With a week’s hindsight, we’re glad last week’s episode of Supergirl was preempted in Southern California for coverage of the gubernatorial recall election. Had we seen it at the time, we wouldn’t have been able to shake the notable disappearance of Orlando (Jhaleil Swaby) or Kara’s (Melissa Benoist) inability to notice he was gone. The lack of any comment about him or the low-income housing the Superfriends worked so hard to save only gave us more and more pause when we finally sat down to watch Mxy (Tom Lennon) become a more sympathetic character. Nevertheless, moving away from a social issue the show seemed to be handling with care marred our viewing experience.
But as it turns out, that sensation was intentional on the part of the show as this week’s episode, literally called “Blind Spots,” sees Kelly OIsen (Azie Tesfai) call Kara out for being unable to see the more insidious aspects of systemic inequality and how even the rampage of a supervillain plays into it. Tesfai also co-wrote the episode, so we imagine most of Kelly’s speeches were straight from the heart and all of the character’s exhaustion is shared by the woman who plays her. And though we admit the episode may have a certain preachiness to it, we don’t think there is any other way to address some of Tesfai and co-writer J. Holtham‘s points accept in a blunt, direct address shot in close-up.
Also to the story’s credit, it covered a lot of ground from politicians using tragedy for monetary gain, the way a celebrity rescue effort can totally miss the people it intends to help, allyship, and an utterly personal struggle of an interracial couple trying to weather a fundamental difference of experience. It even made room for J’onn (David Harewood) to comment on being an alien who lives life as a Black man in the US. And thanks to director David Ramsey visiting town as John Diggle, we also got a bit of his point of view and some important words from Jefferson Pierce, a character who often feels forgotten in the Arrowverse. Ramsey also does a pretty good job giving each moment a sense of weight and emotion. Again, the rawness of the writing and Kelly’s feelings have to be direct and the filmmaking supports it for the most part.
Where things never quite mesh is the magical 5th Dimensional energy aspect. The corrupt councilmember is just a little too cartoonish. Sure, people like her exist, but that flattening of the character and the ease with which she was apprehended feels like a disservice to the weightier issues, Kelly’s valid pain, and Orlando’s struggle. Those things are never going to easily co-exist in a show with Kryptonite-breathing dragons and Kara’s need to assume all the guilt in every situation.
That said, we did appreciate Kelly calling out Kara’s tendency to take the blame as an aversion tactic in lieu of creating real change. In one of the better meshes of the characters with the social issues, it is an absolutely fair read of Supergirl and a true blind spot we wish the show had more time to work with. Much like how we want Orlando’s story to continue, this aspect of Kara’s story needs to be an ongoing element. Sadly, we expect both it and Orlando will be gone with the next episode.
That’s another reason we’re uneasy after watching “Blind Spots.” The rigors of a 20-episode CW superhero drama could easily make a continued examination of systemic inequality hard to accomplish. But, perhaps, that’s the real point of the episode: the good intentions of allies inevitably fall by the wayside. It’s the concern we raised when Kara first told Orlando she had his back — and as soon as Nxy (Peta Sargent) presented herself as a villain to fight, Kara’s commitment to a social issue (and a human caught withing that issue) was literally forgotten. That’s fine as a story point, particularly if the series continues to devote some time to it in the remaining episodes, but we don’t want Supergirl, the show, to forget as quickly as Kara did.
Supergirl airs Tuesdays on The CW.