I am constantly impressed by how the relationship between Nia Nal (Nicole Maines) and Brain (Jesse Rath) is portrayed. It manages to be banal in exactly the right way and exceptional because of it. It’s banal in that their romance and subsequent relationship is played as normal and going through the very same patterns as all kinds of love stories on network televisions. Nia and Brainy love each other, complete each other, have some problems which cause friction and tensions between them. There’s a real will they/won’t they aspect to their story. This becomes much clearer in “Blurred Lines,” the third episode of Supergirl S5.
However, what makes their story so remarkable is that Nicole Maines, is a trans woman and the first trans superhero. It’s acknowledged a few times since her entrance in the show in Season 4. Her character mentions it to discuss discrimination, how people sometimes see her and, well, that’s about it. It’s not something the show really ever focused on because while her story is unique, it is not the only thing defining her character. It would have been easy to place a stock character whose only trait is her gender, but Nia Nal is so much more than that. Her character is thoughtful, compassionate, often second-guessing herself, annoyed by the endless declarations of love of her boyfriend, her capacity to be a hero, her reluctance to embrace her full powers for fear of losing herself. It’s exceptional that this show managed to create such deep characters and use them in this way.
Brainy, for his part, is conflicted because his attempts at trying to provide Nia with a wonderful experience for every waking moment is grating and too much. Their discussions towards the end of the episode feels like a real interaction between couples learning how to live together. It’s both ordinary and phenomenal.
This episode, however, focused on Kelly (Azie Tesfai) helping out an old friend thanks to her work on this new Obsidian Technology, Nia Nal helping J’onn J’onnz (David Harewood) learning more about himself and Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) wondering what she is willing to maintain her friendship with Lena.
The hunt for Malefic (Phil LaMarr – Ma’alefa’ak if you want to be comic book accurate) continues as J’onn requests the help of Nia to go deeper in his own mind. There’s a lot of discussions in this episode about what exactly happened to him on Mars and how it could be possible that his family never mentioned he had a brother. This leads to a wonderful exchange between Nia and J’onn about the nature of secrets and the pros and cons of not being honest, even if it’s for a good reason.
Kara Danvers for her part has to deal with a tough situation. Upon hearing of a scientist being murdered during a staff meeting, both Andrea Rojas (Julie Gonzalo) and William Dey (Staz Nair) shuts down the idea of foul play and request that no one investigate this for the newspaper. This surprises Kara, who sees right away that they both may have something they’re trying to keep hidden from her and that this dead man may be related to one of their schemes. This is all made worse by the fact that the killer is a tattooed woman with some strange ability, including shooting extremely resistant cobwebs. She must try to find the killer with James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) and the help of the CEO before she kills again. The mystery of who she is is deepened by a late episode reveal that leaves more questions than answers for now. A shadowy figure moving at incredible speed manages to dispose of the killer before our heroes have time to do much of anything. Was that one of Leviathan’s agent? Who that figure is remains to be seen.
But Kara Danvers is not the only one facing something difficult. Supergirl is also forced to contend with difficult choices. She tries her best to mend her friendship with Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath), what that means and how far she’s willing to go to keep her friend close to her is a conundrum. Viewers will know by now that Lena is falling quite far into morally despicable acts. What remains to be seen will be how long it takes to Supergirl to arrive to the same conclusion we have, that Lena Luthor and her plan to upgrade humanity is crazy.
I’m very impressed with how the special effects of the show have improved since the first season. The team working on the show has a very good grip on how to make Supergirl powers work on television. It’s rarely overdone and usually shows you just enough to keep you immersed in that world. It’s something I’m looking forward to seeing as part of the upcoming Crisis on Infinite Earth crossover in which there will be three Superman and perhaps more than one Supergirl.
Overall, this season is starting strong and shows no sign of slowing down. Let’s hope they can keep this momentum going. See you next week.