Thursday, July 5, 2018

Supergirl, Season 2

The second season of the CW's Supergirl series stumbles almost immediately by getting rid of Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) as a regular character. It goes part of the way toward redeeming this questionable decision by introducing two entertaining new characters: hard-bitten but honorable Catco Media editor Snapper Carr (played by Ian Gomez, the real-life bridegroom of the bride in My Big Fat Greek Wedding), and galactic ne'er-do-well Mon-El of Daxam (played by Chris Wood, a veteran of three previous CW series). The former guides Kara Zor-El a.k.a. Danvers firmly onto the path of a journalist - and it's about time she decided what she was going to be when she grew up. The latter provides the romantic foil the superheroine has needed since the beginning of the series, and succeeds so well that his departure at the end of the season-long serialized plotline is really emotionally devastating. I don't mean to sound breathless about it, but Wood's portrayal of Mon-El fills in a lot of voids in the series that one felt during Season 1, and went beyond that to be perhaps the most entertaining single character in any of the three DC/CW series I have binged on recently. He brings such a delightful sense of mischief, fun, and the joy of living to a show that unfortunately, at times, seems too serious to be taken seriously.

On the downside, this season also expends a phenomenal amount of playing time on the frankly boring lesbian romance/coming out drama of Kara's human foster-sister Alex, who by very tentative degrees hooks up with a gay cop who - forgive me if I sound like Alex's dad here - doesn't seem good enough for her. Apparently this was a very big socio-political moment, with everyone in Alex's life being so gosh-darn happy for her/proud of her, as though deciding to date a chick was a big accomplishment. As the season progressed, I became increasingly convinced that the writers and producers were out of touch with the quality of the work they were producing. One tunes into a series about the adventures of a superhero, or team of superheroes, to see adventures of a superhero or team of superheroes. One therefore feels a bit cheated when 15 minutes on the hour is levied for installments in an after-school special about female gay relationships among non-superpowered people who aren't really doing anything interesting. Every time one of these scenes started up, I groaned and said aloud something like, "Aw, not this boring crap again!"

Did I complain that there wasn't enough romance in Season 1? Yes. But it was Kara who wasn't getting any. That situation did improve in Season 2; in fact, her romance with Mon-El was very romantic. But all the superpowered fun, this season, had a tendency to come to a standstill and yield the screen for minute after tedious minute to the practically irrelevant (for main plot-line purposes) family melodrama/sexual intrigue between a second-string character and a minor recurring guest, each of whom was more interesting to watch when they were participating in the main action of the series. It was like watching canonical characters playing out snippets of slash fan-fiction, only with the additional discouragement of knowing that it was apparently being forced on us for our edification. Well, I for one think the importance of these scenes' message has been vastly over-inflated and that TV history will remember them as scenes that could have been left on the cutting-room floor without detriment to the episodes they are in.

This season also gives Kara a new best friend, Lena Luthor - yes, that's Lex's sister - replacing tech magnate Maxwell Lord, who mysteriously vanished between Seasons 1 and 2. Lena's mother (played by Brenda Strong of Starship Troopers) turns out to be the leader of an anti-alien terrorist group called Cadmus, which becomes one of the two main threats to Kara, her "super-friends" and the DEO this year. The other threat is Mon-El's parents, played by Kevin Sorbo (star of TV's Hercules and Andromeda) and Teri Hatcher (the better half of Lois and Clark) - particularly mom Rhea, who refuses to take "buzz off" for an answer, tries to force Mon-El to marry Lena Luthor, and just about conquers Earth to replace their home planet, which was also wiped out when Krypton exploded. Luckily, Daxamites - though almost as super as Kryptonians - have a weakness that is cheaper to come by than kryptonite. Unluckily, it means that the season ends (sorry about the spoiler) with Kara and Mon-El no longer able to be together. Still, the closing scenes of the season finale suggest something interesting remains in store for the entertaining Mon-El.

In terms of stunt casting, this season isn't far behind Season 1. Besides the guest stars I've already mentioned are Lynda Carter (the late 1970s' Wonder Woman) as the president of the U.S., Tyler Hoechlin of TV's Teen Wolf as Kal-El/Superman, Peter Gadiot of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland as the impish Mxyzptlk, and William Mapother of Lost as the environmentalist wacko who gets taken over by a prehistoric parasite. Also fun to watch is the developing relationship between J'onn J'onzz, the last "green Martian," and a female Martian named M'gann M'orzz.

Three Things That Made It For Me: (1) Battle Superman vs. Supergirl (toward the end of the season), (2) James Olsen and Winn Schott's tandem transformation into technology-assisted crime-fighters "Guardian" and "Man in the Van," and (3) the return of Cat Grant (also toward the end of the season). If I can expand my list to five things, I would add (4) Mon-El's fun-loving outlook on life, and the fun his attitude brings to the central circle of characters; and (5) the whole conflict with Rhea of Daxam, which brings the season to its climax. But I don't think this season deserves a special dispensation to receive bonus Things That Made It For Me, because of the things that un-made it for me - most notably, the boring soap-opera scenes, relevant to second- or third-string characters with no superpowers, without which this volume of Supergirl would have been just as super, perhaps more so.

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