Supergirl: “Damage” Review

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By: Jaclyn Cascio (@jaclynator)

This week, Supergirl pushed Lena Luthor to the forefront of the show, showcasing an emotional arc for her that has been previously unseen. Kara had to support not only her business friend in a time of trouble, but a sister with struggles of her own.

“Damage” pushed Lena (Katie McGrath) into an unnerving position this week, as she was accused by Morgan Edge (Adrian Pasdar) of lead poisoning that was slowly killing many children of the city. Constantly striving to do good and separate the Luthor name from the maniacal strivings of brother Lex, Lena began to feel that there was no way to escape the evil destiny of Luthors. Her fall from poised and in-control businesswoman was contrasted wonderfully with the emotional journey the character went on through the episode. Lena’s story this week was a fantastic example of a solid character arc within an episode. A little resolution around the treatment of the children or the true motivations of Edge might have been nice, but we can’t have everything we want, right?

What was surprising is how little Kara (Melissa Benoist) was affected by an incident that tied so strongly to the weapon that separated her last season from the man she loved . If there was a time for the story to organically provide a prompt for Kara to take a dive back into sadness or regret that should realistically still be lurking inside, “Damage” would have been the prime time. The story created an opportunity for Supergirl to have an emotional aspect of her character presented, perhaps opening up an avenue for natural closure. Unfortunately, that opportunity was missed in the efforts to pursue the emotional journeys of other supporting characters.

While not exactly a surprise, the break-up of Maggie (Floriana Lima) and Alex (Chyler Leigh) this week was disheartening. Was it real and moving? Absolutely! A break-up hits you in the gut when a couple is worth rooting for. It was worth “shipping” and a triumph of television for those in the LGBTQ community. Unfortunately, breaking the beautiful engagement up for the sake of drama might deprive the audience of one of the things that makes Supergirl great: giving hope to underrepresented and minority viewers with positive examples. After Maggie’s confrontation with her father in an earlier episode this season, she became a character that many could connect with and stand behind. (Honestly, that’s when I started to become a fan of Maggie… just my luck, right?) However, one has to wonder if a separation from Alex will slowly push Maggie out of the picture and into the outskirts of the rest of the season.

But during all these events, what was going on with Kara? After the opening of the season, where Kara turned to her work as a hero to disguise her pain and loss of Mon-El (Chris Wood), many subsequent episodes of the season have seemed to put her on the backburner, tonight’s episode included. “Damage” focused on the business attack on Lena Luthor and Alex’s break-up, but gave little to its titular character except an emotionally supportive role. Supergirl has a tendency to focus on big-picture topical issues of today, but with a majority of the superheroine action of its main character seemingly put on hold for the sake of character drama, one may begin to question whether they are watching a comic book show or a soap opera. I’m 100% behind development of supporting characters, but not at the risk of reducing its main character to nothing but background.

Meanwhile, last week’s cliffhanger ending of what might be the season’s “big bad” went unaddressed in this week’s episode. Last week, Sam (Odette Annable) was introduced as something, or someone, potentially dangerous and terrible, yet it has been only a small blip on the villain radar nearly one-quarter of the way through this season of Supergirl. In fact, Sam’s only claim to superpower fame seems to come in the final few seconds of episodes – and this week was no exception. Perhaps the goal is to build empathy for the character as the CFO of L-Corp and a single mother before throwing her to the wolves of darkness. But I’m perpetually left wondering why I should care. It’s rare that I wish a show would tease me more about a character or future plot line, but in this case, a little more teasing would likely build the suspense around the character more fully.

Overall, “Damage” was an episode designed to deepen the development of supporting characters (although I wouldn’t mind some more development of James Olsen [Mehcad Brooks] and Winn [Jeremy Jordan] personally), but it might have been to the detriment of Supergirl herself. Will she be the star of her own story, or will she continue to play second fiddle to secondary characters this season?

What did you think of this week’s episode of Supergirl? Was it a hit or a miss?


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