Supergirl Season 4 was excellent. It took a great concept, mixed in not one or two but three compelling villains, and then tied it together with a believable solution. So… what’s up with Supergirl Season 5? I’ve been a big proponent of Supergirl since episode 1. I have a Supergirl statue sitting on my desk. I love the character and I love how Melissa Benoist portrays her. But it feels like the season we have so far is backing into ideas the writers had rather than finding the ideas organically. Spoilers follow for Supergirl Season 5, Episode 5, “Dangerous Liaisons.”
I’ve had an exceedingly difficult time picking through all the plot threads of this season. Last season we had this clear throughline of Supergirl wrestling with the way her power made the fight she was stuck in more difficult. Being frustrated along with Supergirl was satisfying. This season, I’m frustrated for Supergirl because I can’t tell what she’s supposed to be doing other than making eyes at William and his square jaw.
In fact, Supergirl seems like a secondary character, with the tangly plots taking front and center, followed by Lena Luthor’s “inevitable” turn to the dark side of the Luthor.
Andrea Rojas’ company Obsidian, bought CatCo from Lena Luthor. She wants to use the media empire to advertise her upcoming VR contact lenses. But William, the guy with the jaw, is investigating Andrea because he thinks she’s part of a massive crime family. Meanwhile, Lena is using Obsidian’s Q-Wave technology to try to control the minds of humans to keep them from hurting each other and has captured J’onn J’onnz’ brother Malefic to accomplish her goal. In the background, something is brewing with an organization or entity called Leviathan. Also, Alex and Kelly are madly in love but both pretty deeply scarred from previous relationships.
This week, we see movement on all of those fronts. Andrea debuts her VR contacts while William and Kara investigate her. We learn about why William is so mad at the Rojas family. Lena experiments on Malefic, finds Luthor levels of success, and of course, betrays Malefic in the process. Alex and Kelly work on their relationship.
Rip-Roarin’ RoboCop Rip-Off
The wrench this week comes in the form of Rip Roar. Now, you might be thinking of Rip Roar from DC comics; one of the New Gods, Rip Roar is a big fuzzy viking-looking dude with four arms. He looks like he probably gives dope hugs when he’s not mad.
Instead, we get this Doctor Octopus-RoboCop mash-up. Supergirl should be way, way past this.
Anyway, the world’s most dangerous RoboCop cosplayer kicks Supergirl’s butt with his space laser and gets away. He travels to Antarctica where he uses his space laser to shoot a hole in the Antarctic all the way down to its massive underground water source. That creates a big tidal wave that Supergirl, Martian Manhunter, and Dreamer have to stop. Dreamer stops the tidal wave with her dream powers, I guess? And then Jon and Kara fly around in a spiral really fast to make a whirlpool to suck the water down.
It turns out that Leviathan was behind the whole thing, and that Andrea Rojas is either a part of or enslaved by Leviathan, much the way Eve Tessmacher suggested she was before Lena replaced Eve with her nanomachine friend, Hope.
What is happening?
I’m normally up for whatever silliness Supergirl wants to get up to because it approaches that silliness with a sense of fun and heart. But right now, it’s directionless. There’s no idea guiding the story. Leviathan is clearly the big bad, and it’s totally possible that future episodes could pull all these threads together into a neat little friendship bracelet, but right now it’s a big tangled knot.
And there are interesting threads here. Obsidian is a great cipher for stereotypical tech companies that promise us solutions for problems we don’t have, and the commercials for Obsidian’s contacts in this episode are great. They’re pitch-perfect and funny to boot. It feels like a clear opening for the show to ask questions about surveillance and spying—especially with Leviathan waiting in the wings—but the show isn’t laying any of the groundwork to do that. Instead, the show is more interested in the chemistry between William and Kara.
I do like some of what the show is doing with Lena. I still don’t like that the show is focused on her turning evil, but I’m glad she’s an interesting kind of evil at least. The moment when Malefic (played in human form by prolific screen and voice actor Phil LaMarr) figures out how he’ll kill his brother J’onn, only to have Lena incept him into docility, works really well. Even if I don’t understand why he would be in a human form there, other than to save those sweet FX bucks. If Lena has to be evil, taking over the world with kindness seems absolutely on-brand for her.
This week’s entry is my least favorite of the season so far. I’m hoping the writers can pull it together before we head into the massive Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover.