Social justice is seemingly at the core of Supergirl‘s final season, and after a short break to focus on Mr. Mxyzptlk, we’re once again focusing on Orlando, his brother, and the neighborhood in which they live. Spoilers follow for Supergirl Season 6, Episode 12, “Blind Spots.”
Supergirl Season 5 was a big stumble for the show, focusing on a nonsensical virtual reality platform and an ages-old secret society of space wizards made of bad VFX. This final season–despite having a 5th-dimensional imp as its central villain–is much more grounded. The focus is squarely on real-world issues in Supergirl’s hometown of National City and Nyxly’s damage is that she was ostracized from her society and holds a grudge over it.
The show is still not matching the heights of Supergirl Season 4, but it’s in a much better place right now than it was with Season 5, though this episode too stumbles at times.
Back to Ormfell
We return again to the Ormfell building, which was just set to provide housing to underprivileged people in National City–including Orlando, who was recently incarcerated and is trying to make a good life for his younger brother. Nyxly used the building as a conduit to re-power herself, and this week the building, and it once again is at the center of the story.
I’m a little confused on the timeline, if I’m being honest. Nyxly is in the Zookeeper’s ship with Mitch, unable to find the totem that would give her incredible power, and wondering what’s wrong. Then the show rewinds 24 hours to when Kara was trapped in ice. I’m not sure exactly when this episode takes place, but that could just be me.
In the opening moments, Nyxly destroys the Ormfell building, causing the neighborhood to inhale what amounts to atomized 5th-dimensional vapor. Only one person, the terrible councilwoman who promised Supergirl retribution, comes out on top after injecting an experimental treatment that somehow bonds the energy to her body, allowing her to draw on it to perform magic similar to Nyxly’s.
This sets up Kelly’s debut as the new Guardian. The Councilwoman can’t be corrupted by the power because she’s already corrupt, and she goes immediately about using it to further her goals even as dozens of people are struggling to breathe in the neighborhood’s hospital. It feels like a metaphor for the way the privileged can literally benefit from the misery and pain of the underprivileged and unseen.
But she’s not the only villain–the other is ignorance. Kelly, of course, sees what’s happening with the Ormfell and people around it, but the Superfriends are focused on finding Nyxly, a potentially reality-endangering threat. Kelly goes to them over and over again, especially to Kara and Alex, only to be told over and over that there are more pressing issues.
So that sets up one part of a story that works really well and one that falls completely flat.
Let’s talk about parts where the show stumbles first. As the show shifts its focus to Kelly, it does a disservice to basically the rest of the cast and even major aspects of the world in the process. Not by not paying attention to them, but by changing them to suit Kelly’s storyline this week.
The whole idea of this episode is that people–even those expressly trying to help and making it their lives’ goal to help–can have blind spots (it’s the episode title!) when it comes to seeing systemic issues and the plights of the poor and underprivileged. That’s true! This is a thing that happens in real life. It’s worth addressing.
Azie Tesfai acted as co-writer on this episode, and it makes sense–this story was very much about her character’s point of view, and to some degree Tesfai herself. But to expose the ignorance, the writing (inadvertently) makes the Superfriends look callous and disinterested by having them behave in ways they never would. I cannot imagine Kelly going to Kara or Alex and having them basically say “oh, sucks to be them” in response to the disaster they’re enduring, especially just a couple of episodes after a storyline that was literally about Supergirl seeing these systemic issues and using her platform to elevate people like Orlando.
How to do a journalism
SpoilerTV rightly points out in its review that tons of other world details don’t seem to make sense. Kelly calls up Andrea Rojas and asks her to point CatCo’s sizable audience at the issue, but Andrea says that traffic is a higher priority. The whole Arrowverse is super weird about journalism, admittedly.
Somehow Iris West-Allen’s one-room office and half-dozen employees are pulling so many eyeballs that they can compete with the media empire of CatCo, a magazine big enough to have a very large floor in the downtown district of a major city. But since when can a news outlet only work on one story at a time? And since when is traffic a front-page story ever? It makes CatCo look like an understaffed local newspaper, not a nationwide news organization formerly run by a woman who namedrops celebrities (Cat Grant) and a world-renowned inventor (Lena Luthor).
This could’ve been awesome
This all leads to Kelly lecturing her friends while they look on shamefully. Actress Azie Tesfai does a great job with the material here, elevating the bumpy writing with a solid performance. But it’s hard not to think that there was a better way to do this. The writers could’ve highlighted the Superfriends’ oversight without turning them into idiots (the bad kind, not the fun kind); it could’ve even called the media’s role in this into question without rearranging the structure of journalism to serve the show’s purpose.
Journalism has a role to play here–we can look to the way the media is chasing down every detail of social media influencer Gabby Petito even as it ignores dozens of other similarly tragic murders as a real-world example of this. The writers really couldn’t come up with a better story than “bad traffic?” I know Supergirl‘s writers are better than that. I’ve watched every episode of this show. Even the worst ones.
A Moment with John Diggle
John Diggle is back in this episode as well. He acts as a support for Kelly when she’s struggling with these questions, and David Ramsey is always a welcome addition to any Arrowverse episode. The show throws a bit of a curveball with him, though. He tells Kelly about an opportunity to “become a special kind of hero,” hinting at the case with the green glow inside it that he received in the Arrow finale, suggesting he’s turned the opportunity down. By the end of the episode, though, he’s saying that he’s off to Metropolis because “Worlds Await.” The show didn’t really convey that Kelly inspired John, but maybe that’s what happened? Either way, there’s definitely more John Diggle left in the Arrowverse.
Working with Scraps
If we set all that aside, there’s a good story here. And no, it’s not the one minute of screentime dedicated to Lena suddenly becoming a magic-user.
Azie Tesfai has consistently had too little to do on Supergirl. This is a thing that many Arrowverse shows struggle with–what to do with regular (even extraordinary) unpowered people hanging out with a bunch of super-powered ones. Superman and Lois handled it well with Lois and Jonathan Kent, and Stargirl is doing a good job through Barbara Whitmore and Mike Dugan, but Supergirl has fallen firmly into the same trap that The Flash has been stuck in for years where every character has to have superpowers or future tech to keep hanging out with their friends.
This season has done a good job of building her toward becoming Guardian, bringing out both her role as a therapist and her history in the military through the situations she ends up in. This has led to better scenes for Tesfai and improved the show overall. All of this gives a nice niche for Kelly/Guardian to occupy. She wants to be a hero for people who don’t have a hero. Supergirl has the powers to fight someone like Nyxly or Lex(ly), and that kind of fills her plate.
It also does a good job of addressing the kinds of energy a black woman would have to expend both as a superhero and as a support person that people like Kara might not see or experience. She’s framed as both strong–standing atop a building in her rad golden armor, inspiring little girls to admire her–and vulnerable–crying on Alex’s shoulder as she tries to get a handle on the seemingly hopeless plight she’s tasked herself with pushing back against.
It sucks that the writers had to not just ignore the other characters but actually make them worse to make all of this real and, honestly, interesting stuff hit home.