Supergirl Recap: “Truth, Justice, and the American Way”
"I thought masks were only big in that other city." -Supergirl
This week’s episode takes Kara Zor-El’s fighting style to the next level thanks to director Lexi Alexander. In “Truth, Justice, and the American Way,” Kara faces an old foe in Non, a new foe in Master Jailer, and her own simmering rage. Welcome to Season One, Episode 14 of CBS’ Supergirl!
**THIS IS A RECAP – SPOILERS ARE PART OF THE TERRITORY.**S1, Episode 14 – The Basics
- The episode opens with Alex and Kara watching TV at home. Kara is sad about Astra and regrets not having had the time to convince Astra to join the side of right before “Hank killed her.” Alex is about to confess the truth when they get an uninvited visitor. Non flies in through the window and asks Kara to come with him—for Astra.
- Non has invited Kara to take part in a Kryptonian memorial service for Astra, as it is their tradition that women lead the Prayer for the Dead. Kara does, and they have a lovely moment of sending Astra’s body into space to begin its “journey home.” Right before Non threatens Kara, giving her the two week Kryptonian mourning period to prepare for him coming to kill her. Talk about a one-track mind!
- Back at the DEO, Supergirl tells Hank about Non’s threat, and is especially agitated after the funeral, having become increasingly angry at Hank. Maxwell Lord asks to see her, and when Supergirl goes to oblige, Alex tells Hank that she wants to tell Kara what she did, but Hank tells her not to. Supergirl needs her sister, and if that means Kara has to hate him, then so be it.
- Lord has called Supergirl in to ask if he’d be getting any special treatment since he helped them deal with the Black Mercy, but she’s all NOPE and tells him to enjoy his Netflix. He insists that he’s only interested in stopping Supergirl, because without her, the world would be safer. And then Kara’s all “Without you, the world would be a better place!” Ooooooh. Buuuurn. Damn, girl.
- Kara arrives at CatCo the next day and gets a surprise. Since Kara’s work has proven “difficult” for her, Cat hired a new assistant named Siobhan Smythe (Italia Ricci), and there’s instantly a Devil Wears Prada Anne Hathaway/Emily Blunt vibe between her and Kara. Kara is even bumped to “Assistant #2” in ultimate humiliation. When Winn tries to comfort her, and Kara insists she’s fine, Winn can tell by her face that she’s not. Also by the fact that she broke the phone receiver in her hand.
- In a meeting that doesn’t include Kara Cat talks to James, Lucy, and Siobhan about the fact that Maxwell Lord is missing. James, knowing exactly where Lord is, tries to convince Cat that he could be anywhere doing anything with his money, so there’s no reason to hunt him down. But Cat doesn’t accept this. She sends her team out on the trail to find Lord. James confronts Kara about needing to lie (after deflecting some intense brown-nosing from Siobhan), as well as about the questionable ethics of keeping Lord against his will outside the legal system. And it’s not just the DEO’s ethics he’s worried about. Kara seems to be enjoying the power she has over Lord.
- Meanwhile, a Fort Rozz prisoner has been located, and Alex and some other DEO agents are sent out on his trail. They have him cornered in a warehouse, when suddenly some OTHER dude in bulletproof armor and with blue ray zappy powers apprehends the runaway Fort Rozz-ian and flies off with him.
- Alex and Hank are at the DEO trying to figure out who the fuck this Super Flying Kevlar Dude is. Kara arrives, super-pissy that she wasn’t invited to the party, and she’s especially snippy with Hank.
- Meanwhile, Super Flying Kevlar Dude turns out to be Master Jailer (Jeff Branson), and he’s got the Fort Rozz prisoner. After “encouraging” the prisoner to shed his human form. Master Jailer chops his head off with a laser guillotine! He’s, like, way into Justice.
- Posing as the FBI, Alex and Hank go to the National City police to see if they might be able to identify this mysterious, masked dude. The more helpful of the two detectives they talk to—Detective Draper—tells them that there’ve been a string of murders that the mayor wants kept quiet because the victims are … weird (like, one apparently had gills). The DEO is now looking for an “alien serial killer.”
- Back at CatCo, Siobhan has just gotten right into causing mischief. She starts sending Kara IMs asking about her relationship with James and goading her with her “suspicions” of their romantic involvement. But instead of IM-ing back, like a normal person, Kara insists on replying verbally, getting so worked up that she ends up screaming! And then, she’s reprimanded by Cat. I know Siobhan was totally instigating, but that was on Kara. Type back your responses like a normal person next time!
- Lucy and James chat in his office, and she tells him that she’s uncovered the license plates of the “FBI” cars on the scene at Lord Technologies. James closes the door on Siobhan, who is eavesdropping outside. Having cross referenced them against her father’s database, Lucy knows that they’re DEO plates. As she’s telling him this, James accidentally reveals that he knows about the DEO, which tells Lucy that he’s in deep with Supergirl. How deep, she’s not sure, but she certainly doesn’t want a repeat of their breakup over Superman.
- At the DEO, Alex and Hank figure out that the “alien serial killer” is killing prisoners in number order, and so they’re able to identify the next target …
- Prisoner 2445, who thought it was just another night when he left the office, but ended up having the Master Jailer waiting to take him down outside. Luckily Supergirl was notified, and she shows up to stop him!
- After an awesome chain fight, Master Jailer manages to disappear.
- Over at CatCo, Cat finds James sitting out on the balcony alone. She asks him if it’s work, personal, or both. When he confesses that it’s a bit of both, she tells him the story of her first real assignment at the Daily Planet. She was to interview a male movie star that everyone loved and who was married to a gorgeous actress. When Cat talked to the actress’ make-up artist, she learned about the bruises that were always being covered up. However, Cat let the actor’s PR machine get to her, and she ended up writing a fluff piece. Later, that actor shot his wife. This story puts the fear of God into James as he struggles with what he knows about Lord’s whereabouts. Oh, and PS, Siobhan was lurking around the balcony that whole time.
- Alex, Hank, and Supergirl are convened at the DEO talking about Prisoner 2445, whose real name is Luzano, a drug dealer that Alura put away on Krypton. The second Hank brings up her mother, Supergirl snaps, saying “This isn’t the week for you to bring up my family.” And since she apparently didn’t have enough men at the DEO to be angry at, James shows up.
- James tries to get Supergirl to see that they can’t keep Lord prisoner indefinitely like this. That the DEO has become a “secret Guantanamo,” and they’re not just holding aliens anymore. But Supergirl is having none of it. She remains convinced that it’s more important to keep Lord from wreaking more havoc. James tries to appeal to her pride in the symbol she wears—reminding her that it means something to people. Truth and Justice. He says: “When you have more power than any human army, you have to be better than this.” Before Supergirl can become too conflicted, Alex summons her.
- Alex discovered that the baton that Master Jailer threw at Prisoner 2455 was standard police issue and was covered in DNA. It belongs to Detective Draper, the “helpful” police detective. Then Supergirl delivers one of her best lines yet: “I’ve wanted to catch a corrupt cop every since we binge-watched The Wire!” Hey Supergirl, if that superhero thing doesn’t work out, you can totally nerd out about pop culture here at The Mary Sue. There’s always a spot for you on our staff.
- Supergirl and Alex try to apprehend the detective, but he ends up shooting both his partner, and Alex!
- Alex is fine, as she was wearing a bullet-proof vest. As she calls the DEO to let them know about Draper’s partner, she lets Hank know that Draper took Kara.
- Kara is in a cage under red sunlight, impairing her powers. She is locked up across from Prisoner 2445 who tells her his story. “One of [his] wives” was ill, and so this small-town boy born and raised in Star Haven found himself trafficking drugs to make money and got arrested on his first run. Alura sentenced him to 18 years in Fort Rozz. Suprisingly, he doesn’t hate Alura for it. Rather, he saw his life on Earth as a second chance and vowed to live as good a life as possible. He was doing just that as an astronomy professor when Master Jailer caught up with him. Kara vows to get him out, but Master Jailer enters, telling her not to bother.
- At the DEO, Alex is freaking out over Kara’s safety. she and Hank discover that Draper isn’t a former Fort Rozz prisoner, but one of the guards. And so, he must be carrying out what he sees as his duty, basically creating Fort Rozz on Earth. An agent brings them the location of a cabin where Draper has been spending a lot of time, and Alex and a team head out.
- Meanwhile, Master Jailer is trying to convince Kara that they should be colleagues. He respects that she’s been going after the bad guys on Earth, and assumes she’ want to continue her mother’s vision of Justice. But she clearly doesn’t. Not if it means “Justice must be absolute.” He’s surprised by her reluctance, and goes to kill Prisoner 2445, with Kara powerless to stop him.
- The DEO arrive at the cabin location—it’s empty!
- As Alex looks for a clue in the empty cabin as to where Draper could’ve gone, she notices a glow coming up from under the floor. Rather than look for stairs like a normal person (what is with these Danvers girls doing things The Weird Way all the time?), she asks an agent for a crowbar to get under the floorboards, and she finds Master Jailer’s ship. Just as MJ is about to kill Prisoner 2445, the DEO bursts in. Alex fights Master Jailer, and almost gets her head chopped off in the laser guillotine for her trouble, but she manages to grab her gun and shoots up at the ceiling, letting in some much-needed yellow sunlight for Kara. Kara breaks out of her cage, and takes down Master Jailer.
- After Prisoner 2445 asks what’s to be done with him, Supergirl flies him back to where he teaches, letting him go. (and apparently he didn’t get the power to fly? What a rip-off!)
- Continuing on her mission of mercy, she goes back to the DEO and releases Maxwell Lord, too. He’s about as snide an asshole as you’d expect when that happens, and when Supergirl leaves the room, Alex tells him that if he tells anyone that Kara is Supergirl, the DEO has “a dossier on [him] the size of this room” listing all his crimes. Mutually assured destruction.
- When Kara arrives back at CatCo, Siobhan meets her at the elevator just to give her shit and and feel superior, like a character out of a Mean Girls-type teen movie. But Kara’s not having it. She’s all “We’ll see who ends up staying!” which is really hard to take seriously with her glasses all askew, but A for effort, Kara!
- Kara goes to see James and thanks him for reminding her how to hero, telling him that he makes her better. James tells her about Lucy finding out that he knew about the DEO through Supergirl, and that if their relationship is going to work, he needs to be able to be completely honest with her. He asks Kara’s permission to tell Lucy that she’s Supergirl. Kara doesn’t give him an answer.
- Later, Supergirl goes to visit the Alura hologram, and after a Trying to Be Close to Mom moment, Supergirl asks her about Myriad. Suddenly, the hologram freaks out and cannot answer, saying that more questions about Myriad will cause the unit to self-destruct. Hank shuts it off.
- Alone in the room with Hank, Kara lets loose about how angry she is with him. She says she needs space, which Hank takes to mean a break. But Kara isn’t sure at the moment if she’ll ever be able to work alongside Hank ever again.
Another solid, well-executed, character-focused episode of Supergirl!
One of my favorite things about superhero stories is that they make for some great allegories about real-world issues and concerns. Having Kara and the DEO stand in for the United States government and its all-too-frequent abuses of its military power was really striking (and James Olsen even name-dropped Guantanamo!), and the fact that the episode was called “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” while being entirely about how Kara’s become a bit corrupted was a stroke of genius.
Lovely, too, was how the episode dealt with Kara’s grief. Personal note: when my mother passed away in 2006, I didn’t cry much at first. I was numb, and then I thought I was “fine.” But over the course of the next three years, I felt my grief pop up in unlikely and unexpected moments—randomly yelling at a Dunkin’ Donuts cashier for not giving me a receipt, for example. In the moment, Kara seemed fine when she was told what “Hank did.” It seemed ridiculous to keep the information about Alex from her, because she seemed to get it- sometimes you have to do certain things in the heat of a fight. But she wasn’t fine, and it was really true-to-life that we had to wait a couple of episodes to really delve into how Kara feels about losing Astra.
I’m loving Melissa Benoist’s performance as Supergirl week in and week out. She gets better every episode, and here, even though we see her at her most hurt and petty, lashing out because she can, she remains grounded and real, with glimmers of the Kara we know and love underneath. Benoist did an awesome job navigating an emotional roller coaster.
I’m thrilled that we got some James Olsen action that rooted in his character, rather than in a romance storyline. For the first time, we got to see what’s important to James as a person. The kind of human, reporter, and hero that he wants to be. Even better—I love that it was Cat Grant who encouraged him to do the right thing. We’ve talked a lot about Cat being a mentor to Kara, but I think it’s so important to see men have female mentors, as well as vice-versa. In an ideal world, we’d each share with those behind us on the career ladder regardless of whether or not “they remind us of us,” and it was nice to see a glimpse of that here.
The addition of Siobhan Smythe (which happens to be the human name of Silver Banshee in the Supergirl comics) to the CatCo mix was an interesting move. On the one hand, it felt a little Mean Girls-meets-Devil-Wears-Prada in a way that isn’t exactly positive. On the other hand, it’s great to have a character who so thoroughly and successfully pushes Kara’s buttons. Watching Kara simply admit “I don’t like you” is a huge deal for a character who has thus far prided herself on “nice.” I had mixed feelings about Siobhan during the episode, but I thought that Italia Ricci did an amazing job thoroughly and unapologetically committing to bitchiness. I’m looking forward to seeing where they go with Siobhan on the show, and whether Silver Banshee is going to be making an appearance!
According to the official CBS synopses, as well as casting notices, Master Jailer is set to be a recurring character, which made me a bit disappointed in the fact that he was so easily dispatched in this episode. I kinda wanted him to pull a Non and just be out there lurking in the ether a little longer. I’m sure they have some sort of plan for him, but seeing him taken out in a single episode kinda took the wind out of his sails for me.
I was particularly excited about this episode, because it was being directed by Lexi Alexander, and in my recent interview with her at Supergirl Radio, she talked about having redefined Supergirl’s fighting style moving forward, which made me pay special attention to the fight scenes this episode. She mentioned that, up until now, Supergirl’s fights have made much use of her powers—strength, heat vision, freeze breath, etc—and what Alexander wanted to bring to the table was to make Supergirl more grounded and less dependent on her powers. Essentially, Alexander would be starting in practice what started story-wise with Alex earlier in the season, when she was training Kara on form and technique so that she wouldn’t become powers-dependent.
That first fight between Supergirl and Master Jailer was …. um … off the chain? (I’m sorry. I had to. SHUT UP.) But seriously, it was amazing, basically because you could see the wheels turning in Supergirl’s head. OK, I can’t fly, now what. Use what’s in front of you. Use his own weapons against him. And when all else fails, Use a head butt. We got to watch Supergirl do some street fighting in this episode, which not only looked cool, but matched exactly where the character was emotionally. This was the perfect episode in which her fighting style could transition, because this is Supergirl at her most cynical, desperate, and angry. After the events of the past few episodes, she doesn’t give a shit about keeping Maxwell Lord prisoner, she doesn’t give a shit about Hank. She just doesn’t give a shit. Crush gauntlets and punch you in your stupid faaaaace GRRRAAAARRRRRRGHHHHH!
Lexi Alexander was basically the perfect choice of director for this episode. Good job, Berlanti and Co!
However, there were a couple of small things that really got stuck in my craw (and no, I’m not talking about Maxwell Lord’s smugness, though for the record, OMG, STOP BEING SUCH A DOUCHE!). Ready for some nerdy nit-picking?
- Would Kara have been able to absorb enough power from the yellow sun that quickly after sitting in red sunlight for who knows how long?
- They never explain why Prisoner 2445 can’t fly, and I’m all But … he’s Kryptonian. All the other Kryptonians can fly! Like, literally every other single Kryptonian we’ve seen has been able to fly! Is this guy’s skin made out of SPF 50?
- But seriously though, Danvers girls: USE YOUR IM TO CHAT WITH YOUR OFFICE NEMESIS, KARA! ALEX, YOU DON’T NEED A CROWBAR, JUST … FIND THE STAIRS GOING DOWN! AND, LIKE, YOU DIDN’T EVEN LOOK FOR A TRAP DOOR IN THE FLOOR! WHY ARE YOU BOTH BEING SUCH WEIRDOS TODAY?
Nevertheless, this was a thoroughly enjoyable episode—one of the best of the season, in fact.
What say you, Supergirl fans? What did you think of this week’s episode? Tell me in the comments below!
Supergirl airs Mondays at 8PM ET/PT on CBS. For more Supergirl fun, check out The House of El—February’s video will be up later this week!—and subscribe to Supergirl Radio! [NOTE: This week’s Supergirl Radio is actually my last as a regular co-host, though I’m sure I’ll be back for guest spots and such—so you’d better be listening this week!]
(Images via Darren Michaels/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
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