The Good: Good character development, Decent performances
The Bad: Very predictable plot
The Basics: of Supergirl has development for all of the characters in "Crossfire" as Cadmus once again asserts itself in a very obvious, villainous way.
Despite having a lot of potential and a solid momentum coming off its first season, the second season of Supergirl has been floundering. Given that the first season climaxed with the main source of alien adversaries for the protagonist and her team to hunt disappearing, the second season has been struggling to find its footing. Supergirl has overcompensated some by putting an alien around virtually every corner and severely turning many of the key character relationships that were built in the show's first season. As the show reached its fifth episode, "Crossfire," the series is looking almost unrecognizable to fans of the first season whatwith Cat Grant's departure, James Olsen being taken out of Kara Danvers's romantic tension rotation, and the addition of three new supporting characters (Maggie Sawyer for the Alex Danvers subplots, Mon-El, and Lena Luthor). "Crossfire" marks the return of Cadmus to the forefront as the corrupt scientific organization launches an attack on Supergirl.
"Survivors" (reviewed here!) immediately preceded "Crossfire" and given how much the prior episode dealt with Mon-El, it is hard to discuss the new episode without some references to the episode that preceded it. "Crossfire" opens heavy on Mon-El, so the initial fish-out-of-water story is only really understandable to those who have followed his arc so far. Similarly, the Cadmus and Alex Danvers plots are both built on prior episode's arcs.
Kara gets Mon-El a job as Mike Matthews at CatCo and, after dressing him up to blend in, they arrive at work. Olsen's new assistant Eve Teschmacher instantly takes a shine to Mike, who has difficulty restraining his powers to get through the mundane work he is given. While Supergirl is out attempting to thwart a robbery, and running into a pretty advanced weapon in the process, Alex learns that Maggie has been dumped by her girlfriend. Cadmus takes implicit credit for providing humans with alien weaponry, like the cannon that nearly knocked out Supergirl. After Lena Luthor invites Kara to a gala, to which Mon-El invites himself, Supergirl is again attacked by Chet Miner, using alien weapons supplied by Cadmus.
As the attacks with alien weaponry increases, support for the Alien Amnesty Act wanes. To combat that, James Olsen takes to the streets to fight against the villains who destroyed his father's camera and then attack the Federal Reserve. While Kara vents about Mon-El not taking his job seriously, Alex tries to come out to her, but they are interrupted by Lena Luthor. Luthor now wants Supergirl to protect her at her gala, which Miner is preparing to rob. At Luthor's gala, Kara must juggle appearing as both herself and Supergirl to both bolster Luthor and protect her guests!
"Crossfire" illustrates well some of the same problems Supergirl is having in its second season both with its less-compelling villains and its increasingly bloated cast. Winn Schott is the episode's primary DEO representative and in addition to delivering his usual quips, he becomes sidekick to another sidekick. As James Olsen steps up to become a costumed super hero, Schott becomes his armorer. Olsen's new direction gets a surprisingly satisfying counterpoint from Schott, who extols the values of being a support to a hero as opposed to attempting to be a hero.
Kara Danvers is presented in "Crossfire" in an oddly weak way. From the way she vents in an entirely overwhelmed fashion to Alex to the way Winn suggests that the alien weapons Cadmus is giving Miner could actually do Supergirl harm. When did Kryptonians suddenly become vulnerable to alien weapons while they are on Earth?! Supergirl was hampered by the Superman conceit of Kryptonian invulnerability, but in "Crossfire," it seems like the show is making a real stretch to weaken Kara. In fact, in "Crossfire," virtually everyone steps up as Supergirl literally falls down on the job.
"Crossfire" continues the pretty obvious progression of the relationship on Alex and Maggie Sawyer. Sawyer burst into the new season as an out-and-proud character who has been paired with Alex Danvers and, in the process, Alex has been moving in the direction of having a relationship with her. While I am all for more lesbian relationships on television, the change in Alex Danvers has been fairly inorganic. I've started going back through the first season and I could find no clues to Danvers being anything other than a straight workaholic. In the second season, as Alex Danvers has found herself attracted to Maggie Sawyer, she has become far less professional and her character has been almost entirely undermined. In "Crossfire," Alex Danvers goes through a very predictable arc as she initially denies her feelings for Sawyer before she recognizes and acknowledges her feelings for Maggie. Come to think of it, in the first season, Danvers had some surprisingly good on-screen chemistry with Maxwell Lord, so the second season direction is a very big character departure.
Noticeably absent from "Crossfire" is DEO Director Henshaw. "Crossfire" includes a pretty preposterous attempt on Kara's part to keep her identity secret from Lena Luthor . . . who is characterized as being on Winn Schott's level of intelligence in the episode (yet cannot figure out that Kara is Supergirl?!). The juggling role plays particularly poorly on a show where there is a resident shapeshifter who could impersonate Kara and read her thoughts in order to adapt to Luthor's questions in-character. But, without explanation, Henshaw is nowhere to be found in "Crossfire."
While the characters all evolve, the plot is incredibly stale and predictable, but the performers do a decent job with what they are given. Chyler Leigh does a decent job of transitioning Alex to someone overly interested in Maggie fairly well, even if the character leap within "Crossfire" is inorganic based on the first season. Mehcad Brooks gets in a more physical performance than usual in "Crossfire" and Katie McGrath gets through the technobabble to credibly elevate Lena Luthor to Winn Schott's level of technical expertise.
"Crossfire" is all right, but it is a transition episode that feels like a transition episode; an episode of Supergirl still struggling to make its way from its prior formula into a new paradigm.
For other works with Mehcad Brooks, please visit my reviews of:
True Blood - Season 2
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Supergirl - The Complete Second Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the sophomore season of the Kryptonian superheroine here!
For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.