The best way to describe Supergirl S2 would be “growing pains.” After an uneven but entertaining first season, the show built upon some of its more robust elements in season two, in particular the relationship between Supergirl/Kara Zor-El Danvers (Melissa Benoist) and her sister Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), the growth of the Martian Manhunter (David Harewood), and exploring the character of Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan).
However, it’s not all rosy: Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) is relegated to just guest appearances in the first two episodes and the final episodes. The show suffers from that loss, because Cat Grant was a strong role model for the more insecure Kara. The show also transforms James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) into the vigilante superhero Guardian, which has its own problems.
Picking up from the final scene of the first season, Supergirl arrives at the scene where a spaceship escape pod has landed. In it she finds Mon-El (Chris Wood), a refugee from Daxam, a planet destroyed in the shockwave of Krypton’s explosion. Supergirl takes Mon-El under her wing, hoping to help him adapt to life on Earth in the same way her sister and adoptive parents have done for her. In the midst of this, Kara is also trying to figure out how to balance her personal life and her superhero life as she takes on a new role as a reporter for the National City newspaper.
Throughout the series, Supergirl must face the evil machinations of CADMUS, a terrorist group looking to get rid of aliens on Earth as well as the appearance of two different superior godlike beings: Mr. Mxyzptlk (Peter Gadiot) and the Music Meister (Darren Criss), as well as other threats along the way. These threats include White Martians, Roulette, and eventually, the might of the Daxamite Empire and their evil queen Rhea (Teri Hatcher) as they try to conquer Earth.
Supergirl even gets to meet the President of the United States, played by original Wonder Woman Lynda Carter. Look at the sheer excitement of Supergirl when she gets to meet her for the first time.
The show also adds some very strong elements. No longer is Supergirl’s famous cousin relegated to a view of a boot or random text messages (which was how they handled him in the first season). Superman/Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin) appears early in the season and we get to see their relationship, including how it’s evolving due to Kara’s involvement in the superhero business. It’s interesting to see how the two of them interact and how supportive Clark is of Kara. You get a sense that even though their lives are completely different, they love and care for each other. Hoechlin plays the part magnificently with a mixture of earnest charm and affection. He’s a perfect Superman and probably the closest to what I pictured Superman would be.
A second new addition in Supergirl S2 is Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath). The show uses our knowledge of Lena’s more famous brother, Lex Luthor, to throw viewers into a nature vs nature storyline in which we doubt Lena’s true motivation. We are made to question the motivations of Lena at multiple point during the series. We’re left to wonder if her drive and ambition is something to be cautious of or something to be embraced.
However, the characters on the show are often confronted with the fact that while she is Lex Luthor’s sister, she is also her own person with her own opinion and that guilt by association may not be guilty by association. This struggle is emphasized by the fact that Lena and Lex’s mother, Dr. Lilian Luthor (Brenda Strong), is the leader of CADMUS.
The friendship that Supergirl (as Kara Danvers) is able to develop with Lena throughout the season is fun to watch. It’s dangerous; we’re never sure what Lena’s endgame may be, but Kara’s good nature tells her Lena’s not lying and that she’s a genuinely good person saddled with a baggage she can’t quite shake. Kara seems to be a lifeline on the side of good for Lena and their friendship continues to grow throughout the season.
Another fantastic and downright poignant new element of the show is the coming-out story of Alex Danvers. Early in the season, she meets Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima), a police detective from National City PD. They have to work together on a case relating to an assassination attempt on the President of the United States (Linda Carter). They get along well and through happenstance, meet again and become good friends. Maggie is openly gay and happy with her life. In a way, seeing Maggie being so free and happy forces Alex to confront her own feelings and come to terms with her sexual orientation.
There’s a very touching scene in which she talks about it for the first time with Kara. It’s raw. Chyler Leigh manages to find a perfect balance between the euphoric feeling of love and confusion she’s experiencing. She explains that she’s always known in a way, but never managed to really admit it to herself, that maybe she drowned herself in work to not have to think about it. It’s powerful stuff. There’s a second, even more powerful scene where the sisters talk about it and Kara apologizes for not creating a space where Alex was comfortable to share this with her. There’s genuine affection, love and care in those interactions between them. That is heartwarming and wonderful.
As mentioned above, this season explores the character of Winn Schott in a more substantial manner. We already learned in the first season that his father was the super-villain Toyman. What we see in this season is that Winn is recruited by the DEO for his expertise in technology. In a way, his work there is a way to atone for the sins of his father. He also falls in love with Lyra Strayd (Tamzin Merchant), an alien refugee and former professional art thief. We see him grow more confident as he thrives in his role that’s much more suited for him. It’s an interesting way to reframe his role in the show.
Unfortunately, not everything in this season was an improvement. There were some elements that did not work and dragged the series down. The biggest and most obvious element being the addition of Mon-El (Chris Wood), former prince of Daxan, a planet that was destroyed at the same time as Krypton. He is now stranded on Earth. Mon-El is charming and friendly, but his presence never quite coalesces in the way I think it is intended. His character is lost, carrying the burden of knowing that his existence is owed to much better people than he ever was or could hope to be. He’s on a path to redemption, but it takes a long time to get there.
In the meantime, Kara helps in countless ways even as he, himself never appears particularly enthusiastic about it. I think the best example of this may be that Kara finds him a job at CatCo, but he shows up late, gets other people to do his work and does basically anything else. She is so madly in love with him that she can’t see what the audience sees about Mon-El, which is that… well, that he sucks and is a shitty person. Mon-El actually improves during the third season, but we’ll talk about this in our next review.
The final element that didn’t quite work throughout the season is the journey of James Olsen. He decides that he needs to make a difference and to stop standing on the sidelines, so he becomes a vigilante known as the Guardian and starts taking justice in his own hands. This turn felt terribly out of character for him, but the series also hadn’t set up much for him to do apart from being a potential love interest for Supergirl in the first season. They had to “give him something to do,” I suppose. I personally thought it fell flat, though Mehcad Brooks does an excellent job with the material and plays the part as best as it could possibly be played. It’s the writing that fails, much like the flaws in Mon-El’s role for S2.
I noted in my review of the first season that one of the best moments was when Supergirl stops a man from robbing a bank with only her wit. During the second season, the best moment is a personal one. Alex Danvers foils a plan from CADMUS to launch a spaceship filled with kidnapped aliens in outer space. In her attempts, she gets stuck in the ship and Supergirl flies to the rescue, but there’s not a lot of time left before the ship goes into lightspeed and disappears forever. She tries to stop the ship from the outside, but it’s too heavy. She pushes the ship, but she can’t stop it. She flies outside, pushing the hull of the ship, and she sees Alex in the window.
Kara can’t hear Alex, but can see Alex encouraging her. Supergirl’s afraid she’ll never see her sister again if she fails. Then, Alex puts her hand on the window and Supergirl does too. Kara then makes a final push with everything she’s got and the push-back manages to break one of the ship’s engines, stopping it dead in its tracks. This one moment showing how much the two sisters care for each other is extremely well-executed and showcases the overall strengths of the series.
Building on its already strong elements, Supergirl S2 manages to remain light-hearted even as it matures into a more confident, more assured show. Kara and Alex’s relationship is the glue that holds everything together. It’s not a perfect or flawless show by any stretch of the imagination, but there are a lot of things to enjoy in this show. It’s corny, it’s honest, and it wears its heart on its sleeve. There’s not a single hint of irony in this show; it’s just lovely.
I’m also sorry that I need to point out that Livewire’s wig has shockingly gotten significantly worse in the second season. Behold, this masterpiece: