One of the more controversial choices made during Supergirl‘s development was to tweak the role of Superman stalwart Jimmy Olson. Jimmy was Superman’s pale, goofy sidekick, always getting himself into trouble.
But this guy on Supergirl – he’s James Olson. James is an experienced photojournalist who knew Superman back in the day and was looking out for his cousin for him. He’s a smart, serious black man with a warm demeanor, and the show wasted n time in creating a love triangle between Kara, James, and tech guy Winn Schott. He’s certainly not the J. Olson that Superfans know.
Now, in season 5, actor Mehcad Brooks is looking to expand his acting horizons and is stepping away from Supergirl as a regular cast member. This week’s episode gives James a reason to leave National City and his friends behind and, while also giving him a proper goodbye. Spoilers for Supergirl Season 5, Episode 4, “In Plain Sight,” follow.
“In Plain Sight”
James and his sister Kelly have fled National City in hopes of staying out of range of J’onn J’onnz’s vengeful brother Malefic. Back in town, Supergirl, J’onn, and Alex have set a trap for Malefic, but the operation goes sideways because his biology doesn’t match that of the only other green Martian they have access to, J’onn. As with the title of last week’s episode of The Flash, the title means a couple of things for the show. Malefic is hiding in plain sight and uses his powers of disguise and inception to worm his way into the DEO to both manipulate J’onn and put his friends in danger. Malefic incepts Alex and, under his influence, has her curse out J’onn for his crimes against his brother.
Small town trouble
James and Kelly, meanwhile, are in Calvintown, one of the places they grew up, and things are looking dire. The city seems desolate and poor; a prison dominates the skyline of the small town. When they park at his aunt’s empty house, they find it occupied by a bunch of teenagers who were trying to do their homework. They run into one of the kids later trying to steal food, and Kelly steps in to help. The kid’s name is Simon Kirby; I can’t help but wonder if comic book legends Jack Kirby and Joe Simon inspired the name.
The Olsons learn from the teenager that the huge prison they saw on the way in has worked its tendrils into the fabric of the town. People are being given multi-year sentences for minor crimes to help fill the prison quota, leaving kids without their parents and adults terrified to make a peep lest they endanger themselves or anyone who depends on them. At the same time, though, Kelly is having visions and realizes that the Q-Wave experiment with Malefic forcing them to leave the town behind – at least temporarily – and head back to National City.
Yeah, they’re going to kiss
Kara is trying to help out with J’onn’s situation, but until they find Malefic she has little to do. So she pursues her concerns about her handsome British colleague William. Kara finds William at the site of a car crash in Mexico and, in the course of investigating it, runs across an alien that nearly suffocates her, though she defeats her quickly with a table.
A lead from Nia takes Kara to William’s hideout, where she finds out that he indeed is not who he’s been pretending to be. Rather, he’s trying to expose the crimes of Andrea Rojas and her family and is trying to collect evidence. William begs Kara not to get involved while the two shower each others’ writing with compliments. They’re definitely going to make out before the season’s out.
The Final Showdown…?
The episode comes to a climax as J’onn and Malefic have a showdown at the National City planetarium, where Malefic has planted Alex with her Martian-killing ray and a bunch of civilians with energy weapons. Kara and James – as Guardian – show up, though, and things soon turn around in favor of Team Supergirl. Supergirl strips the civilians of their weapons and gets the anti-inception earpiece into Alex’s ear. Malefic, meanwhile, has been trapped in the Phantom Zone.
Except he hasn’t. The DEO asked Lena Luthor to help out with reconfiguring the Phantom Zone device; the newly-minted and very naive supervillain realizes that she might be able to exploit Malefic’s ability to realize her well-meaning goals and slips a chip into the device that dumps Malefic out in one of her secret underground holding cells.
Goodbye James, Hello Jimmy
James has made his decision: he’s not going to suit up as Guardian again. Instead, he’ll put his wealth toward buying the Calvinville newspaper so that it’s not under the thumb of the prison. Through journalism, James hopes, he’ll expose the underhanded dealings of the prison and help free the town from its grasp. James gives a tearful goodbye to his friends at their favorite bar and heads off. He gives Simon Kirby a camera and tells Simon to not to call him Chief – but to call him Jimmy.
There’s a lot of not much in this episode. Plots with Malefic and Lena move a little. Brainy apologizes to Nia. Kara and William make sparks. James is really the only one we see make any major changes.
I’m glad to see him go. It’s not because I disliked him; quite the opposite. But the show never knew what to do with him. At first, he was meant to be a love interest for Kara. That never felt right and fell apart almost as soon as it happened. Then he became the editor-in-chief of CatCo, and put on his armored helmet to become Guardian. Only the first move made sense. Then he became Lena’s boytoy for a while. It’s been a rough go for James Olson, and I’m glad to see him moving on.
With this episode, the writers are saying “we don’t know what to do with this character, but he deserves some closure.” This closure both gives him somewhere else to be and leaves him available for a guest appearance on both Supergirl and the Superman & Lois series. Of the short season 5 thus far, this episode is overall a disappointment compared to the others, and I hope it’s an exception rather than a sign of things to come.