Monday, November 28, 2016

The Invasion Begins As An Afterthought In "Medusa!"

The Good: Good performances, Moments of effects, Character development
The Bad: Predictable plot, Tacked on plot element/rushed plot elements, A few key technical elements.
The Basics: "Medusa" refocuses Supergirl on Kara, Mon-El, J'onn, and Lena Luthor in advance of the big Invasion crossover event!

When Supergirl moved from CBS to The CW, it was almost immediately announced that there would be a four-part crossover event between the four DC Comics television properties on The CW: Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow and Legends Of Tomorrow. The most inherently problematic show to incorporate into any crossover was going to be Supergirl as the first season of the show had a crossover with The Flash, which clearly established that Supergirl occurs on a different Earth in the DC Multiverse than the other three shows. The solution comes in "Medusa" when the four-part Invasion storyline is introduced as Supergirl is recruited to save "our" Earth (Earth-1 in the parlance of The Flash). Ironically, the introduction of the Invasion storyline comes as two afterthoughts, tacked on scenes in Legends Of Tomorrow's "Outlaw Country" (reviewed here!) and then in the climax of "Medusa" on Supergirl. Most of "Medusa" is a self-contained episode entirely unrelated to Earth-1.

"Medusa" picks up right after "The Darkest Place" (reviewed here!), which makes some sense because the Cyborg Superman had just used Kara Zor-El's blood to breath the Fortress Of Solitude and he asked for information on the "Medusa Project." Between that and the way that Kara just learned that Lena Luthor is the daughter of the director of the Cadmus Project and is instantly suspicious of her affiliation with her mother's anti-alien organization, there is a lot of momentum going into "Medusa" from Supergirl's current storyline.

Opening at Thanksgiving, Alex insists the guys not tell Kara that Olsen is The Guardian, when Mon-El come for the family dinner. Eliza recognizes that Mon-El is interested in Kara and before Alex can come out to her mother, a hole in the space time continum opens and closes right over the dinner table. Returning the next day to the DEO, the team tries to figure out how to stop Lillian Luthor and Cadmus. At the alien bar, Mon-El runs afoul of the Cyborg Superman, who plants a bomb at the bar, gassing its guests and killing the aliens inside. Alex decides to bring Eliza in for back-up on figuring out what the alien toxin was, keeping Kara and J'onn in quarantine.

In quarantine, Kara confronts Mon-El about his feelings for her, moments before Mon-El collapses. Kara makes a trip to the Fortress Of Solitude where she learns what Hank Henshaw was after: a bioweapon called Medusa created by Kara's Kryptonian father, Zor-El. When the DEO figures out that L Corp makes an isotope that will allow Cadmus to disseminate the virus throughout National City. When Hank Henshaw attacks L Corp to get the isotope, Supergirl saves Lena and has to tell Lena Luthor the truth about Lillian. When Cadmus moves to release the isotope which will carry the virus to everyone in National City, J'onn steps up to save humanity.

Lena Luthor continues to be characterized as a straightforward and generally good person who actually loathes her mother's agenda. Kara's attempt to get an interview out of her reveals that Lena is deeply uncomfortable by what Lillian Luthor is doing. There is something deeply refreshing in "Medusa" about how Lena appears to be exactly how she has appeared. Supergirl has used a volume of reversals of late that has bordered on the ridiculous. As such, the show has needed to have some sense of grounding to it. Lena Luthor provides that grounding simply by being exactly what she appears to be in the scenes with Lillian Luthor. Lena and Lillian have opposite agendas and Lena's ability to see that her mother does not love her clearly characterizes her as someone unwilling to fall into the traps that Lillian lays.

Lena is characterized as appropriately complex and she has a surprisingly reasonable response to Kara outing Lillian to her. "Medusa" has a lot of outing and Alex's journey in the episode has her getting some resolution with both her mother and Maggie in ways that are incredibly satisfying scenes. Kara having to come clean to Mon-El about her father's creation of Medusa is well-executed by Melissa Benoist.

"Medusa" opens with a classic Superman-style problem, which has Alex, Olsen and Schott talking about Olsen being the Guardian within earshot of Kara. As well, the writers create a problem that is not clearly solved within the episode. The Medusa virus is a virus that targets all non-Kryptonian aliens. While it makes sense that Mon-El would not be affected as seriously, as Daxomites have a common physiology with Kryptonians, it makes no sense that humans are not affected by the Medusa virus. Humans would be aliens to Kryptonians and their virus should be laying waste to humans and non-Kryptonian aliens alike.

J'onn J'onnz's transformation into a White Martian continues in "Medusa" and the moment he has to confess what is happening to him to Kara is preceded by one of the episode's most impressive and horrifying special effects sequences. His personal arc in "Medusa" is compelling and heroic, exactly what one would expect of the Martian Manhunter.

"Medusa" is undermined by its climax. In an episode that is filled with people being emotionally honest with one another and confronting the difficult truths, the way Kara lies to Mon-El at the end is exceptionally disappointing. Fortunately, the Alex and Maggie scene quickly blunts that. But then there is the crossover aspect that also feels incredibly tacked on to "Medusa."

On the balance, though, "Medusa" is a solid episode of Supergirl that continues to promote decent values of tolerance and acceptance with characters who are engaging to watch.

For other crossover episodes, please visit my reviews of:
"Flash Vs. Arrow" - The Flash
"Legends Of Today" - The Flash
"The Birthright, Part I" - Star Trek: The Next Generation

[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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