Monday, November 14, 2016

Supergirl And Her Allies Are "Changing" Well!

The Good: Good performances, Good special effects, Good character development
The Bad: A bit thematically heavyhanded, Pretty standard plot.
The Basics: "Changing" is one of the better episodes of Supergirl as Alex comes out and Olsen rises to the occasion as a new superhero on National City's streets!

When it comes to superhero shows, it is very hard for the heroic protagonist to remain the focus of the show. Superheroes frequently get sidekicks and love interests and a surprising number of them develop entire teams of their own. The CW's DC Comics-based television shows like Arrow and The Flash developed into hero team shows over time, while Supergirl began with teams and allies built into the initial set-up of the show. So, in some ways, it is unsurprising that by "Changing," Supergirl is getting more super heroes added to the team. Instead of yet another alien being added to Supergirl's team, James Olsen develops into a vigilante hero.

"Changing" follows where "Crossfire" (reviewed here!) ended and it is impossible to discuss the new episode without some references as to where the prior episode left off. After all, throughout "Crossfire," James Olsen was developing his new superhero persona, which Winn Schott had figured out. In addition, Alex Danvers had come to realize that she had feelings for Maggie Sawyer, even if she had never thought of herself as a lesbian before. "Changing" picks up both of those threads very firmly.

Opening in Norway, two scientists who are part of a climate change outpost find a wolf, who was frozen in the ice but has a normal body temperature. In exploring the phenomenon, the primary scientist is attacked by something in the wolf. At the alien bar in National City, Kara and Mon-El drink excessively before Alex comes in. Alex consults with Maggie Sawyer, who advises Danvers to come out to her family. Before she can, though, Alex is recalled to the DEO. Schott has received an S.O.S. from the Norway outpost and the DEO sends a team to ascertain what has happened to the team. There, they find Dr. Jones, who is the only person left alive. Unbeknownst to them, Dr. Jones is infected with a parasite. Alex interrupts Kara's training with Mon-El to come out to her sister and Kara does her best to understand.

In his lab, Dr. Jones discovers that he is infected with a parasite that has made him stronger than both alone. When Kara and Alex attempt to bring Dr. Jones in to the DEO, Jones is able to incapacitate Supergirl. With Supergirl sidelined, Schott and Olsen square off over Olsen going into the field unprepared. Alex visits Kara and gets sisterly support, before Supergirl is called into the field to stop an alien. The alien turns out to be Mon-El, who is now working as an enforcer for a loan shark and mobster. But when the climate change denier Rand O'Reilly is targeted by the parasite-infected Dr. Jones, the Parasite emerges in the attack and both Supergirl and J'onn J'onzz are incapacitated. That leads James Olsen to take to the field and for Alex Danvers to reach out to the only other Martian she knows about!

Melissa Benoist gets a chance to expand her performance range for Supergirl when Kara gets a bit buzzed at the bar. Danvers getting drunk is a cute character twist and allows Benoist to play her in a surprisingly fun way. As well, having Kara Danvers in a mentor role with Mon-El gives Benoist the chance to play a more confident version of Kara than she previously has. Benoist rises to the occasion on both key acting moments to make "Changing" one of her more varied performances. At the other end of the spectrum, Benoist plays off Chris Wood's Mon-El beautifully, articulating an ethical position to Mon-El's lack of connection to Earth or its people.

Chyler Leigh does a decent job of playing Alex coming out. Leigh finds the right balance between Alex being uncertain and afraid and asserting herself as possessing a new understanding about herself. Leigh actually has something of a return to form in "Changing;" for the early episodes of the second season of Supergirl, Alex Danvers has been virtually incompetent in her professional life as she figures out her personal issues. "Changing" restores her to a more competent, confident individual and that is refreshing to see.

In many ways, "Changing" is a transition story for James Olsen as well. Olsen makes the leap from reporter and (now) boss to the vigilante hero The Guardian. Given how little time has yet been spent developing Olsen as boss, it seems somewhat odd that the show would leap into moving him into the role of The Guardian so quickly. But, with Supergirl and the Martian Manhunter struck down, The Guardian rises to the occasion.

"Changing" has a decent moral to it, up to and including Supergirl giving Parasite an out to try to save Dr. Jones's life, but it is problematic in its execution of its morals. Climate change deniers are a good villain, but virtually every line out of Dr. Jones's mouth about climate issues is over-the-top and lacks any real subtlety.

The details in "Changing" are somewhat off. The DEO goes into a situation they have no understanding of without any sort of protective gear. Sure, guns are handy, but why they go into the Norway facility without any sort of quarantine gear is a ridiculous oversight. Similarly, why a parasite would leave the mouth only to go back into the same person's ear is clearly less scientifically-driven than it is designed for cinematic effect. On the plot front, the whole "worms found under the ice that become parasites in humans" thing was pretty much done in The X-Files episode "Ice" (reviewed here!), so it plays as very derivative in "Changing."

The special effects for Parasite are awesome in "Changing," save for one odd shot that gets the physics of the character's movement wrong. Ultimately, the character growth, performances and effects add up to a pretty solid hour of television!

For other works with William Mapother, please visit my reviews of:
World Trade Center
The Grudge
Minority Report
Vanilla Sky
Almost Famous
Mission Impossible II

[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.
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