The theme of a hero doesn’t always wear a mask or have superpowers is a theme that has been explored on multiple occasions on Supergirl. And I’m glad that is has been because it’s a message that cannot be conveyed enough in a world of superpowered heroes.
But it seemed to truly hit its mark in an episode where our non-superpowered hero, who has feeling insignificant and non-heroic, finally learned the lesson that’s been preached all season.
James Olsen finally learned that being a hero isn’t about a specific skill set. It’s about heart.
“City of Lost Children” was an interesting journey for James, to say the least. This season has been about him embracing his inner hero and channeling that via Guardian. He’s been met with skepticism and backlash, but that hasn’t stopped him from striving to be something much greater than himself.
“Guardian inspires fear.”
In the beginning of this episode, James found himself doubting the image he wants to portray. It’s almost as if he’s holding himself to the likes of Supergirl and Superman in terms of how they’re faces of hope. But they didn’t become faces of hope overnight. In fact, it’s been something they’ve had to fight for. Hell, Kara was viewed as a villain at one point last year. So, for James, it’s not really fair for him to hold himself to that regard just yet.
But one thing was clear: James didn’t consider himself a hero like Supergirl or Superman.
That raises the question about what defines a hero? Is it the skill set or the heart? James classifies Supergirl and Superman as heroes greater than him. Why? Because they have superpowers? Because they can do things he cannot? Heroes have different skill sets. It doesn’t make them any less than any other hero.
But it also raised the question: How does James take that next step?
J’Onn J’Onzz shed some of his typical words of wisdom – while touching on his past that made me teary-eyed – as he explained to James that it’s not just about the physical nature that goes into being a hero and protecting people. It’s about finding the reason why you’re fighting.
For J’Onn, that was his daughter. For James, it was Marcus, a young alien boy who clung to James for support and guidance.
Not everyone can be a hero. A hero is someone that goes above and beyond their call of duty. They’re the ones that put other’s well-being before their own. They have to make difficult decisions in the moment. They have to deal with the consequences of their mistakes forever. They sacrifice themselves for strangers.
James has two amazing heroes that are a part of his life in Supergirl and Superman. They’re the epitome of “super” hero, it says so in their name. But it’s not about measuring up to their abilities. For James, it has to be about being a different kind of hero that can exist alongside those superpowered heroes or in places that they can’t.
James was so busy comparing himself as Guardian to Supergirl and Superman that he lost sight of why he started doing this in the first place: he wants to help people. He felt like he had a greater purpose than being a photographer on the sideline. He felt like he was meant to be on the field giving this city and its people his all each and every day.
“That is a hero without a suit.”
Not all heroes wear capes. It’s cliché, but it’s true. Typically superheroes are associated with superpowers and super costumes. While James has that suit, he’ll never have the abilities that his friends have. And that’s okay.
Because the world needs more heroes without superpowers.
Those are the heroes that truly inspire a people. Heroes that are just like you and me sacrificing themselves for the greater good. It’s inspiring to watch someone with everything to lose risk it for you.
As Rhea’s sinister plan threatened to destroy a group of aliens, it was James that saved the day. And it wasn’t by using superpowers. Or stopping Rhea. James used his heart to break through this compulsion that had been controlling Marcus and these aliens.
It’s not superpowers that make a hero, it’s heart.
It’s something that cannot be stressed enough. Heroes are made through their actions. Heroes inspire. Heroes almost have this magic that can lift a people. It’s something truly special to behold. We’ve seen Supergirl and Superman accomplish that. And this episode showed that James is capable of the seen.
Heroes come in all shapes, sizes, races, and powers. But they all fight with their heart.
Let’s break down tonight’s episode:
The Mother He Can’t Let Go Of
Following the drastic measures Rhea went to try to force Mon-El to return home to rule Daxam against his will, you wouldn’t blame Mon-El if he hated his mother for the rest of his life. But love isn’t a simplistic emotion. Sometimes it’s the people that hurt us that have an even greater pull on our hearts. That’s exactly what Mon-El learned.
As Rhea has been roaming around National City undetected for the past couple episodes, Mon-El finally learned that his mother hadn’t really left and had remained to make his life a living hell.
Earlier in the episode, Mon-El thought he saw his mother and was shocked at his reaction. He expected to feel anger after all of the evil that she’s done – and how she’s threatened Kara’s life repeatedly. But Mon-El can’t help but still care for her, which in a way makes him angry because he wants to hate her. But Rhea is his mother. He can’t turn that off.
When Mon-El is confronted with his mother and she’s doing her evil bidding, Mon-El pulls a gun on her and warns her that they’re not bullet proof on this planet. It’s a threat. One that Rhea sees through easily. No matter how angry Mon-El is at her, Rhea knows that he’s not a killer. He’s not someone who could kill his mother. And she uses that against him. Right before she gets what she wants as a large number of Daxamites cross over to Earth ready for a takeover.
I’m sure there will be a segment of the fandom that’ll blame Mon-El for this, just as they’ve blamed him for everything else that’s gone wrong. But this is in no way Mon-El’s fault – and the fact that I have to write that sentence pains me because I shouldn’t have to write it.
Mon-El is a victim. He’s a victim of his parents’ need for control. He’s a victim of emotional abuse at the hands of his mother. Rhea essentially blamed Mon-El for his father’s death – which Rhea said was suicide instead of Rhea killing her own husband in cold blood because they disagreed. Rhea is using Mon-El’s emotions against him. And we know emotions can be dangerous.
The Mother She’s Always Wanted
Elsewhere on the Rhea front, Rhea put on one hell of a show for a vulnerable Lena Luthor who has wanted nothing more in her life to please her mother and feel worthy. And Rhea spotted that from a mile away and used it to her advantage.
Lena Luthor essentially latched onto Rhea as the mother figure she never had. Here was Rhea doing everything that a mother should for a daughter: encourage, inspire, and care. Lena has never had that. She’s watched her brother Lex have that. She’d dreamed of that. And yet all she can do is give it her all – her trust – only to be let down again.
How ironic that Rhea comes along and does the exact same thing.
Rhea is incredibly manipulative and cunning in her approach. She knew exactly what she was oing. She did her homework on Lena. On the Luthors. She knows their history. She knows all about Lex, Lillian, and Lena. She knows Lena’s emotionally vulnerability. And she knows how to exploit it.
She knows the way to get what she wants, this portal, is to guide Lena to get there. Doing it the Lex Luthor way wasn’t working. So, Rhea provided a motherly hand to guide Lena to the finish line. But as she had been betrayed so many times before by her own mother, Lena got a taste of betrayal ala Rhea of Daxam.
Honestly, it’s this constant trust and betrayal that I think will guide Lena to the dark side. While her brother was made evil by greed of power, Lena’s evil will be a more emotionally-driven element. We’ve seen these losses and betrayals affect her slowly. What happens when it becomes too much?
The New Daxam
Well, Queen Rhea’s grand plan has finally been revealed. Well, we at least have some context. Since Rhea couldn’t bring her son to Daxam, Rhea has brought Daxam to Mon-El.
Rhea essentially used Lena Luthor in order to create a way for her Daxamites to come to Earth to rebuild their planet on the already-existing Earth, which clearly is the big threat as we wind down the season. So much for Cadmus?
So what is the New Daxam? Is it the old Daxam recreated on Earth? A Daxam where Mon-El is forced to rule as king far away from Kara? Is it a place where humans will be forced to be slaves on their own planet? Also, what happened there at the end? It looked like something sucked Mon-El and Lena, among others, somewhere. And judging from the previews it’s nowhere good.
- Lena brought up an interesting point: Would you rather see N’SYNC reunite or Justin and Britney back together? First off, getting to watch Kara and Lena talk about N’SYNC made my 90s-fangirl heart flutter. It’s also nice to know that N’SYNC exists on this Earth (so obviously the Backstreet Boys do, too.) But most importantly: What would you choose? God, talk about a difficult decision.
- Why do I feel like they’re setting James up to die? His character has practically been ignored this season, and now all of a sudden there’s this grand tribute to his character. It’s just suspicious, that’s all. All I see in my mind is that funeral photo from the season finale. God, it’s him, isn’t it?
- Lena was latching onto Rhea as a mother figure only to once again be let down. Poor Lena. She grows up living in her brother’s shadow and feeling like a failure in her mother’s and her own eyes. Then when she finds someone who inspires her like her mother never did, she discovers that Rhea had her own agenda, as well. These constant trust and betrayals are going to turn Lena evil.
- So help me if anyone tries to blame what Rhea did on Mon-El because he couldn’t kill his mother. Not only did Rhea blame his father’s death on him – when it was she that killed him – but this man had to hold a gun at his mother and she still couldn’t love him more than power. Mon-El is a victim that continues to be victimized by a hypocritical fanbase.
- Mon-El is the best boyfriend. Why surprise your girlfriend with flowers that’ll only die, when you can surprise her with her favorite food, pot stickers, that she can cherish in the moment? That’s a good man.
Supergirl airs Mondays at 8/7c on The CW.