Episode Title: Blood Bonds
Original Broadcast Date: 1-4-2015
Blood bonds us all. This motif threads through “Blood Bonds”, the return episode of Supergirl’s début season following the Christmas break, allowing the show to tackle deeper aspects of the character’s mythology. The last few episodes have hinted at things not being quite kosher for Kara’s Kryptonian mother, now represented in her deceased form by the vaguely not-quite-Fortress-of-Solitude hidden at the DEO. The arrival of Aunt Astra (Laura Benanti, playing the dual roles of Astra and her twin sister Alura) brought conflict through opposing views on Krypton’s fate, although initially we were led to believe Alura did a Jor El and gave Krypton a futile message to flee impending destruction – now, it would appear that wasn’t the case, with Astra’s increasingly believable argument that she was the one crying out in warning, only to be imprisoned with her husband, Non (Chris Vance) on Fort Roz, striking a chord with the young Kara. Like I said: appears.
When we last left Supergirl, she was tackling a bunch of Non’s lackeys who were attacking a facility owned by Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli); the end result of which sees Non kidnap Hank Henshaw (David Harewood) and hold the DEO, led by Alex Danvers, hostage. Astra, meanwhile, is held prisoner inside the DEO, where the returning Sam Lane (Glenn Morshower) takes control and tortures the Kyrptonian for information. With Lord covering up the attack, Jimmy and Winn engage in some industrial espionage to learn why, but Jimmy is captured and beaten as a warning to stay away. Kara, meanwhile, is confused about her mother and Aunt’s competing ideologies, hoping – a lot like Luke Skywalker to his father – her faith in Astra isn’t misplaced.
As we surmised earlier in the season, Maxwell Lord is being groomed as Supergirl’s Lex Luthor, a ruthless billionaire industrialist inventor type who wants to rid Earth of aliens – specifically, Kara and her ilk – and “Blood Bonds” casts aside the shackles of pretence and finally gives Peter Facinelli the moment to gristle down with his dark side. His “interrogation” of Jimmy is actually pretty scary, whilst the plotting and planning at Lord’s facility indicates further trouble for the Girl of Steel; I admit I didn’t think Facinelli had the chops to go full Luthor with this much skill, but I’m utterly wrong. He makes a compelling and potentially series-salvaging uber-villain, which the show desperately needs. Villains-of-the-week can only achieve so much.
The episode also handles the issue of identity; both Kara’s secret in the hands of Cat Grant, and Hank Henshaw’s not-who-he-says-he-is mystery are resolved to a degree here, with the traditional “double reveal” of both Kara and Supergirl in the same room providing both a nice wrap-up and nod to comic book lore. Henshaw’s secret is also finally revealed to Kara, attaching itself to the blood motif woven into the fabric of this episode. In retrospect, “Blood Bonds” actually throws up a load of story convulsions I kinda figured would be stretched out until season’s end: I’m glad to see these sub-plots resolved, and await whatever the writers have designed next.
“Blood Bonds” delivers a brisk, danger-lite episode that has moments of action (the battle between Kara and Non early in the episode is nicely handled, especially with the passing aircraft) and drama (the arrival of Sam Lane heralds a significant shift in DEO paradigm) but it’s definitely the Maxwell Lord stuff that elevates the show considerably. Supergirl’s intractable determination to blow the lid of Lord’s scheming indicates to me we’re set for an almighty showdown at the season finale. I hope.
Supergirl kicks off strongly following the mid-season break, closes out a multitude of sub-plots and sets in motion a few more. While character development is thrust out of the limelight in favor of a breathless action aesthetic (frankly, I’m growing out of the pre-teen demographic demand for a love arc within these shows), you never get the sense that the show is spinning its wheels meaninglessly, stretching out episodes just to bulk up a seasonal order. There’s substance to “Blood Bonds”, a definite arc of familial interaction the show has carefully woven since its début episode’s prologue on Krypton. Secrets are revealed, hidden, and revealed again, and although the visual effects are still hidden by consecutive night-time settings (makes it easier to hide the cables, I guess), there’s a stability and sense of fleshing itself out which indicates the show has matured somewhat.