Are You Ruled by Fear, Control, or Hope? Supergirl, “Myriad”

It’s kind of ironic that one episode after the citizens of National City re-accepted Supergirl, they’ve all turned against her again. But this is the one time she’s not taking it personally, because it’s all the result of Kryptonian mind control technology Myriad! And the handful of people who are unaffected by Myriad all have different thoughts on Non and Astra’s Indigo’s solution for “saving” the human race.

Spoilers for Supergirl 1×19 “Myriad.”

I can’t believe we’re in the penultimate episode of season 1. With the show still waiting on a season 2 order, Kara’s showdown with Non—which turns out to be a two-parter, to be resolved next week—could have a grim outcome. But for the moment, let’s focus on what we do know.

For all that Myriad got teased in several episodes this season, I’m not sure I would have guessed that it’s a mind control device. The actual definition of myriad is “countless or extremely great in number,” which kinda fits the notion of putting countless people under one person’s control. Non directs the crowds to an undisclosed location, then returns them to their homes and workplaces so they can carry out some plan involving Kryptonian code; he speaks through them; they’re his puppets.

Supergirl 1x19 "Myriad" television review

Astra, at least, had a more noble notion for Myriad’s use: When the Kyptonians wouldn’t listen to her climate change fears, she thought she could control them long enough to enact her plans. Non claims to want to save Earth from itself as well, and yet you get the impression he wouldn’t release any world leaders after getting them to sign a climate change accord. As Indigo points out, Non is very happy to have Earth become his little fiefdom.

So why were the Alura AI and Kelex the Fortress of Solitude robot both programmed not to talk about Myriad? Because the Kryptonians were fearful of anyone knowing Myriad existed and trying to get their hands on it. Too bad—maybe knowing it existed could have helped them prepare. Of course, that’s the position Maxwell Lord occupies, and he didn’t see fit to save anyone else but Cat Grant from getting zombified.

I love me a good mind-control story, but that’s not really what I was feeling here. Probably because everyone was enthralled by Myriad; there’s no mystery as to who might have gotten body-snatched, no “OMG!” moment when another character gets lost to the hive mind. The interesting (though also cheesy, as IGN points out) moments in the episode are as each of the unaffected characters—Kara, Cat, Maxwell, J’onn, Alex—ponder over what Myriad actually means to them.

 

Supergirl 1x19 "Myriad" television review

Control

Am I the only one who laughed when Superman swooped in to save the day and then promptly dropped out of the sky and joined the marching Myriad zombies? Yet again this show found a silly way to bring him in without bringing him in. Another point from IGN: If Clark is under Myriad’s control because of growing up on Earth, why isn’t Kara at least somewhat affected?

Supergirl 1x19 "Myriad" television review

LOL JK

Less funny was poor Kelly the office skydiver (though I did giggle when Maxwell called her that). If I remember correctly, we hadn’t heard this CatCo coworker’s name ever before, and I doubt she had a speaking role; so when Kara suddenly was worried about her, I knew she would bite it. Especially if Non sends her, James, and Winn all leaping off the Balcony of Feelings at the same time. That moment lost its resonance because there was no way Kara wouldn’t catch both of her best friends; it’s not as if she had a Gargoyles moment where she was physically incapable of catching both and would have to choose.

So, Myriad is about controlling countless bodies to put whatever actions you want into reality. But it also brought up a different form of control for Alex, who came out of hiding to return to National City and risk getting caught in Myriad’s web. Why? Because she couldn’t stand knowing that Kara was in danger and that she (Alex) had no control. Just like watching her father walk out the door the last time and knowing she would have no impact on the outcome.

But after Indigo stabs J’onn and disrupts his mental shield around Alex, Non gets another soldier—and one who knows all of Kara’s physical and figurative weaknesses. But I have to ask, if Non had Kal-El “bowing to [him],” why not pit him against Supergirl? Sure, Indigo claims that a Danvers sister deathmatch will hurt both of them, but that’s just good TV—the other method would have been much more effective.

We also get more of a sense of the inner workings of Maxwell Lord. Though we already knew about his parents dying after exposure to a virus, he reveals the most tragic part: He warned them and the CDC, but no one listened to him because he was a know-it-all.

Maxwell Lord: “I swore from that moment on that if I could protect people, if I could save them, I wouldn’t ask permission. I would act, like when you jump out the window and save the day. We act, you and I. We’re more alike than you think.”

 

Supergirl 1x19 "Myriad" television review

Fear

The problem is, Maxwell’s idea of action is to bomb the city with kryptonite dust, which will wipe out Non and his army but will also leave National City so irradiated that Supergirl and Superman can’t return for fifty years. But it won’t just kill the bad guys: The bomb could rack up casualties in the form of 8 percent of the population, or over 300,000 people. Maxwell’s plan is a fear response, and not a very good one.

Kara: “Killing is never the solution.”

Maxwell Lord: “Except we’re way past villains of the week and kittens stuck in trees. We’re at war, and the only way to win a war is to kill the enemy before they kill us. Time to grow up and put on your big-girl cape.”

Kara actually mulls it over, because Alura jailing Astra and Non for creating Myriad didn’t wind up saving Krypton after all; “everything was just wiped from the stars.” Can Kara really reject a decision that saves 92 percent of National City, and arguably the rest of the world?

The upside of this Myriad mess is that Cat and Supergirl get some valuable one-on-one time on the Balcony of Feelings. I know we’ve debated in the comments about whether Cat still believes Kara is Supergirl and is just going along with the ruse, but there really didn’t seem to be much in her delivery that supported that. Then again, secret identities are much less pressing than figuring out a better plan than Maxwell’s.

Cat: “Did you know some of the best decisions I’ve made in life were based in fear?”

But not these ones. We’ve established that a kryptonite bomb is not going to be the solution. But what is?

Cat: “Just be Supergirl. That’s all anyone has ever needed from you.”

Supergirl 1x19 "Myriad" television review

Well, “being Supergirl” is a lot more than just wearing the S. It has meant being just alien enough to be taken seriously, but still approachable enough so that humans aren’t scared. It’s meant standing up for bullied kids but also tapping into your unresolved anger issues to blow apart government robots with your laser vision. It’s meant owning your actions even when you weren’t in control. It’s a lot for Kara to encapsulate in one thing, but apparently that one thing is…

 

Supergirl 1x19 "Myriad" television review

Hope

Supergirl showed Cat how to let people in, and that hope is stronger than fear. Now, it’s kind of ironic that season 1 is amassing around this notion of Supergirl meaning hope, seeing as they decided that the S didn’t stand for that, but rather for “stronger together,” in 1×02. I’m not sure if that were a red herring or a brain fart on the writers’ part, but the impact is a bit muddled.

So, what could the plan be? All we know is that Cat leads Kara and Maxwell to her first TV station, which is conveniently “old” broadcast technology instead of digital, but up-to-date enough that they can piggyback on Myriad’s signal. I’m not surprised, and even glad, to see the show bringing in notions of old media versus new media. They’ve sown some of those seeds with setting Kara’s work life at CatCo, having Cat brand superheroes and make public statements decrying Bad Supergirl, and having more than one villain operate through electricity (Livewire) and technology (Indigo). But this episode makes sure to emphasize the technology connection, as Non makes clear his thoughts on Cat and Maxwell’s businesses:

Non: “With these people? These who are the best of your world, and all they do is help the populace amuse themselves to death. If anything, they laid the groundwork for me.”

He claims that Cat and the rest of the entertainment and news industries have already turned people into drones in a figurative sense, though he did so literally. I’m curious to see how, since they can’t override Myriad’s signal, they decide to reshape it.

 

Other Thoughts

  • “Kira, call Harrison Ford and tell him I’m flattered, but once and for all, I do not date older men, especially when they’re married.” This joke has been a long time coming. And of course Cat was on the phone with Anderson Cooper in the middle of Maxwell Lord’s big speech.
  • “The Man of Steel, brought to his knees, all because he went to kindergarten and watched Sesame Street.”
  • “So, Mars, I have to ask—underneath it all, are you a little green man?” “I’m a big green man.” Eliza meeting her daughter’s future boyfriend (I hope) is everything I wanted it to be.
  • “I’m a muse, Max, to the world.” Yes you are, Cat.
  • Kara called Ms. Grant “Cat” after that big speech! Aww.
  • Here’s the synopsis for next week’s finale, “Better Angels,” to mull over: Supergirl is forced to do battle with an unexpected foe and must risk everything—including her life—to prevent Non and Indigo from destroying every person on the planet.

Natalie Zutter isn’t sure if she wants things to end happily or sadly next week. Read more of her work on Twitter and elsewhere.

18 Comments

Subscribe to this thread

Post a Comment

All comments must meet the community standards outlined in Tor.com's Moderation Policy or be subject to moderation. Thank you for keeping the discussion, and our community, civil and respectful.

Hate the CAPTCHA? Tor.com members can edit comments, skip the preview, and never have to prove they're not robots. Join now!