Martin Carr reviews the nineteenth episode of Supergirl season 3…
Beyond minor parental issues, confusion concerning dual identities and cultists stealing Krypton’s version of the Arsonists Handbook, Supergirl is straight forward this week. There are dramatic set pieces, unexpected bonding moments and a consistent level of acting across the board. Where things fall down is in a reliance on formula.
Cult leaders, ceremonial sacrifices, infusions of alien essence or whatever you might call it need to be engaging, dynamic and given foundation. What we have in ‘The Fanatical’ are minor characters driving small groups of people in possession of a sacred text things, which is not enough for forty minutes of television. Meaning it feels unengaging despite the bells and whistles of production value, pyrotechnic fist fights or bleeding heart moments between core characters. Where Supergirl does succeed is in the broadening arc of new cast members such as Jonn’s father Myrnn.
Incarcerated, reunited and living on Earth with his son there is an innocence to this performance which counterbalances darker moments. Between himself and Odette Annable, Supergirl has found a way to counteract the more comic book elements on display. Saddled with dementia and dissociative identity disorder (DID) respectively, it is the subtext of social masks which cleverly underpins this super hero series. Benoist, Harewood, Lumbly and Annable carry these moments through while Brooks approaches things from another direction.
With his alter ego Guardian, Brooks has been able to play in the super hero sandbox, fight crime and ground things still further. His name alone is a throwback to Black power groups of the Seventies while that mask he wears hides another ongoing concern. Racism, isolationism and gender prejudice are still things which hold people back both creatively and personally often through ignorance, self-interest or simple upbringing. These are the issues which Supergirl is looking to shine a light on by raising awareness.
Although flimsy plot wise the point of this episode and much of season three was never been about explosions, villains, planetary threats or ticking time bombs. Supergirl has an underlying interest in people and what makes them work. That is the stuff which stays with you once you get past all those high-end special FX. As we enter the home stretch with four episodes left it is good to know that The CW still see value in using television for a broader purpose than simply entertaining the docile masses.