Man, Supergirl has been right up my personal alley the last few weeks. There’s been an entire storyline about augmented reality and an entire storyline about how CatCo needs to unionise, plus a kicky new look for the titular character that has me seriously contemplating bangs.
Also, it’s been an extremely gay show, and possibly the gayest on CW (even taking into account that Batwoman’s titular character is an out and proud lesbian). But tossing Sean Astin into the mix in a surprise extended cameo has really made this season the tops.
This season has had three real focuses as far as major plots go. The first is a descent into evil by Lena Luthor (finally!). She spent the whole summer furious with Kara, to the point where she built an AI to be her new best friend, kidnapped former assistant Miss Tessmacher, and then uploaded the AI into her body so she has someone to hug.
This is clear supervillain territory. As is Lena’s decision to sell CatCo to an evil tech gajillionaire who proudly announces that all her employees have non-competes and they can either write clickbait for her or never work in media again. (Side note: CatCo please unionise.)
Lena originally planned to then give the evil tech gajillionaire, Andrea Rojas, a huge scoop on Supergirl, but when Kara outed herself in a wonderful speech in the season premiere, Lena opted to rescind the public outing and just leave Kara with a new evil boss who thinks clickbait and listicles are more important than actual journalism. (This, by the way, is also the second major ongoing plot this season — Supergirl versus bad journalism.)
However, while Lena’s actions are pretty evil, Lena’s reasons are delightfully extra and over the top passionate. She’s doing all this — the brain wipes, sales, and outings — to get back at Kara for hurting her feelings.
While Kara has missed out on exactly how driven to evil her closeted superheroics have made Lena, she does understand she’s messed up. So this week she tries to woo her best friend by flying across the world for her favourite foods and breaking into government compounds to get some coveted notebooks for Lena. It’s very sweet, if a little more romantic than anything I would do for a best friend (if it ain’t deliverable by Seamless I’m not doing it, April).
At one point, journals clutched in hand, Kara hovers outside Lena’s window, watching her from a distance and waiting for Lena to sense her and invite her in. If I did that to my best friend she’d tell me to stop being so gay and then try to squirt me with a water gun to shoo me away.
The third ongoing arc is directly related to Sean Astin’s surprise cameo. Who was the actor of Rudy and Lord of the Rings and Stranger Things fame playing? Not some Kryptonian cousin or previously unannounced big-name villain. Astin was just another flesh suit worn by J’onn’s evil brother, Ma’alefa’ak. Ma’alefa’ak is currently voiced by Phil LaMarr, but has appeared as a variety of random people, including a small evil child and an evil version of Alex Danvers.
Last week Ma’alefa’ak impersonated Alex Danvers to get additional information and generally mess with his older brother J’onn. As we learned this week through a series of flashbacks where the Martians were conveniently all portrayed as humans, Ma’alefa’ak is still mad at his brother for locking him in a room for most of his childhood and then erasing him from the collective consciousness of their people after their dad accidentally killed him.
Which… I actually understand, even if I would not personally exact revenge in such a creepy and malicious way.
So why is Ma’alefa’ak suddenly cosplaying as a grown-up Goonies boy? Apparently James’ sister and Alex’s new girlfriend Kelly Olsen used to be friends with a Sean Astin lookalike, and because Ma’alefa’ak wants to destroy his brother he decides to go after his adoptive daughter’s girlfriend. It’s basically like perusing the family tree and deciding to target second cousin Jebediah.
The big result of Ma’alefa’ak attack is Kelly gets the ability to see him even when he is in disguise, which means she has to go into hiding until they deal with Ma’alefa’ak.
Beyond the Ma’alefa’ak storyline there has also been a whole new arc about Brainy and Nia dating and the complexities of a well-adjusted woman dating a super smart brain-machine man; this week, there was also a super low-stakes story about a woman just covered in face tattoos who has partnered with a parasite that gives her spider power. While that description sounds like Venom, the resulting character was not Venom, and was taken out in a perfunctory manner.
Does this all sound super random and unconnected? Yes, because it is! Supergirl this season has been doing a great job of giving each character a solid arc per episode, but it’s come at the expense of cohesiveness. There’s half a dozen plotlines happening in this episode alone, and by episode’s end it started to feel a little like Game of Thrones used to — just hopping from character to character to catch up.