NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Supergirl” are present in this review
Supergirl appears to be on an upswing as it approaches the climax of its fourth season, even with Kara temporarily hanging up her cape to focus on her civilian identity. “American Dreamer” stands as another highlight episode for the season, not only because of its surprisingly strong dramatic storytelling, but also because it finally provides a legitimate reason to appreciate Dreamer as a fledgling hero in National City. This could represent great props for one of the series’ lead actors, David Harewood, who directs this episode, with J’onn only appearing in an epilogue sequence to confirm that he did indeed deposit the sacred symbols on Mars, and is now headed back to Earth.
I’m relieved to see Dreamer finally get a legitimately great storyline in this episode, as she struggles to pick up the slack for Kara, now that Supergirl has disappeared from the public eye. I still think that Nia’s powers are too ill-defined and poorly explained, especially now that she’s making magical energy whips that can somehow electrify people too? Huh? Well, even if it still feels like the show is making up Dreamer’s powers as it goes along, it’s good to see Nia finally start becoming a more appealing hero for the show, beyond the hook of her being a trans woman. Not only does Nia struggle with the very real difficulty of making the aliens she saves feel truly secure, but she also does a great televised interview with Kara, helping National City’s citizens find their new alien/human hybrid hero more relatable, while also inspiring a whistleblower that helps lead Kara to Lex’s true agenda.
Despite never being Supergirl for this entire episode, Kara has a pretty good core storyline as a simple reporter for CatCo here as well. She still uses her abilities in secret at times though, whether it’s comically stopping a fleeing mugger on the street by pretending to be clumsy, or blowing around Ben Lockwood’s goons during an invasion of CatCo, when they attempt to arrest Dreamer for, “A seditious broadcast meant to incite violence.” That seems like a pretty big stretch, but then again, I guess it’s fairly evident that President Baker is corrupt and biased against aliens, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. At least Dreamer does manage to get away during the Children of Liberty’s assault on CatCo, and James drives Lockwood out of the building before he can cause any more damage.
Speaking of James, he also had a strong storyline in this episode, namely when Lena, Alex, Kelly and Brainy all attempt to oversee an effort to begin pulling Harun-El serum out of James’ system. In the process, Brainy has James go into his mind to face whatever past trauma is triggering his PTSD. After exploring some fragmented memories, it’s initially believed that James accidentally locked himself in a bathroom during his father’s funeral, only to later discover that some bullies actually shut him in a coffin, which is why he missed his father’s entire service, seemingly abandoning Kelly in the process. It was really satisfying to see Supergirl deliver a strong, surprisingly grounded reason for James’ PTSD, and why he struggled to get a hold on his emerging superpowers. The idea of giving James powers is something that could be very risky, but we’ll have to see if this new status quo sticks for long, since the show could also just as easily provide a convenient cure for James’ powers, if his abilities start to become a problem for the characters or the storytelling.
Lena didn’t ultimately manage to do much in this episode, though this managed to play into her storyline in a pretty effective way too. Lena may have gotten a little more lost in the shuffle of busy, emotionally charged storylines throughout this episode, but her own failure to cure James, or get a handle on the ever-escalating Lex plot of the season, also created some solid drama with Kara, as Lena laments Supergirl being there for her, but Kara seemingly being too focused on her work at CatCo. Again, it’s a bit of a stretch to think that Lena would be so emotional over Kara doing her job, especially within a business that Lena herself owns, but I’ll give it a bit of leeway in this case, since it’s also likely that Lena is emotionally overwhelmed and exhausted, so maybe she would logically be more sensitive than she otherwise would be.
Truthfully, it felt like pretty much every personality on the show was served well by the writing here, and that’s a treat, considering how unreliable Supergirl can sometimes be with its dramatic storytelling. Even the Lockwood family got some pretty standout dramatic material in this episode, as George begins to witness more of his father’s heavy-handed violence and coercion against the aliens of National City, leading to him beginning to doubt the Lockwood family’s anti-alien vision. After George almost apprehends one of his friends, who was an undercover alien the whole time, this finally motivates him to cast aside his place within the Children of Liberty, and seemingly defect to standing up for his friend, and alien rights as a whole. This couldn’t have come at a worse time for Agent Liberty either, since the wife of one of the aliens he arrested kills Lydia off-screen during the final seconds of the episode, a sudden and shocking turn that’s bound to have huge consequences for National City, especially considering that Supergirl is heading into the final trio of episodes for Season Four!
“American Dreamer” is a satisfying and emotionally powerful episode of Supergirl through-and-through, and that’s awesome, since it should hopefully indicate that Supergirl will be delivering a strong ending to its fourth season’s core conflict over its last three episodes. Dreamer is finally starting to get some better storytelling most of all, since she’s finally becoming more of a credible and grounded hero, while also facing some surprisingly smart dilemmas as her superhero career begins. Like I said however, every pivotal character got some pretty strong story arcs in this episode, even with Supergirl’s titular heroine being AWOL for now, and Dreamer having to pick up her slack. James conquering a past trauma to master his powers proved to be very fulfilling to watch, and there were some very real stakes created with the well-executed shock of Agent Liberty’s wife being murdered by the spouse of one of the arrested aliens. If this is the kind of quality episode we can expect with David Harewood in the director’s chair, I certainly hope that he’ll get a chance to return to it again during Supergirl’s upcoming fifth season!
- Dreamer finally gets a legitimately good storyline
- James facing and conquering his past trauma
- George defecting from the Children of Liberty right as Lydia is murdered
- Dreamer's powers still feel too poorly established