A James Olsen-centric Supergirl episode is a notion that would have sent me into a cold sweat during season 1. When James was Kara’s bland and too-perfect love interest, he was a total bore. Now in season 2, James has been shunted off to the side and Supergirl has struggled to do anything with him. He might not be the most likable character, but his lack of involvement has been very strange.
In this episode, entitled “City of Lost Children,” Supergirl attempts to bring James back to relevance. The result is not only a great episode in its own right but also an interesting and welcome diversion for the season.
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A Guardian Without a Guard Post
James has the vigilante blues. The people of National City feel roughly the same way that the Supergirl audience does about Guardian. James isn’t helping nearly as many people as Supergirl. The people James does help are scared of him, like Clark’s other “vigilante friend”; Supergirl is cruelly (or cutely) hinting at Batman once again. James gets his chance to help when an alien, who just happens to look like a beautiful human woman, suddenly attacks National City. James tracks the alien to her home and finds her severely traumatized son inside the house.
James takes the son, Marcus, to the DEO. The adorable kid, who is played by This is Us‘ Lonnie Chavis (otherwise known as Young Randall), won’t talk. Marcus won’t open up to anyone but James because they have formed an instant connection. The scenes between Marcus and James are the best James has ever been. He seems more a hero and likable with Marcus than he has ever been in any kind of super suit. He gets Marcus to even speak and tell James that his mother would never willingly hurt people.
Before James can learn more, Marcus’ eyes begin to glow like his mother’s did, and Marcus begins to perform a telepathic attack. The entire building of CatCo starts to crumble, and it is all because of Marcus and his abilities. Kara is able to save the building while James, reasonably, can’t do much of anything. Though this is a perfectly understandable reaction, James goes into another shame spiral and he completely gives up because he thinks he is no help. It is a selfish, whiny and totally unlikable move but, luckily, J’onn steps in and convinces James to step back up.
Surrogate Fathers and Mothers
James tells Marcus that he knows what it means to be different. James grew up differently from all the other kids at school because he was black. It only got worse for James when his father died. It wasn’t until he met Superman that James felt that he belonged and let people inside. It is a beautiful scene, and this is the character that Supergirl should have been presenting all this time with James — an outsider who never belonged until he met other outsiders, not the bland, perfect guy with the constant smile and chiseled jaw that James has been all this time. Marcus believes James and finally tells him where his mother is hiding.
James becoming a kind of father or big brother figure fits in nicely with the reason that Marcus and his mother are turning into crazy killers. The portal that Rhea is working with Lena on to build is doing more than just creating a way to allow Rhea to “go home.” It is turning all aliens like Marcus into mini weapons of destruction against their will. This is just a bonus for Rhea; she really just wants to get the portal working. Another bonus for Rhea is that she is really bonding with Lena. Rhea’s motivations still make her seem like a total crackpot, but in her scenes with Lena, Rhea is affectionate, kind, nurturing and almost likable.
Similar to James, this Rhea is the character Supergirl should have been presenting from the beginning. The Rhea of this episode is a woman gone mad with love, but she still does love, just in twisted ways. Rhea is not the alien Lady Macbeth, with even less of a conscience, in “City of Lost Children.” It is such a welcome change.
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Rhea Reveals All
Eventually, Kara and the gang uncover the connection between Lena’s portal device and the alien attacks. So while James goes with Marcus to find his mother, Kara (with Mon-El and J’onn) goes off to confront Mon-El’s mother. As soon as Kara and Rhea come face to face, Rhea is back to old hammy supervillain tricks. Rhea does tell Lena that the affection she has for her is real but, otherwise, it is another punching fest between Rhea and Team Supergirl.
James’ rescue is about the exact opposite of the Rhea sequence, which doesn’t make it that much better. When confronted by the Supergirl gang, Rhea turns the portal up to full power. This causes Marcus, his mother and the dozen other aliens that Marcus’ mother has been hiding with to all go glow-y and murder-y. James must break the connection that Marcus is having with the portal. If Marcus is freed, he will be able to free all the other aliens. James’ solution is to basically shout the same speech he gave to Marcus earlier. It’s much less emotive when it’s screamed at the top of Mehcad Brooks‘ lungs, but it does work for Marcus as he snaps out of it.
Kara is having much less success. Rhea reveals that she doesn’t plan on using the portal to escape Earth. She is using the portal to bring all the Daxamites who survived the destruction of the planet to Earth. Rhea is going to invade. As Kara tries to stop the portal, in vain, Mon-El is left alone with his mother. He tells Rhea that Daxamites are not immune to bullets and he points a gun at her, ready to pull the trigger.
Rhea is able to talk her son out of killing her. It is the perfect mix of the clever, kind but manipulative Rhea that was seen with Lena and the campy supervillain. Hopefully, Supergirl will be able to use more of this version of Rhea as season 2 wraps up. Mon-El, in tears and unable to kill his mom, is beamed up with Rhea and Lena to a spaceship hovering over National City. The endgame has started for season 2. It is not that different in broad strokes from Non’s plan in season 1, but the stakes do somehow seem to be raised with this alien invasion.
What do you think? Did you enjoy a James-focused episode? How much do you think this will change his character? How do you feel about Rhea’s plan? Is it too similar to what Non did? How will Rhea be defeated? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Supergirl season 2 airs Mondays at 8/7c on The CW. Want more news? Like our Supergirl Facebook page.
(Image courtesy of The CW)