[This is a review of Supergirl season 2, episode 9. There will be SPOILERS.]
The first half of Supergirl season 2 saw the series go through somewhat of a soft reboot thanks to shifting from CBS to The CW, as well as typical changes between seasons. The show said goodbye to Kara Danvers' mentor Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) while the Girl of Steel transitioned from assistant to reporter. Additionally, the DEO has become more of a prominent fixture in Supergirl, thanks in part to the show's ongoing theme of aliens as refugees on Earth -- one of which is the Daxamite Mon-El, who has become a somewhat reluctant member of the team.
The midseason finale of Supergirl saw the Girl of Steel defeat the head of anti-alien organization CADMUS thanks to some help from Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath). Additionally, the winter finale teased a mystery concerning Mon-El as the final moments revealed a ship full of aliens who have been searching for the Daxamite, though it remains to be seen why. Now, Supergirl and Mon-El team up in the midseason premiere, but even the search for a missing person isn't quite that simple.
'Supergirl Lives' -- story by Andrew Kreisberg, teleplay by Eric Carrasco and Jess Kardos, and directed by Kevin Smith -- sees Kara attempt to track down a missing woman named Izzy, played by guest star Harley Quinn Smith (Kevin Smith's daughter). However, in Kara and Mon-El's search, they discover a trafficking ring led by the returning human villain Roulette (Dichen Lachman) and are transported to the alien planet Slaver's Moon, which has a red sun -- leaving both the Kryptonian and Daxamite powerless. Meanwhile, Alex and the DEO attempt to locate the missing heroes.
Infiltrating the Murder Castle
The main story thread of 'Supergirl Lives' takes both Kara and Mon-El across the universe to the distant planet of Maandaloria - home of the Maandalorians. Unfortunately, as both Mon-El and J'onn J'onzz reveal, Maandaloria is at the center of an intergalactic human trafficking ring that sells beings into slavery, hence the nickname Slaver's Moon. It's also revealed through Mon-El's conversation with Supergirl that the Daxam royal family bought slaves through Maandaloria - another difference between Daxam and Krypton since slavery wasn't accepted on Kara's home planet.
The path the story of 'Supergirl Lives' takes - from a mother looking for her missing daughter by approaching the news department of CatCo, to Roulette's role in bringing the Maandalorian slave trade to Earth - is somewhat convoluted, even for a series about an alien that absorbs energy from the sun, giving her superpowers. But, as is typically the case with Supergirl, the episode breezes right through the story points in order to focus on the character beats instead. And, as 'Supergirl Lives' is a midseason premiere, the episode attempts to give as many characters a throughline while additionally providing the action that comic book fans expect. This time, Kara has the help of a Yellow Sun Grenade, which provides one of the more entertaining sequences of the episode.
Still, while it may be too easy for Supergirl and Mon-El to find themselves placed among the kidnapped humans, their survival of the circumstances rests not on the powers granted them by Earth's yellow sun, but by the Girl of Steel's strength of will. Supergirl has often forced Kara to rely on her optimism and her belief in her fellow people to save the day, and 'Supergirl Lives' sees her do so yet again. Though the moment Kara's fellow captives rise against their captors isn't carried off quite as well as as when Kara was saved by the citizens of National City in season 1's 'Worlds Finest', the image of Kara standing up and protecting the others is truly poignant and memorable.
Agent Schott Helps Alex Save the Day
In addition to Mon-El and Kara working together, 'Supergirl Lives' features two other character arcs for Winn and Alex. In the opening sequence of the midseason premiere, Winn is confronted by a jewel thief that escaped both Supergirl and Guardian, leaving the tech-savvy sidekick to fend for himself in a physical fight - and he does not excel at it. However, it sets up a compelling arc for the character who had always been stuck behind a computer, which reaches a climactic moment when Winn is confronted in much the same manner on Maandaloria. But, in this instance, Winn digs deep and holds his own as DEO Agent Schott (one would assume some kind of fight training came with his hiring at the DEO, or from his friend James/Guardian).
Meanwhile, Alex hits a bump in her relationship with Maggie. Although the couple are riding a new relationship high at the beginning of 'Supergirl Lives' -- even begging off of work for some extra time together -- Alex self-sabotages soon after Supergirl goes missing on Maandaloria. Once Alex leads the rescue mission of Supergirl and Mon-El, she explains her response to Maggie, who is understanding enough. Maggie also proves to be an exceptional detective (and girlfriend) by putting together that Kara is Supergirl - even making a joke about Kara's glasses. It's an excellent look into Alex as a character outside of her relationship with Supergirl.
Of course, both character arcs for Alex and Winn were somewhat rushed, though that's to be expected when they're sharing an episode with each other in addition to Mon-El's being inspired to take the leap into superheroism - not to mention the human trafficking ring. Certainly, Mon-El hasn't proven to be the most natural hero, only stepping up to save anyone so as to impress Kara (or specifically choosing to save Kara, and coincidentally saving others in the process). But, perhaps the reason for Mon-El's actions has to do with the Dominator bowing to him and the continued search of the mysterious aliens.
Kevin Smith Brings Comic Book Fun
Out of all of Supergirl's directors, Kevin Smith is perhaps the most vocal on social media. He revealed the title of the episode, and even gushed over the script for 'Supergirl Lives' -- which is a play on the movie script Smith wrote for the Man of Steel, titled Superman Lives. He teased an episode of "pure comic book and science fiction fantasy," and that's exactly what he and the writers delivered. Supergirl has long excelled at being one of the lighter, more optimistic comic book shows on television; 'Supergirl Lives' proved that no matter how far the show may test its limits -- with so many character arcs and an adventure to a distant planet -- Supergirl remains Supergirl.
Of course, season 2 of Supergirl has largely doubled down on its comic book elements, moving away from the CatCo offices, spending more time in the DEO, and featuring Kara suited up as Supergirl even more - and the show has benefitted from it. While the series does balance its comic book and sci-fi/fantasy elements with human storylines like Alex and Winn's, Supergirl now falls more in line with its fellow CW DC TV shows. Now, whether Smith will be able to bring even more "pure comic book" fun to another episode of Supergirl this season remains to be seen, but the director has proven to have an especially deft hand when it comes to the Arrowverse series he has directed -- and, as a result, will likely be welcomed back to Supergirl by viewers.
Supergirl continues Monday January 30 with ‘We Can Be Heroes’ at 8pm on The CW.