Not the Redshirt: Supergirl, “Supergirl Lives”

Despite this week’s Supergirl (returning after a two-month break) being directed by Kevin Smith, there wasn’t much to tie it to his infamous passion project Superman Lives, aside from a nod in the episode title and drawing one element from the Superman film that never made it to the big screen: Supergirl/Kara finds her powers sapped by alien foes on Maaldoria, a.k.a. “Slaver’s Moon,” which orbits a red sun. With Kara and Mon-El both about as powerful as a pair of Earthlings, it’s time for the real humans—both the would-be slaves they’re saving, and regular folks like Winn—to save the day with hope.

Spoilers for Supergirl 2×09 “Supergirl Lives.”

Supergirl 2x09 "Supergirl Lives" television review

You knew that the moment Kara started complaining about life as Supergirl being too easy—protecting stolen jewels instead of people in trouble—something would happen to make her regret her complacency. As it happens, it dovetails nicely with the lack of purpose that she’s feeling as reporter Kara Danvers: When a woman comes in crying about her runaway daughter Izzy (played by Smith’s daughter, Harley Quinn Smith), Kara immediately promises that she’ll do what the police didn’t care to do and actually find her, despite Snapper Carr giving her girl what is wrong with you looks. If she were anyone else, it would be downright irresponsible to give the mother of a missing person a near-guarantee… but because she’s Supergirl, she’s reasonably sure that she can deliver.

Mon-El is also meeting her notions of hope with more than a little side-eye, but that’s mostly because he prefers to keep his head down. He’s working at the local alien bar!… but also takes a day off his second day on the job. Work ethic he does not have, but he likes tagging along with Kara… which is how the two of them get blasted through space by the sleazy doctor (James Urbaniak) tricking young Millennials into signing up as test subjects for his “supplements” program. In reality, he’s running a human trafficking ring on the Earth side, with none other than Roulette (Dichen Lachman) handling the other end of things.

Supergirl 2x09 "Supergirl Lives" television review

Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW

Roulette’s return should have been something to look forward to, but it’s quite a letdown. Maybe they had to cut her scenes for time, because all she did was snark and pose—in the same. red. dress.—while Kara and Mon-El struggled to find a way out. At least we know that Roulette doesn’t discriminate when it comes to exploitation: first alien fight clubs, now exchanging fit young humans in exchange for interstellar blood diamonds. The former made sense when you considered her upbringing as a socialite, but this is just a head-scratcher. I briefly wondered if the writers were going for a reversal from alien immigrants forced to “pass” on Earth to turning the humans into refugees in an alien land… but this seems to be a one-off rather than a new season arc. When Roulette pouted her way into her jail cell, I felt similarly let down.

Supergirl 2x09 "Supergirl Lives" television review

Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW

Kara’s complaint that things were too easy could apply to the plot of this episode, as well. Even though there were a few harrowing moments when she and Mon-El were up against alien lasers, you never worried that one of them was actually going to get mortally wounded. And, just as in the season 1 finale, Supergirl has a secret weapon: hope.

Mon-El: So, we’re stuck on the most dangerous planet in the galaxy, we don’t have our powers, and you’re optimistic how?

Kara: Because they need us to be.

Mon-El: See, this is what I’ve been telling you, Kara. If you go looking for trouble, you will always find it. And you do. You’re like the winner at—

Kara: Because that’s what heroes do. They fight. They don’t sit and hide in a bar because it’s easier than getting involved.

Mon-El: I am not hiding, I’m being smart. It’s a dangerous universe. And why do you have to be the one who saves everyone every time?

Kara: Because our worlds may have been destroyed, but we were spared for a reason.

Mon-El: Uh, luck.

Kara: I refuse to believe that. I believe you keep fighting whether you’re stuck on another world, whether or not you have your powers, you never give in. That’s the difference between you and me.

Except that instead of making an impassioned speech to the other prisoners, Supergirl just lets herself get hit with an alien laser—enough to have her screaming, which inspires Mon-El, Izzy, and the rest of them to overpower their guards, lock Roulette and Dr. Sleaze in the cell, and escape. Interestingly, when a Dominator (from The CW’s “Invasion” crossover) enters the fray, it tells another alien not to shoot Mon-El, because “he is not to be harmed.” And what’s with it bowing down to him? Clearly much more than luck went into why he was spared; I’m going to agree with The A.V. Club here that the theory about Mon-El actually being the prince of Daxam, not one of his bodyguards, is seeming more likely. The bounty hunters we glimpse at the end will surely carry that plotline into future episodes.

Supergirl 2x09 "Supergirl Lives" television review

In fact, the only person who actually faces his mortality this week is Winn. Helping James with his Guardian antics, Winn gets a bit too self-confident and almost gets a face full of lead from a jewel thief. He’s understandably rattled after having a gun in his face (and a nasty shiner to show for it), snapping at James that he can’t help him anymore. But when Kara goes missing and J’onn J’onnz conveniently can’t join the rescue team, Alex ropes Winn in. Poor guy—he likes being part of the home base, he works best when he’s the superheroes’ eyes and ears back at HQ, but twice he gets dragged into the fray.

Supergirl 2x09 "Supergirl Lives" television review

Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW

But on the moon, in an exact parallel of almost getting shot on Earth, Winn doesn’t freeze up with a gun in his face, and instead clobbers the alien to death with a nearby rock. Glad to see Winn bounce back to his old self, with one of the episode’s best lines: “I’m not the redshirt! I’m not the redshirt! You’re the redshirt!”

You know what, I don’t much care about Mon-El’s conversion to wanting to be a hero by the episode’s end, which I still think is just as much about his attraction to Kara as it is to his misguided sense of duty. I’d much rather delve into the psyche of poor Winn, the son of a madman and villain, the genius grappling with shame and (at least for the space of this episode) some PTSD, who still does his part in a battle even when he’s about to piss himself in terror. Supergirl has done an excellent job of subtly making Winn more compelling, more three-dimensional, and I hope that that continues.

Supergirl 2x09 "Supergirl Lives" television review

Then there’s Alex, usually the series’ strongest character, who came off way too irrational. Her immediate response to Supergirl getting kidnapped (which, let’s not forget, is because she dove headlong into trouble) is to snap “I knew this was gonna happen. I was happy for five minutes!” at an understandably perplexed Maggie just hours after they spent their first night together. Alex splutters something about “this was a mistake” and “you have to go” and tables the issue until the end of the episode, when she sheepishly tries to patch things up with her new girlfriend:

Alex: I have always felt so responsible—like, weight of the world responsible. And my parents always relied on me to watch over my sister, so the few times that I ever did anything for myself, it ended badly. And then Supergirl went missing and I blew a gasket, and—

Maggie: Because Supergirl’s your sister.

Alex: What are you talking about?

Maggie: Come on, I know you. The only person you get that torn up over is Kara. Plus, the glasses don’t help.

Alex: I always said that, too. It’s kinda ridiculous.

Supergirl 2x09 "Supergirl Lives" television review

They really don’t.

That moment of levity aside, Maggie tells Alex she has one warning, or else she’s going to decide that Alex isn’t ready for this relationship. While I think there is so much to explore, including this kind of insecurity on Alex’s side, it seemed far too soon to have her freaking out on Maggie. Because now that she has one strike against her, the next mini-crisis could mean the end of Sanvers, and I want to see this bond grow without being hampered by misunderstandings and external trauma.

Supergirl 2x09 "Supergirl Lives" television review

Other Thoughts

  • “Crinkle.” “Crinkle.”
  • “Do you want to come over? We could catch up on The Night Of.” Forget the Rory Gilmore Reading List, let’s make the Danvers Sisters’ TV Queue.
  • What’s up with those rocks that Winn brought back from the alien moon? At first I thought they were just a symbol of the rock he used to defeat the alien; but coupled with Roulette’s commentary on alien blood diamonds, now I wonder if they’ll play into a future plotline…
  • Also, you know what’s cool? That we went to another planet (well, moon) in one episode. If it’s that painless, let’s get some more of those Stargates set up and explore the universe in future episodes.

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