NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “Supergirl” are present in this review
Supergirl tackled what is arguably its most thematically heavy episode yet this week, with, “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” An examination of super-powered justice and its limits, Kara is forced to confront her demons as she’s challenged by the need to balance the greater good with her personal values. It’s a smart and satisfying examination of the idea, and while these kinds of stories have been done several times with Superman especially across various DC media, Supergirl still manages to frame the thematic challenge well around the Girl of Steel.
To this end, we get an interesting role reversal with the Fort Rozz prisoners this week. The show hasn’t brought up much of Fort Rozz over the past several weeks, but it once again returns to the spotlight, only this time, the alien escapees are no longer the threat. This time, it’s the twisted whims of a new villain, the Master Jailer that serves as our villain-of-the-week, a deranged Fort Rozz prison guard who is obsessed with rounding up all of the escaped inmates, and executing them for their crimes.
In DC Comics lore, the Master Jailer is a human who ends up on the bad side of Superman when his revolutionary alien prison ends up getting overtaken by the demands of the Man of Steel. On Supergirl however, Master Jailer is an alien, naturally, though the change isn’t a bad one, as it allows the show to paint the other side of Fort Rozz, and show that it’s not as black-and-white as we may have thought it was. The violent, heavy-handed edge of the Master Jailer is a great device to have Kara confronting her own ideals and desires for Earth, particularly when the villain’s latest victim is a Fort Rozz escapee that actually turns out to be a nice guy living a normal life as a professor, who feels genuinely remorseful for his actions, which he did as a misguided effort to save his ailing wife.
This debate also comes shortly after Non approaches Kara to perform the funeral rites for Astra, as it’s custom on Krypton, at least in the Supergirl universe, for a surviving female to lead the funeral procession. Non then warns Kara that after the two-week mourning period, she will be the next to die. The, “Mourning period” feels like a transparent excuse to drag out the battle against Non and the Kryptonians, and buy the show time over the next few weeks, but whatever. The delayed Kryptonian battle will likely serve as the season finale for Season One then, but that’s fine, since it allows Kara to wrap up any loose ends for the season, before squaring off against her vengeful uncle.
Said loose ends also amp up this week, as Cat Grant hires a new assistant, Siobahn Smythe, partially to spite Kara, after her actions with Adam over the past couple of episodes. Fans of Superman and various DC media will likely recognize Siobahn Smythe as being the civilian identity of Superman baddie, Silver Banshee, who is once again being re-tooled for Supergirl’s rogues gallery instead on this series, though for now, she’s just an upstart assistant with plenty of ambition, who definitely isn’t at CatCo to make friends. Siobahn always seems to be poking around whenever important conversations are being had, suggesting that she may already have her own super-hearing powers from DC Comics lore, and the show’s new vision for this character is a pretty good one, even if she may be coming in a little late in the season.
Kara isn’t the only one that seems to be under the creeping ear of Siobahn either, as she also pokes around James quite a bit, who accidentally lets slip to Lucy that he knows about the DEO. This in turn points to James knowing where the missing Maxwell Lord is being kept, an issue that fully has Cat’s attention at this point, after a glitch with the newest Lord Technologies phone isn’t addressed by Lord, gaining her suspicion. James manages to temporarily throw Cat off the trail, though this also has him pressing Kara to let Lord free, since it’s not right to hold him without due process. Kara tries to resist, though the episode does a good job of hinting that Kara could be holding Lord not out of a desire to do what’s right, but as an attempt to save her own neck. James claims that he doesn’t recognize the increasingly heavy-handed Kara, and that she needs to keep track of what kind of hero she’s becoming, which is a fair point, given that I also took issue with Alex and Kara just throwing due process to the wind and arresting Lord a couple of weeks ago, which the DEO shouldn’t have the power to do. It’s nice to see the show also acknowledging that this was a bad decision.
Nonetheless, Kara is eventually captured by Master Jailer, after she and Alex end up unmasking him as an undercover NCPD officer, and is placed in a cage that is bathed with red sunlight, disabling her powers. This is where Kara has a heartfelt conversation with the docile alien prisoner that Master Jailer is about to execute, and is once again confronted with the memory of her mother, whom Master Jailer believes had the perfect idea of absolute justice. Fortunately, Alex and the DEO eventually come in to save Kara, and after Alex shoots a hole in the ceiling that grants Kara some yellow sunlight, she busts out of confinement and takes out Master Jailer, saving the day, and allowing the Fort Rozz alien to return to his life as a professor.
The episode then winds down with Kara and Alex resigning to letting Maxwell Lord go, with Alex threatening him with a massive dossier of his crimes if he says anything about the DEO or Kara’s identity as Supergirl. Kara also goes to talk to the Alura A.I. about Non’s plans, though yet again, the A.I. proves to be incredibly useless. Hell, the thing even threatens to self-destruct when Kara asks it what, “Myriad” is! Surely, Alura wouldn’t program an A.I. construct to deliberately withhold vital information from Supergirl that’s related to a potentially apocalyptic plan for Earth by Non and Astra! What sense does that make?!
Still, that gripe aside, “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” is definitely a highlight episode for Supergirl this season! The powerful themes of justice versus self-service were explored well, the Master Jailer was a solid villain-of-the-week, and the new development of Cat Grant hiring the future Silver Banshee is a pretty exciting one. The best episodes of Supergirl seem to be the ones that effectively demonstrate why Kara is such a likable, uplifting hero, and this one proved to be no exception to that. Kara had better make the most of Non’s mourning period though. Her troubles with Fort Rozz and the rogue Kryptonians are still far from over!
- Satisfying themes of justice and integrity
- Master Jailer is a good villain that re-interprets Fort Rozz
- Cat Grant's nasty new assistant
- Why would the Alura A.I. so aggressively withhold information on Myriad?