Episode Title: Childish Things
Original Airdate: 18-1-2015
Family ties. Supergirl has spent the majority of its first season dealing primarily with the subject of family: Kara’s relationship with her Kryptonian lineage, via mother Alura and aunt Astra, as well as her Earthly bonds in adopted sister Alex, mother Eliza (Helen Slater) and father (Dean Cain). Some time has also been spent with Kara’s boss, Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), with hints of her sad emotional history bubbling away just below the superficial surface. Among those we really haven’t spent time with particularly include Kara’s CatCo ally Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan), who comes into focus this episode when his father, the murderous “Toyman”, Winslow Schott Snr (Henry Czerny), escapes from maximum security and comes after his progeny.
I have to say, of all the character arcs Supergirl has dealt with in the previous nine episodes, none has resonated more powerfully, or been delivered with as much skill and grace as Jeremy Jordan’s performance does here. Winn Jr’s journey from being a friend of Kara to being a character of his own, outside the “Jimmy Olsen template”, has been a long time brewing, and alongside the wonderful Henry Czerny, “Childish Things” has launched itself into being perhaps the most emotionally weighty episode yet. Czerny’s Toyman, Winn’s biological father, seeks revenge on his former boss for stealing his toy design and getting rich from it, and he plans to use his own son do exact his plan at the National City Toy Convention – convenient timing, I’ll say. With the FBI pursuing Schott Snr, and believing Schott Jr is his accomplice, Kara must race to help her friend from journeying down his father’s dark path.
“Childish Things” tackles Winn Jr’s discontent and confused emotional arc for his father’s criminality with a sense of purpose. I’m still not sure if Winn will inevitably cross to the dark side like his father, as part of some future storyline, but the angst provided by having Winn not be complicit in his dad’s affairs while having the FBi think he is, is one of the more emotionally satisfying narratives of the series thus far. Jordan’s performance in this episode dramatically removes a lot of the soft-clown theatrics the earlier episodes had him perform, a semi-comedy relief character now given his own chance to actually shine as a defined, rounded person in his own right. The “love triangle” between Kara, Winn and Jimmy has etched itself into the series, for better or worse, and finally some resolution to at least one-third of it comes along at the episode’s end. Perhaps not a resolution, per se, more of a pivot on which I suspect the latter half of the season will echo.
“Childish Things” has a couple of nice sub-plots working alongside Winn’s paternal issues. The dramatic revelation of Hank Henshaw (David Harewood) actually being the Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz, an alien from Mars with the ability to shapeshift, move through solid objects, and apparently use telepathy (which comes as no surprise to readers of DC Comics), delves into exactly why J’onn no longer wishes to take his natural form, and although I kinda-sorta bought the reasoning as far as the writers were concerned, it did feel a little bit of a gyp not having one bad-ass mo-fo alien doing his thing for the DEO. Alex Danver’s exhortion that Henshaw use his gifts to help the DEO and Kara as they try to determine Maxwell Lord’s duplicitous nature (a wonderful Peter Facinelli, priming himself as the best Lex Luthor clone since… well, ever) by going undercover to identify the mysterious woman held in one of Lord’s facilities, is among the better elements of an episode filled with dramatic heft, and both Harewood and Chyler Leigh do well with the dialogue.
Another of the pieces of “Childish Things” that works semi-well – finally – is the Jimmy Olsen/Lucy Lane subplot. Lucy is given a job by Cat as her legal counsel, which finds her at some manner of odds with Jimmy, her boyfriend. Although it’s handled badly by the writing – Jimmy’s distance between Lucy’s new job path and himself feels antagonistic simply for kicks – Mehcad Brooks and Jenna Dewan-Tatum do admirable jobs giving this weaker element of the episode some friction. Then there’s the obligatory cliffhanger, and man, it’s a doozy. Yet another person knows the links Supergirl has with Earth, and this revelation will have serious consequences for episodes going forward, save for any Martian brain manipulation.
Supergirl’s writing and character development seems to have settled into a comfortable normality, and most definitely achieves more now in a single episode than the show did in the opening five or six. As the character’s relationships with each other have solidified and expanded, the show can now stretch them in different ways to explore their personalities, and “Childish Things” marks the first really good attempt to do just that. With solid work by Jordan and, it must be said, Henry Czerny, as the chilling “Toyman”, “Childish Things” is easily the best character-driven episode of the show to-date.