This isn't so much a review as a long, rambling rant, because I hated Supergirl. HATED it. Not that it didn't have anything to love (I'll get to that later), but what it did wrong was so bad, it broke me. Broke my ability to fanwank, gloss over, or forgive, and opened the floodgates of my pent-up frustration with sins past. So now I have to vent. If you enjoyed this episode, you should probably skip this self-indulgent laundry list of my problems with it, although I'd honestly like to know how anyone who is a fan of Clark Kent or Superman could not be offended by what I saw on my TV screen Friday night. I don't think Supergirl is the worst episode of Smallville ever made, but it's definitely in my top five.
The main message I got from this episode is that Clark is doing it wrong, in oh so many ways. In fact, the show is so eager to show his failings, they can't even keep straight what they all are. In Lazarus Jor-El said that Clark was full of pride and vanity. Now his problem is that he's full of self-doubt. Aren't those kind of opposites? Let's not forget that pesky darkness that lurks within him, making him want to kill everyone. There's weakness in there, too. Plus he's a big, fat failure because he can't fly. And why can't he fly? Because the writers won't let him! Grrr.
I really think the show has let this whole flying thing get out of hand. Simply because Al and Miles made their mantra "no tights, no flights" back in the day, this one power has become a symbol for the end of Clark's journey, and has therefore been made unattainable by TPTB. It really makes no sense to me. All of Clark's other abilities were thrust upon him, and his struggle has been to master them. Why does flight, and only flight, remain elusive? Last season they said it was because Clark saw himself as human, and couldn't fully embrace his Kryptonian side. Weak, but I was willing to play along. Now it's because his doubts make him unable to focus? Whatever, show.
I didn't enjoy Clark's flying lesson with Kara. It was no fun for me to see him try and fail, especially when Kara made it sound so simple. The main difference between Clark and Kara is that she grew up on Krypton, while he was raised on Earth, by human parents. The same was true for all the many Kandorians who so easily soared to the heavens last season. Kara said that with her powers, there was nothing holding her back. So what is the show saying? That Clark's upbringing stands in his way? I always thought that it was the unique combination of his Kryptonian abilities and his human qualities that made Superman who he is. If you're going to show Clark's two sides at war, at least make the human side the good guy. That's the part of him I'm always going to root for.
I'm so tired of seeing Clark undermined, of seeing his specialness taken away, piece by piece. It's true that flying is not like Clark's other powers, in the sense that nothing else makes the citizens of Metropolis look up in wonder and awe, their minds blown by the unbelievable sight of a man who can fly. It was bad enough when we, the audience, saw others fly on the show: Martian Manhunter, Kara, the Legion, Hawkman, Stephen Swift, and more. It was worse when Zod and his followers filled the skies for the whole world to see. But what we saw in Supergirl was the worst by far. Kara, flying over Metropolis in broad daylight, saving the day in red and blue. And later, donning a disguise, complete with horn-rimmed glasses. Why do we even need Clark? All that's left for him to do is follow in her footsteps, and there's nothing unique about that.
Oliver, too, stole Clark's thunder, choosing this episode to come out of the superhero closet and announce to the world that he is Green Arrow. It's not the same as what Clark will do, and in fact I suspect that whatever happens with Oliver will crystallize Clark's ultimate decision to have both a public persona as Superman and a secret identity, but he'll be following rather than leading all the same. Can't the show see the disservice they do to Clark when he has to be shown every step of his journey by someone else?
I liked Kara in S7, especially her warm relationship with Clark. Not any more. In Supergirl she was superior, dismissive, and patronizing toward Clark. She and Jor-El had a little confab, and she came out parroting him completely. She treated Clark with pity rather than Jor-El's arrogance, but the effect was the same. And no, her lines where she threw Clark a bone, like "Maybe Jor-El underestimated you," and "I don't feel pure of spirit," didn't make it any better. Again, I have to ask, if she's so awesome, why does the world even need Clark? I mean, obviously it will be Clark who ultimately defeats Darkseid (please tell me I can still cling to THAT hope), but they don't give us even a hint of that here. When it happens, it won't wash away the damage of this episode. That pain is here to stay.
What makes Clark vulnerable to Darkseid is that he doesn't have "purity of spirit," which means, well, I'm not sure what it means. That you know who you are? That you know what you want to do with your life? Whatever it is, Kara and Lois have it, and Clark doesn't. Actually, he's a mess, such a lost cause that Jor-El has disowned him. Whether that's for real, or some twisted experiment in reverse psychology, it's just cruel, and if the show validates the A.I.'s actions in the end, my head is going to explode. Jor-El thought Clark was full of pride, so he ruthlessly tore him down, and left him devastated. Now he's upset because Clark has doubts about himself! He's a monster!
I didn't care for Club Desaad either. It seemed a bit much for Smallville, and Lois's actions there smacked of entrapment anyway. When Godfrey turned the tables on her, seeing her trussed up in life-threatening bondage was disturbing and exploitative. And watching Clark rescue her, only to retreat to the shadows to protect his secret instead of offering her the comfort of his arms, made me sad. Why doesn't he just TELL her? I applauded Lois's initiative and resourcefulness in going after Godfrey, but the results left me cold.
Just to complete the list, what else drove me mad about this episode? The special effects left a lot to be desired. Woman of Tomorrow? Really? I guess we're lucky they said Maid of Might instead of Woman of Steel. I like my Oliver snarky and charming, not weepy and emasculated (although Justin Hartley did a great job portraying Ollie's anguish). Maybe I'd buy into his turmoil more if his epic romance with Chloe hadn't come out of left field. Kara is Clark's only family? Ouch. And Clark let Darkseid in when he used the Book of Rao to send the Kandorians away, so this is all his fault. Of course.
Well, if anyone is still with me after that diatribe, there really were things I loved about Supergirl. First, last, and always, Tom Welling's acting. He continues to amaze me with the depth of emotion he gives to Clark, while still maintaining the noble stoicism that has come to define our hero. It's all about nuance, and control, and those incredible, expressive eyes. He played every moment and every word of dialogue perfectly, even the ones that made me want to scream. My heart went out to Clark as he struggled to believe in himself in the face of Kara's criticism, and wrestled with the idea of going public. I wanted to stand up and cheer when he defended himself so vehemently to Kara in the loft, and it killed me that they took that all away by leaving him mired in self-doubt at the end. I know they're setting up Clark's ultimate triumphs, but for me, those future highs can never make up for the lows I'm seeing now.
Lois was another high point, both in the writing and the acting. I think Erica Durance has reached a whole new level this season; her performance has blown me away in every episode so far. I so appreciated Lois's loyalty this week, not only to Clark, but to Oliver, too. Her courage in taking Godfrey on was admirable, and her passionate defense of Metropolis's heroes warmed my heart. Her scenes with Oliver were a delight. They just sparkle together! But my favorite scene of all was Lois's reunion with Clark. I loved the joy that lit up his face when he saw her, and the playful way she teased him. When Clark stepped impossibly close and looked deep into Lois's eyes I swooned, and when she swayed uncontrollably toward him as he turned to look back at the crowd, I knew exactly how she felt. It was a wonderful little scene, that captured both the undeniable bond between them, and the walls that still stand in the way of their true intimacy.
I also enjoyed Michael Daingerfield as Gordon Godfrey. He was definitely chilling as Darkseid's puppet, and I liked the subtle differences we could see between that man and the radio host we met in the teaser. I don't know if the real Godfrey was supposed to be evil (evidently he smoked, isn't that always a sure sign?), but it gave me a twinge to realize that Lois's photos would incriminate a man who was not responsible for his actions because he was possessed at the time.
Once again in this episode we were told that the darkness that exists inside Clark makes him unequal to the task of protecting Earth, but I have a fundamental problem with that concept. Don't we ALL have some darkness within us, that we struggle to keep at bay? It's not a spotless soul that defines a hero, it's the way he rises above his baser instincts and makes the choice to do the right thing, even at great personal cost, and Clark does that every day. On one side Clark has Jor-El and Kara, telling him everything he can't do, and on the other he has Lois and Jonathan, telling him they believe in him no matter what. My wish for Clark is that he can listen to and trust in his own heart to tell him who he is, and all that he can be. Let him take these final steps to his destiny standing tall and strong, on his own, with no one else to shore him up, hold his hand, or show him the way. The Clark Kent I know and love deserves no less.
Tom took my breath away this week, scene after scene after scene. Have an extra dose of pretty to make up for my downer of a review. :( Thirty of my favorite caps from Supergirl:
Screen caps courtesy of KEakaCK, with my thanks!