Thursday, 18 May 2017

American Gods - 'Head Full of Snow'

Shadow ups his game and Wednesday runs a con, and there's surprisingly little blood this week, although I can't honestly say that no-one gets hurt.

We open with a Somewhere in America, as a Muslim woman who once loved stories of Ancient Egypt is escorted to her final rest by Anubis, who is lovely(1)

Shadow encounters the youngest and least pronounceable of the Zorya sisters on the roof, while Wednesday turns on the charm with the oldest and least bullshitable. Zorya Polunochnaya asks Shadow for a kiss, something she has not had before, in exchange for a coin plucked from the moon. Wednesday kissed Zorya Vechernyaya, provoking a massive and portentous storm. During this storm, Shadow challenges Czernobog to another game of checkers on the same terms, offering a second blow in case the first isn't enough. He wins, because Czernobog plays the same game as before, forcing Czernobog to accompany Wednesday to Wisconsin, although the first blow of the hammer still stands, to be delivered after Wednesday's business is concluded.

"You're going to start off in that suit and I'm going to start off in this sweater
and it's still going to be sexy as all hell."
There is another run in with Mad Sweeny the Leprechaun, whose luck has turned bad after accidentally giving Shadow his lucky coin. No Bilquis this week, so the sex quota is met by the Djinn's story, in which a mild-mannered salesman has a passionate encounter with a djinn who drives a taxi, and the two end up swapping places(2). Props to the series for not skimping on the book's m/m sex scene having gone all in with Bilquis, with the resulting x-ray fire transference being hailed as one of the most powerful and graphic non-porno gay sex scenes of all time.

Wednesday then takes Shadow to rob a bank, which he does by swiping a load of deposit slips and pretending to be a security guard taking night deposits in lieu of a broken ATM. Shadow reluctantly helps out by visualising a snowstorm, which promptly appears in defiance of all meteorological predictions, and by answering a payphone when the police call to check Wednesday's less-than-bona fides. Despite his reticence, he shows a bit of a flair for the game.

Zorya Polunochnaya brings the ethereal floatiness this series was missing.
Mad Sweeny digs up Laura's grave to find his coin, but there is only an empty coffin with a coin-sized hole burned in the lid. Elsewhere, Shadow enters his motel room to find his dead wife waiting for him.

'Head Full of Snow' is an important episode, because a) this is not a series that deals in filler, and b) it represents Shadow's first conscious steps into the weird. Up to now he's been dragged into the divine realm a time or two, but when he steps up with a second challenge for Czernobog and later accepts that he might have made it snow, that is when he accepts that perhaps the world is mad, rather than him. Odin shows his dark side as he puts his moves on Zorya Vechernyaya, which is starkly at odds with the smiling conman image he works hard in the latter half of the episode.

American Gods continues a strong run, with not a god miscast so far (which is no small thing with an ensemble this big.) I can't help comparing it to the book, and I think it compares well. So far it's running very close to the original text, and in as much as I picture characters at all (for whatever reason, I rarely have strong images of book characters, which is a huge help when watching adaptations,) they all seem to fit.

(1) I'm not sure if Neil Gaiman has ever met a personification of death he didn't think was a sweetums.
(2) The Djinn appeared briefly in the last episode, wearing the salesman's suit for a meeting with Wednesday, so presumably this is a bit of a flashback.

Doctor Who - 'Oxygen'

Poster (c) Stuart Manning
"That is my theme tune, otherwise known as a distress call!”

This review will contain some spoilers.

Despite Nardole's best efforts to immobilise the TARDIS and convince the Doctor of the merits of earth-bound adventures, the Doctor takes Bill – and Nardole – off on another spree, this time homing in on a distress signal from a space mining facility. Here, they find that most of the crew have been killed by their own space suits, and are facing an imminent shortage of the oxygen that the corporation which runs the station sells to their workforce by the breath.

The Good
As Doctor Who anti-capitalist tracts go, this one is pretty good. It eschews the identity politics of 'The Rebel Flesh'/'The Almost People'(1) in favour of a straightforward people vs. profit narrative (a similar theme to that in 'Thin Ice', in fact.)

While less ambitious in its scope and as ever forced by the nuWho format into a more frenetic pace, it compares not unfavourably to classic Who's 'The Caves of Androzani', which is pretty good going.

The character Dahh'ren appeared to assure us that harmony among the races of Earth just means racism against the blue.

The collapsible helmets were a nicely understated piece of supertech.

This episode is a whole new level of peril for Bill, who comes within about two percent battery charge of permadeath. That's like checking your email and a round of Kandy Krush.

The Doctor also has a lesson in consequences, as his abuse of his robust Timelord physiology to save Bill results in the permanent – or at least prolonged - loss of his sight.

The Bad
Having pitched in as the galactic black man, Dahh'ren promptly dies early, although not first. I legitimately don't know if this is awful or genius.

The Ugly
No ugly this week.

Next week's episode has Missy, so I'm ruling out her being the Vault's occupant. I'm inclined to think that it won't prove to be any incarnation of the Master then, although it could well be someone that Missy inadvisably wants to try to manipulate in the name of universal domination.

Top Quotes
"Space, the final frontier. ‘Final,’ because it wants to kill us." – The Doctor
"The universe shows its true face when it asks for help, we show ours by how we respond." – The Doctor
"What if I throw up in my helmet?" - Bill
“I’ve got no sonic, no Tardis, about 10 minutes of oxygen left, and now I’m blind. Can you imagine how unbearable I’m going to be when I pull this off?” – The Doctor
"They’re not your rescuers. They’re your replacements. The endpoint of capitalism. Bottom line. Where human life has no value at all. We’re fighting an algorithm. A spreadsheet. Like every worker everywhere, we’re fighting the suits!" – The Doctor

The Verdict
Well, this is a turn up for the books. Yes, it's a lot of running from slow-moving monsters in corridors – monsters that are literally people in suits; how fucking meta is that? – but it's good running from slow-moving monsters in corridors, and let's face it, that is one of the few arenas in which Doctor Who competes on an equal footing with other, larger budgeted SF shows. Its running from slow-moving monsters in corridors game is strong. 'Oxygen' is also a boldly political episode in a fairly political season, although presumably it was written and filmed long before the announcement of the election. More importantly, however, this round of running from slow-moving monsters in corridors has real stakes and serious consequences, rather than the nebulous threat of bad shit happening if the Doctor doesn't get back to the Vault. Things happen and have lasting effects; that's so rare in Doctor Who. Just look at 'Hell Bent', which went to absurd extremes to make sure that the death of a companion had no significant consequences beyond another inter-companion grump.

Score - 8/10

(1) I don’t know if this series is being particularly heavy on recycled ideas/homages, of if I'm just becoming sensitised.

DC Roundup: Supergirl - 'Alex'; The Flash - 'I Know Who You Are'; Arrow - 'Underneath'

"I've got a great idea! Let's name the episode after a character to fuck with
anyone trying to find screen shots!"
Okay, so it makes sense in my freaky head to combine each week's DC Arrowverse reviews into a single post. It may not last; I guess we'll see.

Mad season spoilers in the review of The Flash, by the way; you have been warned.

First up is Supergirl, and in the episode entitled 'Alex' one of the people closest to Kara is kidnapped. Hint: Not Winn. After the tension that has never really existed at all between Kara and Maggie regarding the role of the superhero in routine crime erupts, Alex goes missing. Kara receives a call from a man telling her that he has Alex and knows that she is Supergirl, and threatening to kill Alex if she doesn't bust a certain inmate out of prison. Hank refuses to play ball, knowing that the revelation that Supergirl can be leaned on would bring more danger on her loved ones, leaving thirty-six hours to find Alex.

The kidnapper turns out to be one Rick Malverne, a student at Midvale High with Kara and Alex. He wants his father, Peter Thompson, broken out of prison, believing his sentence for murder – he insists it was manslaughter – to be unjust. Malverne is a weird character. His motivation is his utter devotion to the father who rescued him from an abusive mother, but no-one ever really addresses this from a psychological angle. They to trick him, and appeal to his childhood good nature, but never offer a shred of sympathy for someone whose path was set by brutal circumstance. I'm not saying he's a right guy, just that the episode is fairly black and white on a grey subject.

It's also kind of hard to swallow, even in a superhero show, that this random kid from Hicksville went on to become a better hacker than Winn, capable of shadowing Kara and Alex for a good year without either the alien with superhuman senses or the trained spy (or her cop girlfriend, or her superhumanly alert, mind-reading boss) noticing, devising a strategy to defeat the entire DEO, and find time to develop a means to resist Martian mind-reading(1). We are looking at Christopher Pellant levels of frickwizardry(2) here.

Of course they rescue Alex, with minutes to spare, and Malverne is mind wiped to protect Supergirl's identity. Unfortunately, all of this means that Kara isn't in the emotional place to take a call from Lena Luthor to ask if she should team up with an alien named Rhea. This is presumably setting up the finale, but what's really interesting about it is that Lena makes what we know to be a bad decision in absence of Kara's advice, but is not motivated by spite at Kara blowing her off. In fact, she picks up on how upset Kara is and actually calls back later to check she's okay. One of the reasons that I want Lena not to end up villained is that, actually, she and Kara share a rare instance of a really healthy friendship between two women(3).

I like this character. I hope she doesn't die.
On then to The Flash, and an episode which begins with Barry confronting Savitar with the episode's title: 'I Know Who You Are', before flashing back to establish this knowledge.

Team Flash move to contact grad student Tracy Brand, whose academic career is in freefall thanks to the rejection of her theoretical derivation of the existence of the Speed Force, but who will one day be a Nobel-winning physicist and inventor of the speed trap. As the team struggles to protect her from Killer Frost, who has been dispatched to fulfil the first part of her name, they are increasingly confronted with the fact that Savitar seems to know all of their plans in advance, as if he were present for everything that has and will happened(4). When Cisco overcomes his fear of killing Caitlin sufficiently to incapacitate Frost, Savitar appears to rescue her.

Well, someone's been shopping.
Tracy hypothesises that they could use the energy which Savitar's suit was made to protect him from against him, while the team ponders the source of Savitar's knowledge and the fact that he didn't kill Tracy himself. This tips Barry off and he runs off for a confrontation with Savitar, who of course knows that he is waiting, because the obvious answer, and the answer to the question I asked last week – 'Who would have such a profound effect on both Caitlin and Wally?' – is that Savitar is Barry Allen. I'm so ashamed I didn't realise earlier; it's not like the theme of the season from 'Flashpoint' onwards has been about how Barry is his own worst enemy.

Finally, Arrow picked up directly from last week as 'Underground' began with the Arrow Cave in lockdown after Prometheus hit it with an EMP. This leaves Oliver and Felicity trapped, Felicity paralysed from the waist down as the EMP took out her spinal implant, and oxygen rapidly running out, but on the upside gives them a chance to hammer out their grievances, in particular that Oliver doesn't trust Felicity: or anyone else for that matter. In the end, he always feels that it's up to him to get the job done, even if that means calling in a mob hit.

"To sum up the situation, we're blue, ba-ba-dee baba-doo."
Outside the bunker, John and Lila get frosty over ARGOS' activities: Mostly running that illegal black site for the detention of US citizens without warrant, indictment or trial, but also – as it turns out – knocking off, and indeed sprucing up, Curtis' T-sphere design, which comes in handy as his original spheres are down and out in the bunker(5). The team works together to rescue Oliver and Felicity before their sanctum turns into even more of a death-trap, but this gives Chase the time he needs to find Oliver's son.

So, this all feels as if we're ramping up to some finales (as indeed we are.) We've got Kara vs. Rhea, Barry vs. Barry, and Oliver vs. Chase, with the usual stakes of global domination, cosmic destruction and… Star City? William? Oliver's feels? Yeah, Arrow always feels a bit… meh when it comes to the stakes. I mean, I'm not insensitive to the peril to Oliver's son, but for all he's actually been in the series, I will ultimately be less pissed if they kill him than I am about Sara Diggle(6).

(1) Hell, that he even knows that Martians can read minds. I'm assuming that's not in any of the press releases that the DEO doesn't make.
(2) Frickwizardry – Allegedly mundane abilities that reveal the fact that the possessor is in fact a fricking wizard.
(3) They never fight over boys, never get pointlessly bitchy at each other, have each other's backs, occasionally argue about stuff that matters to them in different ways. I mean, okay, Kara is lying about a few things, as is Lena's other bestie Supergirl…
(4) To the point of briefing Frost on Barry's script.
(5) He calls them Koto and Poto after The Beastmaster's ferrets, and he and Dinah both turn out to have had some revelatory moments over Marc Singer in a loincloth. Thankfully neither of them saw Singer's appearance in Season 2 as a grizzled, genocidal general, or they'd never be having sex again.
(6) Join in with the chorus: "No, not letting it go."

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Arrow - 'Dangerous Liaisons'

Nothing good ever came of a sudden switch to double the mascara and a shirt
with no shoulders. Not on TV anyway.
And we're back to keeping pace with Arrow, at least for this episode.

Prometheus is exposed, but in the wind, and the city is unimpressed that the throwing star killer turned out to be the DA. Team Arrow are determined to catch him, roping in ARGUS to help in the hunt, but Chase continues to give them the slip and wrecks up some priceless vintage arcade machines in the process(1). Helix tracks a warning sent to Chase from inside ARGUS, but the leak is killed when Alena hacks an elevator in order to steal his security key. She explains that she is trying to rescue Cayden James, the greatest hacker evor, from ARGUS custody and that the death was an accident due to her not understanding physics and anatomy as well as she does computers. She seems sincere, hiring a mercenary snatch team to get a second key without accidents. She also explains that James created a biometric tracking system that can find anyone based on their heartbeat(2), which prompts Felicity to ask Oliver to let the mercs get away with the Key.

ARGUS try to set a trap for Helix, but Lyla's double-blind bait and switch backfires when Helix figure out where the extra-secret illegal black site is, but Team Arrow aren't in the loop. Helix hack the black site's automatic defences, disable the guards and rescue James. Team Arrow almost stop them, but Felicity puts herself in front of Oliver's gun – not loving his 'not ready to Arrow yet' look; it's sort of Spartan lite – and allows Helix to escape. They promptly decamp, deeming her connections too risky, but leave her the biometric tracking programme. She and Oliver have one of many super-tense conversations, then run the programme, which reveals that Prometheus is, like a serial killer in an urban legend, in the building with them.

Alena is definitely rocking a Root vibe.
And then the bunker asplodes.

Also, Quentin 'persuades' Rene to get back in touch with his daughter(3) and start the legal process to regain custody, which is lovely. Also also, John and Lyla have a falling out over her basically turning into white Amanda Waller, which is less lovely.

'Dangerous Liaisons' is a troublesome episode in a lot of ways. It pushes Felicity's turn to the dark side, but so far Helix still doesn't look that dark and indeed the show goes to great lengths to paint Alena as driven, but basically decent. She's not that cut up about the dead guy, but he was working for Prometheus, so no-one else is exactly weeping, and honestly it comes off more as a disconnect from the reality of the action. Alena is used to working remotely with precise systems and predictable outcomes; it's easier to read her as 'in shock' than 'a psychopath'. Since Team Arrow make few bones about their disapproval of illegal, unsanctioned black sites established by anyone other than themselves or STAR Labs, it's not like ARGUS's concerns over Cayden James seem that irrefutable either. Lyla calls him 'more dangerous than Snowden', linking him with a figure hailed as a hero by as many people as call him a villain, and whose actions many incarnations of the Green Arrow (I'm thinking especially of the Justice League cartoon version) would have lauded as admirable. At present, Helix has sinister implications, but are looking way less dark side than ARGUS.

(1) To the sorrow of Curtis, Felicity and Alena, which I think may have been thrown in just in case this episode cast too many doubts on her geek girl credentials.
(2) So, apparently he's a wizard then.

(3) And by persuades, I mean invites her to the office then calls Rene for a meeting.

American Gods - 'The Secret of Spoons'

Spider God, Spider God,
Is occasionally a spider just to fuck with arachnophobes...
We begin with spiders. Thanks for that.

Yes, we open episode two with another Coming to America story, this one featuring African slaves and their divine hitchhiker Compe Anansi(1): Spider, trickster, snappy dresser and agitator. After that, we cut back to Shadow, battered and bloody, tormented by visions of his late wife, as he packs up his house before heading out of Eagle Point with Wednesday. En route to Chicago he is charged with acquiring some items as 'gifts', and finds himself receiving a job offer from Lucille Ball(2) via the giant TV display. Then they continue on to meet the fortune-telling Zoraya sisters(3) and their non-specific relative Czernobog(4). Wednesday wants Czernobog on the team, but Czernobog wants nothing to do with him. Still, he's willing to make a wager on a game of chequers: If Shadow can beat him, he'll join the cause; if he beats Shadow, then he gets to knock on Shadow's head with his hammer.

Shadow loses.

During the course of this fairly simple plot development, we learn a lot more about the nature of the beings Shadow is dealing with. Their currency is worship; for the old gods, this mostly means blood, be it the blood of a ship full of slaves and slavers, the blood of the cattle Czernobog spills in his own honour as a slaughterman, or the blood of our Vikings from the first episode. Perhaps it can also mean Shadow's blood; Shadow's life, which seems to be constantly in peril. For the new gods, it's time and attention, hours wasted on the television and the computer. And for Bilquis it's sex.

We revisit Bilquis, briefly, as she consumes four more lovers (some men, some women.) She then visits what is either a private shrine or a museum exhibit, where a human shape begins to form within strings of golden jewellery. Bilquis had a fairly brief arc in the original novel, so this is all new, and I really hope that she is trying to resurrect someone as part of a plan which will significantly impact on the story, rather than just being included to add a little sex every week. I'm also curious to see where her arc will end given that her fate in the novel was so tied to her having been forced to find her worship not, as here, through online dating, but prostitution. There, she was the tragic low-ebb of the independent divinity scraping a living; here, she seems to be planning something.

You've got red on you.
In addition to worship, there's a lot about race this week. First and foremost is Anansi's monologue on the fate of black people in America, used to stir up a riot on the slave ship and propel him to the new world. Then of course there is poor Shadow, a black man caught up in what is so far a white man's war. Czernobog explains that race confuses him, as in the old country they didn't really have black or white, so shades of skin were the cassus bellum, as between him and his so-bright brother(5), now as grey as he is. America, Anansi reminds us, is where the black man gets fucked, but the Slavs aren't doing so hot either.

(1) The always excellent Orlando Jones, when not a bloody spider.
(2) A gloriously period-permed Gillian Anderson.
(3) Headed by Cloris Leachman.
(4) A typically disturbing performance from Peter Stormare, wielding the bleeding hammer we saw in the trailers.
(5) Of course, from the follow-up short stories we know that Shadow's birth name is Baldur Moon, which pretty much makes him the brightest thing going, skin colour notwithstanding.

Iron Fist - 'Felling Tree with Roots', 'The Blessing of Many Fractures' and 'The Mistress of All Agonies'

"It'll be fine, he said. We'll ask the Yakuza for help, he said..."
A short binge on Iron Fist while I was washing up (it was a lot of washing up, okay) took me through episodes 7-9 of the weakest of the Defenders pre-sequels. Since I've not watched anything else to round up, let's just call this an Iron Fist review rather than a TV Roundup.

After the hot mess of the Tournament of Death, Danny interrupts Harold assuring the Hand's lackeys that he has no idea what's up with Danny, and lackey-death ensues. Danny is all shocked about this, because his attitude to death is all over the shop. Harold has Ward help him hide the bodies, which together with emptying his secret embezzled pension fund account tips Ward from regular filial disgruntlement to actual patricide. Harold fails to stay dead, but is tipped a little more to the dark (from his fairly murky starting point,) by the experience, later murdering hapless aide Kyle over the finer choice of ice cream(1).

Zhou Cheng; a visitor from a more interesting show.
Danny teams up with the Triads to take out the Hand's factory, but Gao has got the synthetic heroine formula and left. She heads for China, with Danny, Colleen and for some reason Claire in hot pursuit. There, Danny faces off with drunken master Zhou Cheng, who is easily the most interesting character to have appeared in the course of the series. Danny flips out and almost beats Cheng to death, then captures Gao after he and Colleen defeat her remaining goons. They somehow bring a captive, elderly Asian woman back to New York and tie her up in the dojo to find out how she knew his parents. On sodium pentathol she claims that his mother introduced her to his father, and she had him killed because he found out that she was moving drugs using Rand infrastructure and assisted by Harold, but it turns out that she's immune to sodium pentathol, so who knows.

Goons attack and are repelled, but Colleen starts dying of a poisoned wound. She asks Danny to call her Sensei, Bakuto, who turns up and teaches Danny to use the Iron Fist to heal. This, however, causes him to black out from over-exerting his chi and Bakuto and Colleen bundle him into a van for reasons as yet unexplored.

"I still own you."
In the almost entirely divorced corporate shenanigans, Joy tries to get him to back off on the poisoning, only for Danny to go all crusader (incredibly, Danny is more interesting as a corporate nice guy than as a martial arts hero,) after which the Board fires Danny and both Meachams and Joy begins planning to blackmail the entire Board, because she's the baller. Honestly, this subplot would be better off in Daredevil, or even Jessica Jones (who may in fact be the PI providing Joy with her dirt.) Oh, and Danny and Colleen have first aid sex, I almost forgot for caring so much(2).

My good friend James defines the problem of Iron Fist as a failure to embrace its own genre, and I think there's a lot of truth to that. Faced with the issues of whitewashing and cultural appropriation in the original comics, which were essentially based on exported, Hong Kong chop socky movies, the makers of the series would appear to have decided that Something Has to Be Done, and to have decided that that something is to keep the white saviour (albeit in this case failed white saviour) narrative and uncomfortable appropriation, while dropping all of the far out elements that make 1970s and 80s Hong Kong martial arts movies so much fun. The result is still burdened with all the original issues – my solution to this, while still keeping the essential narrative? Cast Danny Rand as a Chinese-American rich boy whose wealthy family were heavily distanced from their original cultural roots. Bam! Job done(3)and  is painfully dull to boot.

This guy shows up this week, knocks out a food cart vendor and sits, watching
the Rand building and making throwing stars out of tin foil. That's way more
cool than Danny rabbiting on about the Iron Fist.
I picked out Zhou Cheng as a highlight of the series so far because he has a distinctive, flamboyant style – so, so important in a martial arts heavy piece – that makes him more interesting to watch than the other fights. The Tournament of Death should have had this, and did a little bit, but squandered it with low-key differences in style and turning the Bride of Nine Spiders – one of the Immortal Weapons, incidentally, just like the Iron Fist – into a lame sexy spider seductress. During the fight, Zhou Cheng goads Danny by reminding him that they both swore oaths to protect; he the Hand and Danny Kun-Lun, but that only one of them is still at his post. Danny retorts that he who fights with words has weak fists, but seriously, I could do with a lot more talking in these fight scenes.

Every fight in a king fu movie or series is a form of dialogue, and in the absence of an eloquent style a little more philosophy might not go amiss. Danny has never been more interesting than in his opening scenes, when he wove through the Rand security like a ghost, never striking and barely blocking, just evading every attack. That's what I mean by an eloquent style, telling us both that he was skilled and that he didn't want to hurt anyone. Colleen on the other hand has been more brutal from the get-go. Unfortunately, Danny's style in particular is as uneven as his characterisation. I could understand contrasting his soft-style with the shattering power of the Iron Fist, but he pretty much goes in hard most of the time, even without the Fist. Similarly, he's all shocked when Harold kills people, then talks about executing Gao and how the Iron Fist is supposed to annihilate the Hand a lot; his motives and morals are all over the place. Sure, maybe he's just talking a good – or bad – fight, but it all adds up to a character with no focus, no centre. It's hard to imagine how this guy gets his shit together enough to summon the Iron Fist when he can't even seem to decide who he is.

(1) Also a sick burn on Ward and Joy, since when Hand resurrection makes you crazy, you're supposed to kill those closest to you first.
(2) Seriously; it's like his shirt is off and there's some weird magnetism going on. Magnetism in the sense that you can see the effects, but the force itself is invisible and intangible and no-one can really say on a fundamental level how it works.
(3) Almost. I mean, also hire some Asian or Asian-American scriptwriters. And more people who understand kung fu movies.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Supergirl - 'Ace Reporter'

Snapper Carr, occasional snark god.
Finally, the unemployed life is starting to pall on Kara, as an uncharacteristic slump in world peril means that being Supergirl is no longer picking up the slack left by the absence of CatCo.

Into this void walks Lena Luthor, looking for some gal time to get her head in the game for a reunion with the one that got away, a former business, research and romantic partner Jack Spheer (played by iZombie's Rahul Kohli.) Spheer has perfected the design that they never could in their time together, before the call of L-Corp, and produced swarming 'BioMax(1)' medical nanites which can repair any ailment without surgery or anaesthesia. This is all pretty shiny, and Spheer seems keen to relight old flames, but the journalist in Kara has to look into things, especially since Snapper Carr is doing the same.

Kara and Snapper both meet sources that claim the human trials for Biomax never happened, before being nano-murdered by BioMax swarms. Sure enough, breaking into Spheertech's labs (in a double-act with Mon'el which, okay, is adorkable) reveals that the only human trial data comes from tests that Jack Spheer performed on himself. Recalling that there were side-effects to their prototypes – in particular incredible susceptibility to suggestion – Lena only twigs too late that Jack is being controlled by his CFO (played by Timeless's Claudia Doumit) in an attempt to – dare she say it – rule the world. Kara can't stop the BioMax swarms, but Lena is able to shut them down, and in the process kill Jack. This leaves her feeling cold inside – she warns Kara 'when I start to feel something again, be scared' – at which point Mon-el's mother pops up with a proposition.

Oh, and Kara gets her job back for doing proper reporting. Yay!

Elsewhere, Guardian is finding plenty of street crime to fight, although there is a bit of a hiccup when Winn tries to get Lyra involved in the fighting of crime and James takes exception to her default violence level. Things threaten to get nasty, but James realises that Winn is kind of struggling with having multiple friends with different priorities after so long just hanging with Kara and smooths things over with Lyra so that Winn doesn't have to choose between his girlfriend and his best friend.
Aside from anything else, I'm pro female friendships which don't develop into
either romance or nemesis.
I have to say, I'm not loving the direction they seem to be going with Lena, which would be to suggest that Luthors are somehow genetically programmed to react to a significant enough loss by flipping the fuck out and going full supervillain. I hope it's going to be more nuanced, because honestly that's always going to be more interesting. Besides, it would be nice for Katie McGrath not to get stuck in that particular character arc just because she's a natural born femme fatale. I also like it when the hero says to trust someone and their trust is rewarded, rather than the cynical voices around them proving the wiser. After all, we've seen Kara built up as a strong judge of character with the Jeremiah subplot, so it would seem odd to turn around on that and suggest she's too naive.

(1) A sort of cross between Big Hero Six's microbots and the name 'BayMax', but more evil.