Her debut as Roulette felt like a significant step down from her recurring role as Jiaying on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Other than a propensity for showboating and wearing slinky red dresses, there wasn’t much to this villain. There’s always the hope that roulette will have a deeper role to play later in the season, but for now about the only thing this character has going for her is the identity of her mystery benefactor. Lena Luthor? Someone in Cadmus?
“Survivors” actually featured two directors, one of which was Arrow mainstay James Bamford. Bamford has been responsible for some of the strongest action sequences on Arrow over the past several years, so I was keen to see what he could accomplish with more super-powers on the table. Even with the super-power element at play, the action in this episode wasn’t quite Arrow-worthy. If anything, the scene with Alex and Maggie battling Quill (Dallas Buyers Club’s Ian Casselberry) stood out more than the actual battles in the arena. It probably didn’t help that the special effects used to bring Draaga (Seventh Son’s John DeSantis) to life were a little underwhelming. But even so, the emphasis on brutal hand-to-hand combat offered a welcome change of pace.
The actual conflict driving “Survivor” fell pretty flat this week. Luckily, the various character dynamics helped pick up the slack. Now that Mon-El is out of his coma and trying to adjust to life on Earth, the writers had the chance to play with the Mon-El/Kara dynamic quite a bit. So far, things are shaping up nicely in that regard. Chris Wood brings an easy, likable charm to his role. His Mon-El is very much the hedonistic frat boy Kara accuses him of being, but clearly there’s the heart of a hero lurking underneath. I especially liked Kara’s final conversation with Mon-El, where she admitted that training him would be a way for her to make up for not being there for Clark when he first arrived on Earth.
That said, Mon-El partying it up with Wynn was probably the highlight of the episode. It’s great that the writers have found a new role for Wynn this season, one that doesn’t merely involve him pining after Kara and serving as Catco’s multi-talented tech genius. Hopefully that party was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Then there was the Alex/Maggie partnership. There’s another dynamic that’s shaping up nicely. As much as Maggie comes across as a convenient plot catalyst at times, the chemistry between Floriana Lima and Chyler Leigh more than justifies her presence. It’s about time Alex’s love life became a focus outside of her attempts to manipulate Max Lord last season. Why should all the romantic drama and unrequited love center around Kara anyway?
Then, of course, there was the newly emerging relationship between J’onn and M’gann. I do think the script banked a little too heavily on a bond that’s barely had any time to coalesce. The two only just met each other for the first time in the climax of last week’s episode, after all. And that made it seem like J’onn was coming on a little strong during his frequent appeals to mind meld with his new Martian buddy. But on the other hand, can you blame the guy? He’s been alone for a long time, and learning that he isn’t actually the last of his species is enough to throw anyone for a loop.
If nothing else, this latest twist is allowing a new sense of vulnerability to develop in J’onn. It should be very interesting to see how he reacts when he inevitably learns the truth – that M’gann is actually a White Martian plagued by guilt. Letting go of past traumas and embracing the future seems to be a major theme this season, whether it’s Kara and Mon-El moving past their Kryptonian/Daxamite rivalry, Lena Luthor atoning for her brother’s crimes or J’onn learning to forgive M’gann for her role in the Green Martian genocide.
While the character dynamics this season are shaping up nicely, it does feel as if the overarching narrative is starting to lose momentum. More concerning is the fact that next week’s episode doesn’t seem poised to reverse that trend. I have very little interest in James’ transformation from photographer to Editor-in-Chief to costumed vigilante. In general, I find myself wishing the show would just jettison the Catco side of things and be done with it. Even this week, the Kara/Snapper Carr subplot did little but cover the same ground. Kara pesters him about a story, he responds with ample disdain and in the end she proves her journalistic mettle. There really needs to be more to Snapper’s role this season.