‘Supergirl’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 1 Episode 14: ‘Truth, Justice, And The American Way’
Welcome back to Supergirl Guys, our regular feature breaking down the highs and lows of CBS’s Supergirl TV show starring Melissa Benoist. Your travelling companions on this journey are Superman super-fan Chris Haley, and Flash recap veteran Dylan Todd.
This week, Supergirl faces the triple threat of an ethical dilemma, a usurper at work, and a prison guard… from space! “Truth, Justice, and The American Way” was directed by Lexi Alexander from a script by Yahlin Chang, Caitlin Parrish, and Michael Grassi.
Chris: This week’s episode was really trying to juggle a lot of balls at once, and that usually leads to a… well, let’s call it a struggle for quality. What’d you think of the episode in general?
Dylan: Honestly? I felt like it worked a lot better than it has in the past. We got the brunt of the focus on the “villain of the week” in the Master Jailer, while also advancing a handful of B-plots: Kara being mad at J’onn, James explaining ethics to Kara, and a new, rival Catco assistant in the form of Siobhan, The She-Demon. Oh, and also I guess James wanting to let Lucy into the Friends of Supergirl Club. While that sounds like a lot to juggle, they managed to focus mainly on the villain and the ethics plots, so I felt like it didn’t fall all over itself. Do you agree? Disagree?
Chris: Well, there was something I didn’t like about this episode, but I’m having a hard time putting my finger on it, and my first thought was that perhaps there was too much going on.
Dylan: Was it that Kara was mainly mopey and pouty and un-heroic and generally wrong about everything and also Alex had to come in and save her once again at the end?
Chris: Now that you mention those things, they certainly didn’t help, but I don’t think that was it entirely. I think the script just felt weak, which is a shame because I was looking forward to this episode since Lexi Alexander was directing and she’s certainly got a dynamic visual style. I mean, you know how much I like and want to like this show, so if something didn’t click for me, it’s not for lack of trying.
The episode started with Astra's funeral, and the handy notion that the evil Kryptonians won’t bother Kara for two weeks so she can worry about Master Jailer and Silver Banshee. I appreciated them coming up with a reason that they weren’t going to be dealing with Non for a few episodes, instead of just, you know, not dealing with him for a few episodes, but it put me in a weird place from the get-go.
Dylan: Oh yeah, that was the most ploty, BS thing, but at least it gave them plausible deniability when somebody asked why the army of alien superpersons wasn’t wrecking National City the very next day. It’s dumb, but it’s understandable, I guess. I tweeted out that we were barely five minutes into the episode and Kara was already crying, which didn’t bode well at all. Obviously, I didn’t dislike the episode as much as you did, but I definitely felt like it was missing a lot of the fun stuff that has saved earlier episodes. What else bugged you?
Chris: I can’t remember if I was talking about this here, or if I was talking about it with Matt over in the Arrow reviews, but I’d be fine with a moratorium on the good guys having secret jails in these superhero shows. The fact that I have a hard time remembering which show I was complaining about it during is frustrating in and of itself.
I know it’s the kind of moral debate that’s easy to use here, and it’s an easy way to get rid of villains without killing them when they know all the hero’s secrets, but when I’m watching Supergirl, I wouldn’t mind not having to hear the word “Guantanamo,” and being able to escape from the ethical grayness of the real world for an hour.
Also, James lecturing Kara about keeping Maxwell Lord there as though he hadn’t gleefully (and illegally) broken into Lord’s compound and been beaten and interrogated while tied to a chair makes me feel like this show either isn’t paying enough attention to itself or thinks the audience has no attention span for what’s happened previously.
Dylan: I honestly can’t believe the show addressed the whole secret prison thing, as it’s become such a staple of these DC shows. I’m looking forward to it not being a thing we have to live with every week like it’s an okay thing. Holding aliens captive is one thing. Holding a tech billionaire hostage is another thing entirely. I do wish they’d acknowledged that if anybody has a motive for keeping Lord locked away, it’s James, but I also really appreciated that they actually had The Talk and that we won’t be (basically) kidnapping American citizens and holding them without due process of any sort. At least not until next season.
Chris: Exactly. It also bugged me that James was lecturing Kara about it as though she was holding Lord in the Fortress of Solitude, and not that the DEO was the one holding him. Alex was the one who “arrested” him. I know Supergirl is working with them, but she’s not the boss, and I doubt it’s up to her if prisoners get released. And after they have her win the moral battle by getting him released, they negate the point of her doing so by having Alex tell him if he spills the beans about Supergirl/the DEO, they’ll let the normal, non-secret keeping areas of the law know about all of his “crimes”.
Dylan: It was all very hand-wave-ey, but I’m willing to accept a little bit of that if it means a better show overall. It felt like a course correction more than an actual plot contrivance.
Speaking of plot contrivances, what did you think of the inter-office stuff, with Cat Grant bringing a rival assistant to compete for Kara’s job?
Chris: Well, you know how I’m always saying that what this show needs is more characters. If I didn’t know [potential spoiler redacted; click here for details], it would have bothered me more.
Dylan: Oh, I had no idea about that. That’s… something at least? I did think it was weird that she was shown sort-of-kind-of eavesdropping on James and Lucy and all of the sudden, James is like, “Don’t trust her, Kara!”, as if that was something we should be worried about, as Kara has pretty much hater since Day One. which is also like this very same day.
Chris: Everyone on this show is way too cavalier with when and where they discuss all these huge secrets that should never be discussed where anyone could ever possibly hear. I think I complain about this every week, but I will continue to complain until they stop or it stops bothering me.
Dylan: I can suspend disbelief when it comes to this sort of thing, but I can see what you mean. Let’s talk about the Master Jailer, AKA, “Runner-up in the Dead Space cosplay competition.” I know almost zero about the Master Jailer, other than he is apparently good at jails, but maybe you can give us a rundown on this dude.
Chris: Hahaha, thank you! It’s been driving me crazy trying to remember what video game he reminded me of, but for some reason my brain was blanking on Dead Space. Unfortunately, another Draper (he works in advertising) was all that came to mind when I heard this guy’s name, since it’s decidedly less memorable than “Siobhan”, so I didn’t realize he was going to be Master Jailer as I was watching. Have a look at how neat they could have made him look if they hadn’t gone with “generic” for all his costuming decisions:
Just imagine how much more intimidating this version would be in real life! In the comics, Carl Draper was from Smallville (not space) and a classmate of Clark Kent who was into Lana Lang and grew to resent Superboy. He was probably the Winn of their circle of friends. He came in at the tail end of the Silver Age, and like most of Superboy’s childhood acquaintances, he also grew up and moved to Metropolis to become a Superman villain.
Dylan: As one does.
Chris: Also, he got plastic surgery to be more handsome and his nickname in Smallville was “Moosie”. Go forth and do well with this worthless trivial knowledge I’ve forced upon you.
Dylan: I feel so enlightened! But this dude is way more generic. A former prison guard at Fort Rozz, he’s now taken space-law into his own space-hands, dealing out alien executions by night while going about his day-to-day disguised as a National City cop.
His next target on the escapee list includes a former interstellar drug dealer-turned-Professor played by a guy who looked like a blonde John Ritter, who seems like a nice enough guy. This blind adherence to justice is supposed to be the catalyst for Kara reconsidering her stance on holding Maxwell Lord in the DEO prison, but I’m not sure the two dots are ever connected in any meaningful way. He’s a decent enough villain for a one-off appearance, but again, I’m getting a little tired of Alex having to save Kara every episode. “Deus ex Alex,” only works so may times before it gets old.
Aside from obviously not being a fan of his outfit, what did you think of Ol’ Master Jailer, Chris?
Chris: He was fine. I was ragging on his costume for fun’s sake, but I really didn’t think it was a bad looking design. Generic, but not bad. I’m a little at a loss for why he was able to go toe-to-toe with Supergirl earlier in the episode, but somehow Alex was able to successfully knock him around a few times when she showed up at the end. I think this show keeps wanting to make sure everyone has something to do, but I wish it would stay a little more focused on letting Supergirl do things.
Dylan: Well, Chris, the guy did have chains. I mean, come on. Those are hard to break out of.
As I also mentioned earlier, James wants Lucy jumped into Team Supergirl, meaning we’re going to be seeing a lot more of her as the season progresses. While this also felt a lot like a course correction from the Writer’s Room, it does make sense to include her in the circle if she’s going to be hanging around Catco every day. But dang, Olsen folds quick, huh? One time having to not tell her about the DEO and he’s coming to Kara all, “My girlfriend need to come to our meetings now.” How’s you feel about this development, Chris?
Chris: This may come as a surprise with my feelings about the rest of the episode, but I didn’t like it. These people have secret identities for a reason, and if you can’t find a way to make that work on your show, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing a show about someone with a secret identity. I know it’s easier (on the writing staff) if you just let all your regulars in on everything, but it really takes away some of what makes doing superhero stories different from just writing for.. I don’t know, NCIS or something.
Dylan: Well, it also has to do with Jenna Dewan Tatum wanting more to do on the show than stand around and say quasi-legal mumbo jumbo now and then, which means making her one of the core characters. I did feel like the ending of the episode made it seem like the DEO stuff would take a back set for the next little bit at least, which I am kind of okay with.
Chris: Yeah, I’m not particularly a fan of hers either, so I’d just as soon that not happen. I think these last couple of episodes have really started to sour me on James, honestly. Also, Lucy knows James is friends with Supergirl and really good friends with Kara. Does he really think letting her know it’s the same person is going to make her feel better about their relationship?
Dylan: Also, just as a logic thing, why did she immediately jump to James knowing about the DEO from Supergirl and not, say, Superman, who is literally James’ pal and would also have had some interaction with them?
Chris: That’s exactly what I thought! I mean, I know Lucy knows that Supergirl is working with the DEO, but James was doing super-pal stuff with Superman for much longer than he’s even known Kara. This is bumming me out.
What’d you think of that little nod they made to Lobo? Would you want to see him show up?
Dylan: Wait… whaaaaat?!
Chris: When they're first discussing Master Jailer abducting that guy at DEO HQ, someone says they might be dealing with some kind of bounty hunter, and Alex says, “You don’t think it’s…” and Hank/J’onn says, “No no no, if it was him, we’d know.” Then he looks straight into the camera and says, “Get it? Get it??” and then winks real big.
Dylan: Oh, they meant Dengar. From Star Wars. You know, the guy who looks like a dumpy space mummy. I’m 99% sure of this.
Chris: Is it true Dengar and Bossk were best friends?
Dylan. It is. And I have the fan fiction to prove it. I’ll email it to you right now. And while that sends, what can we expect from next week’s episode?
Chris: Well, Kara’s going to make her first trip to the Fortress of Solitude, which I’m sure will not be the size of one room (j/k I’ve seen the set photos and they look adorably cheap), and Smallville’s Supergirl, Laura Vandervoort, will be playing the villain of the week!
Dylan: Solitude and stunt-casting. My two favorite things!