This week’s DC on TV is full of reruns–even on “Supergirl”

“Luthors.” Supergirl, Season 2, Episode 12. Directed by Tawnia McKiernan. Written by Robert Rovner and Cindy Lichtman.

No Lucifer, no Flash, no Legends, no Gotham, no Preacher–and I don’t care about Powerless or Arrow.

So time to talk Supergirl. And the word for this episode is “Reruns.”

In Peanuts, Charles Shultz introduced a new sibling for Lucy: a younger brother who looks like a miniature version of her brother Linus. So, she called the boy Rerun.

Rerun was on my mind when comparing this episode’s ending, because we’ve been here before: having spent a season debating whether she wants a relationship with a man whom she thinks is already involved with another woman, Kara (Melissa Benoist) confesses her love to him, only to be interrupted by someone at the very end of the episode.

The difference is which man is picked. It’s repetitive–like how Lena Luthor’s (Katie McGrath) potential fall into the dark side was already done before.

Let’s look at the two relationships for Kara first. In Season 1, it’s James (Mehcad Brooks). In Season 2, it’s Mon-El (Chris Wood). The characters are obviously different in species, abilities, and personalities. And Kara talks out why this relationship with Mon-El right now feels like it can work: she had thought she had to chose between being Supergirl and having a dating life, and she wants to give this relationship a try. But something feels off to have Kara work through a season thinking she had to break off a relationship with James to focus on career goals, then to find someone else, only slightly more frat boy-ish, and want a relationship with him. My annoyance with Mon-El influences my frustration with this repetitive writing structure, especially as it seems like a delay for the sake of teasing out longer this “will they, won’t they” Sam and Diana nonsense. It’s like Patty Spivot popping up in Season 2 of The Flash: what’s the point?

The show has tried to be upfront since Season 1 about challenges in balancing work, relationships, and personal fulfillment. Yet I thought such challenges were better addressed by Cat Grant (remember her?) because she had the benefit of experience to speak to those problems. When Kara discusses ongoing challenging, it is with the acknowledgement that she continues to improve; it’s not quite Buffy Summers’s “cookie dough” metaphor from the final episodes, but it is a realization that progress can be simultaneous to setbacks.

With Cat, however, I felt like there was someone present to offer that guidance to Kara and, as some of Kara’s journalistic endeavors have needed, to have a firmer hand in showing her actual practices in writing. With Snapper Carr (Ian Gomez) growling practical advice in most episodes, he’s certainly a counter to Cat’s loud confident direction. But when this is an action show, there isn’t time to see Kara doing the work of revising sentence after sentence until she completes an accurate, well-written, and clear article before the deadline. I’m not saying that showing Kara typing her articles would be entertaining, but I will say that the show has lacked much in making use of her role as a journalist to do some on-the-street research. Season 1 had her, Winn (Jeremy Jordan), and James investigating stories that sometimes helped them with mysteries to solve or villains to defeat. The Flash has had Iris’s investigations lead into the plot of many episodes, albeit often putting her in danger and without the ingenuity of Lois Lane to get out of danger. Daredevil has done better work with showing actual investigations, before and after Karne Page became a reporter. But at least Supergirl has not ended an episode with a sequence like Karen’s “what it means to be a hero” monologue. Still, the lack of a visible writing process–to think, to investigate, to draft, to edit, to publish–makes the career choice for Kara seem like an excuse to keep her at CatCo. That, too, seems like a rerun of Season 1: if there is not much left at CatCo for this show, why still keep us here? If Winn left for the DEO, and James is barely shown in the office because he’s out Guardian-ing, how much longer will CatCo stay in this show? Without Cat here as the mentor to Kara, a lot of what is associated with that character is falling away, too.

If Season 1 of Supergirl was her being mentored by Cat, J’onn (David Harewood), Alex (Chyler Leigh), and James, Season 2 has been her commanding agency herself, eschewing advice given to her by male authority figures such as Snapper and James, and finding a path for herself. In defining her own goals, Kara chose to break up with James to focus on a career as a journalist. And as she moves past having mentors, her relationships shift. Her conversations with Alex tend to be at the same level as peers with mutual respect and advice for each other.

And she is now the mentor of sorts to Mon-El. And that is somehow supposed to make her relationship to this guy meaningful–and it’s not working for me. I don’t feel chemistry between Benoist and Wood The dialogue for Mon-El is like that of the Mother in Lucifer, depending on a lot of one-note gags about his unfamiliarity with this Earth at this time. There is supposed to be an opposites attract motif to their relationship, yet Mon-El is hardly stark enough: he’s supposed to be from a libertine society, and I am thankful the show has not made him so one-dimensional that his shtick is only that, but Wood’s acting at times feels so wooden as he tries to work through this dialogue that I’m bored with this relationship. Again, if the point of breaking up James and Kara was for her to find another path, having her return to a relationship with Mon-El is hardly going back to the origin–as that would suggest Kara should never be in another relationship, and that is not only unrealistic but also violent towards her, a female character–but it makes the breakup seem even more pointless. In real life, relationships are about timing and the right fit, so her being with Mon-El right now can be right; in fiction, however, to break her and James up just so she can be with Mon-El seems arbitrary.

The rerun structure to this episode also permeates the main plot, that of Lillian Luthor (Brenda Strong) framing Lena for assisting her escape from prison so that we get another episode of everyone but Kara thinking Lena is going to go bad like Lex.

Look, show: either pull the trigger or don’t.

You already had an excellent episode in “Medusa” about Lena’s loyalties, with a great twist: many of us thought Lena would work with her mother to eliminate extraterrestrials, she didn’t, she turned in her own mother, the end. That’s the climax to Lillian and Lena’s relationship: the daughter’s trust in her mother is severed. The rest is falling action.

But then the show forces this additional climax–that Lena really is biologically Lex’s half-sister, not just an adopted sister, because her dad had an affair on Lillian. And this climax is supposed to suggest history repeats itself, as represented by the chess games, Lillian bringing back relics from Lex’s previous attempts to kill Superman, and even jokes about whether Lena will lose her hair like her father and brother. Falling action in a narrative is about reaching resolution: Lena is getting there with acceptance that her existence as a Luthor does not define her choices. Falling action is boring–and going back to whether Lena is going to turn is like waiting for Caitlin to turn into Killer Frost: it took two seasons to have that happen to her in the Earth-1 universe, after so many teases that, when it did happen, I was so exhausted I don’t care. Find a role for Lena, or cut her loose like you did Maxwell Lord (remember him?).

Okay, I’ve ranted enough about reruns: what about the rest of the episode?

  • So, J’onn has known that Alex has been attracted to women for a long time because he read her mind? That’s really oversimplifying sexuality, especially as it suggests J’onn, an outside observer, can know Alex’s desires absolutely, when his observations are divorced so much from other factors, such as what is beyond desire in a sexuality, which includes self-awareness and introspection.
  • So, did Lex lose his hair like his dad because of genetics, or does he shave his head?
  • Corbin is powered by synthetic Kryptonite, like the Red Kryptonite Max developed in Season 1–and no reference is made in this episode.
  • Next week: Hipster Mxyzptlk wants to marry Kara. Can we just skip to the Music Meister episode already?
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