Monday, January 29, 2018

There Is Little "For Good" In Lillian's Return To Supergirl!

The Good: Lena Luthor manages to not go over to the Dark Side, Well-directed, Fine performances
The Bad: Simplistic and contradictory characterization, Simplistic plot, Not a lot of big character moments to afford interesting performances.
The Basics: Supergirl limps through "For Good" as it attempts to find a good use for Lena Luthor.

Ensemble pieces are tough to find a good balance for. Supergirl is an ensemble piece that began with two different ensembles - Kara Danvers's CatCo Worldwide Media coworkers and Supergirl's DEO coworkers - and has slowly blended the two. In the third season, Supergirl seems to be making a desperate attempt to re-establish two ensembles, with Lena Luthor taking over CatCo, which also is making James Olsen relevant again (since his Guardian character arc pretty much fizzled out). But, as the DEO is overrun with more characters (with the appearance of the Legion Of Super-Heroes from the future) and Kara's CatCo job life has been entirely minimized this season. The CatCo ensemble gets the a-plot in "For Good."

"For Good" follows on "Fort Rozz"(reviewed here!), though it diverges from the main plot of that episode. The Reign plotline, which was front and center in "Fort Rozz" is continued as a b-plot in "For Good." While the search for the Worldkillers mentioned in "Fort Rozz" starts out "For Good," the episode follows more on Lena Luthor than Reign.

Opening with Reign, Purity and Pestilence (the Kryptonian Worldkillers) descending on a burning Earth in Kara's dream, Kara returns to the DEO where Schott indicates that the Kryptonian heat signatures are not traceable, like Kara and Kal's. While the DEO searches for a correlation between Kryptonite and Kryptonian pods that crashed to Earth, Alex takes Samantha to L-Corp for an MRI. When James Olsen and Lena Luthor are out for breakfast, they run into Morgan Edge. Moments later, Edge's car drives itself into the river and explodes. Edge survives and accuses Luthor of trying to kill him at CatCo. At L-Corp, Alex is unable to find anything wrong with Samantha's brain on the MRI and she performs a blood test.

At CatCo, an attempt is made on Lena's life and Kara flies her friend to the DEO to try to save her life. When she regains consciousness, Lena listens to Olsen's description of the assassin used by the barista and she recognizes the technology used to kill that assassin as coming from Luthor Corp. Lena visits the manufacturer of the dissolving bullet and finds her mother there. While her mother encourages her to let her kill Morgan Edge, Lena leaves her mother and returns to CatCo. Lena enlists Kara to help her save Morgan Edge's life.

Morgan Edge's return to Supergirl serves to bring Lena Luthor back to the show's forefront. Luthor's main character conflict has been to avoid falling into the anti-alien villainy that has characterized her family. Luthor wants to avoid the anger that Lena and Lex were consumed by. In the second season, Lena was interesting when she was used outside the simplistic "will she go bad or won't she" type storyline. "For Good" has her irritated and egged on by Morgan Edge. Unfortunately, "For Good" reverts to the familiar conflict for Luthor, where she is irritated by Lillian and encouraged by her mother to kill Morgan Edge. Lena's assertion that she would never act on her instinct to kill Edge is easy to take at face value and boring to watch. It is impossible to suspend disbelief that Lena would take a meeting before calling the police with a tip about Lillian Luthor's return as opposed to believing that Lena is going to simply let her mother do her own thing.

"For Good" is a weird episode of Supergirl on the character front. Kara is sloppy - flying over National City as herself - and while it is mentioned within the episode, it is not satisfactorily dealt with. The amount of time it takes Kara to change into Supergirl is insignificant compared to blowing her cover in a city filled with people likely to be looking up to see Supergirl. Alex Danvers is oddly written as well in that she suddenly has incredible medical skills and no broken leg (which she had in the prior episode). Having recently been watching the first season of Supergirl, Alex Danvers's characterization never included such advanced medical training as the ability to diagnose multiple poisons on sight. And the return of Guardian rather suddenly feels more plot-convenient than organic for James Olsen . . . who acts more like Batman than an ethics-driven vigilante.

The oddities in the characters in "For Good" reach their peak with Samantha Arias. Arias has a support network of both Danvers women and Lena Luthor who refer to Samantha as "family." That definition for the relationship seems like a dramatic overstatement. Connecting Arias (Reign) to the main cast feels forced and rushed; if Maggie had been developed as Reign, the sense of character betrayal would actually work when the inevitable revelation comes.

"For Good" is unfortunately simplistic on many fronts. The drones used by Lillian Luthor miss multiple shots, Morgan Edge has the Digital Voice Recorder in his possession for well long-enough to delete the incriminating evidence and Lena Luthor is supposed to be smart enough to know that a confession gained under a literal threat of death would never be admissible - even to a grand jury! "For Good" hints at a moment of genuine complexity, but then backs horribly away from it; Lillian Luthor heavily implies in one of her lines that she is actually behind the attempt on her daughter's life, but Edge never backs away from his coerced confession. As well, Kara roughs up a bouncer at a party with the crowd-pleasing line "don't touch women" . . . when it is the guy's job to stop people from entering the party behind him. This is not a feminist issue, but it is treated (rather ridiculously and simplistically) like one.

The result is that Supergirl is hampered by its own bloated cast; Lena Luthor is a wonderful and intriguing character who is well-performed by Katie McGrath, but the writers and executive producers seem unable to figure out how to use her in a compelling way.


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

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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