[This is a review of Supergirl season 2, episode 10. There will be SPOILERS.]
In the early episodes of Supergirl season 2, the show focused on exploring what it meant for alien refugees to live public lives on Earth — from the policies enacted by President Olivia Marsden (Lynda Carter) to the anti-alien machinations of CADMUS, as led by Lillian Luthor (Brenda Strong). While this theme still seems to be going strong in the second part of season 2, Supergirl has somewhat shifted its focus to Mon-El’s desire to become a superhero, but as a means of getting on Kara’s good side because he’s infatuated with her.
Last week’s episode, ‘Supergirl Lives’, saw Kara and Mon-El stranded on Maandaloria, a key planet in the intergalactic slaving trade, and powerless due to its red sun. Although Mon-El was inspired to heroic action by Kara, helping her free the humans and return them to Earth, his actions were largely motivated by his selfish desire to protect and/or impress her. Now, though Mon-El has convinced Kara to take him on as a superhero apprentice, his selfish motivations shine through again in this week’s episode.
In ‘We Can Be Heroes’ — written by Caitlin Parrish and Katie Rose Rogers and directed by Rebecca Johnson – Livewire (Brit Morgan) returns for her third face off with Supergirl after seemingly breaking out of prison, where she was locked up following her confrontation with both Supergirl and The Flash last spring. Plus, Mon-El’s training as a superhero gets off to a bad start when he prioritizes Kara over others, and James decides to tell Kara about his alter-ego as the National City vigilante Guardian.
A Deadly Pen Pal
In many ways, ‘We Can Be Heroes’ is an excellent testament to how far Supergirl has evolved since season 1. Leslie Willis still has a one-track mind when viewers first see her again in this episode – though her focus of obsession has shifted from Cat Grant to Supergirl without even a single explanatory line, with viewers left to insinuate Livewire’s new obsession is born of Supergirl defeating her last season. Still, while Livewire could easily be categorized as one of the many underdeveloped villains that populated season 1, she’s given some depth in this episode. Rather than continue to portray Livewire as a one-dimensional lunatic Livewire, Supergirl is able to reason with her in this episode – and even strikes a deal with her so-named nemesis.
As for the status of nemesis, which Kara ascribes to Livewire despite all previous evidence on Supergirl pointing to the villain being Cat Grant’s nemesis, it’s rightfully earned by the end of ‘We Can Be Heroes’. Early on in the episode, Kara is obviously shaken by Livewire’s escape, a compelling reaction that drives Kara to describe Livewire as her nemesis – a deadly pen pal, if you will – but it seems to cause her overwhelming anxiety as well. The level to which Kara is distraught allows for a greater payoff in the end, when Supergirl is forced to confront the fact that Livewire was, in fact, the victim of a crime rather than the perpetrator. It’s a wonderful payoff that’s characteristic of the good inherent in Kara in Supergirl.
Although the dynamic between Livewire and Supergirl is somewhat of an abrupt about-face in ‘We Can Be Heroes’, it does provide for some of the more fun moments of the episode. Livewire, especially, gets some entertaining digs in on both Mon-El and Guardian. But, the moment Kara persuades Livewire to let the evil scientist live establishes a more comic book style nemesis relationship that is both compelling and sets up Leslie Willis as a villain viewers will gladly welcome back to Supergirl.
The Other Superman
As for Mon-El, his superhero kindergarten training appears to be going well… Actually, it isn’t, but that doesn’t seem to phase Kara as much as it should. Despite accidentally beheading an innocent cardboard bystander during training, Kara allows Mon-El to graduate to the field – where he makes the exact same mistake. Or, he would if Guardian wasn’t there to protect the innocent bystander. Even then, Kara allows the revelation that James is the Guardian to take precedent over the fact that Mon-El failed to follow the first rule of superheroing: “Protect citizens above all else.”
Of course, Kara does confront Mon-El about his failure in the field, both in following the golden rule of being a hero and Supergirl’s instructions. She tells Mon-El she can’t trust him, and he responds by lying to her – again – about remebering kissing her while he was sick in the midseason finale. Then, when Supergirl sidelines Mon-El, as she should with someone she can’t trust, he goes behind her back by following James and Winn (who are also going behind her back) to try to take down Livewire on their own. The plan fails, and Supergirl eventually swoops in to save both Guardian and Mon-El.
All this leads to the final scene in which Mon-El admits his feelings for Kara, then immediately tells her to forget about it so that they can continue working together. Now, Supergirl hasn’t developed any of Kara’s past romantic relationships well – the short-lived relationship with Cat Grant’s estranged son, the abrupt end of her romance with James, the awkward kiss with Winn – and it seems the series is carrying on with that tradition in Mon-El. There is very little to like about Mon-El, and it’s even more unclear what, if anything, Kara likes about him. While Supergirl has focused on Mon-El’s shifting feelings for Kara, it’s unclear whether she feels the same way, and Mon-El’s feelings may be unrequited. At least, let’s hope so.
Who Decides Who Gets to Be A Hero?
A theme of ‘We Can Be Heroes’ is, as the title would suggest, those who you may not think can be a hero actually turn out to be just that – and the opposite can be possible. Although Kara believes Mon-El can be a hero, all evidence seems to point to the opposite. Meanwhile, James resents Kara’s belief in Mon-El when he possesses the spirit and the will to be a hero. When his secret identity as Guardian is revealed, both he and Kara must face the question of what it means – and what it physically takes – to be a hero in National City. What makes this debate especially compelling is that neither are wrong, but neither are right, either.
The episode concludes with Supergirl not giving her blessing for James and Winn to continue on as Guardian, though she also capitulates that she can’t stop them either. It appears to be an official end to the original Team Supergirl, though hopefully an impermanent end. Certainly, with what’s headed Earth’s way in next week’s episode, Supergirl may need all the help she can get.
For much of ‘We Can Be Heroes’, J’onn refuses to link with M’Gann after she falls into a mysterious coma and can’t awake. Since she revealed herself to be a White Martian, J’onn has looked at her as the villain in his own history. But, in linking his mind with hers in order to rescue her, he learned how she saved many Green Martians, and still feels guilty for the horrors of the Martian war. J’onn is forced to admit she is a hero in her own rights. However, when M’Gann awakes she reveals the White Martians now know where she is and they’re coming to get her, setting the stage for next week’s episode, ‘The Martian Chronicles’.
Supergirl continues Monday February 6 with ‘The Martian Chronicles’ at 8pm on The CW.