Supergirl has been meandering all season. Despite having a Big Bad in the form of Leviathan since episode 1, the show has felt lost. It’s a sharp contrast to the relative laser focus of season 4. Things seemed to get better after the Crisis on Infinite Earths ended, but it’s only now that the show is starting to tie its various plot threads together. This week’s episode feels like it moves the show forward despite a decidedly unimpressive villain. Spoilers follow for Supergirl Season 5, Episode 14, “The Bodyguard.”
This year on Supergirl, everybody wants to rule the world. Lex, Leviathan, and Obsidian all have world domination of different kinds in their sights. Obsidian just wants our hearts and minds; it’s a sort of metaphor for the combination of social media and virtual reality. The Luthors and Leviathan have different aims, though, and now the competing needs are starting to take shape.
Obsidian is about to launch its magical VR technology, which allows you to put contacts into your eyes that can transport you to a virtual world with touch, smell, taste and, if previous episodes are to be believed, nutrition. Again, that’s not how science works, you guys. Meanwhile, we’re out here in the real world strapping diver goggles to our heads and flailing around in our living rooms to pretend we have lightsabers for five or ten minutes at a time. I want Supergirl‘s version of the future. People are testing out the contacts at public kiosks, playing ultra-realistic Skyrim-like games, which I’ll talk about later in this piece.
The main storyline has Lex Luthor blackmailing Kara into protecting Obsidian CEO Andrea Rojas after an assassination attempt by this week’s disappointing villain. Lex sees this as a way to get on Leviathan’s good (and vulnerable) side. Lex holds Kara’s identity hostage, which makes me wonder just how far the show can push Kara before she pulls a Clark Kent and reveals her identity to the world.
Kara agrees and even ends up pulling rank on Andrea. She cancels a public event to keep Andrea safe. William shows up to cover the event, which gives Kara a chance to see him without Kara around.
This is Kara’s second subplot: that William is a super nice guy and we should all like him. I’m all for Kara finding happiness in a relationship. But the Supergirl writers, as good as they are at writing characters like Lex, Lena, Kara, and J’onn, cannot write a love interest for Kara to save their collective lives.
Part of the problem, I think, is that they introduce a character that is so obviously meant to be boyfriend material that he might as well show up in a supersuit that says BoyFriend Man across the chest (premiering on the CW in 2021). Worse, the show keeps giving Kara weird love interests. Clark asked James Olsen to watch over Kara, while Winn started from a nice-guy-what-about-me place. Then Mon-El showed up as the dopey frat bro that just needed to be fixed. Now we have William, that guy that seems like a jerk but if only you’d give him a chance you’d see he’s really not so bad.
Their flaws all exist in relation to Kara, not on their own terms, and they all revolve around Kara fixing or handwaving major things. Not to mention that she’s one of the strongest people in the world, which introduces weird power dynamics into any relationship they write for her. Thank you for coming to my TED talk, now back to your regularly-scheduled review.
This week’s villain is a woman whose husband committed suicide after getting addicted to an early version of Obsidian’s VR tech. She wants to stop Obsidian from isolating people. There are cool moments, like when Dreamer’s neon blue powers clash with the villain’s neon purple gauntlets. Overall, though, the villain is disappointing. She’s easily talked down and doesn’t bring much of her own to the story; she’s more metaphor than person.
Lena continues to work on her Non Nocere project with Lex. After her encounter with Kara in the previous episode, Lena is starting to question herself. She doesn’t seem to understand how easily Lex is manipulating her, which seems like a lesson she should’ve learned by now. Lena ends up experimenting on human prisoners, pushing her further down the path of being the good guy in her own story and no one else’s.
The mechanics of Lena’s idea are a little tough for me to swallow, I should mention. The whole plot hinges on everyone having access to these cybereyes made by Obsidian, which feels a bit like creating a device that only hypnotizes people with Apple Watches. I don’t expect the show to deal with this, but this plot is weirdly classist and naive. Are they going to hand out cybereyes to everyone on Earth? Developing software like that dragon-battle simulator ain’t cheap.
While Kara is protecting Andrea, J’onn and Alex investigate the terrorist. Alex, newly unemployed, is struggling with the idea of walking around without a government-sanctioned firearm. After a couple close calls, J’onn gives Alex a Martian weapon called the Hand of the Soldier, which can transform into any weapon she can imagine. I want to see these two paired up and active in the plot like this more often. The actors have great chemistry and I like the characters. The Hand could, given some creativity from the writers and VFX team, be the source of some really cool fight sequences.
I’m continuing to struggle with this season. Too many of the ongoing plots are struggling to keep my interest. I like the characters and the world enough to keep watching, but right now it feels like Lex and Lena are what are keeping me onboard more than anyone else right now, and that’s not great. For the show to switch from such a strong, visceral storyline last year to such a weightless sci-fi plot this year, continues to disappoint. I’m glad the story is starting to come together, and I have hope that the showdown between Lex, Lena, and Kara will be exciting.