Uncollected Thoughts: Crisis on Earth-X


The TV promo

Where there are four DC Universe TV shows appearing on the same network, you’re going to get crossovers, especially as three of those shows are practically incestuous to begin with, having spun-off each other.

Last year, the crossover was spread over four consecutive nights, with each of the shows retaining their own identity and concerns for the most part against the background of invasion by distinctly unconvincing CGI aliens. It was fun, but most of that came in the last part, when everybody got together for a mass superhero brawl.

This year, it went a whole lot better. Firstly, the four-parter was stripped over only two nights, in blocks of two hours (for which Arrow shot forward three days),which maintained the momentum far more successfully, and secondly it went out under its own title, Crisis on Earth-X, and played as a distinct, four part mini-series, which worked fantastically.

The title alone had a nostalgic ring for veterans like me. Ever since the first JLA/JSA team-up back in 1963, Crisis has been the DC got-to title for big events. And Crisis on Earth-X is personally significant to me because that was the title of Justice League of America 107, all those years ago, my gateway back into reading comics.

The mini-series borrowed the same principle but built its story upon a colossal twist. This further forward in time, their Hitler has died (in 1994) and a new Fuhrer is in charge, supported by a female General. The Fuhrer is an expert archer with a mainly green leather costume, the General is a superstrong, flying, blonde-tressed Aryan type: yes, it’s the Earth-X Oliver Queen and Kara Danvers Queen – his wife!

And supporting this unlovely pair of versions, we have the Reverse-Flash, still wearing Harrison Wells’ face and, if we don’t have enough allusions to early series, another expert Archer called Prometheus, under whose mask is… Colin Donnell, aka Tommy Merlin.

The main thrust of the story is that Super-X-girl is dying due to some form of radiation poisoning and needs a new heart – that of Kara Danvers. As she’s going to be on Earth-1, attending Barry and Iris’s wedding, our villains bust in on the ceremony (does anyone have any objections? Pouf: Minister is vapourised).

The wisdom of trying this on just when the Church is crammed packed with the superheroes of four whole series may be questionable but not to Green-X-Arrow: in fact, the show is heavy with speeches, from him, from Super-X-girl and even from poor Tommy (before he chucks a cyanide capsule down his throat after being captured) wholeheartedly espousing Fascist ideology, and despising the heroes and, by extension, all the other 52 worlds of the Multiverse, as weak, deserving only of serving their betters.

It’s horribly contemporary, though nobody makes that connection outside the audience, and the F-word is never used, though Nazi is bandied around with comfortable ease. But this strength through purity, contempt for the weak, the poor, the non-Aryans: tell me that doesn’t ring a bell with a lot of what we see around us.

The Comics promo

I particularly liked the way that each show abandoned its individual identity in favour of the four episodes going out as Crisis on Earth-X. This was particularly welcome in the case of Supergirl, which I’ve given up watching.

Generally, there was a common core cast of the principals and a couple of essential supporting characters, with the other supporting players having only relatively limited roles, in passing. For instance, Kara brought her sister Alex with her to the big wedding (whereupon Alex copped off with Sarah Lance at the rehearsal), and Oliver Queen brought Felicity.

The Flash got the best of it, but then the story was mainly taking place in Central City and was built around Barry and Iris’s wedding, so having the full cast play through was pretty much a given. And whilst only Sarah, Mick, Jax and Professor Stein went to the wedding, the positioning of Legends of Tomorrow as the close-out show again ensured the rest of the Legends got a good look-in too.

There were more than a couple of surprises along the way. Russell Tovey turned up for the back half as a Concentration Camp victim on Earth-X, imprisoned for being gay but, as advertised, he’s also a superhero, the solar-powered The Ray. Though the Ray is actually from Earth-1, once the whole thing was done, he went back to Earth-X to continue the good fight, but his lover (from Earth-X) decided to stay on Earth-1 for a bit. His lover was captain Cold, the Earth-X version, Wentworth Miller enjoying subtly camping things up as ‘Leo’ Snart, his interactions with Dominic Purcell a total delight.

And despite the vapourised Minster, Barry and Iris did get married at the end. They’d had the ceremony, all they needed was the Licenced Minister, so Barry speed-snatched John Diggle out of Star City.

Not to be outdone, having rather loudly turned down his proposal in part 1, because she did not want to get married, Felicity had a sudden change of heart, and got Dig to tie her and Ollie’s knot too. Aww!

But there was one thing I didn’t expect, not in itself but especially not in a more or less self-contained mini-series with only a minor degree of relevance to each show’s ongoing plotlines. I rigorously avoid spoilers, so I have had no idea where the Legends plot of Professor Stein and Jax trying to separate themselves as Firestorm, to enable the former to return to his wife, daughter and grandson, was going to lead. Was Victor Garber leaving? He is the first name in the credits, after all.

So the cliffhanger for part 3 was that he and Jax had separated to speed up what needed to be done to get everyone home to Earth-1, but they were all being attacked by machine-gunning Nazis, and Stein made a run for the lever he needed to pull, and was shot. In the back.

In the final episode, he made the final effort and pulled the lever, but at the cost of another bullet. So he was rushed back to the medbay on the Waverider, and his physical suffering fed back to Jax, but it rapidly became very clear, that Martin Stein should be dead from his wounds, that he would be if he wasn’t sustaining himself on Jax’s life-force, and that Jax would die alongside him. So Stein refused to drag Jax in with him. And he died.

It was a shock and it was felt by everyone. Next week’s Legends is the Fall Finale and I’m eager to see where they go with this now: I mean, Stein could ‘survive’ as a ghostly voice in Jax’s ear, as Firestorm, or maybe Franz Drameh is out of the series two, and depending on the reaction to Russell Tovey, I’m guessing on the Ray joining the Legends before the season is over.

But this was really a surprise, even if it did turn the last part into Two Weddings and a Funeral (I’m sorry, but the producers were angling for that, obviously).

Speaking of Supergirl, I didn’t see anything to suggest I’m missing anything, and with the exception of Sarah helping Alex get over her separation from Maggie (and I don’t mean by that that her… head was turned by a lesbian one night stand, you filthy-minded sods), there was nothing to do with ongoing continuity there: Kara/Melissa Benoist was in it for the mini-series story only, and thank the TV Gods for that.

So, a palpable hit by being almost purely superhero geek from start to finish. Keep this format for 2018 and, as one who has recently watched Justice League on the big screen, take a bloody big dose of Crisis and inject into everyone who will have anything to do with the sequel: this is how you do it, you pompous bastards!

The nostalgia…

The Great DC Crossover – Part 4 – Legends of Tomorrow


Well, the Distinguished Thing has now been completed, and Legends of Tomorrow got the conclusion bit, along with most of the CGI budget, and most of the plotlines about the crossover itself, but not the final word or the final scenes. It was at least enough to lever the whole event up to B+ status, retrospectively. but I’d suggest going for more of this throughout next time round.

After the diversion yesterday into Oliver/Flashpoint, there was no room for manoeuvre. So the two unused Legends, Steel and Vixen, plus the ever entertaining Heatwave, took the Waverider back to 1951 where, with the help of our two tech geeks, Cisco and Felicity, who ended up wielding big, biiiig guns, interrogated a Dominator and found out what it was all about.

In keeping with the original crossover event that inspired this week, Invasion, it was all about the metas. The 1951 Dominators were there because of the Justice Society, checking out the potential menace of superheroes, complete with a young and slimy government agent, eager to torture, who happened to agree with them.

Dial it forward sixty five years and not only is said agent still going strong and ruthless, but this year’s crop turn out to be here – and planning to drop a Metabomb that will kill all metas on Earth, plus two or so million collateral – because of none other than the Flash and Flashpoint. Apparently, there’s been a truce based on a promise not to interfere with the timeline, and Barry broke it, and can save the day by handing himself over.

Barry being Barry and becoming as boringly hard on himself as Oliver by the day, that’s what he’s going to do, no negotiation. But the others won’t let him. Including Cisco who, having changed the past himself in the past, suddenly gives up on this hate he’s had for Barry, calls him ‘friend’ again, and that’s enough to get Barry to fight instead.

So, one massive, multi-scene fight later, Firestorm uses those matter-transformation powers everyone’s forgotten about in Legends season 2, and transforms the Metabomb to harmless water (I still wouldn’t drink it if I were you). Martin Stein’s time-aberration of a daughter, Lily, invents a device to give Dominators extreme pain: and she seemed such a nice girl, too. Ollie, who earlier gave Supergirl the bums rush because, well, he didn’t want super-powers around, admits that making the single most powerful member of the Earth-Saving Crew sit around and file her nails was maybe not the brightest idea, since it’s her and Barry wot save the (first part of the) day. And it  all ends up with a wrap party which was genuinely enjoyable just to see everybody getting down and mingling.

Call out to Melissa Benoist who, despite starting out unconnected to everyone except Barry, was a delight mixing it up throughout, and who mixed Agent Nasty by getting the new female President (hot enough for both Mick and Sarah to notice) to assign him to Earth-1’s future DEO – in Antarctica.

No, overall it was good, clean superhero fun, goofy and full of holes, as such things are always going to be. If it’s repeated, it really does need to make more time for the menace, and the mix’n’match of the characters than the ongoing continuities of each series, but it was good enough to make a repeat something to anticipate rather than dread.

Next week is fall finale time for our favourite four (and you thought I couldn’t do extended alliteration), and then the Xmas break.  Let’s be careful out there, ok.

The Great DC Crossover – Part 1 – Supergirl


Tomorrow, probably...
Tomorrow, probably…

It’s been heralded for weeks, I’ve been avoiding trailers and set photos, but now it’s here, and I wouldn’t be the guy I’ve been this last fifty years or thereabouts if I didn’t blog it.

If you’re mystified by that introduction, let me quickly explain that, once Supergirl transferred from CBS to the CW, settling into a neat little four night strip of television series based upon comic book superheroes from DC, the temptation to do a single story featuring everybody, leaping from show to show, became irresistible. And now the Distinguished Thing is here, the first part is frankly a bust.

What we have had tonight is an ordinary episode of Supergirl, concerned entirely with its own story-lines and ongoing set-ups… except that twice, at random points, events were interrupted by one of those dimensional rifts they do on The Flash to indicate that someone is traveling between Earths in the Multiverse.

Twice, nothing happened. The third time, about ninety seconds from the end credits, out popped Grant Gustin and Carlos Valdes, aka Barry (Flash) Allen and Cisco (Vibe) Ramon. Barry’s calling in the favour Kara owes him for helping her out last season…

And that’s it. It’s highly disappointing, even as I recognise the story logic of it, in that Supergirl is acknowledged as taking place in a completely different universe from the one shared by The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, so Kara is having to be imported to help, but it’s a teensy bit of a cheat to basically leave her show out of the Crossover, which is now a three-show affair, with guest star. Not what we were promised.

So tune in tomorrow, hopefully a bit earlier in the day, for Part 2. In which it really ought to start getting going. Gotta run.

The Fall Season 2016: Supergirl season 2


What the World is Waiting for
What the World is Waiting for

After Arrow, Supergirl is the series nearest to the edge for me. On balance, I enjoyed season 1, but almost all of that was down Melissa Benoist as Supergirl and Kara Danvers, who was born to play the twin leading roles. Apart from that, the series had a lot of good things going for it – I have never previously liked Callista Flockhart but she was great as Cat Grant – but was clunky far too often.

Now the show has been bounced down from CBS to The CW, where it sits alongside the other DC series, but it hasn’t merged into the so-called Arrowverse, and remains in a separate Universe. Which is all too the good because the feel of this lightweight, optimistic, good-hearted show, with its lightweight, optimistic, good-hearted heroine, is inimical to the increasing darkness of everything connected to Oliver bloody Queen.

Changes are to be made, however, and some of these were teased in an opening episode that, as we were all aware, brought the Big Blue Boy Scout, ol’ Supes hisself, into town to visit little/big cousin Kara.

Tyler Hoechlin, who I believe has been better known for playing bad boy roles before this guest stint is, IIRC, the sixth actor I’ve seen playing Superman. He comes onscreen as Clark and, to my great delight, his Clerk is pure Christopher Reeve, which won my support instantly. His Superman was similarly clean, straightforward and open, just as Superman should be: no darkness, no brooding, no sullenness. The perfect hero.

For a while, Hoechlin outshone everyone else. Superman references abounded. Cat Grant’s new assistant, who she summoned with a wonderfully Gene Hackman-like growl, was Miss Teschmacher, Winn – who’s moved from Catco to the DEO this year – got all excited about the technical aspects of when Supes was fixing the San Andreas Fault and, whilst Supergirl can’t have Lex Luthor, there’s a new recurring character in Town (presumably taking the Maxwell Lord role) in his adopted baby sister, Lena, a (so-far) good girl.

Oh, and since Supergirl is now filming in Vancouver with the rest of Greg Berlanti’s DC series’, and Callista Flockhart is only going to be available as a recurring character, Kara’s choice of future career-path is, somewhat disappointingly, a reporter. The show does rely entirely too heavily on nicking things out of the Superman mythos as it is without going down that particular copycat route.

Still, it’s early days and with the mysterious young man from Krypton who landed in season 1’s cliffhanger, and Project Cadmus converting the English assassin, John Corben, into Metallo, not to mention the revelation that all this time, Hank (J’Onn J’Onzz) Henshaw has been sitting on a bloody great Kryptonite meteor (lessee, last season’s recurring big baddies were Kryptonians with limitless powers, he’s got Kryptonite, doesn’t use it against them… does not compute): enough material to keep us going I think.

One definite minus mark was the way the episode treated the Kara/James Olsen relationship. I thought the idea was wrong-headed and stupid, but season 1 went for it with Kara puppy-doggishly following James around with her tongue hanging out until she gets the date she’s been longing for.

Only to decide, now she’s got it, that she doesn’t want it, actually she doesn’t want him, but he’d make a great friend instead.

It’s a step in the right direction but it  was handled appallingly badly, because the writers couldn’t come up with a reason for this change of heart. I mean, hell’s bells, it’s supposed to be only twelve hours since season 1 ended and Kara suddenly thinks differently when nothing has changed except James suddenly wanting to go out with her… In the absence of an in-story explanation of any kind, the viewer has to construct their own rationalisation, and the only explanations that fit are inherently negative about Kara. Dumb writing, completely dumb.

So: overall summary, changes are being made, but on the surface things stay the same. If it were anyone else but Melissa Benoist in the title role, I would probably have bailed by the middle of season 1. This year needs to tighten up, and I am already deeply sceptical of the new character who will replace Cat Grant on a daily basis.

Still with it, but with an option to sidle off if the season’s not very careful.

Supergirl: And the Kitchen Sink…


Another nice photo

Things are pretty quiet around my personal television schedule throughout this summer, which currently we’re only recognising as summer because the rain’s warmer than it is in December. I’m still bingeing on Person of Interest (twenty episodes left) and there’s the weekly Deep Space Nine (five and a bit seasons left) and now that the Council’s motor-mower has left us in peace again, I will shortly be taking in the next episode of Horace and Pete (blog coming up shortly).

The only regularly scheduled series I’m currently watching is Preacher (three episodes left), about which I’m harbouring increasingly mixed feelings that I’ll probably unload in a post-season blog. Apart from that, it’s wheel-spinning time until September/October, when the new roster will start to coalesce.

In the meantime, there’s bits of news about my selection of series’, most of which I don’t pursue because, as you are aware, I try to go spoiler-free, which makes the actually watching that bit more fun when you’re not sitting there checking your watch and thinking, ‘only seven minutes left, they’re really pushing it about fitting in that super-secret, stunning, shock revelation I read about last Monday’.

But I have been aware, at regular intervals, of news about Supergirl‘s secondseason, and especially the changes being made in the form of new characters being added.

Of my autumn-to-spring schedule, it’s pretty much evens between this series and Arrow for most-likely-to-fall-off-the-ledge as did Gotham two episodes into last year. With Arrow, it’s down to the series having become too repetitive, predictable and dour, on top of which the producers have decided to smear a generous level of desperate manipulation of characters (I’m looking at the last Oliver/Felicity break-up here, which was the moment I was so disgusted at the lengths the show would go to not to have anyone marginally happy or secure).

Supergirl is the exact opposite. It’s scraped through a patchy first series primarily on Melissa Benoist’s perfect capture of both Supergirl and Kara Danvers (the micro-skirt and boots haven’t hurt either) and Callista Flockhart’s equally perfect portrayal of Cat Grant.

But it didn’t pull in the audiences CBS wanted, so it’s been ‘demoted’ to where it should have been all along, the CW Network, and been given over fully into the hands of Greg Berlanti and his crew, who will now have four DC shows to meld (a four-way crossover has already been planned: I plan to blog each episode). Filming of the show has been transferred to Vancouver (also known as both Starling/Star City and Central City and every city Legends of Tomorrow visited: those Canadians have really got their feet in the trough, haven’t they?).

And it’s getting a real makeover. Quite early on, it was announced that the show was looking to cast five new characters, two regulars, three recurring. And that was before the announcements that the Big Blue Boy Scout, Superman himself would be appearing in the flesh AND that Lynda Carter, the erstwhile Wonder Woman, will be appearing as the President (so not Donald Trump, then).

With that number of new characters, a seismic change in the dynamics of the show is inevitable. It’s failure to wholly convince in its first season would have demanded some steps in that direction but this amount of change is of a much more serious degree.

Three of the newbies are established DC characters. Or at least their names are. Probably the closest to the original is Lena Luthor, an incoming regular. Lena, as even the most comics-uncomfortable of you might guess, is related to Lex of that name: in both series and original, she is his younger sister (I am ignoring the version active between Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis during which she was his daughter).

Lena has always been an innocent, with none of Lex’s villainy, and the initial write-up of her intended role is that of an escapee from Big Bro’s villainy, but I’m rather suspecting that on Supergirl she’s going end up turning into a proto-Lex, which in turn suggests to me less/no more Max Lord. There is precedent: in the early Seventies, when Supergirl first went out into the working world, one of her recurring characters was Luthor’s niece, Nastalthia (aka ‘Nasty’).

The other two carry-overs from the comics have both been cast this week, which is what has prompted me to write this piece. Floriana Lima has been cast as Detective Maggie Sawyer, a lesbian police officer with a special interest in cases involving aliens. This is a variation on the original character, a tough-talking and action lesbian detective who’s played prominent roles in Superman and Batman.

But the casting of Ian Gomez as Snapper Carr is one heck of a dislocation, given that the only common ground between Gomez’s character – the new editor-in-chief of Cat Grant’s newspaper and Kara’s new, challenging boss – and the comic book original is the name.

Snapper Carr (first name much belatedly given as Lucas) was introduced in the first Justice League of America story and became their mascot until issue 77. He was a teenager, a hep cat, swinging, jive-talking, hot-rodding teenager, whose nickname came from his habit of snapping his fingers whenever he was happy, and boy was this cat happy, to the point where any normal, responsible adult superhero would have broken his fingers. Just imagine the kind of hip teen character a badly out of touch middle-aged writer could have come up with in 1960, and you still won’t get near enough to him.

(After Snapper was written out in 1970, DC tried on many occasions to reinvent him, without the least shred of luck. The only decent handling of him was in Mark Waid’s Justice League of America – Year One maxi-series, where he’s reinvented as a technical wizard.)

So you can see that all we’re taking here is a completely unrelated name. But don’t worry, the tv Snapper is known as Snapper because, you guessed it, he snaps his fingers when he’s excited. It was a nickname as dumb as a mud-post in 1960 so you can guess how stupid it is fifty-six years later.

The other two, as yet uncast newbies, have no comics background to them, although don’t count on that persisting in the case of the Doctor (no, that crossover is not on anyone’s horizon). She’s a scientist who likes experimenting on humans by sewing bits of aliens into them, but she works for the Cadmus Project, another long-standing bit of Superman lore, so don’t be surprised if she gets a DC female scientist name hung on her. Cadmus may have been a pretty chauvinist environment, but nobody’s using Jennet Klyburn or Kitty Faulkner right now and so what if they both worked for S.T.A.R. Labs? Is Snapper Carr still a quasi-beatnik?

The last is to be brash, leading man type reporter Nick Farrow, the other regular. I have a premonition that he’s going to be an utter disaster, as he sounds like the kind of character designed to cut completely against the sweet but stumbling proto-feminism of the series. I fair dreads it.

Five new characters, eh? Plus Supes himself and the President. And just where does this leave the existing crew? So far, there’s no word on anybody leaving, though we already know there’s going to be a big change in dynamics in one of the show’s most important aspects. Callista Flockheart is not relocating to Vancouver, which means that her role in the show is going to have to be diminished (as we would already guess from the introduction of Sn*pper). It’s being suggested that she’ll fly to Canada once a month to record all her scenes in a block, but if she’s absent from the daily run of production, I can’t help but think that this distance will seep into the acting somehow and be noticeable.

As for the rest, I also suspect that this Nick Farrow guy will also force Jeremy Jordan’s Win Schott even further into the background. Once his crush on Kara had been revealed and rejected, his character was half-crippled last season, with no viable way forward, and his contributions became much more mechanical and perfunctory as a result. Something new needs to be found for him, but with so many others jostling for attention, and being given it in order to establish them, what price the Toymaker Jr?

And we’re not that far off the same position with Master James Bartholomew Olsen, who never entirely convinced me. This version is just too far removed from the canonical Jimmy to ever be truly convincing and Mehcad Brooks is simply far too laid-back. Maybe he should just go back to Metropolis?

Oh me, oh my. Whatever will happen to Supergirl next? Will there be a quantum leap in standard as it slips into more practiced hands? Or will it simply cough, shuffle its feet and pretend not to know what you’re talking about if you try to remind it about season 1?

At least we know that this time round, even the kitchen sink is being thrown in…

End-of-Term Report: Supergirl


Warning: for those watching on UK TV, may contain spoilers.

My current schedule of US TV series, all but one of which are superhero-oriented, is starting to wind down now as we approach May, and it’s time to look back and see how good or otherwise they’ve been.

First to hit the traps is Supergirl, closing out a 20-episode season yesterday with the back half of a two-part season finale that, in accordance with the modern formula, sees off the season’s big bad and sets up a cliffhanger for season 2. At the moment, however, there is no word as to whether there is going to be a season 2, which would make the cliffhanger a bit foolish if the show gets the elbow.

Does Supergirl merit a season 2? Overall, I’d go for it, but it would be a reorder with pretty firm conditions attached to it. The show needs to seriously up its game. It’s ideas are mostly pretty decent, its cast are pretty much perfect in their roles, but the writing is constantly underpowered, both in terms of clunky dialogue and, more often, plotting that lacks either subtlety or smooth narration.

We started off with semi-klutzy Kara Danvers, aka Kara Zor-El, aged about 24, PA to media mogul and all round superior supercilious Cat Grant. Kara was actually Kal-El’s older cousin, sent (separately) to Earth to take care of the little babby, even though she’s only twelve herself. However, thanks to a detour via the Phantom Zone, by the time she arrives, he’s fully-grown and she’s still only twelve.

So Kara gets placed with foster parents the Danvers, Jeremiah and Eliza, both scientists, and their slightly older daughter Alex. Jeremiah isn’t around long before he’s taken away by the DEO, where he dies. Kara is taught to conceal her powers and herself, to be human and weak, to not draw attention to herself, all the while that Superman was the big hero of Metropolis.

However, Kara is forced to use her powers to avert a disaster that threatens the life of sister Alex, who is second-in-command at the Department of Extraterrestrial Operations, under Hank Henshaw. Kara comes out as Supergirl and works with the DEO, Cat Grant promotes her as the heroine of National City (whilst constantly calling Kara ‘Kira’). And it seems that en route through the Phantom Zone, Kara’s pod dragged with it Krypton’s Fort Rozz, home to multi-alien psychopaths and bad guys, a ready-made menace-of-the-week.

The casting, as I’ve already said, was very good. From the outset, Melissa Benoist nailed both Kara and Supergirl, as well as rocking the traditional costume, and Callista Flockhart as Cat Grant has been spectacularly good. There’s also a genuinely heart-warming touch in casting Dean Cain (Superman of Lois and Clark) and Helen Slater (Supergirl of the 1984 film) as the Danvers.

As for the rest of the cast, they’ve been mostly effective, but haven’t risen above the often quite poor writing in the way that Benoist and Flockhart have. I’ve a soft spot for Jeremy Jordan as Win, aka Winslow Schott Jr, a name I recognised of old, being Superman’s way-back foe, the Toyman (Win’s father, as it happened), but far less so for Mehcad Brooks as the softly spoken Art Director James (not Jimmy) Olsen.

Jimmy (no, James) has moved to National City supposedly to get out from under the shadow of the Big Guy (the show cannot contractually actually use Superman, a difficulty that it has been too obvious in contriving ways to avoid this, and for the first few weeks, weren’t even allowed to mention him by name), but in reality he’s here because Supes asked him to move out and keep an eye on little cousin.

Chyler Leigh is effective as Alex Danvers but loses points for how she’s conspicuously trying to be the tough, super-efficient operative, which in turn slightly undercuts her effectiveness as Kara’s sister.

Which leaves British actor David Harewood, as DEO Director Hank Henshaw: cold, cynical, heartless until we learned the secret he was concealing (with that name, we comics fans knew there had to be a secret) which was that he is actually J’Onn J’Onzz, the Martian Manhunter.

Overall, the series’ major problem is that it doesn’t quite yet know what it wants to be. It aspires – rightly, in my opinion – to the lightness and sense of fun of The Flash (there is no mystery about the best episode of the series being the crossover with The Flash). Melissa Benoist pretty much ensures that as the right line to play. However, that lightness needs balancing out with danger, menace and threat, which is where the show doesn’t quite know what to do.

Thankfully, the clunky menace-of-the-week was dropped quickly, in favour of more natural foes, and continuity was maintained by the slow development of the Big Bad, which started off as Kara’s own extremist Aunt, Astra, with lowly Lieutenant husband Non, only to jettison Astra midway, to a kryptonite sword through the heart, leaving the far less dynamic Non in charge.

Non and Astra’s plan was something called Myriad, and this dominated the two-part finale. Myriad was a broadcast mind-control system that took over the minds of everyone in National City except for Kara, Cat Grant, and recurring anti-hero Max Lord (Peter Facinelli, another buoyant and boisterous part bound for better things if season 2 materialises). These last two were protected by devices created by genius Max. Even Superman, arriving as the cavalry, succumbed instantly.

Let’s specify a few of the points I’ve made over this last two episodes. At  this point, Hank has been outed as an alien and is on the run, with Alex who helped him escape. They’re out of range, visiting Ma Danvers. As soon as the news breaks, J’Onn decides to return, his Martian brain proofing him against Myriad. Alex insists upon returning as well, even though she will instantly come under Myriad’s influence and be not only utterly useless but also a positive danger. J’Onn can protect her, at the cost of reducing his effectiveness by at least 50%.

It makes no sense whatsoever, except on the emotional level, and even then it’s still stupid. These are two very experienced, high-level agents, trained to think analytically about situations and deal with them dispassionately and efficiently. So J’Onn gives in and takes her. Alex is immediately captured, Myriaded and sent out to fight Supergirl dressed in kryptonite armour and equipped with the ol’ kryptonite sword.

But Alex snaps put of her programming, not because Supergirl pleads with her to do so but because J’Onn has flown off and brought back her mother to get the girls to stop. This massively powerful, instantly effective brainwashing system can apparently be defeated by saying the word ‘hope’ a lot, because that gets people to shake it off, effortlessly.

Thus thwarted, after an entire season building up Myriad as this infallible menace, Non sets his phasers to kill. Apparently, upping the voltage on Myriad will cause the human brain to explode, rather than reinforce the mind control side of things. We have four hours before everybody’s head goes ka-boom!

Supergirl will stop things but, since she’ll have to go in there alone, it’s probably a suicide mission. So, with such a tight deadline hanging over them, Supergirl changes back to her Kara-self and goes back to work to tell all her friends that she loves them in a way that is obviously a goodbye. Given that Max Lord hasn’t yet located the whereabouts of Myriad, it’s dramatically sound, but it kills the momentum of the episode, undercutting its supposed threat by such a slow-paced diversion.

The same thing goes after Supergirl, with J’Onn’s aid, defeats Non and his henchwoman Indigo (J’Onn literally rips her in two, despite her being a body-stretcher). But it’s too late to stop Myriad from ka-booming everybody’s head unless Supergirl can lift Fort Rozz into outer space. She has three and a half minutes left…

So she contacts Alex for a heartfelt conversation. Seriously.  So she can say goodbye and also get Alex to promise to get a life (here meaning boyfriend, marriage, kids and white picket fence, the very things Supergirl has already rejected as her destiny). Alex takes so long promising that it’s a wonder there are even seconds left but there’s still time for Supergirl to flex her muscles and lift the Fort (about 500 times her size and obviously perfectly constructed even after crashing on Earth, since it doesn’t crack up at all) into space. It floats off, Supergirl floats towards oblivion, and Alex turns up to rescue her, having taken very little time to get Supergirl’s pod out of the DEO’s underground HQ, topped up its petrol tank and flown it into space to save her.

This is the kind of story-telling I mean when I say Supergirl has got to up its game. Letting emotional beats lead despite the damage done to credible plots, careless and ridiculous short-cuts to reach end-points. The show’s ambitions are admirable, but it cannot yet establish its story-points without resorting to plotting that operates on old-style comic book logic.

Yes, I know, the irony is palpable. But it’s one thing to thrill ten year old boys with victories for the hero, and entirely another to operate to the same standard for an adult TV audience in prime-time. On the other hand, Dallas did bring Bobby Ewing back from a particularly long shower, so maybe I shouldn’t grumble…

One other point I’d like to mention, is the show’s overt feminism, or rather its constant adherence to a Spice Girls-level ‘Girl Power’. Supergirl has a penchant for making serious social points, usually in relation to the status of women, and whilst it’s good to hear such things being stated and re-stated (often in well-chosen words), the show needs to learn to be a bit less obvious about such things. Frequently, it comes over as a bit lecture-like (class, you should write this down) and the show could do with being a bit more Show than Tell.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed Supergirl without ever being blind to its faults. It’s developed it’s lead character’s confidence and effectiveness without too much obviousness over its twenty episodes, and there’s the makings of a good, fun show in there. It needs to manage its elements better, and it could have something. Other shows are demonstrating that it’s possible, so Supergirl clearly has it in it and should get a second shot.

But unless it does start to fix those flaws, not a third, I think.

Where could season 2 go? The final episode left a couple of threads open. J’Onn was pardoned for his part in saving the world from Myriad and reinstated as DEO Director with  facile speed, but General Sam Lane and Maxwell Lord still have their alien xenophobia to the fore, with the General handing over to Max an incredibly powerful Kryptonian device.

Then there’s Jeremiah Danvers: not dead this ten years, kept alive and imprisoned at the extremely secret Project Cadmus, to be hunted out by the Danvers Girls.

And as for that cliffhanger, it’s another Kryptonian pod, identical to Kara’s, crash-landing in the Park. Kara rips off its canopy, looks inside and says ‘Oh my God’. Who’s in there? Only time and season 2 will tell. Personally, I side with those already hoping for Krypto, the Superdog.

Grading: B minus, could do better. I’d like to see a season 2, but I wouldn’t be frustrated if the show was cancelled here. We’ll see.

The Sound of one Trumpet Blowing


There I was, watching this week’s episode of Supergirl this morning, and pretty much congratulating myself on spotting the big reveal coming down the line. And I was going to put up the first version of this post as a modest bit of blowing my own trumpet.

I’m glad I didn’t,that I waited for the TV.com review, and more importantly the comments already being posted by the myriads of others who had also got the big reveal ahead of time, several of them much earlier in the episode than I had and, in a couple of cases, much, much earlier in the season than I had.

So let’s not go off boasting that much there, Crookall. Save it for when you really do read the runes in good time, eh?

I’m sorry? What? You’re asking what the big reveal was? Well, it’s Hank Henshaw: he’s really the…

Sorry, if you really want to know, watch the damned programme.