Fresh from being saved from the Black Mercy two weeks ago, CBS’ “Supergirl” returned Monday night with an episode that was filled with not only action but new villains, more anger and an important lesson in ethics.
In the 14th episode of the show’s freshman year,“Truth, Justice and the American Way” (which is a line from the classic 1950s “Adventures of Superman” TV show), Kara Danvers/Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) is mourning her Aunt Astra (Laura Benanti), who was actually killed by Kara’s adoptive sister Alex (Chyler Leigh), but Hank Henshaw/J’onn J’onzz (David Hardwood) continues to take the blame for it to protect the sisters’ relationship.
Alex wants to tell Kara the truth, especially when Kara continually gets snippy with Henshaw, but Henshaw knows that Kara is hurting and angry and that she needs someone to confide and believe in and that person is Alex. The truth has to be hidden for the greater good and it’s best that Supergirl doesn’t know it for the time being.
Later, a lesson in truth and justice comes up when James “Jimmy” Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) confronts Kara about the Department of Extranormal Operations unlawful holding of Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli). Kara reasons that Lord is evil, which he is, and that releasing him would endanger the lives of others, which it will. James calls the DEO a secret Guantanamo Bay detention center for aliens and now humans and that the DEO should be held accountable. The truth is that Alex, against Hank’s wishes and orders, brought Maxwell in to be held at the DEO. If anyone needs a talk about truth and justice, it’s Alex, who is living a lie and has taken justice into her own hands.
Now James isn’t innocent either. He didn’t seem to have a problem with the locking up of fugitive aliens, but he suddenly has a problem with the holding of a human who knows Supergirl’s secret identity, turned a young woman into a monster and ordered her to kill Kara and beat him up and threatened to do more. Maxwell has made promises to do more if he is ever released and while he should be tried, he is a very big threat.
Kara has said throughout the season that she is willing to do whatever has to be done to stop her aunt and uncle’s plans for the earth, but even Alex called her out on that notion, especially in earlier episodes in which Kara hesitated when fighting her aunt. But, Kara continues to work for the DEO, who have no qualms about dealing out fatal justice on aliens. In fact, Alex purposefully picked a kryptonite sword to kill Astra. Kara was okay with the death of other Kryptonians and aliens until the death was that of her aunt.
Kara knows that a war is at hand, but she also feels she was almost through to her aunt and it’s that almost and the fact that she once had a close bond with her aunt that is causing her to be very angry and standoffish. In time, the truth will come out about whose hands Astra really died by and hopefully soon after will come forgiveness.
The episode also raises the question about how far one should go for justice.
Enter the Master Jailer (Jeff Branson), who sets out on a mission to round up the fugitives of Fort Rozz and execute them, even if they have reformed and completed their sentences. While the DEO is trying to capture aliens and hold them, the Master Jailer is on the extreme end of justice, believing it is true justice to kill all alien criminals.
Kara, with assistance from Alex, is able to defeat the Master Jailer and allows one of the Fort Rozz fugitives, who has served his time, to continue masquerading as a human professor. Apparently seeing the extreme ways of the Master Jailer and the stern talking to that James gave her convinced Kara and the DEO to let Maxwell go.
But in a world of evil geniuses and super-powered aliens, can unlawful imprisonment or the execution of criminals and super-powered aliens, without a trial, be justified?
Throughout the Superman titles of DC Comics, Clark Kent/Superman has faced similar dilemmas and on several occasions, Superman has had to deal out justice. In “Superman” volume 2, no. 22, Superman executed a trio of Kryptonians (from another universe), who had slaughtered five billion humans and billions of other life-forms. He was judge, jury and executioner, killing them with green kryptonite after he had permanently stripped them of their powers with gold kryptonite. Superman made the decision because there weren’t any survivors on the alternate earth and the Kryptonians promised to find a way to regain their powers, come to Superman’s universe and kill him and his world.
Superman’s actions haunted him and caused him great guilt. After a bout of amnesia, assuming a violent vigilante’s identity and exiling himself from earth, Superman returned home, determined to preserve life.
But 53 issues later, in “Superman” vol.2, no. 75, Superman is once again faced with a life or death situation as he finds himself the last superhero standing against a monster called “Doomsday”. After hundreds of miles of destruction and thousands of lives taken by the creature, Superman decides that the only way to stop the monster is to kill it, even if it kills him. But Superman, as far as anyone on his earth knew, was not a killer. Even during the battle, Lois Lane, who was his fiancée at the time and knew he was Clark Kent, told Superman that he couldn’t kill the creature. But, with their last punches, Superman and Doomsday seemingly killed one another. They both eventually “returned” to life several comics later and have battled several times since.
In the early days of his first appearance in comics, Superman killed humans who were criminals. In more recent comic book storylines, the Joker, a human villain, caused Superman to kill Lois, their unborn baby and the entire population of Metropolis in an alternate reality in the series “Injustice: Gods Among Us”. Superman, unable to control his anger and grief, broke into a holding cell and shoved his hands through the Joker’s chest and took out the villain’s heart, killing him in front of Batman.
The latest example of Superman killing a villain was in 2013’s “Man of Steel” film, in which Superman breaks Zod neck when Zod threatens to kill a family with his heat vision. This, Superman decided, was the moment that he had to kill Zod, even after the two of them had crashed through and destroyed several buildings, which killed countless lives. Superman will have to answer for that loss of life and destruction of Metropolis in the upcoming “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”, which will arrive in theaters on March 25.
There are several superheroes who kill without any reservations and other superheroes who have vowed not to kill or take away the liberties of others, even if those people are evil.
Hopefully “Supergirl” will continue to address this dilemma and how Kara chooses to respond when facing new, seemingly unstoppable villains.
Other highlights of the episode included Supergirl’s improved fighting style as she countered the Master Jailer’s move (those sparing sessions with her sister are paying off), Hank’s love, patience and understanding as Kara continues to go off on him and the arrival of Kara’s new office nemesis, Siobhan Smythe (Italia Ricci), who is actually the supernatural Superman supervillain Silver Banshee. Seems Siobhan is keeping her powers a secret for the time being.
“Supergirl” is created by Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, the creators and executive producers of the CW’s “Arrow” and “The Flash” and “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”, according to IMDb.com.
“Supergirl” airs Mondays at 7 p.m. Central on CBS.