Supergirl: SuperCorp and What’s Up with James Olsen?

So, as stated on my About page, I usually post articles about writing on Wednesdays (or Thursdays at this point), but I had a bunch of pop-culture type topics I wanted to tackle this week, so we’re taking a brief hiatus from the #writingtips just for the moment. My apologies to anyone who was desperately yearning to gather some knowledge about writing today, but don’t fear, we’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming next week.

A couple months ago, earlier in the run of Supergirl’s second season, I wrote an article about how I thought the show was doing a much better job of leveraging its supporting cast to tell interesting stories. I very much still think that is the case, and it’s really nice to see the different characters having their own plot lines and not just being there to protect Kara, or mentor Kara, or be in love with Kara.

Still, a couple of characters have emerged who have oddly problematic story arcs. If you’re not caught up on the show, beware, some spoilers.

First and foremost, I think Lena Luthor’s role on the show has become very Lois Lane in that she’s the damsel in distress that Supergirl keeps flying off to save. I think this is problematic because it gives a strong impression that Lena and Kara’s friendship is or could be more than just friendly.

Now I say “problematic” not because I think lesbian relationships are bad (in fact I think “Sanvers” is one of the highlights of the show) but because it seems pretty evident that Lena and Kara won’t end up together. For one the writers are very obviously pushing the Kara and Mon-El relationship, and for another I find it very hard to believe that a network show would put all of its prominent female leads in lesbian relationships…though I’d be happy to be wrong about that. So to create these situations that make it feel like they should be together feels very misleading (assuming there isn’t some kind of payoff).

And by the way, there is a large segment of the fandom that has coined the term SuperCorp (which I find hilarious) to describe the romantic pairing of the two. So this isn’t something only I am seeing.

The episode “Luthors” is one of the biggest examples of this. Cadmus appears again, this time so that Lena’s mother Lillian Luthor can rescue Metallo and abduct Lena [for plot reasons]. Throughout the episode, it appears that Lena is in league with Lillian, but Kara refuses to believe it. She goes to great lengths to convince her friends and co-workers that Lena is innocent, proceeds to be so distraught they don’t believe in Lena that she punches through a ton of brick in the training room, and, when Lena’s location is discovered, flies into a deadly situation that essentially involves a kryptonite nuke.

Minus maybe Alex, I don’t think I’ve seen Kara be so selfless for anyone else. Lena even rewards Kara towards the end of the episode with a room full of flowers (or so we’re told) and calls her her hero. And yet, the episode ends with Kara confessing her love for Mon-El. Then Mister Mxyzptlk shows up, but that’s a different story altogether.

The point is that it feels so disjointed to have her first real statement of affection toward Mon-El come at the end of an episode in which Kara went gangbusters to stick up for and save Lena’s life.

In the latest episode, “Exodus”, Lena is accidentally roped into the fray once again, volunteering to help Kara when she learns that her mother is behind a spree of alien abductions (that is to say she is abducting the aliens…because she’s a metaphor for Trump and ICE).

At a key point in the episode Kara has to decide whether she should publish an article her boss Snapper refuses to publish about the abductions (because it doesn’t have enough sources) as a blog post (actually Lena’s suggestion!) or try to find a way to get it published in the paper. Mon-El gives her a nice speech about how she always does the right thing so whatever she believes in is right, and they have a moment, but who should call and interrupt it other than Lena? Of course Supergirl has to go save Lena’s life, and that’s when we get this:

Okay, grainy I know, but I think you get the point. An iconic Superman and Lois Lane style shot…and Lena is the one in Supergirl’s arms? How do you not read into that?

I feel like this strange set of mixed signals the writers are sending comes from continuously putting Kara and Lena in high stakes situations together where Lena almost always becomes the damsel and Kara becomes her hero. Moreover, it seems that these situations often line-up to starkly contrast with Kara’s budding relationship with Mon-El…and I have to say I think I, and many others, feel that Lena and Kara might be the better pairing.

io9 author Alex Cranz pointed out Kara had a similar relationship set-up with Cat Grant where Cat was often the one in trouble that Kara had to save. However, I think the primary difference there was that Cat Grant was a series regular, and she and Kara had a very defined mentor-trainee relationship. We, as an audience, got to see why Cat was important to Kara, and so any time she had to rush off and save her, it made sense.

We don’t know as much about Lena, and every time we see her it’s in an intense situation where Kara has to help her. Maybe if we actually got to see Lena and Kara hang out more frequently and do friends stuff together it would feel less like Kara has to go rush off to save some hot chick she has an unrealized thing for. In short, more screen time with Lena and Kara together would give us a better sense of what their relationship is and push aside what we (or some of us at least) want it to be.

Again, I only bring all of this up as “problematic” because I don’t think that the writers/producers are actually going to capitalize or deliver on it. Maybe I’m wrong, and the plan is to have the two of them hook up at some point. But if that’s not the case, then I really feel that the writers are making some strange decisions.

Or maybe it’s just because Lena and Kara have overwhelming chemistry and that can’t be helped. I’m just saying, I think we all want to date someone who looks at us the way that Kara looks at Lena.

Moving on…

James Olsen went through a weird character transformation between seasons one and two of Supergirl, moving from being a photographer and Kara’s primary love interest to running CatCo after Cat Grant’s departure from the company and becoming the vigilante Guardian. Also Kara dumped him for unknown reasons, which has ostensibly cleared the way for her relationship with Mon-El…or Lena as the case may be.

While James was a corner stone of season one, there are some episodes in season two where he hasn’t even been present. He was entirely sidelined for two of the last three episodes, and in the most recent one he basically showed up for five seconds to talk to Winn and help fight against Cadmus a little as the Guardian. Really it just felt like he was there to remind us all that he’s still on the show.

He hasn’t been integrated into the team as the Guardian, despite the fact that everyone knows who he is now, and he is largely absent as the head of CatCo.

This was especially clear in the latest episode. When Kara goes to Snapper to pitch her alien abduction piece and then is later fired by him when she decides to post it on a blog (following Lena’s advice, obviously), where is James? She could have gone over Snapper’s head to get the article published, or had James step in on her behalf to avoid being fired. Even if he didn’t intervene in either case because he didn’t feel it was his place, it’s strange that there wasn’t even mention of him knowing about all of this or being involved in some way.

If James was supposed to be the new head of CatCo, then I think the writers need to find a better way to give him more things to do in that role. I can see why they added Snapper as a sort of “tough love mentor” to Kara, the way that Cat Grant had been, but if that was how things were going to go down, then why not have him run CatCo? Or have Kara moved to a different part of the CatCo empire so that she’s not in the same area as Cat Grant, and we can just keep pretending Cat is running things from afar?

The writers need to find a way to have James do more meaningful things at CatCo. Of course, there have been fewer scenes at the office this season, which I think is a good decision since Calista Flockhart isn’t on the show anymore, but it wouldn’t take much to give people the sense that James is in charge of things. Unless the point is that he isn’t, in which case why not have some more scenes that show him struggling to keep the company running or being conflicted between his role as Guardian and his day job?

James also needs to be integrated into the DEO team desperately. They did it with Winn, and I’m not sure why they haven’t done it with him. I guess Kara is upset that he’s pursuing all of this, but that’s a hurdle they could’ve tackled earlier, and one I hope they’ll resolve soon. If he’s going to remain active on the show, I think he needs to be given some larger and more impactful moments, and I think he needs a more defined place in the group.

Conclusion…

As I said, I’m enjoying Supergirl a lot in its second season, but the writing decisions behind these two characters struck me as a little off. The season isn’t over yet, so maybe there’s a point to their arcs or the way their stories are being told that I haven’t seen yet. I honestly hope I’m pleasantly surprised by the outcomes, but it seems to me the writers could tune up their approach just a bit in these areas.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or hit me up on social media. Catch you next time!

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