A Dream, A Hoax, and an Imaginary Story

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SUMMARY: While in a coma, Supergirl dreams that she is back on Krypton. Meanwhile, the D.E.O. tries to stop the Phantom Zone criminals’ plan, despite still not knowing what that plan is.


Margaret: Welcome to episode 13 of Tales from the Krypton – the end of the original run of Supergirl before it was picked up for the back 7 episodes. Tonight, we delve into what Supergirl really wants, or what the showrunners want us to think she really wants.

Syd: Except, no, we don’t. That is the biggest problem with this episode. It’s based Alan Moore’s Superman story called “For the Man Who Has Everything,” which had an interesting set up in that Superman was put into a prison that he wouldn’t want to escape from because he was experiencing his fantasy life.  Through this, you got to see what kind of life Superman would find ideal. You saw him being married and having children and still living on a Krypton that was never destroyed. It’s kind of a simple idea that there is a tragedy that this dynamic action hero who rubs elbows with gods is being denied the simple life he really wants by being a superhero. So the story has the interesting dimensions of showing the audience what the hero really wants and then forcing the hero to escape what he really wants. This episode provided neither of those things.

Margaret: What did you think they were going to do that they didn’t? Was it her having a family?

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Syd: I don’t think that is what Kara wants most. I’m not sure what she really wants has anything to do with living on Krypton and not being a superhero, and just about the only thing we see of her life on Krypton in this episode is her family telling her she’s crazy. “For the Man Who Has Everything” starts with Superman coming home from a day at work to a surprise birthday party from his family and he is genuinely happy and we get the sense of how much he would have to give up to escape this dream life. This episode starts with Kara waking up on Krypton and immediately knowing something is wrong. Even when she starts buying into the illusion, we don’t see what her life is like – she has a family, but no career, no purpose, no ambition, essentially no life. It looks like a nightmare that she should want to wake from.

Margaret: The problem is that this whole episode was weighed down by too many plot points. Did we really need J’onn J’onzz being Kara for that long? No! It was completely unnecessary. They don’t even wrap up that plot thread. They make a point of saying, “We’ll get to that later.” We could have had far more time with Kara in her dream world. We never see her actually enjoying her time on Krypton. The closest we come is when she sees Kal-El with the little ball thing and she opens it and says, “Oh, Krypton is beautiful.” That is maybe a second of her saying, “Yay! Krypton!” before Alex arrives.

Syd: Isn’t that something she can enjoy on Earth anyway? They have Kryptonian hologram technology. She can look at a hologram of Krypton on Earth. Nothing we see her do on Krypton is something that is denied her on Earth, even though what we’re seeing is meant to be her idealized fantasy world. They explain it in the end in the weakest way – that she was feeling out of place on Earth after her breakup and retreated back to her fantasies of life on Krypton, which justifies her fantasy not really being her fantasy, but it cheapens the story and it avoids her character developing in any meaningful way. This entire episode, Kara was essentially a prop. She didn’t really take any action of her own volition. She was put in the fantasy world against her will; Alex had to get her out of the fantasy world; once out, she joined the D.E.O. in their attack on the Kryptonians; then, her friends threw her a party. She didn’t take a single action on her own the entire episode.

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Margaret: The character development that they wanted to have happen was for Kara to say goodbye to Krypton. A lot of this season involved Kara talking about life on Krypton and all of the things that were taken from her and a lot of her character points have been driven from that. I think what they were trying to have happen is her finally having to live the life that she’s said she wanted for many episodes: a life on Krypton – and then say goodbye to it and realize her place was on Earth. That would have been an interesting way to do that storyline. It would be a very literal way to have her live out that fantasy.

It would have meant far more if she immediately accepted Krypton, enjoyed her life and found memories of Earth filtering in. James suddenly shows up to give her something. Alex tells her how proud she is to be her sister and then disappears. Or, you could even have her living two lives – one on Krypton and one on Earth where Cat respects her and she’s in a relationship with James. Then, things keep switching between the two and she has to pick which one is the right fantasy, but it’s neither! They did it on Doctor Who. You can have cliches and pull stories from other sources and have it mean something other than a random callback. Either of those would have meant the party scene at the end would have been more meaningful. The Earth crew was either so important that they placed themselves on Krypton where they did not belong or they actually made a separate reality in her head of perfection.

That would have made the end scene of them all being happy and enjoying alcohol far more poignant. While she still loved Krypton, she loved them just as much. I liked the scene of them enjoying themselves, but I’m a sucker for a happy team scene. But, it would have meant more if they didn’t have to explain why they weren’t in her perfect dream.

Syd: What does Kara want her family life to be? Obviously, having your biological parents alive is better than having them dead, but she can’t be structuring her entire life around her parents living forever. At the end of the episode, Supergirl yells at Non about having to lose Krypton a second time and from Supergirl’s strict tell-don’t-show policy, we’re meant to take her rejecting the fantasy world as a huge sacrifice, but from what I saw, choosing between a world where you have a rich, fulfilling life but no biological parents and one where you have living parents but nothing else at all seems like a no-brainer. I hope that after this adventure, Eliza Danvers got a call from Kara saying, if not, “I love you,” then at least, “How’s it going?”

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They made reference to Kara creating a sculpture, which is something that Linda Danvers did when she was Supergirl. The sculpture was even a winged figure, which was kind of Linda’s motif:

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The difference is that Linda was an artist by trade. If sculpting was just something that Kara did as a kid, then this reference is essentially meaningless. If, on the other hand, Kara realizes in the real world that in her fantasy life, creating art was the only thing she actually did that brought her fulfillment, that could have vast ramifications on her career at Catco, much like what they’re trying to do with Jimmy renewing his commitment to photography. I could just be grasping at straws, though.

Margaret: They haven’t explored that yet, maybe they will in upcoming episodes, butI doubt it.

Syd: Also, I think it was interesting that her family life included Kal-El. He shows up as a little kid and there’s no reason for them to be there. He never does anything and he only exists for people to say, “Oh my God, it’s Superman!” It’s because this show has an obsession with Superman and the fact that, for whatever reason, they can’t have Superman as a regular character seems to be gnawing at them. It’s why they have to show Superman in silhouette in the first three episodes. And now they shoehorn him in just to say, “Oh, I recognize that guy,” even though he doesn’t contribute anything.

Margaret: I think what they were trying to say with the Kal-El character was that her purpose in being sent to Earth was to protect Kal-El and she never got to do that because she got caught in the Phantom Zone while he grew up. When she thinks Alex is attacking her family, she reaches out to him and tells him, “You’re safe Kal, I’m here.” I think they were trying to show her trying to fulfill what she was sent to Earth to do.

Syd: That actually would be great, if that was their intent. I would have loved it if that were actually part of the story and not a single throwaway line that I didn’t even catch. They could have had a quick scene of Kal getting into some sort of trouble that Kara had to save him from – just to show instead of tell that protecting people actually is what Kara dreams about. That would inform her role as Supergirl in our world and on a metatextual level show her as superior to Superman, because while Superman dreams only of a conventional life where he doesn’t have to save the world, Supergirl is doing exactly what she wants most by being Supergirl.

This show in general needs to make more of an effort to show Supergirl being superior to Superman in her attitude or life philosophy, or even just that she’s capable. It’s so disturbing to me how often it seems clear that Kara is just worse than Kal at everything. We talked about this at length in the third episode, where Superman is shown taking care of crises all over the world while Kara is struggling to deal with local problems, but you could chalk that up to inexperience. In this episode, I want to judge this show on its own merits without comparing Kara to any other hero, but if they don’t want me comparing Kara to Clark, then they shouldn’t be adapting a Superman story in the first place. When you compare them, it’s blatant that while Clark can reject his perfect fantasy life on his own when his friends need him, Kara needs Alex to forcefully remove her from something that isn’t even really her perfect fantasy world. I want Kara to be stronger than this.

Margaret: Aunt General Astra’s part in this story,where she comes to Alex to try to help save Kara reminded me of things I’d seen in The Flash and Arrow. I thought they were trying to make Aunt General Astra into a bad version of Harrison Wells, where you know she’s evil and has evil plans, but because she cares for the main character, she will do good things that are contrary to that big plan, because although her plan is important to her, it’s just as important to save Kara or Barry or whomever. I thought that was going to be her character arc until they killed her in the end.

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Syd: I think I have some idea what they were trying to do there. The one thing that is clear is we still don’t know what Non’s plan is. I was going to say Astra’s plan, but she doesn’t have any plans any more – she’s dead. So, formerly-Astra’s-plan-now-Non’s-plan is still unclear and the more the writers go out of their way not to reveal anything the more obvious it is that they aren’t building up to some surprising twist reveal, they just have no idea what the plan is ultimately going to be. Since I am convinced they didn’t have their plan set up from the start, I know that there is no plan they could reveal for this army of inconceivably powerful aliens that won’t make people wonder, “Why didn’t they do that ten years ago? I have friends who watched Lost for its whole run, so I have some idea of what we’re in for.

It was so frustrating to me that Alex made this whole point that she had to kill Astra and J’onn reassures her that soldiers have to make tough choices. What he should have said was, “A soldier doesn’t kill the only person we have to interrogate.” If she has a kryponite blade, she has ways to incapacitate Astra without killing her. That should have been part of her training. Even with what did happen, in Astra’s last moment on Earth, she could have revealed to Kara what she was planning. All she said was that Non couldn’t be stopped. She could have said to Kara why she doesn’t think Non should be stopped. If she still believed that she was saving the world, she should have told Kara why she shouldn’t be trying to stop him. Even if she thought it was useless to try to stop Non, she could have at least told Kara what it is that she can’t stop. Then Kara could decide whether Astra’s cause was worthy or whether she needs to redouble her efforts, find where the Kryptonians are hiding and stop them. She does neither of those things.

Margaret: I thought this episode proved that she wasn’t quite sure about her plan and that she was having second thoughts. I got the impression that she was doing that thing where you’ve decided to have a big party, invited all of these people, ordered all of this food and then when it gets down to it, you realize this was a huge mistake, but have gone so far you can’t call it off. Maybe you’re right in saying that she still fully believes in the righteousness of her cause, because otherwise I feel like they would have given her more time to come around for a better redemption arc rather than cut it so short by killing her.

Syd: So, J’onn is pretty damn sexist, isn’t he? I wasn’t really aware that sexism was a thing on Mars, but when he’s imitating Kara and gets cornered by Cat, he immediately starts fake crying to try to get his way.

Margaret: At least the show actually answered that well with Cat’s response, I would say.

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Syd: I would say that Cat seems to be on a much better show than the rest of the characters. This one character seems to think that this show is smarter than it is. I want to watch her show.

Margaret: I have said multiple times how much Cat is better than this show throughout this blog. Cat is the only character I consistently liked.

Syd: It was such a problem in this episode. It’s not like Cat saw through J’onn’s ruse to the extent that she knew he was a shapeshifting alien, but she knew that her employee was being disingenuous and trying to manipulate her, and as much as I respect Cat for calling J’onn out, this show wouldn’t let her take any disciplinary action against Kara. That is the pattern with this character – she is always in the right and she is always smarter than whomever she’s dealing with, but she isn’t allowed to actually take fully justified action against Kara and she comes off as a paper tiger. Watching this show, the two questions keep recurring in my mind: How does Kara still have a job and how does Alex still have a job?

Margaret: How are the Danvers sisters still employed?

Syd: Kara has gotten close to fired so many times.

Margaret: Most of them have been incredibly justified. The only one I would call unjustified was when Cat said, “If you can’t prove you aren’t Supergirl, you’re fired.”

Syd: I wouldn’t call that unjustified. Maybe she was overreacting, but she knew that Kara was lying to her about something important. Generally, though, Cat often has legitimate reason to fire Kara and this episode was pretty bad.

Margaret: Yes, she should have been fired multiple times over. She should have been fired immediately the time she forged a letter from Cat to her son. She should not be working at Catco for J’onn to make this mistake.

Syd: Speaking of J’onn, how does Alex still have a job?

Margaret: That’s definitely nepotism. That’s all there is to it.

Syd: Alex is so bad at her job! I feel like the most clear example of that is the fact that she has drawn a gun on a commanding officer. She should not have been able to kill Astra in this episode, because, even if she can still work at the D.E.O., she should never have been permitted to handle a weapon after that. But I’m not sure what else she is qualified to do. She is shown as utterly incompetent when she is interrogating a hologram and she is terrible at it. She doesn’t stop to think of how to access what information this computer simulation might have that would be relevant to her, she tries to appeal to the hologram emotionally as if the Power of Love is going to turn it into a real girl.

Margaret: We’ve talked about this before – they’ve never used this technology properly. Why don’t they ask the hologram, “What was Astra’s plan on Krypton?” Then they might have some idea what she’s trying to do on Earth. They’ve only ever used the hologram as a robotic therapist to yell at. It’s basically like screaming into a pillow. It isn’t a way to get information, it is a way for the writers to show how upset the characters are without having them yell at somebody that would matter.

Syd: Then – and this can’t be emphasized enough – she kills the one person who knows what’s going on and is able to help them. Astra cared deeply about someone they were working with and was very forthcoming with her.

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Margaret: They imprisoned her before and it didn’t work.

Syd: We don’t know that interrogating her wouldn’t have worked, because Kara never asked her anything.

Margaret: But in that moment Hank, who had become Alex’s father figure – despite that for all we know he could have killed her father – was threatened and Alex decided in that moment that the best way to save Hank would be to stab Astra through the chest.

Syd: If she makes rash decisions like that in the heat of battle, then maybe she shouldn’t be a soldier.

Margaret: Multiple times they’ve shown that she shouldn’t. Whenever her father figures are in danger or she needs information, she makes irrational decisions. That was why she pulled a gun on a superior officer and why she killed Aunt Astra.

Syd: This episode, Win was introduced to the D.E.O., which makes it official that Cat is the only character who isn’t morally compromised.

Margaret: James didn’t know about the D.E.O.

Syd: I thought he did. He provided them with information before. At any rate, he knows about them now. All of these people who are working for Catco – a media conglomerate – know about this secret government organization and are choosing not to make it public. At this point, I can’t help but think that anyone who knows about the D.E.O. and doesn’t expose them is in a small way complicit in their crimes – which we know include kidnapping, torture, and murder. Nobody thinks, “If these guys really are on the up and up, they shouldn’t have to be secret.” I guess I never really expected Win to be the one to have enough spine to speak up, but you would think Jimmy would.

Margaret: He’s kind of been the moral compass for most of the series, except for the last two or three episodes. Speaking of that and James’ revelation with Bizarro that he’s in love with Kara, these episodes should have been switched. It would have been much more interesting character development for Win if he went from giving Kara the cold shoulder to thinking he was going to lose her, instead of the weird quasi thing in between that with Win giving James dating advice. It also would have been more interesting with James having gone through the same thing of having almost lost Kara and having that fresh in his mind as opposed to kind of out of nowhere blurting out that he loves Kara. It would have justified the character interactions in the last episode.

Syd: This episode concludes Win’s character arc from the past few episodes. At this point in the series, it seems clear that any real progress a character makes is bound to just conclude in some pat resolution that would keep the show going as it was and this episode had the scene at the party where Win confirms with Kara that everything is back to normal and they high five.

Margaret: I’m not sure everything is back to normal. They’re friends now, but hopefully when they come back, Win will have grown up enough that he won’t be making stupid jealous comments all the time and have that tension with anyone who is involved with Kara. I would be ok with it if that whole thing that happened made Win actually her friend, instead of somebody who was actually in love with her without telling her and holding that against her.

Syd: I guess we’ll see.

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GRADING THE EPISODE

Syd: I’ll give it an F, but only because there isn’t a lower grade to give it.

Margaret: I’m at a D. It wasn’t a good episode and they could have done it way better, but I’m not as angry about it as you are.

Syd: This was a squandered opportunity. They had a chance to show Kara’s inner life or to give some meaning to Astra’s story, but we just got nothing at all. What could have been a moving story of life and death was lifeless and inert.

Margaret: The problem is that I just saw it as them showing Kara on Krypton and not doing anything with that, but I didn’t think of there being that much more character development that could have happened, I just thought they could have done it better.

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