NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Supergirl” are present in this review
Oh boy. Nia’s journey to becoming Dreamer, the first transgender superhero in television history, is really not going smoothly at this point. I’m not talking about the obstacles that Nia faces either. I’m talking about how much her heroic origin storyline seems to be falling apart at every turn. This sadly came to an uncomfortable forefront in, “Blood Memory”, an episode designed mostly to complete Nia’s transformation into Dreamer. This is supplemented by some actual consequences to the mind wipe on Alex starting to come into play, and there is a decent idea that’s tapped on there too. It’s just too bad that this decent idea had to be sandwiched into an episode that, frankly, is probably going to go down as an especially frustrating low point for Supergirl’s fourth season.
Somehow, the show got even worse than it did last week! Once again, I suspect that this is because Supergirl just doesn’t know what to do with itself at this point, namely because it put Agent Liberty in jail, and hasn’t really addressed that situation since last year. The Children of Liberty do show up in this episode, but they’re blatantly forced in via a heavily contrived climax that doesn’t feel the least bit natural. Somehow, despite having no leadership and no organization, a bunch of Children of Liberty members end up invading Nia’s hometown of Parthas, which is apparently a utopian mini-society where everyone gets along, human and alien alike, and there is basically no prejudice whatsoever. Yes, it sounds like a bullshit, made-up fantasy town, and that would be fine, if Supergirl wasn’t constantly trying way too hard to prove how ‘woke’ it is, and constantly sticking its nose into real-world political debates that it doesn’t truly understand well enough to comment on.
The main storyline of the episode thus unfolds in Parthas, when Nia has to take a trip to see her family, and brings Kara along with her as support. It’s here that we learn more about how the Dreamer powers work, and frustratingly, this completely backfires from a narrative standpoint, because it creates the impression that the show is just making up the rules behind the Dreamer powers as it goes along. Why do the Dreamer powers only activate within one daughter per generation? Why are we talking about this, “Future blindness” thing, when the show previously made it sound like the Dreamer power was a rare, unpredictable phenomenon among women of Nia’s alien race? Now, all of a sudden, almost every woman in Nia’s family has prophetic dreams? Huh?! Then, Nia’s mother dies because of some weird alien spider that Nia failed to predict (are those just allowed to wander around the Nal household?!), which conveniently allows the two to have a shared dream where Nia’s mother gives Nia her blessing to take on the mantle of the Dreamer. If this sounds incredibly rushed, shallow and ridiculous, that’s because it is.
I don’t know what was going on with the writers this week, but even by the lowest of Supergirl standards, “Blood Memory” was terribly written. It seems like even several of the actors knew it too, since several performances were really off this week, especially Chyler Leigh’s, who seems like she was given no semblance of direction with Alex’s heel-turn here. Every major development came straight out of nowhere for the most part, and Nia’s Dreamer heritage is so laughable that it just doesn’t feel in any way believable, even by the standards of a DC drama. This brings me to the single biggest sin that Supergirl has routinely committed all season so far; It wants to be celebrated and make history by introducing television’s first-ever transgender superhero, but it did so without having a truly good, meaningful storyline to give to that superhero, at least so far. If you’re going to take such a big step for LGBTQ representation in modern media, you absolutely cannot half-ass it!! If you half-ass it, like Supergirl appears to be doing, then you’re not helping transgender portrayals in media, you’re hurting them, because you’re just creating the impression that they don’t work, because this Nia storyline mostly doesn’t work, and there’s no other effective storyline to compare it to. The show needs to get its shit together with Nia’s character, fast, because at the rate she’s going, she’s going to become a black mark on the season by the end, rather than a triumphant celebration of what Supergirl could achieve as a social issue-minded series.
I will at least say, in one small bit of defense for the increasingly problematic Nia storyline, that the script at least tried to introduce a clever idea here, by intertwining Nia’s drama with her sister, a natural-born female who was hoping to get the Dreamer powers herself (because I guess you study for them and they’re not random anymore? Ugh, whatever), only to inevitably discover that Nia has them, with Kara’s present struggles over mind-wiping Alex. You see, with Alex’s formative years knowing that Kara is Supergirl now being erased, Alex has no reason to respect or truly care for the fate and welfare of aliens, which has made her more strict, more aggressive, and more uncompromisingly violent as a DEO director. That’s actually interesting, and it not only sets up some promising story ideas for later in the season, but also gives Kara a believable excuse to tell Nia that she’s Supergirl, which she does at the end of the episode. Had the show actually been allowed to more smartly and believably develop the Dreamer mantle, and Nia’s family, there might have been actual drama and emotion over things like Nia’s mother suddenly dying, or Nia’s sister calling her out for being a trans woman that inherited powers that she shouldn’t have. Yes, Supergirl finally acknowledged the elephant in the room, and admitted that Nia was born male, and logically should not have the Dreamer powers. Are we getting an explanation or justification for that yet? Of course not. At least this plot hole was acknowledged however, to the show’s credit.
Compounding the many writing issues with Nia’s storyline is the ridiculously forced threat of the episode, the one on top of the random Children of Liberty jokers in Parthas, I mean. Apparently, after trying to revive the mysteriously ill Supergirl clone in Kaznia, an electrical reaction based on the other side of the world (I know, it’s idiotic, just go with it…), somehow irradiates a bunch of random drugs in National City, which then turn people into temporary Hulk-style rage monsters with, in a surprisingly bold display of openly stealing from Marvel, gamma rays! If your brain hurts trying to figure out how that all works, you’re not alone. This is the mother of all stupid, illogical and hilariously forced threats, and it just seems like the show had no idea how to finally start making the Kaznian Supergirl copy start affecting the U.S., so it threw up its hands and invented some absurd connection that shouldn’t believably happen. This completely batshit insane idea is really the best it could come up with? Anyway, this doesn’t amount to anything, since it just ties in to Kara later calling out Alex for being more brutal and lethal against aliens. I guess the DEO is no longer doing that non-lethal weaponry thing either? That’s a good thing, since that was another stupid story turn from last season, but it seems like Supergirl is trying to fix that by simply dropping it without explanation. As all good storylines do, clearly.
Somewhere amid all this mess, James learns that Lena is doing off-book genetic experiments (didn’t he know that already?), and he buries the story when another reporter at CatCo brings it up, and nothing happens with that yet. It’s just painfully evident that Supergirl wasn’t even trying in this episode, and it really can’t afford to be coasting on that Nia storyline especially, considering how big a fuss the series made about introducing television’s first-ever transgender superhero. It seems like even The CW is aware of the serious slump that Supergirl has found itself in so far this year, since the show is taking an impromptu three-week hiatus after this episode, presumably to tighten scripts and do some reshoots, while Arrow, The Flash and Black Lightning remain on their normal weekly schedules. I do hope that the show uses that window of time off to start improving its current story arcs outside of the dormant Agent Liberty conflict, because an episode like, “Blood Memory” should never happen again. If Supergirl is going to keep posturing about how socially enlightened it is, it needs to bring its dramatic and narrative A-game every week, or it needs to shut its mouth, and simply focus on the comic book-style alien smackdowns that most of its viewers came for in the first place. Supergirl is allowed to have themes and commentary, for sure, but if it’s going to commit to that direction, it needs to commit to that direction, full stop, not try and falsely elevate itself on hot air and infantile melodrama when it can’t be bothered to put in actual effort at saying something.
- Some okay parallels between Kara's and Nia's sister drama
- Solid unforeseen DEO consequences from Alex's mind wipe
- Core Nia storyline is contrived, lazy and sloppy on every level
- Hilariously silly and forced drug irradiation storyline
- How exactly are the Children of Liberty in Parthas without a leader?