Superman on Television
Supergirl: Episode Reviews
Season 4 - Episode 8: "Bunker Hill"Reviewed by: Michael Bailey
Originally Aired: December 2, 2018
WRITTEN BY: Rob Wright & Eric Carrasco
DIRECTED BY: Kevin Smith
Melissa Benoist (Kara/Supergirl)
Chyler Leigh (Alex Danvers)
Mechad Brooks (James Olsen)
David Harewood (J'onn J'onzz)
Katie McGrath (Lena Luthor)
Jesse Rath (Brainiac 5)
RECURRING CAST: Sam Witwer (Ben Lockwood/Agent Liberty)
Nicole Maines (Nia Nal)
David Ajala (Manchester Black)
Bruce Boxleitner (President Baker)
Sarah Smyth (Lydia Lockwood)
April Parker Jones (Colonel Lauren Haley)
Rating - 5 (out of 5): There was one element of this episode that very nearly knocked it down a grade but what came after was so strong that I forgave that one silly indiscretion.
More on that in a moment.
It's hard to put into words exactly how much I am enjoying this season of Supergirl. It's not that the previous seasons were terrible. Season 2 was weak, but I think they bounced back last year in a big way. In terms of developing a storyline, giving us antagonists and villains to sink our teeth into, melding the social commentary with the plot and writing material that allow the actors to stretch and grow, this season has been fantastic and this episode is every reason why.
First, Nia Nal got some serious screen time. Nicole Maines has been a great addition to the show but seeing her get to develop her powers and pay off her sub-plots, which have been percolating in the background was something I wanted to see two episodes back, but in all honesty that's me being too much of a whiny fan because the pacing has been spot on with Nia. She went from being a woman that was afraid of what was happening to her to being confident in her powers. The scene at the end where she threw the extra pillows off of her bed before climbing in with a smile on her face drove home the point that she had some control over her abilities and was going to get the first good night's sleep she's had in some time. It's not explicitly said but I get the feeling that she hasn't slept in that bed in some time, so the fact that she wasn't dozing on the couch with her roommate tasked with not letting her sleep for too long said a lot about her as a character without ham-fisted exposition ruining the moment.
Manchester Black confronting Ben Lockwood was likewise played just right. The tension of Black and Ben sitting across from each other was palpable and through those scenes we got to see the many sides of Lockwood as a character. The fact that he was wanting to chill out on the Agent Liberty thing at the beginning of the episode because he was getting more legitimate followers on television gave Black forcing him to don the Agent Liberty outfit and eventually outed to the world that much more power.
Ben is a complicated character. Far more complicated than I originally thought he would be and the nuance Witwer is bringing to the performance makes him even more compelling. At first, he wants to hide who he is from his wife, which suggests that on some level he knows that he is doing as wrong but after he is saved by Supergirl and arrested, he doubles down on the Agent Liberty rhetoric. The fact that his wife is there at the end to support him makes this even more of a tragedy and frankly I'm impressed they didn't go down the road of her wanting nothing to do with him. There are so many layers that I almost...almost forgive them for using the Agent Liberty name.
Almost, but not quite.
Manchester Black and J'onn's mental confrontations were also strong and I like that J'onn has not given up on him entirely. Again, Manchester knows what he's doing is wrong and like Ben he is doubling down on that fact. Watching him toy with Lockwood and his wife and then once again use a device to incapacitate Kara showed that he is not the two-dimensional character his comic book counterpart could be.
Then there's Kara and her place at the DEO.
I've mentioned in previous reviews that one of the things that I have liked the most about this season is the willingness to break up the format they stuck to for nearly three seasons. Taking J'onn out of the DEO was one step. Having Winn leave was another. Bringing in a watchdog to oversee Alex kept up the pressure and now Supergirl is no longer part of the organization. On one hand this is bold, and I liked her making that decision and essentially letting the President know that she is not someone to pick a fight with. Having this happen just as Ben Lockwood becomes even more of a hero to the people that hate aliens creates a neat, dramatic harmony that has me excited for what is going to happen next because anything goes at this point.
On the other hand, I have a slight problem with how she left.
Why does anyone think that Supergirl has a secret identity?
One of the best things about John Byrne's revamp of Superman back in 1986 was that he took the idea that the world knew that Superman has a secret identity off the table. He doesn't wear a mask so why would he let on that he leads a double life? That creates too much drama for him. I never really thought about Supergirl having a secret identity because 90% of the cast knows who she is, so it never seemed to be an issue. To be honest I assumed that everyone at the DEO knew that Kara and Supergirl were one and the same because the main characters have conversations in front of Rao and everyone all of the time. I just figured that when you work for an elite government agency that you kept things at work a secret.
Apparently, this wasn't the case. Or, at the very least, it is now not the case because the drama of the President telling Kara she has to reveal her identity to the DEO makes it so. The scene was well written and well-acted but on a deeper level it bugs me because there were other ways to accomplish the same goal. Having Ben Lockwood yell about how they don't know who Supergirl really is, which leads the President to demand that she reveal that identity doesn't make any sense because Supergirl doesn't wear a mask. There is no reason to believe that she's anyone else but Supergirl. So, I'm down with her leaving the DEO because it is dramatic, but I would have preferred another reason for the departure.
My one outright complaint of the episode was the whole thing with her flying the building into the air, having it drop, and using that sudden stop to free her from the Nth metal. The special effects of this show have always been quality and this season has had some especially good gags but seeing that building hover in the air and drop looked silly. It was just bad on all levels. It didn't ruin the episode but it's a blotch on an otherwise amazing season of televisions.
Finally, I loved the fact that the first inkling of the Elseworlds crossover happened at the end of this episode. It felt like reading a comic where there is an Easter Egg filled end tag that gets you excited for the event that is about to happen. It had nothing to do with Supergirl, but it made me very happy, especially seeing John Wesley Shipp in his classic Flash costume and hearing his theme right there at the end. Add in a comic book accurate looking Monitor and this crossover has already won me over.
I. Cannot. Wait.
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