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Supergirl - American Dreamer - Review - You Have to Have Hope

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*NOTE – The following review may contain spoilers.

I'm once again filling in for your regular SpoilerTV Supergirl reviewer, Zandarl who is still fighting an illness. We wish her a speedy recovery. The review for this episode of Supergirl will be a joint effort with thoughts and comments from both of us. Typically, the 19th episode of previous Supergirl seasons has been standout episodes. From Myriad in Season One, Alex in Season 2, to last year's The Fanatical each previous 19th episode have been filled with tight storytelling, and tense moments. This year's Number 19, American Dreamer may have been one of the most intense yet. Not only does it continue to powerfully set the stage for what is sure to be a memorable finale featuring the ultimate showdowns with Ben Lockwood, the Children of Liberty, Lex Luthor and Red Daughter, it also marks the very successful directorial debut of Supergirl co-star, David Harewood (J'onn J'onzz). Harewood shows a very deft hand at juggling well-choreographed action scenes and is equally effective with the quieter more intense character moments, giving his fellow cast members the opportunity to shine.

Foremost in that category is Supergirl herself, Melissa Benoist. Only, it is not as Supergirl that Benoist shines in this episode, it is as Kara Danvers at her very best as a journalist. Forced into hiding by the President and his misguided actions, she uses her super skills as a reporter to ferret out the truth about who is behind the attack on the White House. And although Supergirl may not be outwardly visible in this episode, we're wisely reminded of her presence through the use of super-speed to sort through files, freeze breath to help protect Kara and her Amertek source from being discovered, and some very smooth tricks with her coat to ward off attacks from Lockwood and the Children of Liberty when they attack Catco. But perhaps the greatest superpowers she uses this week are her heart and her compassion. She's persuasive Kara getting a source to open up to her, she's supportive Kara making a co-worker believe he's saved her from Lockwood's goons, she's optimistic Kara convincing Dreamer that they forgot that superheroes are here to inspire hope, and she is sympathetic and understanding Kara when Lena confesses to her that Eve wasn't the only one working with Lex. Each layer of Kara Danvers she revealed only served to make her more of a hero, and Benoist embodied each one with just the perfect balance of emotion and expression.

This was particularly true of her reaction to Lena's confession. By not overreacting she was most of all Kara the friend, although one hopes Lena remembers that reaction when the time comes for Kara to confess her secrets, which could happen before season's end. Lena and Kara then put all reservations aside and work together to uncover the secret that Lex secretly ferreted funds from LCorp to Amertek and has bought an abandoned missile base in Kaznia. Can you say road trip?

Also having a strong episode was Katie McGrath as Lena. This was a side of the character not usually shown to this degree. While normally calm, cool, collected and in control, Lena in this episode was exasperated, frustrated and uncharacteristically emotionally vulnerable. Lena wasn't used to failure and because failure this time meant she couldn't help James, she couldn't help find Lex and she was hiding things from her best friend that calm cool fa├žade cracked. In a lovely scene with Brainy (Jesse Rath), he helps calm her and inspire her that we are all human and make mistakes. Theirs is a fun and odd friendship that has been building over the past two seasons and McGrath and Rath work very nicely together. What follows is some of McGrath's strongest work in the episode when Lena tearfully confesses to Kara.

With each successive episode, it has been intriguing to watch Sam Witwer take Ben Lockwood further and further over the edge. In this episode, he's on a power-hungry trip, with his newly deputized Children of Liberty seemingly taking over the DEO. However, he's also learning that his grip on that power is slowly slipping. First, his son, George (Graham Verchere) is becoming less and less enthusiastic about blindly following his father, especially after finding a good friend of his is an alien during a botched raid at the alien bar that has become a sanctuary for scared aliens. Then, his attempts to bully his way in and arrest Dreamer following an inspiring broadcast are thwarted when first Kara and Dreamer stand up to him unafraid, and later is completely thwarted by Supergirl and Dreamer in a darkened newsroom battle with an assist from Brainy, Alex (Chyler Leigh) and the new superpowered James (Mehcad Brooks). Finally, the fact that his Gestapo actions have consequences when he comes home to find his wife murdered by an alien woman he threatened to separate from her children after unjustly detaining her husband. Lockwood is a man who is slowly losing control physically, mentally and emotionally and Witwer's portrayal has been convincingly real.

One of the strengths of the strong fourth season Supergirl is having has been new cast additions. In American Dreamer, two took big strides in solidifying themselves as great new characters on the show. Nicole Maines' Nia Nal aka Dreamer shone the brightest this episode taking her character from neophyte superhero to being confident enough to step up and keep National City safe when Supergirl had to step back. She's outstanding facing down the Children of Liberty at the alien bar and then again when they attack Catco. Her shining moment comes during a televised interview with Kara as Dreamer. In a speech in which she proudly declares herself to be alien, human and a transwoman who was taught that it was ok for aliens and humans to live together, she inspires and instills hope in aliens in hiding, and even impresses Lena with her courage. It is when she also talks about loving s'mores, Thursdays, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and nerdy boys who think too much that she endears herself not only to National City but to fans of the show as well. It has been a pleasure watching Maines grow into this character showing more and more confidence as the season progresses.

The other new cast addition who continues to impress is Azie Tesfai as James' sister, Kelly Olsen. Maybe it's her character's military background or the fact she's a psychologist but she seems to be handling the use of aliens and alien technology to help her suddenly superpowered brother with unusual aplomb. She's even brave enough to use that technology herself to travel into her brother's subconscious to get at the triggering memories that are affecting the Harun-El that is giving him the powers. She also seems to be developing a friend in Alex, and it's nice to see the writers allowing the chemistry between Leigh and Tesfai grow and breath as the characters get to know one another and bond over the fact that while they're good at taking care of other people, they're terrible at taking care of themselves.

The one misstep again this week, the same as it was last week, is allowing the fact that James has now developed superpowers push aside and overshadow what could have been a compelling storyline about PTSD. And the idea of giving James superpowers so he may be the one who will end up in a battle with Lex during the finale because of their history together is not an appealing one. It again shows that unfortunately they just aren't sure what to do with this character.

Supergirl is again powering towards what is looking more and more like its most dynamic season finale, bringing all storylines to a head in coming episodes. Share your thoughts on this episode and what you think is going to happen in the comments section following Zandarl's thoughts on the episode below.

Zandarl's thoughts –

This was an episode I had been looking forward to since I learned of the title. With Supergirl having to lay low because of the accusations against her it's up to Dreamer to become the newest superhero in town. It also marks the anticipated directorial debut of David Harewood and a fine job he did too. In a rather complex episode that deals with PTSD and James' powers become apparent from the Harun-El. It also unlocks a painful memory buried in James past. We see Lena and Kara's strained friendship in the aftermath of her being unable to explain her absence of late. Lena opens up to Kara which makes you think if Lena ever does find out the truth about Kara it would break her.

The highlight though was seeing a return of Kara Danvers reporter and a wonderful interview with Dreamer at Catco I love the line ‘The greatest gift we can give each other is our authentic self' as she speaks out about being half human an alien and being a trans woman. Nicole Maines has been a wonderful addition to this season. Unfortunately, Lockwood's bully boys were the downside and I fear Lockwood's hate will be further fueled by the Murder of his wife. It was a great episode and continuing is a very strong emotional charged season 4.

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