The CW‘s Girl of Steel returns this week with “Supergirl Lives,” which is directed by Kevin Smith. The episode itself tackles the idea of human trafficking and something that resembles PTSD, but it never quite gets over that hump needed to make either storyline profound in any way. What it does achieve, as usual, is its continued likability in its characters. Probably more so this week with Mon-El’s constant delivery of funny one-liners and puppy dog intrigue, and Winn’s several references to Stargate and Star Trek.
There are several ideas floating around in this one episode — another problem Supergirl continues to have since Season 1. This week introduces us to character storylines in which Winn is quickly figuring out that his new jobs as DEO agent and vigilante tech support aren’t as cushy as his old desk job at CatCo. Alex is figuring out how to have a working relationship while still being an effective guardian to her super heroic sister, and the mystery surrounding Mon-El is beginning to form into something tangible. While the last point (as well as Kara’s trying to find her voice as a reporter) can be, and will be, told over the span of a few more episodes. But the Winn and Alex stories begin and essentially end in the span of 42 minutes, despite being pretty significant in their own right.
Winn, while helping Guardian take down two jewel thieves that managed to slip away from Supergirl‘s grasp, gets beaten up and almost shot in the face before Guardian is able to stop the bad guy. Sometimes we forget that Winn is supposed to be the normal guy in an otherwise battle-experienced group of friends. Even though our favorite tech nerd has been in plenty of extraordinary situations, staring down the barrel of a gun can bring reality crashing down on anyone who doesn’t possess superpowers or bullet-deflecting armor. The result is Winn sporting a nasty shiner and the emotional instability of someone who might be suffering from a form of PTSD. This is handled pretty haphazardly, but at no fault to Jeremy Jordan‘s performance.
We get one real scene where Winn is definitely shaken up and erratic; he even declares that he is done helping the Guardian. One quick pep talk from Alex, however, and he’s back to his normal, dorky self. I do love, however, his excitedly declaring that he is not a “Red Shirt,” a reference to the classic Star Trek series in which any crew member of the Enterprise wearing a red shirt was subject to sudden and horrible death. Honestly, Winn’s trauma could have been fleshed out better, and maybe over one more episode for it to have a true impact on our feels. But as with many other profound ideas presented in Supergirl, this one fell a little short.
Not as profound, but equally as important as Winn’s story is Alex’s relationship with Maggie. They’re officially girlfriend and girlfriend now, a brave new step for Alex. But as soon as Supergirl goes missing, she immediately takes her frenetic frustrations out on Maggie, blindsiding all of us. Honestly, it was the poor choice of words Alex used that confused me. The second she finds out that her sister is no longer on Earth, Alex makes it seem as though Maggie had just pulled one over on her and that she needed space from their still budding romance. The amount of time spent on this is appropriate enough, and is nicely resolved with Maggie being the voice of reason (and her confessing that she already figured out Kara is Supergirl), but that first confrontation between her and Alex just left a weird taste in my mouth. It could have been handled better, is what I’m trying to say.
The most interesting thing about “Supergirl Lives” is how much broader the show’s world has become. The first half of Season 2 established a thriving population of alien refugees living on Earth and some of the pitfalls that come with such a coexistence. The return of the season introduces a new precedent in which Supergirl and company can go off-world. And with a new evil presence rearing their ugly, masked faces, we’ll likely get to see more intergalactic planetary action.
Kara and Mon-El discover a human trafficking ring on Earth. This ultimately leads them through a Stargate-like portal and onto the planet Maaldoria, a.k.a. “Slaver’s Moon.” Maaldoria is a hub where Roulette (Dichen Lachman) is kidnapping to be sold into slave labor in exchange for alien “blood diamonds.” I’m a little surprised the human trafficking angle didn’t get more air time considering that Kevin Smith is the director of this episode. At least add a PSA during the credits, or something — unless they did when it aired on the CW, then I’ll shut up. I say that because Smith is the co-founder of The Wayne Foundation, an advocate for helping victims of sex trafficking, especially for those sold into it at a young age. I’m aware that he doesn’t get to write the episode, but maybe he should have.
I wonder if this will be a continued problem now that planet-hopping tech is a thing in this universe. If Superman has been known to go on missions off-world, and if Kara can now jump between universes to hang out with Barry, why not?
The problem with the human trafficking plot is that no one is in any real danger. We don’t see our people toiling in diamond mines or subjected to uncomfortable situations, and it’s assumed that the only kidnapped humans are all still hanging out in a cell waiting to be sold to the Dominators. Yes, the aliens from the four-part crossover make a brief return in this episode. Our only insider point of view is Kevin Smith‘s daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, who plays Izzie Williams, the missing teen Kara is tasked with finding at the beginning of the episode. But even she is unable to present the wrongness that is selling people for slave labor.
There is one scene where Supergirl lets her captors torture her in a last ditch effort to protect her cellmates. This selfless act inspires everyone to rise up and fight back, but this pans out with little to no fanfare. The struggle ends as soon as it begins with Roulette and her alien conspirator locked up. There is a harrowing escape afterward, but the merchant Dominator gives them a brief head start when he recognizes Mon-El, and bows. So again, no real danger.
Also, why is Supergirl only concerned with the human slave trade? I hope this plot point gets a much broader scope somewhere down the line.
Another problem I had with “Supergirl Lives” is Kara’s approach to journalism. She’s a bleeding heart. That’s fine in a hero, but as a reporter? It’s a slippery slope taking on every charity case that walks through Snapper Carr’s office door. Sure, Kara is rewarded in a big way this time around, but what about the numerous dead ends that are sure to come? I genuinely hope they come, actually. Not every possible lead that falls into her lap should perfectly align to her superhero lifestyle. Kara needs a bitter dose of reality once in a while, too.
Where Chris Wood is concerned, he does a lot with the little he’s given when it comes to Mon-El’s story. After a few crisis of conscience moments, Mon-El ultimately decides he wants to be a superhero just like Kara. For real this time. This decision comes from a mostly awkward moment in which Mon-El is willing to take a bullet for Supergirl and the people fleeing from the slave traders. It lacks the emotional depth the show was hoping to provide, but Wood totally makes up for that in his next scene with Melissa Benoist. The two exude crazy amounts of chemistry when they finally have a moment alone together. I always look forward to Mon-El getting alone with Kara for their heart-to-heart conversations and their not-so-subtle flirting. It brings out the hardcore romantic buried deep within the dark recesses of my soul.
- There are a lot of comedic bits in “Supergirl Lives,” which ultimately made me forgive the rest of the episode’s shortcomings. I especially love it when Kara throws her clothes at Mon-El off-screen when she changes into her Supergirl costume.
- “What’s club soda?”
- “I’m not a red shirt!”
- I can now get behind this Snapper Carr character. We both love our morning coffee, contemplation, and danish.
- Mon-El sheepishly pulling some of Kara’s couch blanket over his lap excited me a little more than it should have.
- Pretty sure Mon-El is the real prince of Daxam. I mean, it’s pretty obvious at this point.
- Alex giggling over the fact that she has a girlfriend now is everything.