Saturday, March 9, 2019

Supergirl Episode Guide: Season 4, Episode 13 - What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?

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




Plot


With Agent Liberty released from prison, Manchester Black makes a bold move and escapes with the aid of his new super-powered allies. Forming a new group called The Elite, they will test Kara as much as a new revelation regarding Agent Liberty and President Baker's efforts to turn his popularity to the benefit of his administration.


Influences

Superman #775 


Goofs

So Manchester Black has been friends with a guy with a magic hat all this time?

Why DOESN"T Kara use the door when she enters the diner to confront Manchester? That restaurant owner didn't deserve to have a hole put in their ceiling.

It beggars belief that Kara is still willing to believe the best of President Baker after everything he has done to undermine her position publicly and to promote Agent Liberty's agenda.

A close second? That the Morae can sneak into the White House undetected and don't kill President Baker - the man who gave the order to kill all the Morae employed by the government a few episodes ago? The man who pardoned Agent Liberty? The man about to launch a satellite that will destroy any spaceship approaching Earth, hostile or no?


Performances

David Ajala has been sorely missed as Manchester Black over the past few episodes. He more than makes up for his absence here. Indeed, he is so charming that he threatens to undermine the script by being far more clever in his performance than his dialogue allows.


Super Trivia

The title of the episode is taken from Superman #775 - the story which introduced the character of Manchester Black and the other members of The Elite.

This is the first episode to feature a new introduction, which reflects the changed reality of Kara no longer working for the DEO and Alex not knowing that Kara is Supergirl.

In the comics, The Hat was a young Asian earth elemental named Rampotatek who possessed a measure of invulnerability & the natural ability to breathe fire. He armed himself with a magic hat from which he could pull any item he desires, summon demons, & wield magic.

The Arrowverse version of The Hat has the same powers as his comic book counterpart, but his hat is said to be from the Fifth Dimension rather than a magical artifact. (This could be a clever nod to the Arrowverse version of Mister Mxyzptlk, who did not have the character's trademark hat from the comics. )

Brainiac-5 makes reference to a friend named Val, who taught him how to fight in ways that involved improvisation rather than calculation. This is a reference to the Legionnaire Val Armorr - aka Karate Kid. 


Technobabble

Kelex is an Caretaker Android Mark IV.

Alex's lab contains a gel electrophoresis apparatus, which Eve Teschmacher needs for some reason.

Alex says that Lena's process is reducing mitophagy while increasing mitochondrial efficiency at the same time.

Manchester Black gives Supergirl the location for where he wants to meet her using superliminal stimuli embedded in structured light.

Brainiac-5 creates a pair of gloves that allow Nia to harness raw dream energy, creating focused blasts of astral force.


Dialogue Triumphs

Supergirl:
My name is Kara Zor-El. I'm from Krypton. I'm a refugee on this planet. I was sent to Earth to protect my cousin. But my pod got knocked off course. And by the time I got here, my cousin had already grown up and become Superman. I hid who I really was until one day when an accident forced me to reveal myself to the world. To most people, including my adoptive sister Alex, I'm a reporter at CatCo Worldwide Media. But in secret, I work to protect this planet I call my home from anyone that means to cause it harm. I am Supergirl.

Nia: Did I cover okay about training and everything? Did I blow it?
Kara: No, no! I'm still getting used to the lying to Alex, too. And don't worry, you'll get better at the whole "sneaking out" thing. The key is subtlety.
(As the elevator opens, the two see Brainy, wearing a ball-cap, sunglasses and a T-shirt that reads "Don't Hassle Me - I'm Local." He looks as conspicuous as it is possible for a person to look without being on fire.)
Kara: Case in point.

Manchester Black: (To J'onn) You think I'm good deep down, eh? Well, it's a bad time to be a good man. Take you, for instance. If it weren't for your bloody promise, I believe you could solve all the worlds problems. You just need motivation.

Manchester Black: Every action has an opposite and equal, yeah? This "Earth First" Liberty crowd, they hurt aliens. And what, they don't think we'll hurt them in kind? Why? 'Cause Supergirl says that's not the way? Supergirl's like a folktale. In theory, comforting, noble. In reality, (scoffs)  ill-equipped and clinging to ideals of a time long past. When they go low, she goes high. We put them six feet lower.
(The crowd behind Manchester begin applauding politely.)
Manchester Black: We're through giving these devils the benefit of the law. Supergirl's done. This is the era of the Elite.

Kara: Manchester got to you, didn't he? At the prison?
J'onn: All I've wanted to do since my father died is honor him. Live by his example.
Kara: And you have.
J'onn: But I'm struggling, Kara. There's a duality in me that's at war. I want to be a man of peace just like my father, but every fiber of my being is fighting against that. Being a Manhunter was part of my nature.
Kara: Are you considering picking back up the sword?
J'onn: I made a personal vow I wouldn't take that lightly.
Kara: Well, if you choose to join the fight to bring the Elite to justice, I'm sure your father would understand. Even Myr'nn joined the fight against Reign.
J'onn: Manchester is baiting me. We're connected somehow. I think he can feel the rage that lies within me. The rage born of the massacre of my family. One thing's for certain, Manchester was a test for me. But whether he's a test of my resolve, or just a mirror showing me that I cannot walk my father's path, I just don't know.
Kara: You will find clarity, J'onn. I know you will.
J'onn: Thank you.

Manchester Black: You won't join us, and I can't beat you. So, let's make a deal.
Supergirl: I accept your surrender.
Manchester Black: Never. But I can stay out of your soup. Cat in a tree, idiot in tights, bank robbers? All yours. But the racists, the fascists, the Children of Liberty? That's our department.
Supergirl: I won't let you keep killing people.
Manchester Black: (sarcastically) Oh, like your government intends to kill people?
(Supergirl looks confused by this.)
Manchester Black:You really don't know, do you? Next week, your beloved government is launching a satellite that will shoot down any alien spacecraft trying to enter our atmosphere.
Supergirl: That's impossible.
Manchester Black: I have it on good authority. Hat kidnaps secret agent types, learns what they're up to. That's why we formed this band of merry men.
(Menagerie clears her throat.)
Manchester Black: Sorry, merry people.
Supergirl: Why should I believe you?
Manchester Black: Talk to your mate, Baker. You know, the bloke who just pardoned the grand bloody wizard of the Children of Liberty? Ask him 'bout Operation Claymore. And then ask yourself, what if it were your ship they were blowing up? You came here in a rocket. Child in a basket, you know? Real Moses stuff. Here's your chance to tell the bosses to "let your people go. " Or us plagues'll do it for ya.


Continuity

Kara completely forgets about her lunch plans with Alex, in favor of a training session with Brainiac-5 and Dreamer.

Lena is said to be moving her operation into Alex's old lab at the DEO.

Brainiac-5 is still using Barney as an alias when posing as a human.

MacKenzie, the CatCo reporter who approached James with a story about strange goings-on at L-Corp that he shot down in 411, approaches him again about new information from the same source.

Kara, Dreamer and Braniac-5 are using the Fortress of Solitude to train.

Manchester Black has dyed his hair purple.

Hat is an old friend of Manchester's from way back.

The Hat can teleport himself and others but only to places he has been before.

The Elite is made up of Manchester Black, Hat, Menagerie and the one uncaptured Morae from 410.

Brainiac-5 uses differential calculus to anticipate his opponent's moves in a fight.

Brainy also tries to teach Dreamer the importance of improvisation and not depending on what you think will happen, be it because of predictive dreams or mathematical probabilities.

Brainy refuses to tell Dreamer what her descendants were able to do with their powers for fear of causing a paradox.

Alex makes reference to when Lena spoke about giving people super powers at Thanksgiving in 406.

Lena's deal with the DEO only gives them access to products, not procedures. She will maintain all control over how the process works because she does not trust the DEO to handle her work.

Lena asks for Alex to come work her in the DEO lab, saying she's wasted in management.

Ben Lockwood is confronted by a man named Cooper, who runs the Children of Liberty operations around Washington DC. He accuses Lockwood of selling-out and paling around with politicians instead of doing the work that needs doing ever since getting out of prison.

The Elite steal the Crown Jewels of England in order to get publicity for their cause.  Manchester asks Supergirl to meet him at dawn at a diner in Manchester.

Ben Lockwood asks President Baker to deputize the Children of Liberty during their meeting. President Baker laughs this off, saying his government is doing just fine keeping the peace and fighting violent aliens.

Kelex gives Dreamer access to the Fortress of Solitude records on Naltor.

Project Claymore is a secret US Government project to launch a satellite capable of shooting down any alien aircraft approaching Earth.

Dreamer begins learning how to astral project.

Supergirl approaches Alex about Project Claymore. She knows nothing about it and says such a project legally should fall under DEO control, though morally she cannot support it.

The Hat steals Brainiac-5's Legion flight ring and gives it to Manchester Black.

The Elite attempt to redirect Project Claymore so it will destroy The White House.

Alex brings the Armored Supergirl Suit from 404. This enables Kara to fly into orbit to stop Project Claymore and destroy it.

The Project Claymore satellite cost $2 billion dollars to make.

Alex unofficially leaves the door open for Supergirl to work with the DEO when requested.

Col. Haley claims that she didn't know about Project Claymore either and is disturbed when Alex asks her about it and President Baker going outside of the standard protocol.

Alex tells Lena she doesn't trust the DEO anymore and wants to help her with her work.

President Baker names Ben Lockwood as the new Director of Alien Affairs.

James Olsen asks Mackenzie if her source would be willing to speak about the corruption at L-Corps on the record.

Ben Lockwood beats Cooper (possibly to death) with an Agent Liberty mask to assert his control of the Children of Liberty.


Location

Fortress of Solitude
Rio de Janeiro , Brazil.
London, UK.
Manchester, UK
Washington DC, USA
Devil's Tower, Wyoming, USA.
Low Earth Orbit above the United States


Untelevised Adventures

Brainiac-5 and Kelex apparently met at some point (probably during Elseworlds) and immediately failed to hit it off with each other, for some unspecified reason.


The Kryptonite Factor

The core problem with this episode is two-fold. First, that it wastes time trying to build sympathy for Ben Lockwood as a pawn of a politician who only sees him as a prop toward helping his own sagging poll numbers - a conceit that doesn't work since, as Kara points out, he's a murder who flushed any higher principals he had away a while ago.  Next, it goes out of its way to try paint Manchester Black as a villain, turning The Elite into thieves and killers of innocents rather than superheroes with no qualms about killing. 

Any chance of nuanced discussion regarding Black's position is immediately negated because he's a criminal ignoring his attitude that violence can be met in kind with violence when lives are at stake. It's almost as if the show's writers got this far, realized the fallacy of Kara's own centrist argument about "both sides being just as bad" and twisted things to make it true.


The Bottom Line

A bit of a mess, which works far better than it should thanks to some terrific speeches and some strong performances. A marked stepped down from every other adaptation of What's So Funny About Truth, Justice And The American Way? the introduction of the Elite is rushed and they're made into generic punk criminals who mostly beat up bad people rather than the heroic but violent characters from the original story. The execution of The Elite, however, is solid but one wishes more time had been taken to establish them instead of just happening to have all these characters come together now. Still, for more David Ajala being snarky, I can put up with a lot.

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