Monday, November 5, 2018

Supergirl Episode Guide: Season 4, Episode 4 - Ahimsa

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.




Plot

The combined efforts of Brainiac-5 and Lena Luthor have saved Supergirl's life. Unfortunately, though the atmosphere is still laden with Kryptonite, Kara refuses to sit on the sidelines while lives are endangered... much to Alex's annoyance. Meanwhile, J'onn meets with Fiona's fiancee, Manchester, and begins to consider another way he might help during the current conflict while still honoring his promise to his father to abandon the way of the warrior.


Influences

The Superman comics of Cary Bates and Joe Kelly. The Superman animated series episode "Feeding Time." (Creation of special protective armor for a Kryptonian hero.) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (the alien parasite Agent Liberty uses to control the alien prisoner resembles the Ceti Eel from this film.) the Iron Man movies (Kara's face in the HUD display when she's in the armor) and the classic Captain Marvel comics (the alien worm could be a nod to the villain Mr. Mind)


Goofs

It's a little odd that Agent Liberty - who objected to needlessly killing a rogue DEO agent because humans shouldn't be killing humans - is the one who hits upon the idea of sending the aliens under his control after children. One would think that idea would come from the more ruthless (and ironically named) Mercy.

It's also a little odd that it takes Brainiac-5 running a simulation for the DEO to figure that Fiona is probably describing the National City Fair. What happened, J'onn?  You were such a great detective in the last three episodes!

Fiona was described as being an empathy in earlier episodes. Not it seems she is a telepath. Also, it seemed that she fairly definitely killed in the first episode of the season.

Ignoring whether or not it should be possible for Alex to charge up Kara's exoskeleton by shooting it with an electric blast from her special gun, one wonders why she didn't just shoot Hellgrammite?

How the heck did the Russians get their Supergirl clone into a secure environment and save her when the Kryptonite entering the atmosphere caught the DEO totally off-guard?


Performances

David Ajala is a treat as Manchester Black, perfectly capturing the bloke's bloke attitude of the character from the comics, though it seems this story will be exploring how he becomes the anti-hero he was in the comics. Suits me, because he is hilarious and a welcome foil to the overly serious J'onn.


Super Trivia

The episode title - Ahimsa - comes from the Sanskrit word for the principal of non-violence towards all living things practiced in the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain traditions. It was also a favorite saying of Fiona Byme.

The radiation-controlled proto-environment housed in a vacuum-sealed mechanical exoskeleton Lena creates is comparable to the Anti-Kryptonite Armor that Dr. Emil Hamilton created for Superman in the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Feeding Time." Though primarily intended to protect Superman from the effects of Kryptonite, the suit (which was made of a flexible titanium-lead alloy, and topped by a helmet with a transparent leaded-polycarbonate faceplate) was durable enough it allowed Superman to wear it as armor against enemies he could not risking touching directly, such as The Parasite.

Supergirl's new suit is also reminiscent of The Supermobile from the Superman comics of Cary Bates and Curt Swan.  First appearing in Action Comics #481, the Supermobile was a unique vehicle designed by Superman himself which acted as an extension of Superman's powers in those environments where he could not safely travel, such as planets orbiting a red sun or worlds with a high concentration of Kryptonite. He first used the Supermovile to fight the power-replicating robot Amazo during a time in which a wave of red sun radiation had engulfed the Earth, making Superman powerless outside the safety of The Supermobile.

The character of Manchester Black was created by Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke in Action Comics #775. Leader of the team of super-powered anti-heroes known as The Elite, Manchester Black was a powerful telepath and telekinetic who believed the only way to deal with super-powered criminals was to kill them so they could never be a threat in the future. This attitude brought him into direct conflict with Superman, who ultimately challenged the whole of The Elite to a duel of sorts and was able to incapacitate the whole team using non-lethal methods. Humiliated, Black swore revenge and dedicated himself to pushing Superman into breaking his moral code to prove that he was right. He later committed suicide after realizing that he had become one of the villains he hated so much. The character was later revived in the Superman: Rebirth series, though this time he met his end by having his consciousness transferred into the body of a dairy cow.

The truck holding Fiona is for F.A. Thoom - Portable Washroom Rentals.  FA-THOOM is a popular sound effect used in comic books for the noise of large waves and water, perhaps as a nod to the word "fathom."

One of the aliens abducted by Mercy and Agent Liberty is called Kopy and he has the power to create multiple duplicates of himself. This power is possessed by a number of DC Comics villains including the Firestorm villain Multiplex (who appeared in the second episode of The Flash TV series) and a Superman villain called The Duplicate Man (who appeared in World's Finest #106).

The worm-like parasite used to control Fiona could be a reference to Mister Mind - a super-intelligent, talking worm who frequently tried to take people over as part of his sinister plans to take over the world. Mister Mind was said to be from a few planets over the years (most frequently Venus) but first appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures #26 in August 1943.

Brainiac-5 makes use of the future curse-word "sprock", saying that "We're sprocked!" as he contemplates the problem of how to filter the atmosphere.

One boy at the National City Fair is seen holding a Beebo doll. This is the first indication that Beebo - the popular toy that played a major role in the third season of Legends of Tomorrow - exists on Earth 38.

At one point, Otis tries to say the phrase "Welcome to Otisberg!"  In Superman: The Movie, Otisberg was a small town Otis arranged to have named after himself on Lex Luthor's map of new cities to be built on the new western coastline after he successfully sank California into the ocean.The other cities had names like Costa Del Lex, Luthorville, Lexington, Marina Del Lex and Lex Springs.

The character of Colonel Haley seems to be based on the comic book character of Lieutenant Lauren Haley. First appearing in Wonder Woman #325 in May 1985, she was a minor supporting character who was an Air Force officer whom Wonder Woman saved from being sacrificed to the Aztec god Tezcatlipoca. She may also be related to Walter "Prof" Haley - one of the founding members of the Challengers Of The Unknown.


Technobabble

The exoskeleton containing Kara requires all of its power to focus on preserving her life. Alex fears that using it in a combat situation may cause it to fail.

Brainiac-5 eventually hits on the idea of using trillions of nanobots programmed to filter the Kryptonite from the atmosphere one molecule at a time. In essence, they will not need a giant vacuum cleaner to clean the atmosphere - just trillions of tiny ones.

J'onn can boost his telepathy by using a talisman - an object with emotional weight for the person he is trying to find - like a cell tower amplifying a phone signal. (This suggests that J'onn is clairvoyant in addition to being telepathic.)


Dialogue Triumphs

(J'onn enters into his apartment. He stops suddenly and turns to look at a figure who emerges into view in the living room.)
J'onn: Man, you picked the wrong house.
Manchester Black: Don't think so. Man your age, lives alone? No personal history to be found. Bit dodgy, that. Red flags. So tell me... John Jones... how do you know Fiona?
J'onn: (recognizing the man from the photos he saw before) You're her fiancee.
Manchester: That I am. Luckiest man in the world. Only Fiona.. dropped off the radar. Not like her. And you seem to have spent some time following her about.
J'onn: Fiona's just a friend.
Manchester: Well "friend" - I'll ask you once more.  Where is she?
(Manchester grabs J'onn by the collar of his jacket. J'onn sighs and his eyes glow red.)
J'onn: Today is not the day to push me.
(Manchester grins at this.)
Manchester:
Not from around here, are we?
(Manchester lets go of J'onn and pats his back and chest reassuringly as if dusting him off.)
Manchester:
Relax, man. Weren't gonna hurt ya. (deepening his voice, teasingly in imitation of J'onn) "Today is not the day to push me."

(Agent Liberty demasks himself after being called a coward.)
Agent Liberty: "Coward in a mask." This mask signifies that it doesn't matter who I am. Who am I? I'm just a small piece of something much bigger.

(Brainiac-5 realizes that he is crying in his frustration at being unable to find a cure for Supergirl. When Lena points it out and just stares at him, he becomes defensive.)
Brainiac-5: What? I'm not a robot! I'm techno-organic. I have feelings. You should be crying too. These are tears of logic!

(Nia is trying to persuade James to give up being Guardian for good.)
Nia: If you go out there again, I have a feeling something bad will happen.
James: Heroes go out there even when they know something bad is going to happen. That's what makes them heroes.

J'onn: How do we reconcile who we are with who we want to be, Alex?
Alex: We forgive ourselves. Pacifism doesn't mean inaction. It just means that you have to learn how to fight without raising a sword.

(Otis is holding a gun to Supergirl's head. Alex has a gun drawn on him. Mercy walks up drawing a gun on Alex.)
Mercy:
Why are you protecting her? Why are you protecting any of them? Look at what they do!
Alex: They aren't doing this. You are.
Mercy: People need to be afraid. Even if  it means we have to sell it to them.
(Cut to DEO HQ. Lena is looking at the display monitoring the atmosphere-cleaning nanites.)
Lena: 100%
Brainiac-5: Rerouting power from Life Support. Unlocking suit now.
Otis: Yeah. What she said!  Welcome to Otis-
(Supergirl suddenly reaches up and grabs Otis' gun-hand, squeezing, forcing him to drop the gun and  bringing him to his knees.)
Mercy: No! We're fighting for freedom! From roaches! From-
(Suddenly, two spikes shoot from behind Alex and hit Mercy in the chest. She falls to the ground immediately.)
Otis:
No! Mercy!
(Two more spikes hit Otis in the back as he too passes out. Alex turns around and sees the Hellgrammite, who sits up and offers her his wrists.)
Helgrammite:
Now they're free.


Dialogue Disasters

President Baker: And on top of that terrible Sunday of incompetence, Supergirl goes on a fun suicide mission!


Continuity

Brainy refers to the events of 310 when he tells the sleeping Kara to tell Streaky he said "hi" if she is in her mind palace.

Mercy Graves kills another DEO agent who was turned to her cause and helped to free several prisoners - Hellgramite (last seen in 102) and Kopy - from a DEO prison for alien criminals, along with the alien worm that created The Parasite in 206.

Manchester Black called Fiona "Fi" for short. She called him "Ches."

J'onn shares his information on Officer Petrocelli from 402 with Manchester Black.

Manchester gets Officer Petrocelli drunk and learns that Mercy Graves is planning an attack on the police station on 4th St. and Columbia.

J'onn uses his telepathy to focus on The Graves Siblings and thinks he hears Fiona's voice calling to him.

Kopy is an alien who can split himself into multiple versions of himself. It is possible he is meant to be the criminal who was part of Non's team in 108 or may be a member of the same species.

Manchester Black is shown to be a skilled hand-to-hand combatant and capable of taking a blow with a police-issue nightstick without flinching.

Kara's exo-skeleton fails after only a few seconds of fighting multiple Kopy clones.

President Baker orders Supergirl to remain at the DEO until he gives the order for her to be released.

Lena teaches Braniac-5 how to handle repressing his emotions by putting his feelings in a box and hiding it inside him.

Brainiac-5 refers to the events of 218 and how Spheerical Industries is now owned by L-Corp.

Agent Liberty conceives on the idea of sending Hellgramite after children in order to truly scare people into being afraid of aliens.

Manchester Black says that he and Fiona used to be part of the same gang of football hooligans. She ran books for the gang.

Manchester Black claims that he had an ability to turn off the switch in your head that makes a person hold back when trying to hurt another person. He stopped brawling after meeting Fiona, however.

Manchester Black said that he suggested Fiona go to the States after their gang found out she was an alien.

Manchester Black and Fiona Byme had matching engagement rings.

Nia tells James not to go out as The Guardian again because she has a feeling something bad will happen if he does. It is implied that she had a prophetic dream, having fallen asleep at her desk and woken up before she did this.

J'onn is able to make contact with Fiona and let Manchester talk to her.

Fiona says that they are using a parasite to use her telepathy to control other aliens. Fiona says she's being held someplace with music and a crowd and she can smell sweets.

Otis and Mercy are killed by The Hellgrammite.

Agent Jensen has second thoughts and disables the technology that is controlling Fiona.

Fiona dies just as Manchester and J'onn rescue her.

Fiona asks Manchester not to be angry at the people who killed her.

J'onn takes away Fiona's pain as she dies.

President Baker sends in a US Army Colonel named Haley to oversee the DEO after Alex disobeys a direct order.

The good news is that James does not face any new charges from the DA's office after going out to help save people at the fairgrounds as Guardian and in fact is told he might be deputized.

The bad news is James finds out he's become a darling of the Earth First movement and is trending on-line as a human hero in blog posts that are ignoring how all the aliens attacking the fair grounds were mind-controlled.

Rhubarb pie is Alex's favorite

Manchester Black is seen buying a large number of guns. He is now wearing a t-shirt with a Union Jack, somewhat similar to his uniform from the comics.

The Russian Supergirl is revealed to be have been kept in some kind of vault while the Kryptonite was in the air.

The episode ends with Agent Liberty putting the alien parasite worm inside Agent Jensen's head.


Location


Site B - DEO Desert Facility


The Fridge Factor

Fiona, who I could have sworn was definitely killed off in the first episode, survives just long enough to die in Manchester's arms and fuel his apparent descent into anti-heroism.


The Kryptonite Factor

Honestly, the entire cast has to be thrown into sharp relief for this story to work. Alex loses all her confidence. Brainy loses all sense of self-control. Kara, the biggest goody-two-shoes in the world, is suddenly a rebel who can't follow orders. J'onn loses all confidence in himself and his telepathy seems to be acting more like clairvoyance.


The Bottom Line


Patently ridiculous as a character piece and packed with the worst cliches of hack writing, such as the beloved woman who hangs on just long enough to die in her lover's arms, inspiring his becoming a vigilante. I question them killing off Otis and Mercy so soon after introducing them as a writer, yet as a fan who finds them annoying I'm glad to see them gone. And Manchester Black gets an awesome introduction, made more awesome by the fact that he's practically the only character in this episode who isn't having an identity crisis... which is rather odd as he should be by the episodes end. Ah well - something to look forward to.


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