There are many reasons why “Supergirl Lives” is notable. Such as it is midseason premiere, and marks director Kevin Smith’s debut on the series. Honestly, apart from the presence of his daughter Harley Quinn as teen kidnap victim Izzy Williams and a reference to “Thanagarian Snare Beasts,” you wouldn’t know there was anything out of the ordinary about this episode. But that’s a good thing. Smith has always voiced his desire not to rock the boat when it comes to his Flash and Supergirl work, and “Supergirl Lives” proved to be another solid addition to the Season 2 lineup.
Apart from the aforementioned Snare Beast reference, there wasn’t much to actually tie this episode to the now-infamous Superman Lives, which would essentially have been a big-screen adaptation of the “Death and Return of Superman” comic book storyline from the early ‘90s. I suppose you could argue the fact that Kara spent half the episode de-powered is a loose connection. But mainly, the goal here was clearly to give Kara one of those challenges every hero needs to experience now and then. She needed to reaffirm that Supergirl’s power comes from more than mere physical strength. She’s someone who can inspire others even when the situation seems hopeless. Case in point – she managed to rally a group of prisoners to overpower their alien oppressors and make it back to Earth. Not a bad week for Kara, all things considered.
Supergirl has been pretty heavily steeped in alien-related conflicts, particularly compared to the rest of the Arrow-verse shows. But those conflicts tend to unfold on Earth and involve very human-looking aliens. So it was nice to see this episode offer a change of pace as it traveled to another planet (or moon, rather) and featured characters who didn’t simply look like humans with funny foreheads. There was a heavy whiff of Star Trek and Stargate to this episode, complete with amusing references to both. The Star Trek connection was made all the more apparent given that the Maaldorians look so much like the Jem’Hadar from Deep Space Nine. The show has always had a fairly heavy sci-fi aspect, and that was all the more pronounced this week.
“Supergirl Lives” also marked the return of Dichen Lachman as Roulette. If anything, she was an even less remarkable villain in her sophomore appearance, doing little more than standing around and looking smug. But the good news is that James Urbaniak stepped in to shoulder the supervillain burden. Urbaniak has this innate, sinister charm that makes him perfect to play the role of an alien slave trafficker wearing human skin. There was also a welcome appearance by a Dominator, loosely tying this episode in with the events of the “Invasion crossover. I highly doubt Greg Berlanti and friends will recycle that conflict in Supergirl’s universe, but it does seem like something is brewing there. The impression I got from the limited Dominator scenes is that they have plans in store for Earth, and whatever remains of the Daxamite empire is somehow involved. Mon-El, for his part, seems to know a little more about those plans than he’s letting on.
Speaking of which, the growing bond between Kara and Mon-El was easily the highlight of this week’s episode. Melissa Benoist and Chris Wood have terrific chemistry together, whether their characters are simply bantering or Mon-El is coming to terms with his growing desire to be a hero. It’s very sweet watching Mon-El be inspired by Kara’s bravery and struggle to live up to her example. It makes for a very strong, believable character arc. And the knowledge that Mon-El might be harboring a dark secret lends a touch of urgency to this rapidly evolving romance. It’s going to hurt when the other shoe finally drops for this character.
The banter between Kara and Snapper was also a treat to watch. The two have a pretty familiar rhythm going at this point, but Ian Gomez’s melodramatic, perpetually exasperated take on Snapper never fails to amuse. And as we saw from their final encounter, Snapper is quickly starting to warm up to his latest protege.
The worst that can be said for this episode is that the subplots didn’t really click. On one hand, there was more of the James-as-Guardian storyline that simply isn’t working.The fact that this week’s chapter was more Winn-centric helped, at least, but it still didn’t quite succeed in what it set out to accomplish. It was interesting seeing Winn suffer a bout of PTSD following a vigilante outing gone bad, but the resolution to that conflict felt too quick and easy.On the other hand, there was more Maggie/Alex relationship drama. That romance has generally been one of the stronger elements of the season, but here their latest tiff came across as forced and unnecessary. Alex’s decision to immediately bail on the relationship the second something bad happened to Kara made her seem hysterical rather than sympathetic. I get that she’s only just now coming to terms with her sexuality, but is that any reason to treat Alex like a hormonal, insecure teenager?