Monday, October 17, 2016

REVIEW: 'Supergirl' - Kara and Clark Face Off with Project Cadmus in 'The Last Children of Krypton'

The CW's Supergirl - Episode 2.02 "The Last Children of Krypton"

Project Cadmus attacks National City with a kryptonite powered villain who ends up seriously hurting Supergirl. Superman blames Hank because the kryptonite was stolen from the DEO. Kara's first day at her new job doesn't go as planned after she meets her new boss, Snapper Carr.

Supergirl had a strong second season premiere last week. It returned much more confident than it was before. It knew it wanted to dig deeper into the actual mythology of this world and explore all of those new possibilities. "The Last Children of Krypton" doesn't work as effectively. It's trying to juggle a little too much plot while also forcing characters into conflict for some pretty arbitrary reasons. It's expected that Superman's addition to the show would shake up the existing dynamics amongst the characters. It has been a lot of fun having him around for this first two episodes. And yet, he largely serves as a transitional purpose for the show. He is a way to bring excitement and intrigue to the start of the season before heading back to Metropolis by the end of this episode. Again, it's understandable why it happens. It's still a lot of fun seeing Superman and Supergirl team up - especially when they are facing off with Kryptonite-powered enemies. But the actual beats of this story have some pretty major problems.

Kara is running on a high right now. She loves having Clark around full-time. She has much more confidence in everything that she does. She's able to serve the city better as Supergirl because there's someone in the field with her who is just as powerful as she is. She's also ready to take on this new job at work because Clark is right there to be supportive of her. It's a great dynamic between the two of them. They have great sibling chemistry both as Superman and Supergirl and as Kara and Clark. They bring out the best in each other. It's easy to understand why Kara might get lost in the appeal of this bond. Clark represents one of the only connections to Krypton. Yes, there's still the mysterious man in the pod. He's sucking energy from the DEO. That's an ominous tease that keeps him a relevant part of the story. And yet, he's still in a deep slumber until the end of the episode. Clark is the only connection she has to Krypton. He doesn't know their planet as well as she does. He has the Archives but that's it. He has no firsthand knowledge. Their bond is powerful because they are family and they have these special abilities on Earth.

And yet, it's completely surprising and not incredibly earned when Kara breaks up sister night by telling Alex that she might move to Metropolis. She wants to work with Clark all the time. Clark is only in National City for a limited time. Yes, he said he was going to be sticking around for awhile in the premiere. But here, the plot mechanics are already forcing him to return. The Daily Planet and Lois Lane both miss him. It's just strange that Kara wants to go with him. The sisterly bond between her and Alex is one of the best relationships on the show. It is so special. They work best when they are united. When they have each other's backs, there's nothing they can't do. But here, Kara ruins all of that by wanting to take this burden off of Alex's shoulders. Alex's life has been defined by the Kryptonians who came to live with her family. She loves Kara and Clark but their presence kept her from doing anything she wanted to do. It's just strange that that is still a plot point Kara and Alex get hung up on. It's largely just a way for Alex to fail into a trap by Cadmus and meet their nefarious leader.

Cadmus is no longer operating in the shadows. They weren't exactly doing that in the past. Clark knew what they were. They were the reason why he chose to work alone. That's not the path that Kara chose. He has to respect her decision to have the team at the DEO providing backup for her - even though he doesn't trust J'onn for keeping kryptonite at the base just in case. But now, Cadmus is officially stepping out of the shadows. They are revealing themselves to be the true villains of the season. That's not a surprising move at all considering their brief introduction at the end of the first season. Plus, it gives Brenda Strong some great material to work with as the face of Cadmus. She knows the truth of what happened to Jeremiah and the man he has been turned into today. She's fighting this fight to protect Earth from these alien invaders. She sees all of them as threats to humanity's existence. She doesn't trust Superman and Supergirl because all it takes is for them to change their minds about protecting this planet for humanity to be destroyed. She needs to build an army with advanced technology and soldiers to be ready when that finally happens. She's a villain though because she's targeting both Superman and Supergirl right now. She's trying to turn the public against them. They don't need to be seen as heroes when they aren't even human. It's a strong stance to take but it should provide interesting tension throughout the season.

And yet, the show suffers a little bit in this hour from the Metallos just being bland and formulaic bad guys. The first is the same man that Superman and Supergirl fought against in the season premiere. He was a generic madman terrorist then and he is still that way now even though he is given special powers by Cadmus. He is now able to shoot green beams out of his chest. It's a way to lesson the Kryptonians' powers. It makes it a far more even match. But again, it's just a familiar character that doesn't have or do anything that makes him distinctive. It's an important story because it highlights teamwork. Kara and Clark work well together. But they ultimately have to team up with J'onn and Alex in order to prevail in battle. It's interesting to see Metropolis come under attack as well. These cities may be more likely to get attacked because Supergirl and Superman reside there. Clark being away does leave his city vulnerable. That helps explain why he ultimately leaves in the end. But it's mostly just important to get a simultaneous fight sequence in the two cities. Kara and Alex fight against one of the Metallos while Clark and J'onn battle the other one. They are both successful in defeating these alien threats to the city. It's a way to mend fences between all four of these characters. It's just a little too manipulative to be all that successful in the end.

Meanwhile, the show's balance of super-heroics and life at CatCo is significantly off in this episode. Kara is starting her new job as a reporter. She meets her new boss, Snapper Carr, who has a very different mentoring sensibility than Cat. And yet, this story is barely important at all throughout the episode. It has a few scenes where Kara wants special treatment because she is friends with Cat but has to prove her worth to Snapper herself. It's empowering to see a woman work hard to get what she wants in this world. She doesn't want it to be handed to her. She wants to earn the respect. It's just weird that so much of that has to be spelled out to the audience. It takes a pep talk from Cat and a big story as Supergirl for Kara to find the inspiration to write. Snapper isn't wrong for wanting nothing to do with her because she has no journalistic background. But it's just a little too cheesy when she drops a story on his desk with a ton of hard work that conveniently happens offscreen. If the show wants the audience to be as invested in Kara as a reporter as she is as Supergirl, it needs to put in the work and depict her successes and failures in the actual story.

Plus, this episode has the daunting task of writing Cat Grant off the show. It's a consequence of the show moving production to Vancouver. It means that Calista Flockhart will only be showing up on a recurring basis. That's so disappointing because Cat's relationship with Kara is so special and unique. But more importantly, the details of Cat's departure are just so vague. She's decided to take a leave of absence in order to explore what else is out there in the world for her. She's making a plunge into the unknown just like Kara. That's a thematic way to connect their character journeys. But again, it's just this non-specific thing that she must do because she had a moment of self-realization all of a sudden. It's clear it's just the show writing her out because they need to explain her absence. It is emotional when Kara learns the truth. It means she will no longer be able to run to Cat with any problem she faces. She will be all alone having to forge her own path in this world. It also sets James up with an interesting promotion. He is taking over Cat's job. That is literally the only time he appears in this episode. That may provide him with more importance after seeming like a non-essential character in these opening two episodes. But Cat's departure creates a big hole for the show. One that James Olsen probably won't be able to fill.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Last Children of Krypton" was written by Robert Rovner & Caitlin Parrish and directed by Glen Winter.
  • Winn geeking out over Superman will never not be entertaining. He has really come into his own this season with his transition to the DEO. He lightens the mood in those scenes while also being even more important to the actual episodic plots. Plus, that hug between him and Superman is just great.
  • Even though Clark has gone back to Metropolis, this probably won't be the last time he's seen this season. His importance at the beginning of this story will more than likely make him important in the end too. Metropolis is attacked by Cadmus is well. So, this will be just as personal to him as it is to Kara.
  • Alex basically gets confirmation that her father is still alive when she runs into those Cadmus operatives. That sets up the mystery of what he has become in the years since she last saw him.
  • Snapper Carr can basically be described as gruff and no-nonsense. Those are the broad terms used to introduce him here. He'll need to become more than that though if his dynamic with Kara is going to be an important part of the season.
  • The Kryptonian from the pod does wake up at the end of the episode. Kara is in the middle of a speech telling him she'll be there for him when he does. And yet, it's a surprise when he wakes up and starts choking her.
  • That sure is a winning endorsement for Veep from Kara, Alex and Clark.