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Supergirl introduces its new Guardian

Another week, another episode of Supergirl with wonderful intentions and imperfect execution. Like a lot of entries in the back half of Supergirl’s sixth and final season, “Blind Spots” has a distinctly “very special” episode quality to it. Kelly’s official debut as Guardian is tied to a broader story about systemic racism, white fragility, and the importance of true allyship in the face of the dispiriting exhaustion of oppression. All fantastic issues for the show to be exploring, for sure—especially given how white its feminism was for its first few seasons. The problem is that Supergirl’s sixth season is struggling to figure out how to frame these important issues in a way that doesn’t just feel like a PSA. And while “Blind Spots” has some compellingly original ideas and powerful metaphorical images—like a rich white councilwoman literally draining the lifeforce from the people of color in her district—they fight for screentime with the show’s more didactic impulses.

The bulk of “Blind Spots” is centered around the collapse of the Ormfell apartment building two episodes ago, which the Super Friends largely brushed past in their rush to figure out a way to stop Nyxly. It turns out Kelly was one of the first people on the scene, however. And after literally pulling poor little Joey from the rumble, she’s horrified to see the lack of resources available at the local hospital in the Heights. In an obvious parallel for the Covid pandemic, respirators and nurses are in short supply for desperate community members, even as privileged people like Councilwoman Rankin are able to get personalized care and expensive trial drugs in wealthy areas. It’s a brutally honest portrait of the twin evils of underfunding and medical racism. And the inequality is almost too much for Kelly to bear, especially when her Super Friends are too distracted by big picture problems with Nyxly to take the time to back her up.

The thing is, that message would ring a lot truer if this season hadn’t dedicated so much time to showing Kara serving as Orlando’s advocate in such a direct and personal way. If the point of this episode were to shine a light on the way white allies can be committed to fighting racial injustice one second only to get distracted by a different social problem the next, that would be a pointed, timely message. But instead “Blind Spots” has Kara and Alex experience some moments of racial reckoning 101 that just don’t feel entirely true for where they’re at in the series. I’m all for highlighting the blind spots and flaws of the Danvers sisters. But in the scenes where they inelegantly but earnestly express their guilt, confusion, and desire to help, they feel more like generic white women avatars than the characters we’ve seen grow and mature in matters of allyship over the past six years.

Indeed, “Blind Spots” is at its best when it leans into the specificity of its characters, rather than trying to deliver broader social commentary. Azie Tesfai (who also co-wrote the episode) gets some standout acting moments as Kelly struggles to keep her usually carefully controlled emotions in check. You can feel her pain build up each time her small, human concerns are brushed aside for some big picture superheroing. And she has lovely chemistry with David Ramsey (who also directed the episode) as John Diggle rounds out his Arrowverse tour with a stop in National City. While it definitely feels like a role that was conceived for James and awkwardly grafted onto Dig, “Blind Spots” finds some nice moments of connection for Kelly and Diggle—from their shared military backgrounds to their shared experiences with racial trauma. Not to mention their shared experiences working with white superheroes who don’t always listen to their points of view without proof.

Similarly, I always appreciate when Supergirl has J’onn grapple with his experience as a Martian who’s spent most of his time on Earth living as a Black man. And having Brainy offer some 31st century perspective was also a welcome use of the specificity of the show’s setup. (Although, oof, the idea that things are still bad that far into the future is pretty bleak.) The moment Andrea explains that what happens in the Heights isn’t newsworthy for CatCo’s demographic beyond its impact on the city’s traffic is brutal in how tossed off it is. And the closest this episode comes to finding specificity in Kara’s story is in the idea that she was more willing to fight for alien rights back in season four because she felt a personal connection to that struggle in a way she doesn’t with racism.

As for Kelly’s climatic debut as Guardian, it’s… fine? Or at least on par with the effects and action of the rest of the season—which is to say, not particularly impressive. I’m not sure I needed Kelly to become a literal superhero this late into the show’s run, especially when it could’ve been fascinating to see her lead the same battle for social justice from a civilian point of view. But there’s a certain degree of rolling with the punches I’ve learned to do with that kind of stuff on these CW superhero shows. And at least the scene where Brainy excitedly shows off his costume ideas is fun. (Although I actually found it harder to accept that Orlando couldn’t recognize Kelly in a mask than the fact that National City can’t recognize Kara once she takes her glasses off.)

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