Flashback Paradox

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SUMMARY: J’onn J’onzz is interrogated for killing and impersonating Hank Henshaw. He and Alex are sent to Project Cadmus to be killed and dissected. After Kara reveals that she is Supergirl, Lucy agrees to help her free them.


Margaret: Welcome to Tales from the Krypton, Episode 17 where we have found out that everything is good and mind control is fine.

Syd: This is a very reference heavy episode and I have not seen such shallow references outside of a Seltzer and Freidberg comedy, like Epic Movie or Meet the Spartans. I think references are more forgivable when you just can’t think of anything funny so you have a reference instead of a joke. On this show, I don’t even know what the purpose of these references are. It’s like they don’t understand how adaptation works. It’s frustrating because there’s so much potential when you’re adapting a long running series, especially as they have no pretense of adapting actual Supergirl comics, so they are essentially adapting the entire DC universe and it gives them such latitude to look at everything that’s happened and really nail down who these characters are at the core and what stories resonated. They could really emphasize the parts of the characters that work and avoid the parts that don’t work. That’s not the strategy they use here. In this episode, they need a douchebag government stooge to be their villain, so they call him Jim Harper because that’s basically who that character is, right? And they have Dick Malverne in this episode and they think, what is it about the character of Dick Malverne that people like? He went to the beach that one time. Right? That’s the essence of his character, right?

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Margaret: I have no idea who these characters were, so as you said, I just imagine Alex’s junior high crush was a guy who was a surfer and loved the beach. I also imagined Eddie McClintock’s character, who was part of one of my favorite SciFi series, Warehouse 13, is just a government douchebag. I thought it was just random names without any connection.

Syd: Like all references on this show, the one nice thing about it is it reminds me of things I do like. I hear the name Jim Harper and I’m reminded of Seanbaby’s article on The Six Most Half-Assed Superhero Origins and then I have a smile on my face that lasts until a character opens their mouth and then I’m angry again.

Margaret: We start with, again, terrible music choices on Supergirl, but at least this one isn’t a cover, it’s just Supergirl’s poor taste in music as she’s watching a news report about herself when she’s attempting to stop a bank robbery and the bank robbers let the hostages go and then fall down on their knees. They say that Supergirl has lost the trust of the city and everyone fears her.

Syd: It was weird watching that, because I was thinking this isn’t actually a bad thing. She seems more effective at fighting crime with people fearing her.

Margaret: Right! She didn’t get shot at, the hostages were released unharmed and the criminals actually turned themselves in.

Syd: Maybe this show was written by Batman fans who thought that maybe if people feared Supergirl she could get so much more done.

Margaret: I don’t think so, because the show was saying that she wants the trust back and that her having lost it was a bad thing. Then again, Arrow started out as a Batman show that just happened to star the Green Arrow.

Syd: Though, Cat did mention that the crime rate was up and they didn’t offer any explanation, because if you’re afraid of a crime fighter, how does that make more crime? I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m saying it needs more explanation to justify why it’s bad that people fear her when what we’re shown on screen does not convey that.

Margaret: The way that I took that is that because people are afraid of Supergirl, she has stopped crime fighting.

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Syd: Oh! So Supergirl is falling down on the job.

Margaret: It’s a bad thing and crime is up because Supergirl is no longer doing her job due to the fact that people don’t trust or like her. They kept showing her lying on the couch, not showing up to Catco, being hesitant to respond to calls. But, that’s another thing they should have explained rather than just say that crime is up with no other reason.

Syd: They should have also explained it in a way that we wouldn’t interpret as Supergirl being bad at her job again.

Margaret: I think it’s always going to come down to Supergirl is bad at her job.

Syd: I don’t want it to be that! I want Supergirl to be a good superhero and to be a competent assistant. I don’t know why they’re selling her as being bad at everything.

Margaret: It’s just sort of how she was set up and now they’re locked into it. But, that’s not even the part that got me about this scene. The part that got me was Cat Grant comparing Supergirl to Mel Gibson. “If Mel Gibson can present a Golden Globe Award, Supergirl can be good in the eyes of the public again.” That is not a great comparison. She’s basically saying that Supergirl really is a bad person and all she really needs is a good PR campaign and everything will be okay.

Syd: Also this scene starts the trend of Winn being the MVP of the episode and it’s weird because they retroactively make Lucy a bad guy. I can’t be on Team Lucy any more. I’m not sure I’m comfortable being on Team Winn. I guess I’m just Team Peggy Carter?

Margaret: I’m always on Team Peggy Carter.

Syd: This episode goes a long way toward me being okay with Winn, but all the characters I used to like are horrible in this episode.

Margaret: That’s something I thought about a lot in this episode. They’re turning some of the characters I held up as good characters that still believed in Truth, Justice and the American Way and are ruining them. And that character is not Supergirl.

Syd: In the next scene, Winn is talking with Siobhan. Siobhan has been blacklisted. She can’t get a job in journalism. And Winn is being a good guy, but he gives the worst advice in the world because he basically says, “You just have to have a goal and nothing can stop you.” I just think: She does have a goal, she wants to be a journalist. If she can’t get a job in journalism, then I don’t know how getting a goal is going to help her unless you’re really saying to aim low.

Margaret: They were setting it up for her to, of course, do something against Kara. If he would have actually given good advice, it would have been less vague. Get a goal to not make yourself a poison pill in journalism. Instead, her goal seems to be to get Kara fired, which is exactly how she ended up in this position in the first place and doesn’t fix anything.

Syd: Well, you know they’re making her a super villain. By the end of the first time she appeared, we knew she was a villain, which is sad because they’ve given her an interesting niche on this show. They had an opportunity to build intrigue instead of making her Eddie Brock – obsessed with revenge against the hero. They could have had a gradual shift in her character and then, when she became a supervillain, it could made sense and felt like a payoff, as opposed to her being pushed into it from the beginning.

Margaret: The only thing I could think of at the brunch is how privileged and entitled Siobhan is. Her focus on Kara as the root of her problems ignores the fact that from her first episode she was playing the game and Kara just played it better that round.

Syd: Also, considering how ruthless she was, it seems out of character to blame Kara. In my experience, the people who are playing that game and want to win at all costs are not going to resent other people for doing the same thing.

Margaret: Right. And that would have been an interesting motivation, Siobhan saying she needs to now beat Kara at the game because she thinks Kara is that ruthless. That gives her more credit than believing Kara ruined her life without taking any sort of responsibility for why she’s in that position. That felt like a cop out. I know they’re trying to make the character feel as if she’s backed into a corner, but it feels disingenuous. If someone is introduced as a ruthless cutthroat character, when someone ruthlessly cutthroats them back, you can’t generate any sympathy. It undermines the “understandable” supervillain arc.

Syd: Besides which, people like that expect that of other people.

Margaret: Exactly. Why did she not expect Kara to fight back?

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Syd: It doesn’t make sense. What does make sense is that Oreo’s legal department didn’t want product placement. In the next scene, J’onn J’onzz is eating “Chocos” – an unrelated chocolate cookie product.

Margaret: The other thing that made me raise my eyebrow in this scene is J’onn’s line of, “People get disappeared for this.” So, they’re definitely in a kind of dystopian other world, where the thought of being disappeared is just accepted. It makes some actions make a lot more sense, I guess.

Syd: This is nothing we haven’t already seen before. We’ve seen the DEO disappear people before. Leslie Willis got disappeared.

Margaret: True! But, from that point, I have been thinking of the DEO operating under a government that would frown on that, which is why they are a secret. However, now, I’m realizing this is not the case. The government is fine with this, because they do it themselves.

Syd: The government is rotted from the top down.

Margaret: This is more dystopian than I even imagined before. I thought it was just the DEO before, but it’s really the entire government.

Syd: It’s hard to say, because people are so jaded and want to say, “Government does shady things all the time.” Yeah, but there are certain expectations of the way the government is supposed to operate. Just throwing out all the sinister cloak and dagger stuff with the understanding that it’s just the way the government operates shows a very nihilistic naivete.

Margaret: That’s why I took this reveal to show that they were in a totally different world. Though, that might be because I have a very optimistic naivete.

Syd: I’m not trying to sugarcoat things and say the government never does bad things. It does. It’s just that we shouldn’t be rooting for the government to do bad things. We should not expect nor condone human rights being violated.

Margaret: Right, which is why it was weird that this time it was a bad thing to lock people up and disappear them, when before everyone was okay with it.

Syd: That happens with Siobhan, too. What she does is essentially the same as what Kara did, but this time it was a bad thing. Across the board, the bad guys in this episode are doing things that the good guys have already done. It’s just sad that the writers don’t seem to realize that if you’re going to sell that as being immoral and villainous, you have to change the behavior of the heroes, or else your heroes are also villainous.

Margaret: Maybe we’ve reached into another weird dimension where they are also the Suicide Squad.

Syd: Then, Lucy Lane and James Harper show up to conduct an investigation because now they know that the head of the DEO was a shapeshifting alien that took the place of the actual head of the DEO. The episode treats the investigation as unconscionsciousable as opposed to exactly what they should be doing. Given what they know of the situation, yes that’s suspicious. Yes, they should be looking into it. Yes, they should be ruthless about it. For all they know, this evil alien has killed a man and taken his identity and has done so for purposes that couldn’t possibly be benevolent. We, as the audience, are supposed to know his motives are supposed to be benevolent, but from what they know, there is no way to interpret it that way.

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Margaret: Yeah, and Lucy is back with the military, because apparently after breaking up with James, her entire moral compass goes off the reservation.

Syd: And they give no explanation for that all.

Margaret: Later in the episode Kara says she’s doing it because she feels as if she doesn’t have a home any more, so she went back to what she knew before.

Syd: That’s not enough of an explanation, especially as she was the one that dumped Jimmy. The idea that she would lose her mind because of her own actions is one of many things that they are doing to this character that they cannot take back.

Margaret: Also, when Harper was interrogating J’onn, I wasn’t sure whether they were attempting to do a ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ analogy to make Harper seem like more of a bad guy and J’onn as a more sympathetic character, but it struck me as so.

Syd: The thought crossed my mind, but that analogy implies that straight people think gay people kill straight people and take their identities. The gay metaphor doesn’t really fit this situation.

Margaret: That’s what I thought, but otherwise there’s little explanation for Harper to bring up that he brought J’onn around his kids and how disgusted he is that that happened. He already has the point of Henshaw being his best friend. He could have used that as his moral high ground. The children thing just brought up thoughts of all social conservatives yelling, “Think of the children!”

Syd: Actually, I think there is an explanation for that. He is dealing with a killer alien. He has a right to think that his children’s lives were in danger when they were in contact with him. I will let that go. Though, yes, I had the same thought, I will give the writers of this show enough credit that they don’t think that’s a valid analogy. If they think that, then fuck them.

Margaret: My problem is that I didn’t like the analogy, but I also don’t entrust these writers with that much credit any more. They’ve shown that they are willing to throw out very serious issues with pithy lines and jokes. They’ve also drawn horrible parallels in J’onn’s storylines in the past in an attempt to make him more sympathetic and paint his opposition as monsters. They often don’t think of consequences or how that actually comes across.

Syd: No, I refuse to assume that anyone would be that monstrously insensitive to a real world issue.

Margaret: Alright, maybe they aren’t.

Syd: So, then J’onn J’onzz flashes back to ten years ago to a briefing that Hank Henshaw was giving and J’onn was not there for, which is hilarious.

Margaret: Mind meld is what I assumed.

Syd: We never saw him mind meld.

Margaret: True. Maybe he was better at it back then? I can’t think of another reason why he could have known about that. Nor, why he was able to credibly be Hank Henshaw after only meeting him for a few minutes.

Syd: Fair enough, but you know what completely doesn’t make sense? Hank Henshaw describes J’onn as a “Manhunter” and does not give any explanation. Does he participate in manhunts? Does he like the game of manhunt?

I feel like I can’t help but harp on these shallow references. This is them not even thinking about what a word means. They know the character is called Manhunter from Mars. They want to call him Martian Manhunter, so the way they had to justify that is by having someone describe him as a manhunter instead of giving any reason why a person would describe him as a manhunter. He doesn’t hunt men. He doesn’t take part in manhunts. There is no reason you would ever use that word to describe him.

Margaret: I thought the same thing. I wondered why they were calling them Manhunter, thought they would continue to explain, and then they didn’t. They just wanted to use the word.

Syd: So, then he meets Jeremiah Danvers. Jeremiah is unsuccessfully fighting a snake and J’onn saves him and then lies to him immediately. He says that he’s the last Martian, that his planet burned to death and is no longer inhabited. That, we already know, is untrue.

Margaret: All I could wonder when I was watching was, did we mishear something previously? Is the White Martian the only White Martian. No, right?

Syd: No, they did mention that there were more. They didn’t mention the White Martians being wiped out, but either way, we know for sure that his claim to being the last Martian is not true.

Margaret: I know why he thinks he is the last Green Martian, but there’s no reason to believe that the White Martians were wiped out. This is so frustrating, because I thought this flashback would answer a lot of questions, but instead I feel like I need another flashback in order to figure out what this flashback meant!

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Syd: And, also, the show should have conveyed what J’onn was actually telling the military. In the flashback Jeremiah Danvers tells J’onn Jonzz that his daughter is an alien refugee named Kara Danvers, but after J’onn tells them the story, Lucy and Harper don’t know that Kara is Supergirl. What we’re being shown is ostensibly what he is telling them, but apparently it isn’t.

Margaret: This is The Usual Suspects all over again.

Syd: This is not The Usual Suspects. The Usual Suspects was well written and entertaining.

Margaret: Hank Henshaw is Keyzer Soze.

Syd: J’onn J’onzz has said at least two things that we know are untrue. It kind of calls his story into question.

Margaret: It makes no sense. Also, I know this is my own fault, but I definitely got Man of Steel Superman mixed up with this Superman. In my head, Superman has only been active for a few years. But, when Hank Henshaw says that he got his intel from Superman, that really jarred me for some reason.

Syd: Oh no, Superman has been active for many years. I think Clark is supposed to be the same age as Cat Grant. It was made clear in the first episode that he was active for well over a decade. When Kara landed on earth, Superman was there to greet her.

Margaret: I know! And I saw that every week on the recap, but because of the movies, for some reason it never really clicked in my head how long Superman has been around. They never clarify the character of Clark or of Superman. And it just solidified to me that I don’t know anything about him at all. I thought I did because of other media, but no. I don’t know who he is at all.

Syd: No, we definitely don’t. And this episode hit like a sledgehammer just how much we don’t know him starting with this very scene. As soon as Hank Henshaw shows up, he says, “You’re the most powerful being on the face of the earth. You know who says that? Superman.” So, we know that Hank Henshaw knows Superman and that Superman knows J’onn J’onzz. Did Superman talk publicly about J’onn J’onzz or did he just talk to Henshaw? J’onn wasn’t a known thing, right? So, Superman was talking to Hank Henshaw personally about J’onn J’onzz?

Margaret: He might have meant just Martians in general, not him specifically.

Syd: That’s possible. But, Hank Henshaw is gung ho to kill a person that Superman knows personally.

Margaret: I thought that Superman talked to him about Martians because he knew how dangerous the Martian Powerset is. So, when he finds out that there might be a Martian on Earth, he thinks that they’re dangerous and needs to be killed. That’s how I took that.

Syd: That is better than what I was thinking. There were so many things in this scene that didn’t make sense to me. Did he also want to kill Superman? Because Superman is also an alien and incredibly powerful. What was stopping him from doing so? That he was publicly known? Even if that wasn’t the case, why didn’t J’onn J’onzz go public? He’d been on earth for decades. Superman is well known and beloved, why didn’t that make him want to come forth?

Margaret: It seemed as if he just lived isolated in a forest. It’s possible he had no idea what was going on outside of it. There are very few times when I think that this show would have benefitted from having someone cast as Clark Kent and show up as Superman, but this is one of these times. If you just had Superman in the same room as Hank Henshaw and Jeremiah Danvers showing, “I like Jeremiah Danvers, I don’t like Hank Henshaw, this is what I know about J’onn J’onzz and the Martians,” that would have cleared up everything. Instead they have to dance around the Superman mention to give the accusation credence.

Syd: The way you laid these points out right now makes sense of what we know in a way that I wasn’t able to because everything was so fucking vague.

Margaret: Yes. For some reason they refuse to draw even the simplest lines between things and give even the simplest explanations.

Syd: Then we have more of this thing that I hope isn’t meant as an allegory for gays in the military, where J’onn calls out Harper taking him down for “being different.” He does know that impersonating an officer is a crime, right? He is aware that he is under very reasonable suspicion of murder? These aren’t trivial things! If they were just going after aliens in the DEO, they would be interrogating Supergirl, too. Lucy and Harper are clearly just investigating the crime that J’onn is guilty of.

Margaret: But in the flashback, they showed that he didn’t actually kill anyone, despite the fact that he’s told people that he has.

Syd: He seems to want people to think that he has killed more people than the flashback has shown, which might make him less trustworthy.

Margaret: It’s either that he feels guilty so he feels responsible for the deaths of Hank and Jeremiah, which I guess you could chalk up to survivor’s guilt, but at that point you don’t say, “I killed them,” you say, “I was there when they died. I feel responsible.”

Syd: Well, he’s not very articulate.

Margaret: I thought maybe he didn’t understand English that well.

Syd: He knows English well enough to pass himself off as native English speaker Hank Henshaw for a decade.

Margaret: Maybe he mind-melded with Henshaw? I don’t know. None of this makes sense. The entire fight scene between Hank Henshaw and Jeremiah Danvers makes no sense. It makes no sense that Jeremiah would tell this person he’s known for maybe two hours to take care of his daughters.

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Syd: It doesn’t make sense that he would tell anyone at all that his daughter is an alien, especially since we see later in the episode how important it is to him to keep that secret.

Margaret: It would have made sense for J’onn J’onzz to say, “I will take responsibility for these daughters you just told me about for no reason, sir,” and moved on from there. It all just seems like they had to move from plot point to plot point. The only thing that mattered to me was seeing Kara dealing for the first time with being a different race when she’s new to Earth. That resonated with me, but that’s later.

Syd: Before we get to that, Siobhan breaks into Catco and sends an email from Kara’s address telling off Cat. Even if Cat had believed that this email was from Kara, I don’t know what Siobhan was planning to do next.

Margaret: I don’t either. I thought what was happening was that Siobhan already had her powers and was going to use that against Kara. I assumed she had crazy hearing powers, because they showed her in the first episode as always listening in on conversations, always in the background.I thought she had crazy amounts of information and either knew that Kara was Supergirl, or had some good dirt on her and was going to use that to get ahead. But, she decides to send a fake email and it just seems so dumb. You’re smarter than this, Siobhan, you’re so much smarter than this.

Syd: Anyway, back at the DEO, Alex stands up for J’onn, which puts her under suspicion. When Lucy and Harper interrogate her, the worst line of the episode ensues. Harper calls her out for protecting a criminal alien and she says, “He’s not a criminal.” Yes he is! Saying that doesn’t make it true! I get that “criminal” is a negative word and we’re supposed to be on J’onn’s side, but the whether or not someone is a criminal is not contingent on how we feel about the person. J’onn committed a crime! That’s what the word “criminal” means!

Margaret: They should have just referred to J’onn as an “evil alien.”

Syd: Right, then she could have said, “He’s not evil,” and that would be standing up for him. As it is, she can’t say he’s not a criminal. She knows he committed a crime. She’s just lying to them. Then, just when I was aggravated at how smug and dishonest Alex is, she flashes back to the best scene of the episode.

Margaret: Her in the dance club?

Syd: This flashback informs her entire character. She is reckless and lawless and doesn’t give a fuck about anyone or anything. She went from being this hellion party animal to working at the DEO with no transition and no training. That explains why she is so terrible at being a government agent.

Margaret: Which is what Harper said after the interrogation. He said she was a terrible agent and I thought, “Yes. That is true.”

Syd: So in the flashback, she’s at a club drinking with some guy and LMFAO is playing and then she gets arrested. We don’t really see why she’s arrested for some reason. We aren’t actually told why she was arrested.

Margaret: I think it was supposed to be drunk driving, but she wasn’t actually in a car.

Syd: Judging by her normal day-to-day behavior, I assume it involved assault and possibly murder.

Margaret: Maybe manslaughter while drunk driving?

Syd: J’onn J’onzz picks her up in jail and recruits her to be a government agent, despite her having no qualifications to be one.

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Margaret: It completely undermines the idea that she’s supposed to be a scientist. They bring up that she was a scientist at one point, but why would they recruit someone who has fallen on her studies? I’ve realized that none of her duties at the DEO have anything to do with science.

Syd: You realize that her recruitment has nothing to do with any of her qualifications or anything she is trained to do. It makes perfect sense that she justifies to herself that because she studied science, she’s smart and she deserves her position, but actually neither of those things is true.

Margaret: It was total nepotism.

Syd: The interrogation ends and Alex tells off Lucy and Harper saying that they should be ashamed of themselves… for conducting a legitimate investigation into a crime that she knows has been committed and is lying about. She is such an asshole.

Margaret: The problem is that this show seems to think that if you’re mean or kind of a douchebag that automatically means that you’re evil and you deserve bad things to happen to you.

Syd: Of course, if you’re mean to people who the audience isn’t supposed to like, that doesn’t count. Alex is mean to people all the time, but they’re people that the show doesn’t like, so Alex is still cool in the show’s book. However, if you are mean to one of the main characters, no matter how well-justified you are in disliking them, then you deserve everything that’s coming to you.

Margaret: And the show and everybody in the show will not care what happens to you.

Syd: For their crimes, Alex and J’onn are shipped off to Project Cadmus. It’s straight-up bizarre considering how hush-hush Project Cadmus is supposed to be that Harper would just tell Supergirl the name of the place so she can find out more about it.

Margaret: It makes no sense. It’s the same thing with the entire plot with Indigo, where she hijacks Catco’s AV equipment, which serves no purpose other than alerting Supergirl to her plan.

Syd: In the next scene, Jimmy and Lucy are made retroactively evil. Supergirl asks Jimmy about Project Cadmus, which Jimmy immediately recognizes as the alien vivisection branch of the U.S. Government. He said that after Clark found out about it, he refused to work with the Government. These two journalists knew about this operation and never wrote about or dug up more evidence about it. The one who is an alien never warned his cousin about the Government agency that might try to kill and dissect her. Lucy also knew about it, and not only did she not tell her journalist boyfriend what she knew so that he could write about it, she was fine with sentencing people to certain death by sending them there. With this revelation, Jimmy and Clark are in a small way complicit in this program by their silence and Lucy is a full-on supervillain. The logical loops they had to jump through to make Lucy evil so that she could be “redeemed” by the end of the episode are astounding. She’s a lawyer! Why was she even conducting this investigation? Why does she know about Project Cadmus? Considering she previously quit the government over moral qualms, shouldn’t her finding out about the Government’s murder program be the point that she decided she couldn’t work for them any more?

Margaret: You would think. This entire episode just changes people’s characters around willy-nilly .

Syd: At the end of the episode, we’re supposed to see Lucy as being redeemed to justify her new position, but it doesn’t work, because they went too far in making her the bad guy. Someone who does nothing about Project Cadmus doesn’t seem like the sort of person who has the necessary moral fiber to head the DEO and trusting Supergirl wasn’t the obstacle she needed to overcome to get there. At the end of the episode, she has no intention of exposing the DEO or Project Cadmus. We’re supposed to believe that the DEO requires secrecy to operate, which is insane but it’s the show’s logic, but why isn’t Project Cadmus being exposed and rooted out? We aren’t supposed to like Project Cadmus! We shouldn’t want them still operating!

Margaret: It’s not just that they’re not being exposed. Alex and J’onn J’onzz are running a covert operation to infiltrate Cadmus to rescue only her father, not anyone else.

Syd: I am not on anyone’s side any more. All of the “good guys” are complicit in the most horrific malfeasance.

Then Kara gets Lucy on her side by revealing her secret identity. Then we saw a flashback to her childhood.

Margaret: Which I actually liked because it explained some things about Kara’s powers as well as her personality. No, she couldn’t turn them off and she had to regulate them. The glasses are a nice touch, and explains why she is always pulling them down when she has to do something with her X-ray vision. It was interesting to see her actually learning about things and realizing why she wanted to be so normal. Like the part where she says, “We don’t have birds on my planet,” and Alex goes, “Don’t say that stuff out loud.” I thought it was also interesting to have Kara’s point of view of hearing everything and seeing everybody’s bones as an X-ray. It was a good way of showing why it was so overwhelming to her and brought a little bit more of her character into focus. That was the one flashback that made me feel like this person was a true character.

Syd: I didn’t care at all about the mechanics of how her powers work or how her glasses work, but I liked that it showed her natural inclination to right wrongs and save people’s lives and that it touched on that feeling of being different and an outsider and needing to hide things about yourself from others, which is very relatable. Those are the only nice things I have to say about this sequence, because it also had a lot of problems.

The scene starts at Midvale High School and Alex is talking to a boy she addresses as “Rick.” Of course, in Supergirl comics, there isn’t anyone from Midvale named “Rick,” but there is a “Dick,” which is also short for Richard, so I checked the end credits and sure enough the character’s last name was “Malverne.” At this point, I have no idea who these references are for. Anyone who would recognize that name wouldn’t be happy to see it. Anyone who tuned into this show to see adaptations of Supergirl stories would have given up on the series long ago. We’ve gotten used to this world being populated with characters from Superman and Justice League, so why are they now sticking Supergirl supporting characters in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos? Are they mocking Supergirl fans? Why even have that character? This character in particular served no function. Why not have just a group of anonymous friends for Alex to be embarrassed in front of?

Margaret: I have nothing to say to this.

Syd: Then, after Supergirl saves a woman and her baby from a car crash, we’re treated to a remake of a scene from Man of Steel. It’s that dumbass scene where Superman’s adopted father gives him the “Everyone is very upset that you saved those people’s lives” speech. I think the makers of this show were aware of the criticisms of Man of Steel but didn’t really understand them, because they didn’t have Jeremiah tell Kara that she “maybe” should have let the people die, but what he actually told her was just as bad. He said that he wouldn’t be able to cover for her if she used her powers again, so she should just try to be normal. It’s one thing to say that protecting your identity is ALSO important, but saying that you shouldn’t save people’s lives when you have the power to do so because it might risk revealing your identity is just grotesque. At least in Man of Steel, Jonathan Kent has the threadbare, bullshit justification of worrying that people might be upset at discovering the existence of an alien life form, but in Kara’s story, there’s already a prominent and loved alien in the public eye. When you’re different, you’re often pressured by your family or your peer group to hide things about yourself. You feel ashamed and afraid, but you would also be inclined to seek out other people who have been through what you’re going through to talk about it.

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This is another scene where having an actor playing Superman would have been invaluable. Superman is one of my favorite Supergirl supporting characters – up there with Brainiac 5 – and I hate that through his absence, he is being portrayed as an aloof asshole who doesn’t care about his cousin struggling to fit in on Earth. Even if we didn’t see Superman, Jeremiah should have at least brought him up. Jeremiah’s reaction should have been, “It’s good that your instinct is to save people. Maybe you should be working with your cousin.”

Margaret: Or even just, “You’re a little young right now, but let’s put you in touch with your cousin so that you can learn to become a superhero,” instead of, “There’s already a Superman.”

Syd: Especially since they don’t have a new spin on this idea that there is a superhero quota that has already been filled. It didn’t make sense in the first episode, but I’d forgotten about it by this point. I’d forgotten that Supergirl’s entire life up until she revealed herself didn’t make sense. If they wanted to address that again, they should have thought of an explanation at the very least.

Margaret: A credible reason would be great, as opposed to: there is already a Superman.

Syd: Why isn’t her immediate reaction, “Wouldn’t two Supermen be better?” Wouldn’t that be the obvious thing to say to that?

Margaret: After the flashback, they’re in Kara’s apartment and are trying to convince Lucy to rescue Alex and J’onn and that Project Cadmus is a bad thing.

Syd: This should be a pretty easy sell.

Margaret: You would think. I already thought that Lucy was saying that Alex lied to put her in the same place as J’onn so Alex would break them out. It looked like she felt bad through most of the interviews about J’onn J’onzz when she heard his plight and that he didn’t kill Jeremiah or Henshaw. So, I thought she was going to let Supergirl in on it and they’d rescue her. Because I just couldn’t believe Lucy would be okay with sending someone to a research lab! But, no, she actually thought that Alex and J’onn deserved to be dissected.

Syd: She actually tacitly condemned a human being to death. I mean, technically two people, but she had no reason to believe that J’onn was not a dangerous alien. It is weird that she had no misgivings about sending her friend’s sister to the government’s vivisection division.

Margaret: Not only that, but she decides to not tell Kara about it. Maybe they’re trying to say she’s so jealous that James is in love with another woman, that it’s totally cool for her not to say, “By the way, your sister is involved with an alien organization, got caught for doing something illegal and is now never coming back.” As opposed to her going to Kara’s apartment being pissed off that James is in Kara’s apartment.

Syd: You know how girls are, right? Always be shopping and condemning their rivals’ sisters to vivisection.

Margaret: So, then, we cut to Alex and J’onn in a truck and we see that they have replaced General Lane with an even more 2-D character.

Syd: Oh yeah, why did that bring in Harper instead of just making him Sam Lane? They already have a douchebag government stooge character. They have less than no reason for this reference character.

Margaret: I guess it’s because Lucy wouldn’t turn against her father.

Syd: That would have made her supposed redemption more powerful.

Margaret: It made no sense and led to a copycat Arrow action sequence. It looked and felt like one so much that I wondered when the bow and arrows were going to be making an appearance. And it also made me wonder, when did Kara learn to ride a motorcycle like that?

Syd: That’s a good question. Maybe she was using superpowers.

Margaret: I thought it was going to be Lucy and James, because that made some sort of sense.

Syd: It was weird that Jimmy didn’t come along.

Margaret: I guess they were trying to show girl power, because if they’re working together that means they’re cool with each other now.

Syd: A terrible action scene ensues, good guys win, and then J’onn J’onzz mind controls Harper, which I know is plot convenience and so I shouldn’t question it, but he assures Alex that he’s been practicing and his telepathy no longer causes brain damage. But when was he practicing telepathy? On whom?

Margaret: I’m going to assume members of the DEO. And, not only that, everyone is cool with it. No one calls out that the minute that you change someone’s brain, that’s pretty fucked up. So, Hank Henshaw is essentially the Purple Man who can decide that at any point in time, because he needs to escape, he can rewrite a person’s memory to make them think they wanted to do that. His agenda is not being served? He will mind wipe them. And everyone is okay with it.

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Syd: No one sees any problem with it.

Margaret: That’s completely and utterly insane.

Syd: Speaking of completely and utterly insane, Colonel Harper names Lucy Lane director of the DEO under mind control. How does he have the power to do that? And how is she qualified for that?

Margaret: Yeah, she’s a JAG, but that doesn’t give her any of the qualifications necessary to run an underground alien-catching organization that she wanted to expose three episodes ago.

Syd: It’s weird that they didn’t name any of the other agents, which says to me that J’onn has nobody in the DEO that he trusts. And that’s fucking terrifying.

Margaret: The entire DEO is terrifying.

Syd: At no point did J’onn think, “Hey, come to think of it, there is no one in the DEO I trust. Maybe I am doing something wrong running this place.”

Margaret: And then they joke about the fact that J’onn is getting really good at his mind control. How can you joke about that? It made me feel so gross that Supergirl is totally okay with someone mind controlling someone into power – which is essentially a military coup and still illegal – and then joking about how awesome it is that he did that. She’s totally fine with her friend giving another person brain damage, as there’s no other way of thinking of him erasing another person’s memories and controlling them. And everyone is okay with this. They’re fine. It’s a huge problem with Lucy, Kara, J’onn, and Alex as characters. I can explain away Project Cadmus under military obligations, or maybe even lawyer confidentiality contracts or the like. I don’t agree with it, but I can see it being explained to me where I would think a little less of Lucy, but would be able to work back to Team Lucy. But, this is just gross.

Syd: So, then we get to the episode’s finale. They have a really dumb scene where Cat Grant pretends she doesn’t know the email is from Siobhan. There is no one this charade is for except the audience, because Siobhan knows she wrote the letter to Cat and Cat knows she wrote the letter, so they only did this whole scene pretending that she didn’t to create drama for the audience. Apparently, she had called Winn in to analyze the keystroke pattern and that is how she found out that it wasn’t Kara. Nevermind that she could have just asked Kara, but fine, no, they have to do it that way so Siobhan would feel betrayed by Winn, too. I understand why they did, but it’s still stupid.

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Then, she’s on top of a roof drinking. Winn tries to convince her not to commit suicide and she says, “I just want to scream!” Because then she falls off the roof and gets her sonic powers.

Margaret: Now I get why you said it was weird that they didn’t cast a woman with an Irish accent.

Syd: We’ll probably talk about this more in the next episode when they fully flesh out what her powers are, but I find it funny that they gave her the powerset of the Banshee from The X-Men, which is not what the Silver Banshee has. But it’s a comic book character, it has Banshee in the name. Close enough.

Margaret: I guess if the Flash meets up with her, he’s going to do a Laurel Lance reference. The funny thing is, what you saw this episode with references – which I only got the most surface ones – is what I’m going to see next episode, I think because I’m sure they’re going to make a bunch of references to the parallel world.

Syd: We shouldn’t set ourselves up to hate the episode before we even see it.

Margaret: I’m actually interested. I want to see how the Flash interacts with Supergirl and this world.

Syd: Well, that makes one of you!

GRADING THE EPISODE:

Margaret: I’m at a D.

Syd: D+. There were actual good scenes in this episode and we haven’t had that in awhile, so I wanted to like this episode more, but everything about the actual story was wrong. It was all built on convenience and getting the characters in places. Not only did they not think about character’s motivations, but also how we the audience may view the character’s actions.

Margaret: That’s, really, all that they’ve done in this show. They’ve maneuvered characters around to be in certain places so they can say certain things without thinking about what has come before that. All they really care about is plot driven motivations, not character driven ones. Every once in awhile they’ll have a big character moment, but it doesn’t mean that much because they’ll take it back later, or it doesn’t have any impact. We know these characters to be mutable depending on what they need for the plot. It’s very frustrating. I like good plot, but what I’m here for is characters.

Syd: I’m not even sure what I’m here for any more.

2 thoughts on “Flashback Paradox

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  2. Pingback: Enchantment Under the Sea – Tales From the Krypton

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