Monday, October 30, 2017

REVIEW: 'Supergirl' - Kara's Heroic Actions Accidentally Create New Problems for Her in 'The Faithful'

The CW's Supergirl - Episode 3.04 "The Faithful"

Kara investigates a secretive new group whose leader, Thomas Coville, has a mysterious connection to Supergirl. Samantha feels like she's letting Ruby down.

Supergirl isn't exactly subtle with its main themes each week. In fact, it can often be very blunt with the messaging of its stories. As such, it's not surprising that the season tackles a story re-examining everyone's faith just as Kara continues to struggle with her own identity. This season has had a strong focus in Kara no longer having clarity regarding her identity in this world. She's loved and lost. And now, she's trying to figure out how to best move forward as both Supergirl and Kara Danvers. She couldn't just be the superhero looking over National City. She needed to be in touch with her feelings of love for her closest friends. She needed to remain an active part of their lives. So, it's a fascinating time to introduce the religion of Krypton. It's something that Kara has long since forgotten. But as soon as she hears the words again, she is immediately flung back to her youth on Krypton surrounded by her family and praying to Rao. Those are memories she has because she had this complete life before she came to Earth. She remembers Krypton. She had a life there where she experienced all of its rich culture. She has that and Clark doesn't. Everything he has learned about his home planet has come from secondhand knowledge. But Kara was actually there. As such, this religion means something to her. It's significant when she sees the teachings contorted for devious purposes. But more importantly, it forces her to reflect on how she sees herself and wants others to see her as Supergirl.

All of this is wrapped up in the story of Thomas Coville. He was just a middle aged jerk who found his wife cheating on him. His life was falling apart and he was taking it out on the other passengers on the flight he was on. And then, the flight is going down and he can see everyone around him praying. He has no one to pray to. But the flight doesn't crash. Instead, it is saved by Supergirl. This is actually a flashback to the events of the pilot. Kara saved this plane because Alex was on it. But it's an experience that completely changes Coville. He takes it as a sign that he needs to reinvent his entire life in service of Supergirl. It's a nice remembrance of the history of this show and the many public acts of heroism Supergirl has done over the last few years. Her actions changed Coville's life. And now, he is the main antagonist for her to face off with for the week. But there is something profound to what he is saying despite him being the leader of a cult worshipping Supergirl. James does his best to articulate it to Kara. They understand that there is a scientific reason why Kara and Clark have these powers. But to humans, it seems pretty miraculous that there are just these heroes who can swoop in to save them in the moment they need it the most. It's miraculous and inspiring. It's perfectly fine to have such faith in them. To view them as extraordinary beings who are worthy of praying to.

Everything is more twisted because Coville is promoting people creating situations where they need to be rescued by Supergirl. That creates the manipulative and villainous main story for the week. Coville can't be charged for any crime because he didn't specifically tell his followers what to do. He just reveled in sharing the experience of being forever changed by Supergirl's heroism. He wants as many people to experience that as possible. He sees it as a life-changing event. One that he will never forget. It allows him to immediately recognize Kara as Supergirl. She believes her secret identity is enough to question how Coville knows so much about her religion. It isn't. He sees through her immediately. Her sees the troubled look in her eyes. He knows that she is lost and needs saving. She may be a god but she needs help. Coville is just twisted in believing that that help comes from putting thousands of people into danger. It's a somewhat derivative story. It once again builds to an exciting, action climax where Supergirl has to face incredible odds in order to save the day. It's impossible for her to deactivate the bomb because it is miraculously laced with kryptonite. That increases the stakes to make it thrilling when she ultimately prevails. But all of this has been done before and will be done again by Kara. It's much more intriguing to see this as a battle of the minds where both sides have a point even though their actions aren't always perfect.

All of this forces Kara to reconnect with her heritage. She is trying to spread the teachings of Rao as a peaceful god. Coville doesn't see it as such. He views this deity as this all-knowing being who must be trusted even when it could potentially kill the other being he has chosen to worship. It's twisted and confusing for him. It makes it a more intimate experience. In the end, it's just Kara and Coville. His followers have left him after seeing that Supergirl bleeds just like they do. She isn't a god who deserves to be worshipped. But Coville will still hold true to his beliefs. He will continue to pray to and for Supergirl in prison. That's the easy resolution to this story. Again, it's familiar and formulaic with a very blunt message. But it also builds to that episode ending montage where Kara begins to pray alongside her mother once more. It's a moment that will hopefully provide her with clarity over her life again. She has been without religion for so long. And now, there is the potential for it returning to her world. J'onn has that same moment of appreciation and clarity with his father and their religion. But all of this will seemingly be compromised yet again because Rao's name is mentioned during Samantha's new terrifying vision that not everything is alright with her. This time she is traumatized by it because it's very sudden and jarring. She doesn't have super-strength. She just sees markings all over her body and a stranger in her bathroom promising that things are about to change for her. It's just a tease for now with the potential to be very disruptive and destructive.

But the most effective story of the episode continues to be the show's handling of Alex and Maggie's conflict over having kids. Yes, it's still the blatant excuse for their eventual breakup. That's been the trajectory this story has been on even though it's also included the various wedding traditions. But the two have come at a huge obstacle with this important life decision. Alex wants kids and Maggie doesn't. Alex has tried to change for Maggie because she knows she can't ask the same of her. Ultimately though, Alex has always imagined a life as a mom. That's what she wants. She wants to experience all the joys and hardships her own mother experienced. She thought she would be perfectly fine being the cool aunt for her friends and their kids. It's empowering to see Alex, Kara, Maggie, Lena and Samantha having a girls night and bonding. It may be happening too quickly. Samantha was only recently introduced but is now a core part of this group of friends. Because of that, it's then believable that Alex and Maggie would want to attend Ruby's talent show. It's a significant moment because it proves that Alex wants kids and won't be able to change because Maggie needs her to. That's such a heartbreaking moment. It again confirms the inevitable tragedy of this relationship. It's going to be so unbearable once it actually happens. Right now, there is the looming dread. But it's an important conversation that Alex and Maggie need to have sooner rather than later.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Faithful" was written by Paula Yoo & Katie Rose Rogers and directed by Jesse Warn.
  • Kara didn't mean to create this cult for Supergirl but she did. She also didn't mean to reactivate the pod nestled below the coast of National City. But her throwing the bomb down into the ground did that as well. That pod has importance. It being powered once more is bound to shake up the narrative this season. There is already the ominous note of whatever is down there now being alive.
  • Things are bound to take such a tragic turn with Samantha and Ruby, right? Right now, Samantha is just Lena's replacement at L Corp. She's struggling to be a working single mother. She wants to be there for Ruby while also running this massive company where things need to be done with some urgency. But whatever is secretly going on with her is bound to take its toil as well. That will be so tragic because both characters have been fine additions this season.
  • This is the second episode in a row to introduce an alien religion. That's not a coincidence. It's the season making sure that Kara and J'onn reconnect with their roots in the hope of being better individuals moving forward. The show doesn't delve too far into the specific religions. But it would be very fascinating if it did to show how they differ but have similar philosophies.
  • Kara's secret identity is still a major thing. There's the desire for the five girl friends to be a super tight group. And yet, Lena and Samantha are in the dark about Kara being Supergirl while Samantha knows absolutely nothing about Mon-El. But Coville knows Kara's identity immediately. In the end, he doesn't ultimately care and won't do anything with it. But it's hard to get a sense of whether that is genuine or not. Or will he just be completely forgotten about moving forward?
  • I have to say that I'm not really missing Mon-El at all this season. I know that it is inevitable that he'll return to this world at some point somehow. But I'm not hoping that reunion will happen as soon as possible. The show is just better when it's focusing on its female empowerment. It's great to see the five friends here be supportive and fun with each other while also noting the inspiration that comes from the Supergirl performance at the school.