Superman makes an appearance in this episode of Supergirl, but he's hardly needed.
SupergirlAirtime: Mondays, 8 pm
Subtitle: Season 1, Episode 19 - "Myriad"
Air date: 2016-04-12
There's a good bit of talk about Superman in this week's episode of Supergirl. When the Kryptonian villain, Non (Chris Vance), unleashes project Myriad and turns almost everyone in National City into a mindless zombie, one of his first moves is to attempt to free the extraterrestrial inmates held by the D.E.O. The plan is thwarted, but not before Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) comes to blows with Maxima, Queen of Almerac (Eve Torres Gracie), who seems to be motivated, at least in part, by Superman's rejection of her marriage proposal.
Later in the episode, we're told that Superman can't come to the assistance of Supergirl's adopted city because he's off-world, a common enough excuse in the comic books to explain why Superman, with his near-unlimited power, doesn't solve every problem and defeat every villain faced by his weaker teammates on the Justice League.
Superman does finally show up to help, but to no avail. We catch a glimpse of him flying into National City, and then watch as he succumbs to mind control and drops into line with the rest of the citizens of the city. Unlike Supergirl, he was raised on Earth, which means that his brain’s more susceptible to the influence of Myriad's power.
Superman's a pretty ineffectual hero in this case. He's mentioned but seen only at a distance, kept at arm's length.
When Supergirl first premiered, there was talk of how important it was to keep Superman from overshadowing his younger cousin, how important it was that Kara be able to stand on her own without always relying on Clark to save her life and get her out of jams. Superman had to be kept away so that Supergirl could be her own hero, so that she wouldn't get lost in his shadow.
My, how times have changed.
The recent release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a reminder that the original superhero has fallen on hard times. While the film made a lot of money for the studio, the critical reaction was devastating.
Even worse was the reaction of many comic fans. Zack Snyder's Superman bears little resemblance to the character that the world has loved since he first lifted that car over his head on the cover of Action Comics #1. This Superman (Henry Cavill) is glum and conflicted, prone to violence in the extreme. He inspires not hope, but fearful reverence at best, terror and destruction at tworst.
In contrast to Warner Brothers' big, lumbering superhero epic, TV producer Greg Berlanti has been working wonders on the small screen, most notably on CW's The Flash and CBS's Supergirl. Instead of embracing the dark versions of DC Comics characters, Berlanti and company have sought inspiration from happier and lighter versions of the heroes. The result is something that more closely matches the feel of the wildly successful Marvel films than that of the somber Batman v Superman.
The shield on Superman's costume, we were told in Synder's Man of Steel (2013), is not an "S" but the Kryptonian symbol for "hope". Superman then proceeds to smash Metropolis into rubble in order to stop his own Kryptonian menace. In Batman v Superman, hopelessness is rampant. Hope only rises, ever so fleetingly, at the very end.
Supergirl faces a less menacing, but still formidable, threat from her own Kryptonian enemies in "Myriad" and is first tempted to a kind of hopeless response by Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli). Fortunately, Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) has been around Supergirl enough to know that there is, almost always, another way forward. In this case, that way appears to be a direct challenge to Snyder's dark and hopeless vision.
Most of this episode is a set-up for the upcoming season finale, so at times it’s maddeningly slow. Repetitive villain soliloquies often bring the action to a stand-still. Things that would normally be resolved quickly get stretched out in an, often unsuccessful, attempt to build tension for what's coming next.
There are highlights here as well, especially the chance to see Alex (Chyler Leigh) and J'onn J'onnz (David Harewood) on the run. And the final cliffhanger promises a fun kick-off to the big finale. Overall, "Myriad" isn’t the best episode of the season, but it does hit a lot of the right notes.
Best of all is that Superman’s here, but he's hardly needed.