TV

In ‘Supergirl,’ Villains Are Bad And Heroes Sometimes Only Slightly Less So

Now that the midseason break is over for Supergirl, fans of Greg Berlanti’s CBS show are about to get an episode a week for 10-straight weeks without interruption. And Monday night’s return from the break, “Childish Things,” was also a return to form for the series about Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist), the Kryptonian cousin of Clark Kent. How so? Because it combined the villain-of-the-week model with a few healthy doses of character development, story progression and fan service to make a pretty good episode. Not perfect, mind you, but pretty good.

Much of the episode centered on Jeremy Jordan’s Winn Schott, whose comic book namesake is the Superman villain, Toyman. Instead of being an early version of the character, however, Jordan’s Schott Jr. is actually the son of Winslow Schott Sr., also known as the Toyman. Played to perfection by Henry Czerny with equal parts sincerity, viciousness and intentional ham, the bad guy of “Childish Things” is everything comic book fans want. Plenty of believability and a touch of development character, particularly Schott Sr.’s loving, but crazed desire to reunite with his son, his “greatest work.” But he’s mostly an absolute baddie for the heroine to battle and eventually defeat.

Though Toyman serves Supergirl in this capacity, Schott Sr.’s biggest moments ultimately go to his son. What results are several opportunities for Jordan to stand out, and stand out he does — especially in two scenes with Czerny. In the first, the pair meets in an arcade populated with games, plush animals and toys of all kinds. Wearing a wire provided by the authorities, Winn attempts to make contact with his father and convince him to go back to prison. Winslow, meanwhile, tries to convince his son that he broke out of prison for him, and that his otherwise malevolent intentions are coming from the right place.

Turns out the Toyman still has a soft spot for his adult son, and he wants to make up for all their lost time together. Of course, he was never really a father to Schott Jr. because, erm, he killed a lot of people, did a lot of other bad things and wound up in prison. And because these are the same tools with which Winslow hopes to repair his damaged relationship with Winn — like orchestrating the death of a former boss whom he deems responsible for his imprisonment — all hope of reconciliation between the two is rendered meaningless. Besides, nothing says “I love you, son” like forcing a child to kill an individual with the threat of killing hundreds more — a scenario Winslow forces Winn into during their second scene.

Czerny’s Toyman contains several nods to the comics — from the bitterness he has for a former employer, to the round glasses he wears. Not only did the Schott of DC Comics fame often wear those glasses, but his initial downfall was a the result of Lex Luthor’s purchase of his company and designs, which resulted in joblessness. The vengeful Toyman sought to destroy Luthor, but Superman saved the equally villainous businessman and the city of Metropolis from the mater maker’s plans. Yet these minor allusions pale in comparison to the biggest example of fan service in “Childish Things.”

I am, of course, talking about J’onn J’onzz (David Harewood), otherwise known as the Martian Manhunter. While keeping up appearances as Hank Henshaw, J’onzz continues to work for the Department of Extranormal Operations with Kara’s adopted sister, Alex (Chyler Leigh). While Toyman and Supergirl face off with one another, they infiltrate Maxwell Lord’s (Peter Facinelli) lab and discover the comatose woman revealed in “Blood Bonds.” The larger arc evident from this woman’s multiple appearances suggests the coming arrival of Supergirl‘s version of Bizarro, but the scene itself speaks volumes for Harewood’s character.

That’s because, in order to sneak into Lord’s facility, J’onzz shapeshifts into the businessman and gains access to the room where the pale, blue-blooded woman is being kept. Everything seems fine until one of Lord’s guards breaks into the room and discovers the disguised Martian Manhunter. With no real means of rescuing the woman or escaping without detection, J’onzz wipes the guard’s memory, takes a few shots of the room’s setup and leaves.

On the surface, the DEO director’s escape in this scene seems like a routine superhero maneuver. After all, like Danvers, Kent and the other powered individuals who populate Berlanti’s television universe, these are the kinds of special skills that dire situations like J’onzz’s discovery require. However, as he later tells Alex Danvers, “I told you if I use my powers, someone’s going to get hurt.” When she asks him what happened, J’onzz admits he did “something I swore I’d never do again” and walks away. So, what did the Martian Manhunter do, exactly?

As the subsequent scene explains, the memory wipe he performed on Lord’s guard wasn’t as simple as selecting a few individual moments and erasing them from the brain. Rather, Supergirl throws a monkey wrench into the machine by revealing that the guard’s entire memory has been affected. “He doesn’t remember anything,” a doctor tells Lord. “We showed him photos of his wife and baby, and he didn’t know who they were.” Like Supergirl herself, it seems J’onzz’s abilities aren’t as perfect as the comics originally portrayed them. And while developments like these tend to sour the more ardent fans, it makes for a better television show.

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