I’m honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed “City of Lost Children.” A James-centric episode was the last thing I wanted after this scattered season, but this ended up being one of the season’s most coherent hours. The episode’s disparate story lines ended up coming together in ways that made sense emotionally and fit the plot. If I have two complaints about the hour, they’re that Kara was mostly sidelined for this male-heavy story and that it’s another outing that’s mainly concerned with parent problems. Let’s dive in.
Written by Gabriel Llanas and Anna Musky-Goldwyn, the hour finds James undergoing a crisis of confidence because he isn’t the beacon of hope he hoped he would be. The episode opens with a woman he saves being more scared of him than she was of her assailant, which makes James worried that he’s more like Clark’s friend with the ears than he is like Superman and Supergirl. Thankfully, this week’s crisis — a Phorian alien using her telepathic and telekinetic powers on a flower festival — provides him with a purpose.
The incident ignites fears that the government will start rounding up aliens again, and the DEO puts all its efforts into finding the Phorian. James offers to help, but J’onn shuts him down. However, James ends up finding the most useful lead after he stops a drug deal and the buyer tells him where to find the Phorian. James heads to her home, but instead of finding her, he finds her son, Marcus. Marcus is initially scared of James, but he forms a connection with him after James takes off his mask.
J’onn and Alex quickly realize that James will have much better luck breaking through to Marcus than they will, so they allow him to spend the day with the boy, which leads to a couple of poignant moments when James shows Marcus how to use a camera. (I was surprised by how endearing their scenes together were. I suspect it was mainly because of the performances.)
Unfortunately, Lena Luthor and Rhea together unintentionally ruin James and Marcus’ day. The quasi mother-daughter duo are hard at work on their quantum entanglement project, which has hit a roadblock because Lena can’t figure out some of the science. Rhea, the master manipulator, turns on her motherly charm and gives Lena the pep talk she needs to fix the problem. She tells Lena to stop thinking like her brother and to start thinking like herself, which is a nuanced bit of writing because the show reminds us that Lena isn’t as power-hungry as her offscreen brother. And it works. Lena and Rhea run their first test on the portal they’re working on, which has an effect on the Phorians.
The moment they turn on the portal, Marcus goes into a trance, and his powers start to tear apart the CatCo building. The sequence is impressive because I didn’t expect these two story lines to connect on anything more than a thematic level. James tries to talk Marcus down, but he can’t. Thank god, Supergirl arrives in time and flies Marcus out of the building before he brings it down. Marcus snaps out of his trance the moment Lena shuts down the machine.
Even though the DEO knows Marcus wasn’t in control of his powers, they’re forced to put him in a containment cell in case he has another episode. The incident at CatCo further discourages James, who thinks he screwed up by taking Marcus to the office and putting all of those lives in danger. J’onn, who dismissed him earlier, gives him another pep talk in which he basically says that James might be able to find his purpose by helping Marcus. So James heads back into Marcus’ cell for another chat, opening up about the hardships he endured growing up (his father dying, bullying). James says that meeting Clark helped him drop his guard. He ends up breaking through to Marcus, who tells him where his mother is hiding.
Meanwhile, Winn’s scan of the city reveals there was an atmospheric change that caused the Phorian’s episodes. Kara realizes that one of the elements involved is related to something Lena is working on, so she calls her. To her surprise, Rhea answers the phone and reveals what everyone suspects: The portal is for a nefarious purpose that will cause the destruction of the city. I can’t stress enough how great Teri Hatcher is in this role. She’s chewing scenery like it’s nobody’s business, and I love it!
Although Winn isn’t able to trace Rhea’s call, it doesn’t matter because his computer alerts him when Rhea turns the portal back on — which is a problem, and not just because Rhea reveals that she betrayed Lena, who can’t turn off the portal no matter how much she tries. Across town, James, Winn, and Marcus find Marcus’ mother hiding in an abandoned factory. They have a psychic dampener with them that should work on both Marcus and his mother; however, they find something they weren’t expecting: an entire group of Phorians, which the dampener can’t handle. The moment Rhea turns on the portal, ish hits the proverbial fan.
The collective strength of the Phorians’ powers threatens to bring down not only the building but the entire city. Winn begs James to get out there, but James insists on staying behind and trying to break through to Marcus. It works, and the Phorians break out of their trance. It’s James’ non-superhero suit heroic moment, and I hope it convinces him that he doesn’t need to be a vigilante to be a hero. He broke through to Marcus using just his words. Maybe he’ll realize how much power his words have, and we’ll get to see him devote more time to CatCo.
Meanwhile, Supergirl, J’onn, and Mon-El confront Rhea at the portal’s site, but their efforts are in vain because Rhea thought this plan through. Using White Martian technology, she subdues J’onn, which is the cleverest way the show has found to sideline such a CGI-heavy character. Supergirl tries to shut the portal down using brute force, but that doesn’t work, and it knocks her out for a minute or two. Mon-El pulls a gun on his mother because lead is lethal to Daxamites, but he can’t bring himself to pull the trigger once Rhea lies to him and says his father committed suicide after Mon-El chose Kara over them. Basically, Team Supergirl fails to stop what Rhea brings through the portal: Every Daxamite ship that was scattered across the universe converges above the National City skyline. It’s Invasion 2.0, and Supergirl probably doesn’t have time to jump to another Earth for reinforcements.
The title of tonight’s episode refers not only to Marcus, but pretty much half the cast. James is lost and without purpose because this whole Guardian thing isn’t working out the way he hoped; Lena’s poor relationship with her mother has left open to Rhea’s manipulation; and Mon-El still finds himself missing his mother, even if he’s angry with what she’s become. The show brings all of these elements together beautifully in that final sequence that jumps between James’ handling of the Phorians and the Rhea confrontation. That being said, I’ll reiterate what I said last week: I’m growing tired with the superhero genre’s focus on parents. Yes, losing a parent is tough ordeal, but the trope has started to lose its potency because we’ve seen it so many times, and Supergirl isn’t bringing much new to it. However, I’m excited to see next week’s episode, which promises not only the return of Cat Grant but also a Supergirl-Cadmus team-up, which we should’ve seen coming.
Wall of Weird:
- There was so much food in tonight’s episode that I thought it felt like I was watching Master of None in a few scenes. Burgers, curly fries, milkshakes, Chinese food!
- The episode opened with Kara and Lena talking about ‘NSYNC, which was more enjoyable than it sounds. Lena and Kara’s friendship continues to be one of my favorite things about this season.
- Teri Hatcher’s shrug when Mon-El asked what she did to the portal was PRICELESS.