Supergirl S01E20 — Better Angels (or How to Make the End of the World Boring)

If you want to know both what is right and wrong with Supergirl then the season one finale is a great summary.  There's some great acting, some decent character moments and yet somehow the show manages to leech all of the drama out of what should have been a tense end of the world scenario. Every time the show sets up something interesting instead of building on it, it falls back on the most clichéd of clichés.

When it's not doing the tedious love triangle stuff there's some good relationship and character work in Supergirl. But the credit for that goes almost entirely to the actors who do a remarkable job selling some really ordinary dialogue. Kara and Cat's scenes remain a highlight of the show, but that's probably because Cat is one of only two characters who's allowed to have shades of grey. Everyone else is either evil, evil, eeeevil, or terribly, terribly good.

All of that is on display in this episode when, faced with the end of the world, about half of the show's running time is devoted to Kara saying goodbye to each cast member in turn and at length. Once again everyone is standing around talking about what's happening instead of doing anything about it.

It's frustrating because the plot isn't a horrible one if a bit predictable. But, as so often with this show we burn through multiple episodes worth of plot in a matter of minutes so we can get back to that all important and oh so tedious character drama.

First Myriad brainwashing is defeated by a sappy tv broadcast (really is there any more clichéd way to defeat mind control?) in the opening sequence and then the threat of exploding brains is reduced to a bunch of people clutching at their heads and counting down. Perhaps if any of the characters on the show had the slightest bit of agency outside of their relationship to Supergirl, I'd have been more inclined to care about this.

It's a shame because I like the positive tone that the show takes. It's nice to have something upbeat and happy to offset the never ending parade of grim misery that tv offers these days. But positive  doesn't have to be shallow or predictable and far too often Supergirl is both of those things.

Early on in the season I said that I wanted to like this show more than I actually liked it and that remains the case. Melissa Benoist is great. Supergirl is a fun character. But you can't just coast on those two things for an entire season. The supposed "big bad" of the season Non was a complete non-entity (you see what I did there) with no personality to speak of. We were never given insight into his motivations or really any sense that he was actually that dangerous.

Four suggestions that would dramatically improve Season 2 if it gets one, which I hope it does.

  1. Dial the relationship stuff back to 11
  2. Give characters a life away from Supergirl
  3. More villains
  4. Make them matter