Friday, October 6, 2017

Plot-Packed, Character Deficient, "Blood Bonds" Undermines Much Of Supergirl.

The Good: Decent performances
The Bad: Characters all seem, literally, dumb, No big character moments, Simplistic plot
The Basics: "Blood Bonds" has the potential to move Supergirl in a bold new direction, but instead it reverts the first season to an obvious, banal homeostasis.

As Supergirl started to find its groove, the first season ran into a number of serious character issues. One of the big issues with the first season of Supergirl was Cat Grant. Grant is a smart, successful publishing magnate who runs CatCo, the National City corporation that fills the same niche in Supergirl as The Daily Planet in Superman. Grant is supposed to be smart and experienced and Kara is one of the few people she actually "sees" in her life, even if that is a relatively new development in their relationship. So, keeping up the conceit that Cat Grant has not figured out that Kara is Supergirl began to truly strain the suspension of disbelief in Supergirl.

All that has changed as "Blood Bonds" begins. At the climax of "Hostile Takeover" (reviewed here!), Cat Grant confronted Kara and told her that she believed Kara was Supergirl. Unfortunately for Supergirl, Cat Grant's smart and in-touch character provides Kara with the ideal out for all of her adventures away from CatCo . . . and "Blood Bonds" works to re-establish the familiar paradigm of "secret identity" and denial. The thing is, "Hostile Takeover" gave Kara an amazing out with Cat Grant and while she never had to confirm her dual identity, her life with Cat Grant as her employer would have been so much easier if she let Grant believe she was Supergirl and might not always be available to take care of Grant's whims. "Blood Bonds" quickly refocuses Supergirl on the family drama surrounding Kara Zor-El's family both in the past on Krypton and now on Earth.

Opening with Supergirl and General Non still fighting at Lord Industries, Non gets the upper hand and before Supergirl can stop him, he abducts Hank Henshaw. Alex is promoted to the head of the DEO. While Max Lord begins a public relations campaign against aliens based on the attack on his business, Kara works to have a normal day at CatCo denying Grant's accusations that she is Supergirl. Non contacts the DEO and offers a hostage swap - Henshaw for Astra, who is in the DEO prison cell. When General Lane is promoted by executive order to lead the DEO, he interrogates Astra.

While Lane tortures Astra, Grant recognizes that Kara is far more useful out in the world as Supergirl and threatens to fire her. With the help of Winn Schott, James Olsen breaks into Lord Industries, but when he encounters a door with a biometric lock, he is incapacitated by security. Ignoring Lane's wishes, Supergirl makes an attempt to rescue Hank Henshaw that results in a bomb going off, killing several members of Lane's team. After Olsen is roughed up by Max Lord, Kara quits CatCo and prepares to go on a rampage against Max Lord. When Kara organizes the prisoner swap in good faith, she is given an out with Cat Grant.

"Blood Bonds" does a decent job of fleshing out the initial character conflict for Astra and Non against Kara's family. Back on Krypton, the two were convinced of an oncoming environmental calamity, but Kara's mother had them incarcerated instead of working to change the laws needed to alter the systems that were destroying Krypton's environment. The idea that Non and Astra want to avoid an environmental crisis on Earth and are not content to let humanity destroy Earth the way that the Kryptonians destroyed their planet is an interesting character twist. Their desire to save Earth is tainted by a sense of personal vengeance against Kara - as the last survivor of their family, who sentenced them to an eternity at Fort Razz in the Phantom Zone. When General Lane references The Day The Earth Stood Still, "Blood Bonds" makes Astra more reasonable and empathetic than General Lane.

"Blood Bonds" is a plot-packed episode that has an unfortunate number of torture scenes. A lot happens in "Blood Bonds," but it does not add up to a very satisfying episode. General Lane, fortunately, gets bad information out of Astra (torture has never been a reliable means of getting information). Max Lord suddenly becoming a flat-out thug by beating up James Olsen does not fit his altruistic public persona. Lord, based on the source material, should be a complicated character and he should absolutely have character flaws. But thuggery is not his style and threatening a bound James Olsen with a massive wrench makes it hard to believe that Lord could ever have become a successful businessman and entrepreneur with such a glaring character defect.

So, all of the characters - save, perhaps, the underused Alex and Winn - seem unrealistically lacking in intelligence and/or integrity in "Blood Bonds." The episode lacks truly big emotional moments to land the big character changes on the acting front, though the final solution for Kara at CatCo is a pretty elegant one.

Ultimately, "Blood Bonds" is a forgettable first season episode of Supergirl that moves the characters around, ultimately for no substantive reason than to put everyone back where they began and elevate Max Lord as an adversary for Supergirl instead of just Cat Grant.

For other works with Robert Gant, please visit my reviews of:
13 Reasons Why - Season 1
"Pilot" - Supergirl


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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