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Supergirl (2015) s05e07 – Tremors

In an incredible turn of events Mitch Pileggi as the big bad—Leviathan—is actually kind of fun. Pileggi’s a millions of years old alien (he was around to see the dinosaurs get it) who for some reason has hung out on Earth and run a secret society. It’s not clear why. It’s also not clear why his army of regular people followers include humans who can’t outsmart Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath). Lena’s smart and all, but shouldn’t a millions of years old secret society have better tech than her?

So, Leviathan. Doesn’t exactly pay off and Pileggi doesn’t look quite Rock-like in his Black Adam-esque outfit (and he reminds a lot of Vandal Savage on “Legends”), but it’s actually all right.

Shame the rest of the episode digs deeper into the established pit.

Lena’s also on Team Supergirl for a scene; just enough to remind how good McGrath is with the rest of the cast. She and Jesse Rath’s two or three line banter is more personality than the show’s had in ages. But then her arc is all about her telling Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) they’re now sworn enemies. It’s an awful scene, hinging entirely on Lena having iced Lex for her friends and then it turns out the friends all lied to her. How the show has ruined Lena is one of its many significant faults (ditto not just having McGrath and Benoist get together romantically instead of queer-baiting for, what, three seasons now). It’s not like McGrath is good in the villain reveal (because she’s not exactly a villain, just a pissed off gal pal). Benoist’s a little better but not very concerned why Lena wants a weapon capable of killing everyone on the planet.

If the writing were better, who knows, it might be a good scene.

Speaking of bad scenes, Alex (Chyler Leigh) blathering on to girlfriend Azie Tesfai in an unending declaration of devotion ought to, really, get someone a pink slip. It’s so bad. So bad. Leigh’s not strong enough to carry the scenes and Tesfai isn’t ready for such a big role. Though, again, might just be the terrible writing.

Meanwhile J’onn (David Harewood) has a ludicrous scene with Ghost Dad Carl Lumbly, who I’m glad is getting a check and all, but the Martian family trouble subplot is, well, the pits. It’s perplexing why anyone thinks the scenes are a) a good idea or b) effective. It’s terrible stuff.

Though I guess Phil LaMarr is a little better as Harewood’s brother this episode, though it’s not a high bar.

I figured this episode would be bad but it’s even worse than imagined. The Lena payoff is a complete fail for the show, the characters, and McGrath.

Supergirl (2015) s05e06 – Confidence Women

Okay, so Steven Bauer is Julie Gonzalo’s dad, who’s been mentioned since the first episode of the season but never seen. It doesn’t appear to be a great part for Bauer but whatever, he’s fine. Though he does act to launder a bit of Gonzalo’s performance. He’s able to make it at least seem legit for a scene. Almost. Because it’s not a good performance—Gonzalo’s—in fact, it’s really, really bad. Because she’s not just the evil new boss at CatCo, she’s also a literal super-assassin who works for a mega-secret evil society, Leviathan (which I thought was from a Grant Morrison Batman but I don’t care enough to look). And she was a bad best friend to Lena (Katie McGrath), even though she and Lena had totally awesome early 2000s adventures together when they went drinking underage and bonded over Titanic. Really. Lots of Titanic remarks. Including one about how Lex Luthor responded to it.

Though, technically, most of Gonzalo and McGrath’s conversations do pass Bechdel, which is more a curiosity than anything else. Because what they’re talking about is dumb. They have this Hardy Girls adventure where they go to South America—because they’re rich—in search of magical treasure. They find it but Gonzalo takes it instead of giving it to McGrath, who wants to use it to save the world from her evil brother. The show’s done in flashbacks set in different eras, which is a terrible idea because Gonzalo is godawful in all the eras and McGrath can’t do anything with her abbreviated flashbacks.

There’s a little in the present day at the end, but really it’s just Lena turning into a porto-supervillain. She’s just going to need a push.

It’s another Arrowverse show where the main cast has very little to do… possibly because they’re shooting something else (Jon Cryer cameos as Lex for a flashback and not for another one of them and he’s in the Crisis). But maybe McGrath isn’t, which seems like a major slight as she’s the one getting all the lousy material. Except the flashback to when she chats with Melissa Benoist and all of a sudden you remember enjoying the characters interact. Seasons ago.

Gonzalo’s indicative of a larger problem with the show and the main female supporting players it introduces. Or the show’s casting. Or both. She drains positive energy from the show, which is runny super-low already.

Supergirl (2015) s05e05 – Dangerous Liaisons

This episode could be a lot worse. It does have some significant lows—like when Azie Tesfai has to pretend to cry, which she’s absurdly bad at doing. Like, it’s uncomfortable. Especially when you realize they went with the best take. Got to be able to cry on “Supergirl,” it’s one of the show’s many go to things.

And Phil LaMarr is terrible as the evil Martian. Him being onscreen does nothing to improve his performance. Lena (Katie McGrath) has him prisoner and is doing experiments on him so she can rid the world of evil thoughts. She’s like a good guy Lex Luthor, driven mad not by Supergirl burning all her hair off but by not telling McGrath her secret identity, partially because McGrath’s from a supervillain family and does crazy stuff.

Like shooting a laser into the Antarctic to cause a global flood—when Martian David Harewood compares it to Noah’s flood is when, basically, I gave on Harewood. He’d been really weird all episode and it certainly seems like having a completely crappy story line has finally felled him. Bummer. Anyway, global flood, good thing there are superheroes like Supergirl, Harewood, and Dreamer. And Chyler Leigh. Can’t forget Chyler Leigh in her super-suit, which she actually gets to use as she saves people on the waterfront, which Tesfai sees, which triggers PTSD and a truly bad crying scene.

But when you get past all the bad stuff, it’s a fairly tightly told thriller. Mostly out of the cape Melissa Benoist and season love interest-to-be Staz Nair are trying to figure out what terrible thing female Mark Zuckerberg Julie Gonzalo is trying to do and it seems like it’s going to be apocalyptic. Once it’s clear it’s not a two-parter and there’s actual stakes… “Supergirl” delivers.

Yes, the villain looks like a bad Robocop cosplayer with some stolen Doc Ock arms but the tension’s still there.

Maybe it’s director Alysse Leite-Rogers, maybe it’s the script. But it’s an engaging hour-long show, which tolerable weak points.

Oh.

And I really, really, really miss Mon-El. Nair’s earnest but quite wanting.

Supergirl (2015) s05e04 – In Plain Sight

It took me a while to like Mehcad Brooks’s “Don’t Call Me Jimmy” Olsen. The character’s fairly flat, the show never really let Brooks do much either. He’d always get in the orbit of a controversial topic and then rush through a couple episodes and move on. Let’s not forget the show didn’t let he and Kara (Melissa Benoist) date because apparently the Black guy and Supergirl was okay on CBS but not on CW? Anyway, he’s been on the show since episode one. He peaked a long time ago and has been barely scraping by on likability; Guardian has always been terrible. At least with Jeremy Jordan it was fun. Since… not so much. Even when there was a chance to do really something with a Black superhero… “Supergirl” choked. Oddly so.

And then there was Brooks and Katie McGrath’s whole romance last season, which doesn’t even amount to a least scene for the pair this episode. Oh, right. Sorry. Spoiler. Mehcad Brooks is out.

The episode makes it perfectly clear how little he’s needed in National City too. It forgets him at the end for a while and you’re wondering more about almost anything else. Not the villain, J’onn’s evil Martian brother, but anything besides him. Even though he’s got a slightly unpredicted arc. Phil LaMarr’s voice performance seems better this time out (or at least less bad).

Then there’s also a whole thing with Chyler Leigh getting possessed and telling J’onn (David Harewood) he’s a bad friend and Harewood crying about it. This show has failed Harewood time and again and apparently the hole can get a little deeper. It’s a nonsense subplot, but at least it facilities Jesse Rath and McGrath getting some scenes together because McGrath’s hilarious in them. And, yet again, the show perfectly utilizes McGrath then promises to screw it up with her “are they evil on purpose” machinations.

But the Rath and McGrath scenes are good.

And “Supergirl”’s no worse than… it’s been many times before. The show survives on good sincerity scenes in bad episodes and effective guest stars more than anything else.

Though Benoist’s new love interest Staz Nair is terrible.

Supergirl (2015) s05e03 – Blurred Lines

Carl Lumbly shows up in this episode and you almost remember when you liked the stuff with J’onn (David Harewood). Barely. Lumbly’s voice brings back that warm feeling, so long missing on the show. And he’s got to be there because this episode’s all about Harewood finding out why he doesn’t remember his brother (Phil LaMarr doesn’t get a credit this episode, as his character—named Malefic, in the best proper noun usage since Geonosis, hops from person to person via mental telepathy or it’s just his transforming powers… doesn’t matter). Again, it’s unbelievable the Martian evil brother thing is a multi-arc—possibly full season—villain thread because the Martian CGI is so terrible. At one point, they just do the flashbacks with human children, explaining it’s because Nicole Maines (who’s helping Harewood with his memories while not breaking annoying Jesse Rath’s heart) is seeing things through a human perspective, which makes little sense since Maines is… an alien.

But whatever. Her being an alien was always a little weird anyway. Why not just forget it whenever it helps the budget.

Meanwhile Sean Astin shows up as the evil brother’s latest persona, except Astin’s an old friend of Azie Tesfai’s, which soon puts her in danger and ends with her and James (Mehcad Brooks—who’s got nothing to do on this show anymore, especially not since he quit his job) in exile. It’s like the whole episode is treading water until they can shoe out the Olsen siblings.

Rath’s really annoying. It’s not cute. He’s really annoying.

The show also figures out a way to bring back Andrea (Miss Teschmacher) Brooks, making her Katie McGrath’s sounding board again, which isn’t great because Brooks is more wooden than the CGI super-Alexa McGrath talked at the previous episodes.

Meanwhile Melissa Benoist is overworked at the newspaper, but every task she has to complete seems to be something she could do at super-speed but doesn’t. Why doesn’t she ever use her superpowers to get her work done? Has it ever been addressed? The idea Benoist could be overwhelmed with a backlog of civilian work is silly.

The show’s also doing questionably effective—ergo not—end song montage sequences now. If you can’t do a song montage, don’t. Don’t pretend you can sell it with some song you found out you could use for cheap (or exposure). It’s all very unsteady.

Supergirl (2015) s05e02 – Stranger Beside Me

This episode ought to be called “The One With All the Whining.” First, there’s still Lena (Katie McGrath) whining—entirely to her super-Echo—about how Kara never told her the Supergirl thing. McGrath’s new plan is to pretend everything’s cool and exploit Supergirl’s friendship. Of course the scenes with Melissa Benoist being earnest and caring about Lena and McGrath pretending the feeling is mutual are much better than the ones where McGrath’s whining and plotting. Musing about plotting. She doesn’t even get to really plot; plotting wouldn’t help, as the show seems to either not comprehend McGrath’s inherent likability as a Supergirl/Kara ally or just not want to do it for bad character development. Bad character development in two ways—it’s bad, and also McGrath is on a villain arc now.

But this episode also amps up the whining with Alex (Chyler Leigh) and her new girlfriend, Azie Tesfai. Tesfai’s character’s name is Kelly but basically she’s just Alex’s girlfriend and James’s sister. She’s got nothing else going for her character development-wise, though I suppose she could provide worse support when she’s using her lab’s future science to try to figure out why J’onn can’t remember his brother. See, Leigh is freaking out because she and Tesfai don’t know each other very well and Leigh made blueberry pancakes and Tesfai is allergic. If it were a show about obsessing over every item in your day, it might be all right… but it’s “Supergirl.” It’s supposed to be about something else… ostensibly super.

Tesfai and David Harewood (whose J’onn is on an even shakier character arc than last season, which is saying something) are fine together, but it’s a problematic subplot. Maybe because the Martian brother thing is so dumb. Like, is he really going to be the season villain? Because he’s a terrible villain. And the Martian CGI is way too iffy for 2019.

Harewood gives “Supergirl” some of its respectability cachet and the show rewards him with the worst plot lines.

Supergirl (2015) s05e01 – Event Horizon

Not much has happened since we last saw our heroes; Kara (Melissa Benoist) still hasn’t told Lena (Katie McGrath) about being Supergirl, even though she really, really wants to tell her, she really does… meanwhile Lena has created a talking AI to bitch at about how much she hates Kara for never sharing the secret. Chyler Leigh’s romance with Azie Tesfai is going full steam ahead, while Jesse Rath and Nicole Maines’s one is in a holding pattern (he won’t kiss her, just wants to shake).

Meanwhile Julie Gonzalo has bought CatCo and is making things miserable for the staff—she wants clicks, not hard-hitting journalism. So Mehcad Brooks is raring to quit.

But otherwise, not much has happened. More than most shows, this one feels like a direct follow-up to the previous season closer. Same show, slightly different supporting cast.

Leigh pushes Benoist all episode to tell McGrath the truth, McGrath’s super-Alexa pushes her to kill the human race (wait, no, maybe just Supergirl; the Alexa is a tad too obviously ready to Skynet). When the show finally gets to its big soapy showdown between Benoist and McGrath, full of tears and so on, it’s actually not bad. Benoist is really good. McGrath is good. They act the hell out of the soap opera. Unfortunately, whenever McGrath’s supposed to be Luthoring it up and plotting against her friends, she’s not good. Worse, the contrast between backstabber McGrath and plotting McGrath just reminds how much better “Supergirl” used to be at the friendship stuff. The histrionics at this point are way too over-the-top, so it’s impressive how well Benoist handles them, but they weren’t always turned so high.

And then there’s something about J’onn (David Harewood) having an evil brother (voiced by the “Justice League” cartoon’s Phil LaMarr, who doesn’t do a great job… the Martians are already goofy as hell, LaMarr just makes it worse). But mostly it’s McGrath being two-faced and Benoist being naive.

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