“You either die a hero or you live to see yourself become the villain” was a line delivered much more in passing than The Dark Knight’s trailers implied but the point was still made. This is that a hero’s true battle is never with their enemy but with themselves. When their bad guys don’t play the rules, it becomes harder and harder for a hero to defeat them without also crossing the same lines: to defeat evil without resorting to acts of evil. Granted some, like The Punisher, just don’t give a damn but a hero will often face a moment of seeing themselves within a villain as desperate times call for desperate measures. Yet it’s not just their actions that will determine this but their morality and principles. This is where Kara finds herself this week as a newfound extreme brand of justice forces her to re-evaluate that of herself and the DEO.
Truth, Justice and the American Way – As Non declares 2 weeks peace for the mourning of Astra, the DEO encounter a crazed former Fort Raas prison guard, Master Jailer, determined to bring his own brand of justice to all its escapees. As people start to suspect Maxwell Lord is missing, James implies Lord must be released from his unlawful detainment.
So after a week off, Kara is back in the air. It gave us some time to digest the recent events as Alex is now carrying the secret of killing Astra, the aftermath of which is still felt through this episode. This ranges from Kara’s anger towards Hank to the rather touching notion of Non summoning Kara to Astra’s funeral on behalf of Astra’s wishes rather than his own. It’s a very clever opening set piece to reflect the prior events, deliver a hard hitting emotional spectacle but most of all, to embed to the core theme of the episode: principles. Non’s threats still pledge him as Kara’s biggest enemy yet here, we see him uncompromising in upholding the funeral rites of his people now matter how much he may hate Kara. It forms an instant comparison for much of what follows, revolving around the issue of Maxwell Lord’s imprisonment. This gives James Olsen a great role within the episode that thankfully has almost nothing to do with romantic affairs as he stands by his principles to form the moral voice of reason. There are some good obvious comparisons to Guantanamo Bay as it’s correctly pointed out that Lord’s imprisonment is unsanctioned and unlawful; even evil geniuses deserve their human (or alien) rights. The Master Jailer character is a great choice to represent the opposing viewpoint: believing in his her at that justice is a dish best served decapitated. This leads to some great moments as the Jailer compares himself to Kara as a fellow justice dealer much to Kara’s disgust. His trial scenes also feel like a more dramatic take on Red Dwarf’s inquisitor episode.
The episode offers some good action. Although the final act showdown and rescue has some good innovations to it, like Alex shining a light on the situation, it’s the mid-episode first encounter between hero and villain that impresses the most. Although we see Kara get angle-grabbed during flight a few times more than necessary, the chain fighting works really well at close quarters. It throws in variations and adaptations of more standard fight moves as the two combatants compete for balance and position as much as delivering damaging blows. Plus you have to love what feels like the show’s first Arrow/Flash reference ahead of Barry Allen blazing into town, “I thought masks were only big in that other city?”. Speaking of masks, Master Jailer’s becomes very significant. In an odd reversal of Reactron earlier this season, this character looks suitably menacing with his face concealed but the second Jeff Branson appears from underneath it, the effect is lost. He should have taken hints from Karl Urban and kept it on at all times..... even if that means never getting a sequel episode.
We also see things a Catco take a very interesting turn as following Hank’s incognito insubordination Kara returns to work into a starring role in the Devil Wears Prada as Cat has hired a 2nd assistant. This is an excellent development for Cat & Kara’s relationship as after having peaked a few weeks ago, it knocks them right back down again, allowing us to enjoy their reconnection. There’s some great humor in Kara’s immediate definition as “no. 2” and the underhanded tactics used by her new rival, “Just doing your job, one of us has to”. That would be Siobhan Smythe (Italia Ricci – Chasing Life) AKA the New 52 incarnation of Silver Banshee (a real screamer). Siobhan will continue as a recurring character for at least the next few episodes. There are no indications over whether or not she has her abilities as Silver Banshee yet but she is the rumoured to be villain of the Flash crossover episode, reinforced by some recent set photos. This is episode 18, World’s Finest.
Kara’s anger towards Hank (whom she believes killed Astra) feels overly forced but otherwise, everything works here with bonus points for making us imagine Maxwell Lord watching Call the Midwife. It scales things back from the higher dramatic stakes and returns to the long running theme of Kara learning to become a hero with a different spin on just what that entails.