Saturday, October 14, 2017

A History Of Family Violence Is Revealed On Supergirl's "Childish Things"

The Good: Decent performances, Moments of Winn Schott's character
The Bad: Continued thematic bludgeoning of the audience, Weak villain characterization, Very basic plot
The Basics: "Childish Things" is a simple Supergirl "criminal of the week" episode that gives Winn Schott a chance for backstory revelations when his father breaks out of prison.

One of the issues with any ensemble piece is trying to find a good balance that allows a work to give each character a chance to grow and develop. Supergirl could have been a show that kept a tight focus on Kara Zor-El and her journey to heroism as Supergirl, but instead, the show quickly tread toward being an ensemble piece filled with not just one team of heroes, but two (Supergirl's crime fighting team and the DEO's anti-alien force). One of the most neglected characters in the first season of Supergirl was Winn Schott. Schott was familiar to fans of The Flash as he was created and written initially by the same person and fills the exact same niche in Supergirl as Cisco Ramon fills on The Flash. And, just as Cisco Ramon has a backstory that includes family angst, so too does Winn Schott. Schott's family drama comes in the form of an incarcerated father. "Childish Things" finally gives Winn Schott an episode where he is the primary focus and it uses that focus to introduce Schott's villainous father.

"Childish Things" picks up after "Blood Bonds" (reviewed here!) and it is focused more on Winn Schott in s a divergent plot than the main serialized elements of the rest of the first season. The main serialized element that is carried into "Childish Things" is the open acknowledgment of Hank Henshaw as J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter. Fans of the Superman-franchise will instantly recognize Toyman as an adversary of Superman and he enters Supergirl as Winn Schott's father, looking to return to his life of crime.

While Van Kull Maximum Security Prison experiences an odd prison break, Supergirl and J'onn J'onzz go for a fly together. Cat Grant interviews Lucy Lane and offers her a job at CatCo, which puts James Olsen on edge. The FBI arrives at CatCo to interview Winn, who knows nothing about his father's current activities. After a conversation with Kara, Schott agrees to wear a wire for FBI agent Cameron Chase and go to Schott Sr.'s probable lair for a meet. When an FBI tactical team follows Winn into the location, Toyman releases a gas weapon in the arcade and necessitates Supergirl's intervention.

Alex Danvers goes on a date with Max Lord in order to try to get information from the anti-alien industrialist. While Alex keeps Lord busy, J'onzz shapeshifts into Lord and infiltrates Lord Technologies. When he is discovered by a security guard while investigating the comatose woman Lord has in his lab, he is forced to flee the facility. When Winn gets a clue as to Toyman's location, Supergirl is lured into a trap. When the security guard J'onzz was forced to wipe the memory of wakes up, Max Lord learns of the existence of the mindwiping alien who invaded his facility. Ultimately, Toyman abducts Winn and sends him to a convention to kill his former boss, extorting him with bombs placed all over the convention.

Toyman in "Childish Things" is a psychopath who blamed his boss for stealing his toy designs and went on a bombing spree to try to get revenge. The concept is not a hideous one, except that it is exceptionally dated. Almost every worker in a corporate setting in the United States today who is working in research and development signs away their creative rights. In other words, a toymaker who goes to work for a toy company acknowledges that their creations are legally the property of the toy company for which they work. As a result, pretty much anyone who understands how big businesses work in the United States will see Winn Schott Senior simply as a guy who got pissed off because he didn't read his contract. It's hard to care about a villain who goes on a killing spree because he didn't like the terms of the license agreement he agreed to.

Fortunately, much of "Childish Things" retains a tight focus on Winn Schott. Winn is sympathetic in "Childish Things" and he is written in a completely sensible way. He was hurt as a child and he went no contact with his father the moment Schott Sr. was arrested. As a result, when the FBI comes knocking, Schott has no answers for Chase and that is a very realistic approach to the character. People who go "no contact" with their family have no relationship with them and it is refreshing to see a character who has effectively cut out the destructive influences in their life, like Schott. Schott has a legitimate concern that he might develop into someone as twisted as his father and that is a compelling arc for the character.

Jeremy Jordan plays Schott well in "Childish Things." When delivering his lines about his angsty past, Jordan goes through a realistic gambit of emotions. Jordan plays shock and confusion incredibly well in "Childish Things."

The b-plot in "Childish Things" continues to develop Max Lord's villainy and the idea that Lord is building a new adversary as part of his anti-alien campaign. Lord continues to be characterized as smart and resourceful and unfortunately, J'onzz is not characterized as nearly as smart. J'onzz encounters a security guard who essentially asks him for a codeword. J'onzz as a psychic alien dramatically overreacts by wiping the mind of the guard. The guard, asking for a code word, would naturally begin thinking of the word he expects to hear in response; J'onzz should have been able to read that response and not blow his cover. Sadly, the episode goes to the horrible overcompensation.

The c-plot with James Olsen and Lucy Lane is disturbingly soap operatic and melodramatic until the final scene between them.

Ultimately, "Childish Things" feels very much like a filler episode in the first season of Supergirl and, despite a pretty solid rendition of the a-plot, the other plots serve more to undermine the heroic than elevate them.

For other works with Henry Czerny, please visit my reviews of:
The A-Team
The Pink Panther
Mission: Impossible


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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