  Tandy’s determination to get along with Greg led to direct involvement in the Roxxon lawsuit he represented her mother in. It also led to Roxxon killing Greg for presumably getting too close. There should be no escaping the consequences of Greg’s death. Tandy’s mother will suffer. Who knows whether her determination to take the corporation down will wax or wane. Tandy herself visited the burned office to retrieve documents from Greg’s safe, so she certainly won’t let this go.

Tyrone’s plot movement was not so direct, but still meant something. He learned of his brother’s training to be a “Spy Boy” for the Redhawks, a role in Mardi Gras parades involving moving ahead of the Big Chief but was described in this episode as someone responsible for scouting the unknown to seek oncoming trouble. The unfinished suit Tyrone adopted also largely resembles the signature look of Cloak in the comics.

And of course now you also have to wonder if Roxxon will involve themselves with the Redhawks.

There was definitely a lot of good content in this episode. At this point Cloak and Dagger is close to establishing a base quality that this episode certainly matched. Unfortunately, the end of the episode left a real sour taste in my mouth. One reason due to plot, and another for some poor handling of a very sensitive subject.

Insensitivity and Stalling

You saw the content warning, so let’s dive right in. The episode-long conversation between Tandy and Tyrone breaks down at the very end, when conversations about privilege turn into insults and eventually lead to Tandy admitting to suicidal thoughts. In his anger, Tyrone tells her that if she wants to die so badly, she should just do it.

The next day, in the aftermath of Greg’s murder, Tandy restrains her hands and feet and jumps into the ocean, clearly planning on killing herself. She eventually resurfaces when her powers trigger and she cuts the ropes binding her hands.

I will say this: my final judgment will depend on how this is handled moving forward. Right now it feels like a really cheap use of suicide. There are some things you must always take care to portray responsibly when telling your story, and this did not feel like a particularly responsible way to handle Tandy’s thoughts of ending her life. I worry this was nothing more than an attempt to end the episode with high drama, and that the distasteful implications are unrecognized.

Now, we do need to see where it goes from here. If Tyrone recognizes the terribleness of what he said and apologizes for it, and there’s a genuine effort to understand the mistake he made, this can pass by without issue. And it’s not like the idea that Tandy might have suicidal thoughts came from nowhere. Considering her immense survivor’s guilt and lack of connection, I can certainly understand how thoughts of suicide enter her mind. Thing is, I don’t think you can just throw it out there, have a main character yell at her to just go ahead and kill herself, have said character try, and then move on from it. It all happened so quick and dirty that I can’t help but feel like it may have just been there for drama.

I hope it’s needless to say that using suicide just for drama is an awful idea.

Cloak and Dagger needs to follow up respectfully on Tandy’s attempt. Suicidal tendencies are a serious concern that must be handled delicately and with a purpose. And unfortunately, this is an easy fallback too many shows rely on without the proper care needed. I hope Cloak and Dagger doesn’t.

My second, lesser, and plot-related concern is the argument that led to Tyrone’s insensitive words. Namely that, to me, it came completely out of nowhere. The two of them spent the entire episode having  a calm, respectful discussion. Even sensitive subjects between the two caused little drama. Then all of a sudden a piece of genuine advice blows it all up and leads to an unnatural argument over privilege. Which leads to Tandy mentioning her suicidal thoughts and Tyrone’s comment.

This development renewed my worry from last week over these two being kept apart too long. It seems clear that the real, ground-shaking forward movement on Cloak and Dagger won’t take place until Tandy and Tyrone unite. “Call/Response” spent 90% of its runtime heading in this direction. Then it all fell apart.

I certainly understand how a conversation over privilege could lead to heated tensions, especially with backgrounds like Tandy and Tyrone have. Still, this felt so artificial. It almost felt like Cloak and Dagger attempting a superficial, ham-fisted discussion of privilege without any real meat. The main goal seems to be keeping the two main characters apart. It’s the absolute worst attempt the show has made regarding the privilege debate. Scenes like Tyrone walking into the police station and looking around, only to find a sea of white faces, speak volumes more than this conversation did.

While we’re certainly not back where we were at the end of the second episode, we’re a little too close for comfort. Both characters seem like they will tackle the plot alone. And you know they will tackle it ineffectively. The whole idea (at least to me) is that they won’t truly make progress until they team up. I’m also reaching a point where I will start to distrust the moments where they appear ready to team up if this goes on for too long.

In one moment, they undid a great deal of the work the 40 minutes before hand strove hard for.

I’m all for character development, but here’s hoping Cloak and Dagger avoids this mistake in the future. And here’s hoping Tandy’s suicide ends up as more than a way to create drama feeding this mistake.

Other Thoughts:

  • I was delighted when Greg turned out to be a good guy. Damn shame they killed him in the same episode he turned out as such.
  • Tandy’s mother is seriously tragic. I worry we’re heading in a self-harm direction with her as well.
  • I also loved learning more about Tyrone’s father, Otis. He seems to harbor a lot of the same barely repressed anger that his son does. I hope we get more of him and his history with the Redhawks.
  • Roxxon is still paying for the rights to the plot of ocean with the collapsed rig. This suggests to me that whatever gave Tyrone and Tandy powers still slumbers beneath the water.
  • Sometimes Tandy and Tyrone have some really good banter…and then sometimes I wonder how it can be so off.

Images Courtesy of Freeform

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The Expanse Wanders Among The Wreckage

Barbara

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The Expanse is on its penultimate week, and with an episode called “Fallen World,” showed us the aftermath of a disaster.

Recap

When the episode starts, Holden is unconscious, so Bobbie picks him up and they head towards their shuttle. However, she realizes the speed limit might have decreased after her commanding officer threw the grenade last episode, and tests it. Turns out she is right. They get out and stabilize Holden. However, many Martians and Earthers are both dead on their ship, as the quick deceleration was a massive shock.

Naomi survived, but her skiff is no longer able to move, so she abandons it and steps into space. Drummer and her first officer are both pinned by heavy machinery, and have to cooperate to get out of the situation. Anna wakes up and goes through her ship, watching the scores of dead people. Those who are bleeding severely are lost as well, since in zero gravity, there is apparently no way for the blood to drain. One would expect they’d have some sort of vacuum pumps for that, being a space-faring civilization, but whatever. Anna is horrified and offers her help, being a trained nurse.

Holden’s brain scans show frenetic activity, but he’s not waking up. A MCRN soldiers feels like Bobbie is more loyal to him than to them, and suggests she kills him, because dying might be the best fate for him right now.

Drummer and her first have now gotten to the point of sharing life stories and singing together, since they are out of viable solutions for their situation.

When Clarissa wakes up, she think she successfully killed Tilly. But as Anna is helping fix her broken arm, Tilly contacts Anna on her hand terminal. Anna goes to find her, and Tilly tells her what happened before she dies. Clarissa, meanwhile, escapes the ship just as Anna catches up with her. She is left screaming that, “she cannot escape, only beg for mercy.”

Naomi arrives at the Roci and finds Alex, mostly all right, and Amos, who was hit in the head with a heavy tool and so is less alright. Drummer’s first starts coughing blood from his punctured lungs. For some mysterious reason, Drummer decides that means she should sacrifice herself, even though from what we have heard, doing so gives him a really low chances of survival. Still, she moves the machine back onto herself, freeing him, and he calls for help.

Clarissa reaches the Roci and manages to get inside. Naomi hears the impact and goes to check what is wrong. Clarissa tries to kill her—of course she does—but Anna, who apparently followed Clarissa, saves Naomi.

Drummer’s first, after hearing about the large number of wounded they have, gives the order to spin the drum of the ship, creating artificial gravity. They are unsure it will work, but they manage successfully. The first, who is not the captain, then opens a channel to other ships around them and invites everyone to transport their wounded to their ship.

MCRN seems to have more stupid ideas about how bad it is they are being saved by the “skinners,” apparently a name for the Belters. Bobbie effectively tells him he is an idiot and goes to see Holden, who woke up, and now tells her he had a vision of the end of everything.

Review

Overall, this was another good episode with solid pacing and clear progress forward. But there were still plenty enough things left that bother me.

First and foremost among them would be the storyline happening aboard the Martian shuttle. For one, the MCRN marine was acting completely ridiculous. The Expanse has always had trouble with depicting the less open-minded military types with any nuance, but this might be a new low. In particular, I am talking about handing Bobbie the gun to shoot Holden.

It made no sense at all in context: their orders were to bring Holden in. I don’t expect MCRN tortures their prisoners, so the argument with “might be the best for him” hardly made sense. Most of all, it felt like a test for Bobbie, but if so, it was a test of a kind I’d expect to see in Star Trek Discovery‘s Mirror Universe, not among the Martians. The Expanse show adaptation has always depicted the Martians worse than the books do, and this continues in the same vein. Bobbie is gaining the very uncomfortable overtones of being the “one good apple.”

On the other hand, Bobbie’s own role here was scarcely better, particularly her strange obsession with Holden. She is acting like they became best friends in the first half of this season, which is definitely not something I noticed. No matter how ridiculous the marine’s desire to have Holden shot was, he was perfectly right that it looked like Holden was controlling the protomolecule. We know it was because Miller was controlling it for him, but Bobbie doesn’t.

At the same time, it doesn’t follow she would immediately jump to the conclusion that Holden is a villain. He could be controlled by the protomolecule. In fact, he was, to a degree. Or, he could have simply gone insane. Once again, he had in a way. There are many possible explanations that don’t lead to wanting to have Holden executed, but which at the same time don’t lead to Bobbie insisting to her marine crew that, “Holden wouldn’t do anything wrong.”

It is doubly irritating because this is Holden of all people, everyone’s personal favorite white boy. Of course she would be all up in arms about him. Meanwhile, women of color were in danger or outright killed left and right this episode.

Speaking of which, Drummer. On one hand, when we first saw the situation she was in, I was worried it would develop into a mutual attempt at killing the other and saving themselves. I am truly, deeply grateful it didn’t. And even the idea of her sacrifice could have been a brilliant one, really, in the right circumstances. The way it played out here, however? Just after it is implied her first has a low chances of survival, without any particular indication that she is in serious trouble herself? It just feels very much like, “all right, the brown chick was the captain for a bit too long, time to give it to a white guy.”

The scene between them was acted excellently though, I have to grant them that much. Naomi was very good this episode as well, and were her Rocinante boys.

The one character who continues to be a disappointment is Anna. Her very last intervention was badass to be sure, but it’s not the kind of strength I expect from Anna. She’s not there to beat people over their heads. And until that moment, she was as insufferable as before. The most ridiculous moment was shouting after Clarissa. I understand she was meant to be upset, but it just looked stupid. Tilly repeating Anna was “very good at this,” meaning her pastoral duties, only made me roll my eyes once more. Show, don’t tell, please. At this point, such assertions about Anna are about as convincing as all the characters telling Tyrion he was clever on Game of Thrones.

The season finale next week is a double episode. At this point, I feel like it can go in many different directions, and I am all impatience to see which one it goes for.


All images courtesy of SyFy

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Reverie Sows the Seeds of Doubt

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From NBC

Last week’s episode of Reverie ended on a cliffhanger. Mara realized that she wasn’t actually at her late sister’s house, talking to her late niece (she was actually pretty sure on that last one). This leads to an obvious question: where was Mara, really. Unfortunately for her, she was in the middle of a road, with a car on its way. Before the car runs her over, Mara is saved by a mysterious man who knows her name. Turns out Mara’s savior is Oliver Hill, who claims to be suffering from de-realization as well. Hill has been following Mara, out of supposed worry. Before Oliver was a concerned stalker, he was a founding partner of Onira-Tech. He has something to explain to her, but he needs food first.

From NBC/screenshot

Oliver Hill V. Onira-Tech

Reverie spends about half of the episode providing two arguments for what’s really going on. Oliver argues that Reverie 2.0 is inherently flawed. He claims that he and Mara, being the two people who have spent the most time in Reverie 2.0, will be representative of the general population. In his version, Charlie is Onira-Tech’s unthinking bodyguard who hates Oliver. The medication that Mara has been given is supposedly useless (which is not a great message, especially when paired with Mara’s previous trashing of her meds). Oliver tells Mara not to tell Onira-Tech about their conversation, but that lasts for about 3 minutes. Mara is scared and she needs answers, and she tries to test Oliver’s claims against Onira-Tech’s personnel.

On the other hand, Onira-Tech claims that Oliver Hill was unstable. Charlie claims that Oliver is dangerous. Paul shows Mara Oliver’s brain activity, explaining that he had issues before Reverie 2.0. Alexis tells Mara that her partnership with Oliver was founded in a romantic relationship. That relationship went badly, and Alexis doesn’t want to be defined by that failure, hence his erasure from the company. 

By the end of the episode, Mara agrees with the latter form of events. She seems to be finally persuaded by Alexis’ detailing of her and Oliver’s romantic partnership. However, it’s not clear that the narrative agrees with Mara. Mara doesn’t know where to turn, and Reverie loves drawing tension from that. It thrives off of Mara’s (and the viewer’s) disorientation.

It’s certainly clear that Oliver has other plans, since he offers to buy a Reverie system at the end of the episode.

Episodic Woes

This episode also included a client of the week. Part of the reason the Onira-Tech team started out the episode on edge was a theft within the building. Someone stole a copy of Reverie, and modified it into a form of “Dark Reverie.” The “Dark” version doesn’t have restrictions. Our client of the week, Glenn, is using it to plan a heist. Since last week’s episode involved a bank robber, it’s likely Glenn needed the jailbroken version for the detailed specifications.

Glenn is a man with a stereotypical form of OCD. He avoids daylight, and hates the color blue. In a twist that should not surprise the viewer, Glenn doesn’t want to commit the heist for himself. He’s been watching the single mother and son across the street. The son has a rare disease, and Glenn wants to save his life with a trial drug. Despite mostly living inside, Glenn’s motivation is that he feels like part of the pair’s family. This entire plot feels like a math problem. Sick kid + adult with stereotypical OCD + moral heist = episodic plot.

Glenn offers to sell out “Dark Reverie” sellers and give his system back on one condition: help him do the heist. Mara complies, but Charlie and Monica have other ideas. Instead of letting Glenn steal the medication, they make a deal with the medicine company CEO. The heist goes through, but is spinned as a test of the company’s security system. Glenn gets the meds for the kid, and doesn’t get a felony on his record. Smiles all around.

Conclusion

Reverie‘s season arc plot wildly outstrips its episodic plots. This week’s episodic plot was probably the worst so far. However, the arc’s plot twists easily, without feeling gimmicky.


Images courtesy of NBC

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