Supergirl has a reputation for being the light-hearted show of DC television. But in “We Can Be Heroes,” Supergirl embraced its inner angst to deliver perhaps the darkest episode of the season in a manner that didn’t feel too dark and also continued to hammer home some important emotional lessons.
That’s one of the things that I really admire about Supergirl. Despite the fact that it’s the origin story of an alien and her rise to superhero-dom, it doesn’t feel that way. Kara feels as much human as any of the other heroes on DC television. So there are many important lessons that Supergirl manages to deliver in its characters’ direction, which also leaves the audience walking away feeling like they’ve seen the light.
Supergirl isn’t a stranger to those lessons, but there were so many valuable lessons delivered in “We Can Be Heroes” that it really just makes you sit down and appreciate that it’s able to do that on a consistent basis without feeling overbearing. It’s truly beautiful to behold.
There were some shocking revelations, discussions about what it actually means to be a hero, and a powerful lesson on forgiveness that really made this one of Supergirl’s most powerful (mind the pun) episodes of its sophomore season. And that’s saying something!
Let’s break this down:
Being a Hero Isn’t About Having Powers
If there’s one issue that I feel incredibly passionate about when it comes to DC television it’s that being a hero isn’t about having powers, a cool nickname, or a cool suit. Being a hero is about the sacrifices that you’re willing to make. Being a hero is about the mental and emotional strength that heroes have to build. Being a hero is about what comes from within.
This issue is certainly no stranger to DC television, but every time that the issue comes up it feels like something that needs to be shouted from the rooftops. Because, believe it or not, there are some that still don’t get the memo. There are still shows that do everything to glorify those wearing supersuits over the heroes that wear ordinary clothes like you and me.
I get it, costumes make you look and feel like a badass. Also, superpowers are cool and make you feel like you can take on any enemy. But those things a hero do not make.
The issue arose this time as Kara finally learned the truth about James being Guardian and working alongside Winn to hunt down criminals in National City. Immediately there was this disapproval. This feeling of, How can you go out there and fight villains without me, a superpowered person? And then, Kara told James – to his face – that he wasn’t a hero because he didn’t have powers. And James went: Excuse me? And I went: Excuse me? For the first time (in perhaps a long, long time) I agreed with James. I am on his side over Kara’s.
Kara knows firsthand that just because you don’t have superpowers doesn’t make you any less of a hero. She’s seen it in her most recent crossover when she fought alongside the Green Arrow, White Canary, the Atom, and more. Sure, they were superskilled in what they do (which is why I love them so much), but they don’t have superpowers.
But here’s the thing. Kara’s concern – her passionate belief that James should not be out there fighting without powers – stems not from place of objectivity. She’s coming from a place of personal interest. The fact that it is James that is Guardian is really important. It’s what’s guiding her emotions.
One of the many things I love about Kara is how she protects those that she cares for. There is literally nothing that she wouldn’t do. But the thing she needs to understand is that she doesn’t get to decide for them what they can or cannot do. She doesn’t get to decide how they choose to live their lives. She can’t protect them forever.
Going back to this “you’re a superhero because you have superpowers” thing…As much as I love Mon-El (and I love him greatly), he isn’t a superhero. Not yet. But he’s the perfect example of how having superpowers doesn’t make you a hero. You can have powers, but if you don’t know how to use them it’s not going to do you any good.
Let me ask you this: Would you rather have a superhero who has an incredible power but has absolutely no experience or idea about what it takes to actually be a hero or would you rather have a superhero that possesses the skill, experience, and mentality that comes with being a hero? I think we all know the answer.
Something that I really liked about how they handled this Kara/James/Winn hero drama was how it wasn’t solved in one episode. It almost felt like that’s where it was headed, and it felt wrong. This isn’t something that you can just “hug it out” and be done. There are some fierce, conflicting ideologies that are guiding these people.
While James and Winn made it clear that they’d like to work with Supergirl, they don’t want to be her sidekicks picking up her scraps and not really getting to do anything. That’s not who they are anymore. But Kara still isn’t willing to move past the fact that she doesn’t agree with what they’re doing. She feels like it’s wrong. So, James and Winn are going to continue fighting crime as Guardian and Kara is going to keep going as Supergirl.
But something’s gotta give eventually. There’s going to be a time when it’s the superpowerless heroes that save the superpowered ones where there’s finally going to be a realization. But today is not that day.
Mon-El Still a Hero-In-Training
Now after I rambled on for paragraphs about how being a superhero isn’t about having superpowers, it’s time to talk specifically about Mon-El. There are a lot of opinions on him, whether it’s from fans or the characters on this show. James didn’t admire Mon-El half because he knows he’s crushing on Kara and the other half because he hasn’t done half of what James has done without powers. Which is completely understandable.
But I’m here to ask: Why can’t Mon-El get the chance to be a hero before he’s so quickly written off?
Sure, Mon-El can come off as cocky and arrogant when he’s excited and determined. Sure, he hasn’t fully realized exactly what it takes to be a hero. But that’s why he’s being trained, after all. He has this innate desire to want to help people. Now he just needs help to find a way to translate that into being a hero.
But that’s what I admire about Mon-El. He’s not claiming that he actually is a superhero just for having powers. He’s trying to see if he can become that person because he has a desire to help people. But it’s not something that happens overnight. It comes with a lot of practice, time, and trial and error.
Here’s something they don’t tell you, being a superhero isn’t easy. It requires a lot of hard work, experience, emotional and physical pain, and that’s just the start. Being a hero is something that is crafted over time. Kara wasn’t a superhero in the beginning of Supergirl season one. Sure, she had powers. Sure, she wanted to save people. But she hadn’t figured out a way to do that in the right way. But she learned.
Certainly I’m not comparing Mon-El to Kara because each hero is unique in their own way, but Mon-El needs some time and experience to figure out how he becomes a hero.
Mon-El Comes Clean About His Feelings For Kara
While the Supergirl fandom might be divided on ships involving our lead heroine, one thing that was clearly evident in “We Can Be Heroes” is that Kara and Mon-El’s romance is a storyline that’s going to play out through the rest of the season. The initial set-up was introduced in the midseason finale, but this episode jump started Kara’s own personal journey when it comes to romance.
It’s no secret that Mon-El likes – like likes – Kara. Anyone with two eyes can see that. But Kara has managed to keep her emotions more in check. The midseason finale introduced the idea that Kara has these deeper feelings for Mon-El that she wasn’t willing to acknowledge. It took him kissing her for them to surface, but she quickly shut them down. We know that this season she’s more focused on being Supergirl than worrying about romance. But feelings aren’t something you can just shut off. You can push them down, but they’re never really gone. They’re just below the surface waiting to erupt. Which is what finally happened with Mon-El.
Mon-El took perhaps one of life’s most terrifying leaps, which is confessing to someone how deeply you care for them knowing that they might not feel the same way. He took that leap – he was honest with her – and that truth hung in the air for what felt like an eternity. Kara sat there speechless unable to say anything – perhaps out of fear that she might confess what she’d been trying to push down since that kiss.
From what we’ve seen with Kara, there’s no denying that her feelings run deeper than friendship for Mon-El. Like Karamel or not, the show has set that up as a fact. Now on two instances. Mon-El has now confessed how he feels about her, which is no easy feat. Not, it’s Kara’s turn.
No one said it’s going to be easy. This is, after all, a long season. There’s so much more story to be told, so many more experiences to be had, and even more moments of emotional turmoil to be felt. And part of Kara’s arc this season is going to deal with her feelings for Mon-El. That’s what the show has shown us.
But it’s not going to be easy. Kara still to fully acknowledge that she harbors these feelings, which she hasn’t fully done yet. But I think this episode definitely brought her a step closer to that. Perhaps it was the push she needed. She might be aware of the feelings, but she has to admit to herself that she has them. And that’s all before getting the courage to tell Mon-El how she feels. It’s not going to be something that happens in the immediate future, but the future for Karamel is looking angsty and bright.
J’Onn Lets Forgiveness Into His Heart
Sometimes a show about an alien superhero featuring a Green Martian can really hammer home the significance of forgiveness. Okay, only Supergirl.
J’Onn J’Onzz’s backstory and complex and tragic: he is the last Green Martian after his race was wiped out by the White Martians, who seemed to take sick pleasure in doing so. J’Onn had to watch his wife and daughters die in front of him. He experienced the kind of pain that we couldn’t even imagine. He’s harbored so much hate and a need for vengeance that has plagued him for years.
But J’Onn has also revealed himself to be an incredibly kind and loving being who loves deeply, as we’ve seen with J’Onn and his new daughters Kara and Alex. He’s managed to find a family again even after all of the pain.
But ever since M’Gann was revealed to be a White Martian, all of that hate and anger that J’Onn was harboring returned. And hatred is a dark, powerful thing that can engulf you if you let it. And J’Onn let it. Even after M’Gann, who had tried to save the Green Martians, gave her blood to save J’Onn earlier this season, J’Onn couldn’t overcome the hatred he felt for her and her kind.
That is until Alex let him know that he had to forgive. He had to forgive M’Gann. Carrying hatred for something is easy – unhealthy, but easy. But forgiving someone is the hardest thing of all. Why? Because it’s not for them. It’s for yourself. And J’Onn was able to do that. He was able to forgive M’Gann. He was able to save her. He was able to get some clarity for himself in the process.
- I kind of sort of loved how Supergirl & Livewire teamed up for a hot minute. Sure, they’re each other’s nemesis (and having a nemesis is stressful), but it was nice to see them put their differences aside to take down an even bigger threat.
- I knew it was too soon for Kara and Mon-El to get together, and I still fell for it. If this were several episodes in the future then surely Kara would’ve been able to accept her feelings and tell Mon-El that she feels the same way. She does. Even if she isn’t willing to admit it right now. But she’ll get there. In time. And it’s going to be beautiful.
- For once I was actually on James’ side over Kara. And it felt good. Weird, but good. Kara basically told James that he couldn’t be a hero because he doesn’t have superpowers. But she couldn’t be more wrong. We’ve seen this personally throughout the DC television universe. So I have to respectfully disagree with Kara. Being a hero comes from within. Not just from having powers, as we’ve seen with Mon-El.
- J’Onn’s ability to forgive M’Gann for what her people did to his family hit me hard. Screwing up is easy. Even apologizing can be somewhat easy. But it’s forgiveness that’s perhaps the most difficult thing of all. Because, as Alex said, forgiveness isn’t for the person who wronged you. It’s for yourself.
- I’m actually glad that Kara disapproves of what James and Winn are doing as Guardian, and that they’re going to keep on doing it anyway. Not only does it show their dedication and determination for keeping the innocent safe in this city, it also shows that this is something that – even though personal – isn’t something that’ll be fixed with a hug. James & Winn and Kara all stand on a different side of what they believe is right. And all three of them are willing to stand up for what they believe in.
Supergirl airs Mondays at 8/7c on The CW.