Monday, November 13, 2017

Supergirl Begins Properly In "Midvale!"

The Good: Decent performances, Good plot, Engaging character development
The Bad: Painfully simplistic resolution for Alex and Kara's sustained arcs.
The Basics: Supergirl retcons an engaging childhood incident between the Danvers sisters in "Midvale."

Sometimes, the worst thing that can happen is that a show can telegraph its big plot and character moves through external (not in-show) means. In the case of Supergirl, the third season began with a sense of being a waiting game for those who watched the opening credits. Fliorina Lima was not made a full cast member for the third season of Supergirl and that foreshadowed - in a big, obvious way - that the relationship between her character, Maggie, and Alex Danvers was doomed to failure. In "Damage," the relationship ended as viewers pretty much figured it would and "Midvale" picks up right after that.

"Midvale" is a split episode: recounting a backstory incident in the life of the Danvers sisters and dealing with the consequences of "Damage" (reviewed here!). Much of the episode is actually about consequences and the bonds that tie Alex and Kara together.

Kara takes Alex away from National City to Midvale. There, they are greeted by Eliza, who is coldly met by both her daughters. While Eliza counsels Kara on her loss of Mon-El, Alex gets drunk. Alex refuses to engage with Kara when Kara reaches out. The two go to sleep and Kara dreams of their past. Ten years prior, Kara befriended Kenny, a young man who was bullied by other students. One day, after Kara and Kenny go out stargazing together, Kenny is killed.

In her grief, Kara meets with Kenny's parents and they look for Kenny's telescope and laptop and are unable to find it. Kara and Alex go out together into the woods to try to find Kenny's equipment. Kara manages to find Kenny's laptop and the two go through it and they find incriminating pictures of a fellow student, Josie, and a teacher. Alex confronts Josie and Mr. Bernard attempts to kill the Danvers sisters with his car. Josie stops by the Danvers house later that night and informs Alex that Bernard was arrested . . . too early in the evening to be the one who tried to kill the sisters. With Kara unable to use her powers, Alex begins investigating and runs afoul of the real killer.

"Midvale" is a generally decent origin story for how Alex and Kara actually began to bond and started to work with one another. The idea is a good one and it fills in a gap in the overall Supergirl storyline.

The relationship between Alex and Kara opens with a very realistic embodiment of youthful snark. "Midvale" might initially be difficult for adults to watch and appreciate because it is essentially two girls clawing at one another. It is not exactly a pleasant opening to the episode, though it does ring true on the realism front.

The young versions of Alex and Kara are very well cast. Olivia Nikkanen does not simply look like a younger version of Chyler Leigh; she manages to portray many of Leigh's subtle characteristics in Alex. Nikkanen holds herself like Leigh does and that makes it instantly clear who she is portraying. Izabela Vidovic manages to portray the younger version of Kara with articulation and enough presence on screen to make it believable that she would grow up to become Melissa Benoist's character.

"Midvale" is an almost-perfect episode of Supergirl and where it falls down is in the episode's resolution. Alex's ultimate arc in "Midvale" is painfully simplistic. The way Alex comes out of her latest personal tragedy after a single night is insulting to the duration and quality of her relationship with Maggie. In a similar way, Kara has spent months working through her sense of loss of Mon-El, so the one night fix is painfully simplistic.

On the plus side, the larger character aspects of the Danvers sisters are served well by not rehashing that Alex and Eliza are not especially close and that Eliza is hardly as nurturing as either of the Danvers sisters actually needs for their current issues.

Ultimately, "Midvale" stands as one of the best Supergirl episodes and one of the most effective retcons attempted in the DC Television Universe!

For other works with Carolyn Anderson, please visit my reviews of:
Travelers - Season 1
Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem
The Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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