Truth and Chains on SUPERGIRL

Supergirl’s 14th episode (“Truth, Justice and the American Way”) draws attention to how a person’s truth affects their actions. For Non, his truth is simple: to honor his deceased wife Astra, he includes Kara in her funeral rites. The sky burial is swift and yet heart-wrenching, purposefully airborne to symbolize that the Kryptonians may live on the earth, but they are not of it. Having the funeral take place in the sky also offers a neutral common ground and an opportunity for Non to warn, “I shall observe the period of mourning, and then, Kara Zor El, the next coffin shall be yours.”

As if Kara’s life isn’t bad enough, she’s meets her office nemesis, Siobhan Smythe (delightfully portrayed by Italia Ricci. When she winked at Winn, it was perfection). Cat, overtly peeved at Kara, hired herself a second assistant, who essentially takes Kara’s place (don’t worry: Siobhan has higher aspirations, but we’ll get to that). Her desk is directly across from Kara’s, which results in some hilarious intra-office messaging, prompting Kara to lose her patience (she previously broke the phone) and get shouty. Cat reprimands her for that, too. Hell hath no fury, right?

This episode, repeatedly, poses the questions (non-verbally, but through context and actions): What is truth? And what is justice? Alex and Hank are concealing the truth of Astra’s death. Maxwell Lord’s disappearance is called into question by Cat and Jimmy. Kara has gone along with the “secret Guantanamo.” It’s Jimmy who repeatedly reaches out and tries to remind Kara that isn’t what she stands for: “Well, the Supergirl that I know believes in truth and justice. Kara, I don’t recognize you like this.” He points out that Lord is scared of her for exactly this reason: “He’s terrified by you, because of your ability to do exactly what you’re doing right now.” And Jimmy is right. It’s easy to stand for something when it isn’t tested, when perhaps you don’t look at the details too closely. It is also interesting to note that Kara’s at her most radical when Jimmy confronts her about Lord in the DEO’s weapons room. Which one of them in that scene is truly armed? Who has truth on his/her side? I think that answer is clear, judging by the eventual tears on Kara’s face.

The Big Bad of the episode, Master Jailer, is fascinating for several reasons. He absolutely believes he’s upholding the law, that he’s in the right—finding and killing the prisoners escaped from Fort Rozz. He’s so caught up in the old way, the old system—but he also takes it a step further, his sense of justice horribly perverted (there’s no death penalty on Krypton, but he’s a fan of beheading via laser guillotine. Master Jailer comes from a long line of Fort Rozz guards, and as Hank observes, “His job is in his blood.” Guys, that right there? It’s an excellent metaphor for so many things, one of them hatred. People sometimes get so entrenched and so indoctrinated that they lose sight of everything. They stop seeing people as people and just see a number. A single characteristic. A defining moment from the past. The danger of that is exquisitely illustrated throughout the episode.


Interestingly though, when Kara first fights Master Jailer (in his Robocop suit, per Hank’s genius phrasing), she does something very curious: uses his strength against him. He hurls chains at her, she catches them, and wields them to her advantage. It is a short fight scene, but it conveys how far Kara has come in turns of her fighting (you all can thank the director, Lexi Alexander, for that; if you don’t know who she is, go to her website, her Twitter account, and check out her interview with Supergirl Radio. I’ll wait.). She’s so confident in that scene, even when she’s momentarily immobilized. She calmly figures her way out of it. There’s so much growth from her character, and her confidence shows even in her fighting style. She owns her identity as a superhero, and that’s a powerful thing—to own who you are.

Which brings us to Hank. He did the noble thing and lied to cover Alex’s butt. Throughout the entire episode, he takes a verbal beating from Kara. It’s hard to watch, because we (the audience) know the truth, but Kara is holding a false one. And man, if she isn’t wielding it just as well as she manipulated those chains. (This is a good time to point out the symbolism between truth and chains, right? The truth shall set you free, etc.) Hank promised Jeremiah Danvers he’d look after his daughters, and this is one way he honors that promise—but at what cost? The truth, after all, always comes out. It’ll be interesting to see the impact and consequences once it does.

Let’s tackle the truth that passes between Cat and Jimmy. Lucy caught Jimmy in a lie about the DEO/Supergirl, and she turned Green Eyed Monster before you can say Othello. Astute and remarkably kind, Cat finds him moping in a drink and asks, “It is work? Is it personal? Is it…both?” After she shares a heartbreaking personal story from her past, it finally dawns on Jimmy that he can’t live in two worlds. Cat reminds him of something he may have temporary forgotten, “See, James, that’s why we do what we do, that’s why we’re driven to tell the truth, not only because we want to be good journalists, but because we also want to be good people.” Being a good person unquestionably means standing in your truth. So, it makes some sense that, toward the end of the episode, he asks Kara for permission to clue Lucy in on her identity. Because no one can build a relationship on lies. (That’s why Kara broke up with Adam, after all.) Jimmy may think the solution to his relationship woes is letting Lucy in on Kara’s secret, but a) that puts Kara in an awkward position, and b) it still doesn’t tackle the real problem: his feelings for Kara. (He did confess to loving her not that long ago.) Perhaps Jimmy isn’t being honest with himself.

After Supergirl’s kidnapped by Master Jailer (not Master Chief, FYI), she has a rather endearing heart-to-heart with his latest Fort Rozz captive, Professor Alphonse Luzano (Todd Sherry was so, so good in this part—hilarious and touching, memorable in what could’ve easily been a throwaway role). They’re both caged (she’s weakened by red Kryptonite), and he is utterly charming. He cannot manage an American expression (up the creek without a poodle! Walter under the bridge!) to save his life, but Luzano casually relaying his story to Kara is a powerful thing. She sees who he was and who he is and—perhaps more important—the why behind his actions. Recognition dawns on her face, as she is reminded of the importance in seeing people for who they are, in believing that they can change.

Master Jailer, conversely, holds a rigid sense of justice: “Humans understand little of justice. Justice must be absolute.” It is an unforgiving stance, and one that, perhaps, reminds Kara how wrong she has been in her actions (i.e., locking up Maxwell Lord without a trial). But all’s well that ends well: Alex shows up to rescue her sister, and they end up rescuing each other. While fighting with Master Jailer, she shoots a hole in the ceiling, allowing sunlight in so that Kara can free herself.

And I have to say, I was not expecting her to snap Master Jailer’s neck. But he did, after all, nearly kill her sister, try to use Kara’s memory of her mother against her, and murder a bunch of Kryptonians. But the look on her face was merciless—righteous, even. In that moment, she knew what justice was. There’s no hesitation. No remorse. In that single action, Kara is justice. And the reminder, here, is that sometimes, justice is not pretty.

Coming back to herself and her sense of what’s right, Kara releases Maxwell Lord. She’s back to her genuine hope and goodness, banking on him being a good person and keeping her secret. But it’s when she leaves the room that I’m most interested. Lord and Alex have so much chemistry that, even though they’re clearly on opposite sides, I’m starting to ship them real hard. She threatens that if he tells Kara’s secret, there’s a dossier with his name on it. He rejoins, “Mutually assured destruction. Making me nostalgic for the Cold War, Alex.” And I swear by Grabthar’s Hammer, those are the words they’re saying, but their body language is say such different things. Maxwell, at one point, deliberately closes the distance between them, and Alex doesn’t back away. You don’t let just anyone invade your personal space like that. So, what’s the truth between them? Only time will tell.

Let’s get back to Siobhan, who Kara finally tells, “I don’t like you.” In that moment, we are all Kara Zor El, because Siobhan is only looking out for herself, hell-bent on using this job as a stepping stone to become like Cat. It’s decidedly scheming and brutally real, because oh my god, don’t we all know someone like that? Someone who would step over their own grandmother for the chance to get ahead? I’m very interesting to see how Siobhan progresses as the season continues.

The political overtones of this episode were well-couched and well done. The idea of justice and how we often let fear, anger, and rage cloud our actions rang true. As a society, sometimes, it’s so easy to lose sight of what we should be and what we should be striving for. Like Master Jailer, everyone is sometimes guilty of being chained to the past, to the notion of, “This is the way things have been, so this is how they are.” But unsurprisingly, it’s Kara/Supergirl who serves as a reminder to follow our hearts and to lead with them whenever possible. After all, that’s where the purest truth often lies.

Curious Question:

When Kara said, “I thought masks were only big in that other city,” which city did she mean? Arrow doesn’t quite wear a mask. But The Flash does. Are we being primed for the crossover episode? Maaaaaybe.


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