[This is a review of Supergirl season 1, episode 19. There will be SPOILERS]
There’s no way around this one, folks. It’s hard to find much about the latest episode of CBS’ Supergirl to talk about enthusiastically, since the penultimate episode of the first (and so far, only) season of the show also happens to be one of the most boring to date… while simultaneously shattering logic and characters like the doomed planet Krypton. As a result, we have to talk about the episode as a whole. Which is actually easy, since not a single aspect of the episode, from character deaths to massive, season-affecting plot devices makes any logical sense, when you examine it out of even enthusiastic curiosity. Mysteries remain, sure. But “Myriad” gives the distinct impression that these aren’t the questions expected to be answered in the future – they’re the kind the writers never bothered to even consider (or considered, and quickly dismissed, assuming viewers weren’t interested in actually knowing).
In “Myriad”, directed by Adam Kane, and written by Yahlin Chang & Caitlin Parrish, the citizens of National City have been turned into Earth-saving zombies by Non’s superweapon: Myriad, a mind control beam blanketing the city. With Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) mysteriously immune, it’s up to Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli) to save the city by killing thousands with a kryptonite bomb – until Kara decides another solution might be better. Elsewhere, Indigo (Laura Vandervoort) returns.
To be clear, it isn’t nitpicking plot details or refusing to suspend disbelief with which we take issue here, but basic story points that any writer or writers would need to address – if they didn’t have a superhero brand or raving fan base behind them. The episode hinges on the launch of Myriad, the mind control weapon built as Astra and Non’s ‘final solution.’ If we’re to assume that viewers are meant to actually pay attention and be invested in the worldbuilding at work, the questions should be obvious.
Like… what is Myriad actually the name of? Is it the machine controlling minds? How does it work? Can it only affect one species’ brain at once? Is it launching from Non’s own brain, since he’s able to push Kara’s friends to commit suicide without uttering a word? Also, who was speaking the words coming out of their mouths, since Non used Alex as a walkie-talkie at the end of the episode? Where were the people flooding the city’s streets actually heading to? What were they doing once brainwashed? Is ‘coming up with solutions to Earth’s problems’ all the explanation we’ll seriously get?
Those are the immediate, painfully-obvious-to-anyone-paying-even-slight-attention questions that are ignored, but taking one step backward – and bringing Kara’s own motivations and thought processes into the mix – the questions and logic gaps become stranger, and harder to believe. Instead of listing them off all over again, we’ll single one out that sums up the biggest problem: the fact that Kara is torn over honoring her mother’s response to the Myriad solution. Alura chose to avoid extremism… but failed to save the planet as a result (Kara wonders aloud). Faced with the same choice, Kara sees her new home risked being “wiped out” just the same.
The key difference not mentioned here is that her planet exploded into pieces shortly after she made her decision. Not only is it hard to believe Myriad could have actually saved Krypton by that point – not necessarily making the subplot a mistake, since Non could have just as easily framed this is an opportunity to act soon enough to save this planet – but we’re meant to believe that Kara doesn’t even acknowledge the difference…. unless, of course, we’re to understand that she believes global warming will cause Earth to detonate in the next decade or so. It’s foolish to hinge a moment of thoughtful introspection on such a faulty point, let alone pretend it’s a valid cause for hesitation.
And that brings us to the most problematic logic (or lack thereof) in the episode. Mainly, that Kara finds herself in a tough spot, and immediately gives up, letting the first solution offered move ahead… despite it being entirely based on murder, and the death of hundreds of thousands of innocents. In her defense, she does claim that “killing is never the solution,” but once her friends’ lives are threatened (Kelly, we hardly knew you), her only question is how many humans might be harmed in the explosion that will kill virtually each and every Kryptonian in the city.
Upon learning that number is over a quarter of a million, we’re told that she is “seriously considering it.”
From a dramatic standpoint, this is all a pointless exercise. Whether it’s Supergirl, Flash, Arrow, or Gotham, the threat of millions dying and the show itself ending is meaningless, since everyone knows it won’t actually happen. But it can still be fun to wonder, and seeing a solution formed is usually worth the suspension of disbelief. But most TV shows don’t make the mistake of having their hero on board with the deaths of thousands. And as often as fans criticize The Flash for needing to constantly remind its hero that he really can be… well, a hero, the fact that Kara needs a pep talk to be reminded that she “just needs to be herself” (a worthwhile message) in order to actually put her foot down about murdering thousands is a sign of something much, much worse.
Judging by the scenes that follow, viewers are supposed to be energized, sharing Kara’s newfound determination and belief in hope winning the day. The problem is that, in the process, her excellence is thus defined as NOT being willing to murder indiscriminately. So, fine, Supergirl is raised up by the end of the conflict – but she had to be lowered first just to make it possible. That it’s a female superhero hailed as long overdue, and a breath of fresh air meant to act as a hero for young women everywhere takes it from disappointing to offensive. “Myriad” shows Kara in her weakest moments to be not vulnerable, not compassionate, not even human; it shows her to be foolish, or at best, immature. And considering the conversation and climate surrounding young women taking leading roles in the comic book game, that could prove to be as good as sabotage.
We’re not asking for much, to be clear. At no point does Kara even utter the words that “there must be another way,” or look for any other solution (that’s ignoring the fact that she wastes literally no time wondering if murdering all of Non’s forces is the right thing, either). The only conclusion to arrive at, sadly, is that the writers care far more for the threat (which is a weak one from top to bottom) than the young woman facing it; what’s worse, they seem to believe the audience feels the same way. That may be true, and if so, then criticism isn’t worth further unpacking. But following that assumption, the threat concocted makes little sense, is never explained or explored, and reduces characters to mindless zombies in a way that offers absolutely no compelling moral questions or arguments. We would like to say that the ends justify the means, but sadly, the producers determined a cliffhanger ending was earned – sending Supergirl into a fight with a sister she doesn’t want to fight – so we’ll have to wait and see if our opinions completely reverse… but we’re not holding our breath.
As always, there are scenes, moments, and characters who manage to shine through on their own (Calista Flockhart remains unsinkable). But with “Myriad” more than any episode previous, the writers pursued the easiest, least interesting, most tired plot devices that the comic book/sci-fi genre has ever given the world, and made next to no effort to offer their own spin. Since a ‘mind control ray’ is well below the heights that Melissa Benoist and the writers have reached before, the only solution was to lower her to meet it, leaving us to wonder: why would anyone cheer for a hero who needs to be convinced that being a hero might actually matter?
Luckily, Supergirl’s worst moment yet has a silver lining, earning her the honor of ‘most ridiculous/ludicrous/hilarious moment in comic book television history’ so far. #RIPKelly. #NeverForget. #YouMissedOne.
Supergirl returns with “Better Angels” next Monday @8pm on CBS. Watch a preview below: