Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find my review of the previous Supergirl episode here.
I like episodes with well-defined and compelling themes, and I love episodes where every little thing contributes to that theme. “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” was exactly that, which when added to the assured direction of Lexi Alexander resulted in a refreshingly great episode of Supergirl.
The theme of the week was a morally complex one: how far is Supergirl, or anyone, willing to go to enforce justice and protect the world? In Kara’s case, it was keeping Max Lord prisoner at the DEO, which was both a violation of his human rights and pretty illegal. It’s a debate fans have had for as long as these heroes have existed. Why doesn’t Batman kill the Joker, potentially saving countless lives? Because it’s not what heroes do, especially not an upstanding, inspiring one like Supergirl.
Contrasting with that was the villain, Master Jailer. As an antagonist he was iffy, with a completely undefined power set and a generic costume. But thematically, he was the perfect antagonist. A prison guard who kills criminals, one by one, whatever the crime or their degree of reformation. He believed being judge, jury, and executioner was the right thing to do—a more extreme parallel to what Kara was doing with Max Lord.
James’s confrontation with Kara about imprisoning Lord was one of his best scenes this season. I usually don’t like the way the show’s been handling him, but this episode utilized him intelligently. As a friend of Superman’s, he’s more suited than anyone to lecture Kara about truth, justice, and the American way. And as a journalist, he too had to wrestle with his moral responsibilities this week—responsibilities that directly tied to Kara’s, as his assignment was to dig up information on Max Lord. What drove it home was another great scene between him and Cat in which the latter relayed a story about a time she, too, had to choose between what she was supposed to do and what was the right thing to do, and how choosing wrong ended in tragedy.
Overall, it was a good episode for character growth. A few other subplots were introduced here, too, but they ended up being some of the episode’s weak points. Italia Ricci made her debut as Siobhan Smythe, and though she did a good job, the character herself was too much of a trope on a show that’s been great at avoiding them. But I have no doubt that more will come out of this. Also, James and Lucy argued. Again I ask, why is Lucy on the show? Nothing against Jenna Dewan Tatum who’s also doing well in her role, but the character just isn’t contributing anything.
Finally, it should be noted that “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” was directed by Punisher: War Zone‘s Lexi Alexander. Just as when she directed Arrow‘s “Beyond Redemption”, she brought a more cinematic vision and dynamic, confident action scenes. I think she was able to do more with Arrow, which relied more on stunt work than on budget-constrained special effects, but despite that, having her behind the camera was a welcome change.
Rating: 4/5 (Great)
Notes and Observations
- “I thought masks were only big in that other city.” Nice nonspecific tease—though it’s probably meant to be Gotham City.
- “We could be dealing with an interstellar bounty hunter.” “You don’t think…?” “No. If he were in town, we’d know.” Another nice nonspecific tease! Though it’s probably meant to be Lobo. Which is awesome—I wonder if he’ll ever be on the show?
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