Warning: This contains minor spoilers. Read on at the bottom for additional, spoilery thoughts.
Empathy isn’t something that people often associate with strength, which is why Supergirl has been such a blast of fresh air in its first two seasons. This is a show that doesn’t just encourage empathy; it radiates it from every pore.
Melissa Benoist has long been the beating heart of that kind approach, with her winning, charming Kara willing to find common ground with almost anyone. The return of Livewire, then, is a promising start for a surprisingly strong episode.
Brit Morgan’s villain has appeared on the series twice before, both times being defeated by Supergirl, but both times coming back for another angry burst of shocking (ahem) violence. Now, as she makes her third cameo, she’s earned the title of Kara’s nemesis, and Benoist enjoys the chance to play Supergirl with a frustrated rage, sighing at the annoyance of having an arch-enemy to deal with. (“Having a nemesis is stressful…”)
But, of course, it’s the precursor to a wider plot, which sees Supergirl and Livewire soften up towards each other – not becoming friends, but becoming sort-of allies for a brief period. It’s a smart move, giving Morgan a real chance to shine – she’s previously been fun as camp, over-the-top bad girl, but really sinks her teeth into the opportunity to be more than a blonde figure of vengeance – and giving the show another character who feels impressively rounded.
That’s true, once more, of Mon El, who Kara begins to train up, after his declaration last episode that he wants to join the superhero squad. Chris Wood gets better and better with every outing, and his Mon El remains a fun blend of strong, sappy, silly and selfish. The growing bond between Benoist and Wood remains a highlight of the programme, and the show, to its credit, isn’t rushing things, flagging up the issue of trust that arises after Mon ignores Kara’s order to protect civilians during a Livewire fight – promilarly because he wants to help her. The more complicated their relationship becomes, the more convincing it gets.
Which brings us to James Olsen and The Guardian. The show’s biggest weakness rears its head once again, as James and Winn head out on another mission – only for Winn to complain about being overworked. Despite that, he somehow manages to make Mon El a new costume and still ends up eagerly agreeing to help The Guardian, rushing out with him to find Livewire without telling Kara, just so they can prove themselves. It’s hardly consistent, and that’s the kind of problem that Olsen’s subplot continues creating – people and plots seem to bend around The Guardian, just to allow him to exist. It’s a relief that the writers finally put The Guardian front and centre of this episode, instead of squeezing him into the background and dragging out the whole secret-identity thing, and the result allows Kara and James to have a proper discussion about his attempted heroics – but even then, inconsistency is the order of the day.
The result is a surprisingly enjoyable episode, but you don’t end up any closer to wanting The Guardian to continue being a key player. In fact, the strongest part of the hour comes at the very end, as J’onn agrees to perform a Martian mind meld with M’gann to help her, after she loses consciousness. The result is a shared memory sequence that allows them to take another step towards reconciling their differences. David Harewood is in his element here, like Livewire, seizing the chance to develop J’onn even more as a character, with everything from spitting venom to sobbing forgiveness. It’s no coincidence that this shifting of the show’s focus explicitly onto empathy again sparks a stirring, exciting conclusion.
Supergirl Season 1 and 2 are available on Sky Box Sets and NOW TV. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription – with a 14-day free trial.
Where can I watch Supergirl Season 2 on pay-per-view VOD?