Season 2 of Supergirl has been one of change. After an uneven season 1, the show has found its groove in the move to The CW. Supergirl season 2 is more uplifting, more cohesive and more amusing than ever before thanks to new settings, new characters and a new villain. Yet a problem still exists on Supergirl and his name is James Olsen. While Supergirl is trying a radical new approach for the character, James’s new journey is off to a stumbling start. Supergirl’s character renovation for James might be coming far too late and might be far too sloppy to matter.
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The Bad Beginning
The actual idea of James becoming a vigilante in a metal suit named Guardian is not a bad one. It’s a weird idea but Supergirl has proved that weird ideas are often the best ones. The problem with James becoming Guardian is how it has been handled and introduced, which is haphazard and rushed.
James character hit a huge brick wall in season 1 because Supergirl didn’t want to do anything with him besides make him Kara’s love interest. Underneath all James’ boring whining about Kara, there is an actual interesting character. He is Superman’s former sidekick and current best friend. He is an award-winning photojournalist and as for season 2 he is the boss of CatCo media. There was even a very interesting throwaway line in season 1 where James told Kara that as a black man he isn’t exactly encouraged to be open and angry with his emotions. Supergirl had all these different threads to pick up with James and they went with one of the most obscure: his father died serving in the army.
With Kara, her family and their history has always been a big part of her character. James has mentioned his father once or twice but the big connection he has had to his dad was through his camera. For most of season 1 Supergirl was telling us that the most important thing in James’ life was his camera and that being a photographer was his true calling.
As soon as season 2 started and Kara dumped him, James completely changed his tune and now has decided that he always wanted to be a hero. To underline this newfound passion James is using his father’s military service as an excuse to prove that this is what he is meant to be doing with his life. It’s a very strange retconning of events and Supergirl has not eased the audience into James’ vigilante career in the slightest.
In “Crossfire” James told Winn about his desire to become a hero. In “Changing” (the very next episode) James was already suiting up and standing toe-to-toe with an alien parasite. It’s a big enough adjustment to believe that James would want to become a hero; it’s an even bigger adjustment to think he would actually be capable enough to do it. Supergirl should have spent a little more time developing the storyline before jumping headfirst into it. This doesn’t make James more interesting, it just makes him more confusing. Especially since Supergirl has been kind of unclear about how the audience is supposed to feel about James’s decision.
Since James is doing a selfless thing in wanting to be a hero, it feels like Supergirl wants us to appreciate it him for it. Yet everything else suggests that what James is doing is foolhardy and dangerous. Winn, the only other character besides James involved in the storyline, has had many long talks with James about the consequences of his actions. Winn has been James’ conscience, warning him about what is he about to do with his life. Yet at the end of “Changing” Winn is fully on board and enabling James and his foolhardy fantasies of being a hero. James didn’t do anything to really prove that he isn’t making a mistake. Winn was the only thing keeping James from getting killed but apparently that doesn’t matter anymore.
Winn’s flip-flopping is just one small problem. James is also keeping his Guardian life a secret from Kara which feels like the biggest question mark of them all. The superficial reason is so that Supergirl can create some kind of easy tension with James and Kara. There is conflict in James leading a double life.
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The bigger issue, though, is that by James saying that Kara would disapprove and stop his vigilante life, it also suggests that the audience should disapprove of his new decision. Kara isn’t a perfect character but in issues of morality, Supergirl has sided with its main character. If Kara wouldn’t want James becoming Guardian, the audience shouldn’t want James to be Guardian either.
There is nothing wrong with a character doing something the audience disapproves of, though. The problem is not being clear if a character’s actions are a good or bad thing. Things aren’t left up to interpretation with James becoming Guardian, they are muddled. With a character like James who has been so bland and so boring for so long, Supergirl needs to have a clear vision for him. The vision, right now, is far from clear. There is no sense of where the story is ultimately going or how the audience should feel in getting there. There is hope for the future but things need to get on track quickly for James or else he is going to become more irrelevant than he already is now.
But what do you think? Do you enjoy the story of James becoming Guardian? Do you think it has been handled correctly? Are you excited for the future of the character or confused? When do you think Kara will find out about James’ new secret life?
Supergirl season 2 airs Mondays at 8/7c on The CW. Want more news? Like our Facebook page!
(Images courtesy of The CW)