SUPERGIRL Mid-Season Recap: Season 2

So, with 2016 in the books and 2017 off to an incredible start it’s time to discuss the sophomore season of Supergirl.  If you’ll recall I wrote the recap of the first half of season one and was pretty positive about the show to that point.  To set the table, I thought they did a damn good job of following up on the first half of Season One despite a few episodes feeling a bit odd down the stretch.

Season Two picks almost literally when they left off, with Kara and J’onn inspecting the pod that crashed to earth.  It turns out our new friend was a Daxamite named, Mon-El.  (Chris Wood formerly of The Vampire Diaries.)  They take him to the Downtown headquarters for the DEO (presumably because they can no longer head out to the deserts outside LA) where Winn now works and we meet Mon-El.  Despite the name, Mon-El isn’t of the House of El and doesn’t exactly share in Kara lawful good alignment.  He’s more of the scruffy-Han Solo type.

There’s even more changes in store for the citizens of National City, Luthor Corp has come to town.  In charge is Lex’s adopted sister, Lena. (Katie McGrath of Jurassic World fame.)  She’s taken control of the company after Lex has gone to Jail for life.  She promises a kinder, gentler Luthor Corp.  She even goes so far as to change the company’s name to L-Corp.  However, you can’t have a Luthor in town for too long without Clark Kent coming to town so it’s time for Superman to come to town!

No, not him kids. Sorry.

Superman is played by Teen Wolf’s Tyler Hoechlin and we’ll get back to him later since really Superman’s arrival is more to help set up Kara’s season two arch of becoming a reporter.  Kara was offered any job in CatCo she wanted last season by Cat herself and after some soul-searching she decides to follow in Cat and Clark’s footsteps.  Kara’s soul-searching leads to Cat taking stock herself and going on a leave of absence. 

But that’s okay, with Kara’s mentor bowing out there’s now room for Lena’s mentor and mother, Lillian (Brenda Strong of Desperate Housewives) to step in.  Good news, everyone! She’s evil and even better she’s in charge of anti-alien Terrorist group, Project Cadmus.  She’s come to National City to get rid of all the aliens and she’s going to do it Mad Scientist style.  First turning mercenary John Corbin into the Kryptonite-powered Metallo.  Then she gives a group of criminals alien weapons.  She brings back the human Hank Henshaw and turns him into Cyborg Superman to take out Kara and J’onn. 

Then for her magnum opus she has Hank break into the Fortress of Solitude and steal the plans for a chemical weapon that she uses to try and kill every alien in National City.  I gotta say, that one is definitely worthy of the name, Luthor.

Of course, while all this is going on there are other things happening in the lives.  Kara’s becoming a reporter gets off to a rocky start when her new boss, Snapper Carr.  (Ian Gomez, Norm, Cougar Town)  Carr is reimagined as an experience and grizzled veteran reporter who’s devoted to making sure his reporters are getting their stories right.  Meanwhile, Jimmy finds himself with quite a journey first stepping into Cat’s shoes to run CatCo in her absence and then stepping into the other side of Kara’s world as the armored-vigilante, Guardian.

Meanwhile J’onn meets a fellow Martian named Megan.  She works as a bartender that has become our characters’ favored hangout and J’onn learns after Megan gave him a blood transfusion that she is, in fact, a White Martian that fled Mars in shame over her part in the extermination of the Greens.

Lastly, but by no means least we meet Maggie Sawyer.  The NCPD Detective is introduced as the leader of a police taskforce called the “Science Police” who oversee the strange cases occurring in National City.  This puts her in contact with Alex and the two hit it off but their friendship soon has Alex in turmoil when Maggie reveals she’s a lesbian with a taste for Redheads that dress up like Bats and assumes Alex has a thing for her.  Alex spends the next few episodes thinking over her romantic past and realizes she’s long harbored feelings for other women and by the end of the mid-season finale she and Maggie decide to explore a relationship together.

Let’s start with the positives.  Melissa Benoist is still the big beating heart of this series.  Not simply because she’s the title character but because she has enough heart and charisma to keep you hooked.  She has maintained or strengthened the chemistry she built last season with each of the returning members of the cast and works well with McGrath, Gomez and Wood.  Like I said last year, this show’s continued success will start with her.

Chyler Leigh and Mehcad Brooks have stepped up their games this seasons, primarily because both have been given more to do.  Which leaves me feeling a little bad for Jeremy Jordan since he’s still relegated to being the computer guy/teller of geek jokes. 

The overall story has been good, not great, but good.  But judging by the scene in the last episode that implies there was more to Mon-El’s escape from Daxam with some sort of fleet chasing after him I think the second half of the season could pick up pretty fast.

I have to say this, when the show’s move to the CW was announced I had been concerned that the show would not only look cheaper but feel smaller.  I think they’ve done a good job of avoiding this, the special effects have been hurt to some extent yes but they’ve done a great job of working around their smaller budget.  My other big concern was the Alex/Maggie romance, this could have easily been a stunt for rating but they’ve done a very good job of giving their romance the care and effort needed.

Now, there were some problems.  Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way.  It’s not that Hoechlin’s Superman was bad or good.  It’s not that he looked a bit like a child in the suit especially in comparison to 6’2” Henry Cavill who looks like he’s gearing up for a run in the WWE.   

It’s that we’ve seen this before.  We’ve seen this Superman over and over.  Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain, Brandon Routh and Tom Welling have all covered this ground quite often for nearly forty years.  Say what you will about Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel but he was absolutely right to seek out a new vision of Superman.

Playing Superman as Kreisberg, Berlanti and Adler have envision leaves Hoechlin looking like a copy of a copy and I felt no connection to the character at all. I’m not coming down on the light or dark debate, what I am saying is that there can be a wide spectrum of Superman portrayals between Chris Reeve and Henry Cavill and Hoechlin’s would have been a hell of a lot better served if they’d actually put some effort into finding new ground.

The other huge issue is the loss for Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant.  The lack of her presence shows in nearly episode and they have to figure out some way to include her soon because Cat was usually the highlight of every week during Season One.

Lastly, we need to talk about something that bothered me personally.  Listen, I get that it’s Hollywood and I get that the politics are pretty far left of center but there was no need for them to ram their politics down the audience’s throat the way they did.  The illegal immigration episode, the gun control episode, the global warming episode. 

I don’t know if the producers understand this but you can alienate your audience pretty damn quick if after a long day of listening to a relentless Presidential Campaign you were to sit down for some superhero fun and/or action with characters you’ve cared about and end up with a transparent, ham-fisted diatribe of “Liberalism Good!”

Before you even start I would’ve been just as annoyed if they’d been coming down so hard on the other side.  I roll my eyes as hard at Kid Rock as I do Lena Dunham.  If you’re going to pop-off at the mouth about your politics as an entertainer you better make sure it’s not at the expense of the entertainment.

My hope is that with the 2016 Campaign behind us that the show will throttle back a little on the politics and throttle up on what made season one enjoyable; putting characters I care about in situations I find exciting and interesting.

All in all, I’m not as high on the first half of Season Two as I was at this point last year but I still think the ceiling is higher for them this year if they build on their momentum when they return on January 23 with “Supergirl Lives” directed by Kevin Smith.

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