Supergirl: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review: Too Much Preaching

Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Cinema Sentries with a free copy of the Blu-ray reviewed in this post. The opinions shared are those solely of the writer.

Supergirl has got to be the most woke show on television. Sure its titular character is an attractive, young, white girl, but there are numerous people of color in major roles, the LGBTQ+ community is well represented (Supergirl’s sister is not only gay, but a major character and a strong female one at that), and now it has introduced to televisions first trans superhero. All of this is a good thing. I am all for more representation on our TVs. Full Stop.

The storytelling could have been better.

Supergirl has always been a preachy show, and Season Four is even more so. This is a season where the central story is a thinly veiled argument against Donald Trump’s immigration policies. Where Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) appears on the in-show CatCo cable channel and delivers a monologue about inclusion then later interviews the trans superhero about her life (upon which we see nearly every character, even some of the villains, cry). In a word, it can be a bit heavy-handed.

After a failed assassination attempt on President Marsdin’s (Lynda Carter) life, her true identity as an alien is revealed. She immediately steps down as it is against the Constitution for an alien to hold such an office. Vice-President Baker (Bruce Boxleitner) is sworn in as the new President and almost immediately becomes hostile to aliens in America. He brings on Ben Lockwood (Sam Witwer) – who is secretly Agent of Liberty, a vigilante who started the human-supremacists group Children of Liberty – to the cabinet-level position of Director of Alien Affairs. Together, they begin a reign of terror against all aliens.

Meanwhile, Lex Luthor finally shows up in this series (and he’s played with gusto by Jon Cryer). He’s escaped prison and fled to an Eastern European nation where he’s managed to clone Supergirl and turn her into the evil Red Daughter. The naughty doppelgänger flies into the White House and attacks the President which causes even more anti-alien sentiment and pushes Supergirl underground (but does bring out the reporting side of Kara Danvers).

These two main season-long stories coincide and collide with various smaller stories and character developments. Some are good, some not so much. Supergirl and Lena Luthor’s (Katie McGrath) relationship continues to grow and change in interesting ways. It did get a bit awkward as the season went on with Supergirl never divulging her secret identity to Lena though seemingly every other character on the shows already knows. James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) is still a bore and J’onn J’onzz (David Harewood) spent far too much of the show trying to figure out who he really wants to be, when we all know he’s really the Martian Manhunter. New character Nia Nal’s (Nicole Maines) transformation into the superhero Dreamer was well handled.

Nial Nal is the trans hero I mentioned earlier. The character begins as a mild-mannered reporter at Cat-Co but eventually learns she has superpowers including the ability to see the future via life-like dreams (hence the name). For a series that tends to clobber the audience with how inclusive it is, they actually handle her character with subtlety (well, as subtle as a CW show can get). She does get a full episode that dives into her backstory of which her transition takes a major part, but mostly the trans aspect of her identity is simply that – a part of her identity, but not the whole. Allowing her to be trans and a reporter and a superhero, and a million other things make her a fully developed character not just flag waving to prove how progressive the series is. It helps that Nicole Maines does an excellent job in the role.

Jesse Rath became a main character this season, a bump from last year’s guest role. He plays Brainy, the super-smart alien who helps Supergirl and works for the DEO. He’s taken me a while to get used to but I learned to love him as part of the team. Sam Witwer brings an intensity to the Agent of Liberty role making him one of the better villains the series has seen.

Supergirl has become my least favorite series in the Arrowverse (now that I have really started watching Arrow, it’s moved up in my estimation). I like most of the main cast a great deal, and when it concentrates on the superhero aspects of the story, I’m all on board. But all too often it stops to preach or have the characters spend long scenes discussing their feelings and when it does this, the momentum of the episode grinds to a halt. Season Four seemed to really amp this aspect of the show up, while pushing the things I love about it further into the sidelines. The main storyline where the government and a handful of extremists set out to destroy all aliens was heavy-handed though sometimes effective. The Lex Luthor arc was much more interesting though it could have used a lot more actual Lex Luthor (presumably Jon Cryer was way too expensive to have on more than a small amount). Dreamer was a welcome addition to the cast and Brainy fits in nicely in his main cast role. I’ll still be watching this series, but a little less preaching and a little more action would be a welcome improvement.

Extras on this Blu-ray package include all episodes from the Arrowverse crossover event, “Elseworlds.” Additionally, there is a featurette focussing on the villains of this season, one of “Elseworlds,” and clips from the San Diego Comic-Con. Plus there are outtakes, deleted scenes, and a gag reel.

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Mat Brewster

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