The Supergirl episode “Human for a Day” leveled the playing field as far as the villains were concerned. Hank Henshaw revealed himself to not only be benevolent but not Hank at all. Instead Hank is actually a compassionate Martian named J’onn Jonzz. Astra, well, she remained as crazy as a bag of several furious cats. Maxwell Lord, on the other hand, really rose to the occasion in “Human for a Day” and showed if Supergirl plays things just right he could become one of the greatest villains on superhero TV. Here’s what the CBS show needs to do:
Halt the Cheesiness
Maxwell Lord’s main problem is he is kind of stuck between two villainous extremes. At times he is kind of a super serious pragmatic villain who really has everyone’s best interest at heart. He is Machiavellian and rude but in another universe he might be the hero, an anti-hero, of his own show. At other moments, Lord is instead stupid evil and almost anarchic. He just seems to want to destroy Supergirl because he’s bored and it is his twisted idea of fun.
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There’s nothing really wrong with either method but Supergirl needs to decide who Maxwell Lord is. Lord and his actor, Peter Facinelli, need to stick to a methodology. The super serious mode does seem more promising because it is so different. There are a glut of a villains who are evil for the sake of being evil on TV and they are a lot of fun. There are only a few villains who have an interesting, even sympathetic viewpoint.
Lord is a pompous windbag and attention whore but there is some reason to his newscast in “Human for a Day”. As Lord said, if the people in the universe of Supergirl rely too much on their heroine, they could become complacent. It’s a cynical view but it’s not entirely inaccurate. In “Human for a Day” we saw many people who were waiting for Supergirl to show up and save them rather than save themselves. Lord should really commit to the idea that Supergirl is ultimately damaging to humanity and get rid of his more egomaniacal plans. The reversal could make Lord an empathetic if not sympathetic villain. His crusade against Supergirl wouldn’t just be blind hatred but some form of “tough love” that he thinks will benefit everyone.
Stop Pairing Him with Alex and Start Pairing Him with Cat
Supergirl’s decision to have moments of romantic/sexual tension between Maxwell Lord and Alex seems like a very strange decision. The two characters don’t lack chemistry but it doesn’t seem necessary. I suppose it’s meant to create some tension for Kara and Alex. Lord clearly has it out for Supergirl and that becomes more than a bit complicated if he’s flirting with Supergirl’s sister. It just makes far more sense for Maxwell Lord to verbally spar with Cat Grant over Alex.
Cat represents the other side of humanity’s view on Supergirl. While Max sees her as a danger and representing the worse in humanity. Cat sees her as a beacon of hope and representation of the best in humanity. If Supergirl wants Lord to cozy up to a member of Team Supergirl it should really be Cat, not Alex. There was already some manner of flirtation between them in “Fight or Flight” and there is so much more to explore there. Granted, Calista Flockhart is so fun as Cat Grant that every character should have a scene with her where she mispronounces their name and generally treats them like trash.
Consolidate or Dispose of Aunt Astra
Another major obstacle in Maxwell’s way in being his best villainous self as nothing to do with him. Supergirl isn’t anywhere near Gotham level where every character is a villain so it’s hard to tell what is even the point. There’s a definite antagonist identity crisis on Supergirl with both Maxwell Lord and Astra being around. Lord and Astra feel like they are on completely separate shows and right now, Astra’s version of Supergirl is way, way worse.
I know I said there is nothing wrong with cheesiness in a villain. That’s true, there’s nothing inherently wrong with your villain or character being a little hammy and over-the-top. Astra is just way too much. I like Laura Benati quite a bit, but so far her method of playing Astra has been to throw every cliched villain trope at the wall and hope it sticks. Astra feels like a villain from a very different, older and much more cornball era. She’s done pretty much everything but shake her fist in the air and shot to the heavens that “I’ll get you next time, Supergirl!” There is nothing remotely compelling about Astra despite the fact that she is physical match for Kara. Every moment Supergirl spends with Astra is a moment they are not spending with and improving Maxwell Lord.
It’s unlikely that Kara will deal with Astra once and for all in the winter finale, “Hostile Takeover.” I don’t think anyone would be upset by it but it would be a big step to take. As annoying as Astra has been there is so much we don’t know about her or her plan. So it’s far too early to reasonably assume that Supergirl will take her out. However, there is a way that Astra can be kept around that benefits both her and Lord.
Lord can’t fight Kara head on because she’ll snap him like a tiny baby ant. Unless he builds a killer robot of his own like Red Tornado, he has no chance of defeating Kara. Instead, Maxwell should find a way to work with Astra. She could be the muscle of his operation and he could the brains. It would give some direction for Astra’s crazy anger and make both character feel apart of the same cohesive universe.
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But what do you think? Could Maxwell Lord become the next great TV villain? Do you think he’s a better villain than Astra? Do you actually prefer Astra? Do you consider them to be both equally terrible? Should Supergirl have Maxwell Lord spend less time with Alex and more time with Cat? Should Astra and Lord work together?
Supergirl season 1 airs Mondays at 8pm on CBS.
(Images courtesy of CBS)