NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of Supergirl are present in this review
Supergirl returned to the airwaves early this week, though this decision feels a bit strange, since the show is just taking a week off again next week. Nonetheless, “Blood Bonds” picks up where “Hostile Takeover” left off back in 2015, with Kara having a brief scrap with Non, before Non takes off with Hank, and Alex is made acting director of the DEO.
The episode tries to explore this idea of doing what’s necessary, and whether the xenophobia displayed by folks like Maxwell Lord and General Lane, both of whom play big parts in this episode, is at all justified, though honestly, the episode falls flat in many places, when it should be going for big hits. General Lane and Maxwell Lord are still weak characters, unfortunately, and this means that many of their conflicts feel overly shallow and unrealistic.
Lord is particularly problematic, as James begins to snoop around the scene of the battle between Kara and Non, which Lord covers up to the media, much to the shock of Kara, James and Winn, who now believe that Lord has dirty secrets to hide. The fact that no one is suspicious of a giant hole in front of the building, which Lord claims is, “Industrial espionage” (does he even know what that term means?), is shaky enough, but when Lord eventually briefly detains James, then scares him with a giant wrench as he smashes his camera and roughs him up a little, the scenario is strained to breaking point. Would the CEO of a massive, moneymaking research enterprise really resort to such brash tactics with a snoop?
Sure, James can’t really prove Lord’s attempts to intimidate him, but even so, Lord is just looking needlessly guilty when he makes big displays like that. If the show is trying to make him a substitute for Superman arch-nemesis Lex Luthor, it’s not succeeding so far. Luthor would never be so conspicuous, nor so petty and panicky that he’d rough up James Olsen simply for poking around in front of a security door that he can’t open anyway, and literally finding out absolutely nothing about Lord’s operation. Good villains use tact, Maxwell. Learn from that.
General Lane is only marginally better, but he’s still a cardboard cut-out character, a xenophobic military man who seems all too happy to torture Astra with Kryptonite injections to get her to spill Non’s locations, after the president puts him in charge of the DEO, overriding Alex’s authority. Sure enough, as with every other military stereotype, Lane becomes a loose cannon that only knows how to cause havoc and destruction, and leads his men into a trap that kills most of them. Despite that, he still doesn’t seem to learn his lesson when Kara resolves to trade Astra for Hank, as was the original plan for Hank’s rescue, with one of Lane’s underlings making the other soldiers stand down. Rather than come off as a legitimate case for alien caution, General Lane is just kind of coming off as a numbskull, especially after he already made a big mess with the whole Red Tornado incident back during “Red Faced” several weeks ago.
The episode also tried to continue fleshing out the bond between Kara and Astra, however twisted it is, with a few more flashbacks to Krypton, and Astra surprisingly telling Non’s forces to stand down and not fight when the exchange is made, even when Non successfully corners everyone in an ambush. Sadly though, Astra is yet another character that isn’t quite registering at this point, and it feels like the interesting ideas motivating her just aren’t coming together yet. We still have just over half of the season to go, but for now, she’s still not much of an antagonist, and neither is Non for that matter.
At least some of the Cat material was a bit better, especially as Kara continues to deny that she’s Supergirl, despite Cat’s insistence. Things come to a head when Cat threatens to fire Kara if she can’t prove that she’s not the Girl of Steel, but this is another part of the episode’s story that feels really stupid. Granted, Cat is willing to bet big when she’s sure of something, but doesn’t that just leave her wide open to a wrongful termination lawsuit? Even if Kara can’t prove that she’s Supergirl to Cat, there’s no way that this is a legitimate reason to fire one’s assistant, especially when there’s no way that Cat could prove this in a courtroom. Why would she even think to do this? Like General Lane and Maxwell Lord, Cat came off as an idiot when she really shouldn’t have.
Fortunately, the episode’s dialogue was at least pretty good, and quite entertaining in many instances. The idea of Kara allaying Cat’s suspicions after she learns that Hank is actually the shape-shifting Martian Manhunter, having Hank disguise himself as Supergirl while she approaches Cat as meek, unremarkable Kara, was pretty clever, even if it did undo one of the big dramatic heights of the midseason finale. Cat will no doubt learn Kara’s identity as Supergirl eventually, but as I said during my previous review, it feels like it’s too soon to have her find out now. By the way, after Kara inevitably learns that Hank is actually the Last Son of Mars, guess what the fallout is? There is no fallout. Apparently, the only reason that Hank didn’t want to reveal that he was actually J’onn J’onzz is because he thought that Kara couldn’t keep it a secret. Seriously…? Yeah, the show didn’t even bother to try and make this any less idiotic. Kara even points out that she’s also an undercover alien, and Hank not confessing his identity to her makes no sense whatsoever. Uh, yeah, she’s right!
The episode ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, as we get a peek at Maxwell Lord’s operation. Apparently, we see that he’s salvaged some of the blueprints and parts of Red Tornado, teasing that the show may undo killing off that character rather senselessly, and we also see that he’s gotten ahold of the corpse of a woman, who appears to have an IV linked up to some weird blue substance. As Lord identifies himself, the woman’s black eyes open, and that’s all we get as the episode ends. The woman kind of looks like Supergirl. Could Lord be trying to build his own version of Supergirl? Maybe this is our first tease of a character like Power Girl, with Lord attempting to discredit Supergirl by having a more controllable, albeit artificial version of National City’s heroine? It might also explain what Lord is doing with Red Tornado’s parts too.
All in all though, “Blood Bonds” was a disappointing start to Supergirl’s 2016 run. Most of the storylines felt contrived, half-baked and ridiculous, and while the dialogue and rapport between characters like Kara, James and Winn, and Kara, Alex and Hank, was kind of fun, most of the finer points of the plot just fell flat. It’s too bad, really, since it’s starting to create the impression that Supergirl is actually best when it leaves Astra and Maxwell Lord out of proceedings for now, and this episode unfortunately tried and failed to redeem both as compelling antagonists.
- Some of the dialogue is pretty fun
- Attempts at stakes-of-war commentary
- Hank dispelling Cat's suspicions is clever
- Most of the plot is half-baked, ludicrous and has no fallout
- Maxwell Lord and Astra are still lacklustre villains
- General Lane and Cat Grant come off as idiots