Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find my review of the previous episode of Supergirl here.
After an underwhelming return, Supergirl bounced back with a very good episode in which Winn took the spotlight.
Winn’s father being the Toyman was something that had been teased a few times this season, and it had a good payoff this week as Toyman broke out of prison and tried to reconnect with his son—in his own twisted murderous ways. He was a pretty great villain too, using uncannily creepy toys as weapons and giving the episode a bizarre and oddly dark feeling. The only annoying bit was the contrived way in which he trapped Supergirl halfway through the episode (Quicksand? Really?), but to be fair it is difficult to make a regular human believably beat a superhero, so I’ll let it slide.
Winn’s character started out the season as a bit weak and underdeveloped, but this episode fixed that entirely. His hatred of his father and his fear of becoming like him were excellent bits of characterization. Since he shares his father’s name, many comic-savvy viewers initially assumed he would become the Toyman, so it was nice to have the show address that—and in some ways leave the question open-ended.
One of the reasons I was wary of Winn early in the season and worried he’d turn dark was his unrequited love for Kara. He was behaving like a typical “friendzoned nice guy”, which was a cause for concern, especially on a show with a feminist perspective like Supergirl. A character like that could easily turn into a spurned, jealous, and entitled bad guy—much like his father in fact. I had thought this was where the show was headed, but this episode made me reconsider. The scene in which he revealed his feelings for Kara was handled well, and the fact that he didn’t act like a jerk after being turned down gives me hope that he’ll remain a good guy after all.
The other half of the episode dealt with Alex and Hank (aka J’onn) investigating Max Lord. The only downside of this story was that it was completely unrelated to the Toyman plot thread, and I tend to prefer it when episodes don’t split their focus so cleanly. The plot was compelling enough, though, and Lord appears to be an overarching villain, so I didn’t mind it that much this time. One of the reasons it worked this well was the focus not on Max Lord but the Martian Manhunter’s characterization. Having him forced to erase a man’s memory was an effective way of showing why he’s reluctant to use his powers, and that not only serves to make him contrast with Supergirl, but also gives the writers a reason to not abuse him as a plot device.
As usual, the major sticking point in “Childish Things” was the James and Lucy subplot. It was completely unrelated to the rest of the episode, and was pretty insubstantial when compared to Winn’s emotionally loaded story or the suspenseful Alex and Hank plotline. As a result, any time the show cut back to them resulted in frustrating tonal shifts and diverted attention away from the other two much better stories. And neither of their characters really benefited from the whole thing anyway, so it felt like no more than a reminder that they were there. At least it was short.
Rating: 4/5 (Great)
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