Supergirl’s “Menagerie” episode starts with a scene about the old saying of crime doesn’t pay. Two jewel thieves find their getaway interrupted when the monster of the week drops by, literally. I get where they were going with it, but I believe they are slightly misusing the title’s word. Yes, I’m being picky about word use. Writers can be like that.
Kara and Alex drop by J’Onn’s new office, which shows that either his business is doing amazingly well or real estate/office rental in National City is really cheap. Then again, with aliens and monsters attacking seemingly at least once a week or so, I could see that devaluing the market. At any rate, they talk about Valentine’s Day, and Alex’s dissatisfaction with her personal life. Vague plans for the evening get put on hold when Alex gets called in to deal with the fallout from the opening scene. Kara complains to J’Onn how much she misses her sister. I really don’t think this subplot is going well. With the resources of Brainy and J’Onn both, was this really the best the could come up with? As Kara leaves, J’Onn gets a new client. He’s doing remarkably well for himself.
Brainy and Nia get a very confused scene involving condolences, Valentine’s, heroic training, and a party. For a psychic, Nia has remarkably little insight, and for a genius, Brainy is amazingly clueless. In the comics, both Dream Girl and Brainiac 5 have long term romances, but Dream Girl’s Star Boy hasn’t’ shown up in this era, and Brainy’s is, well, Supergirl herself, and that’s not going happen on this show. The ever annoying Ben Lockwood gets a visit in prison from his wife and son, who have both drunk the Kool-Aid for his anti-alien cause.
Alex’s day gets steadily worse as she’s dealing with on-scene fatalities, the return of Col. Haley, and finding out that even her despicable boss has more of a family life than she does. Alex is not having a good Valentine’s Day. Haley also brings word that the President isn’t happy at all about Lockwood’s growing popularity. Back at the office, Alex examines the body, Brainy does a suspect sketch, and reveals a phobia that is wholly invented for this show, but at least makes a good movie reference about it.
J’Onn drops in on Kara at the apparently randomly remodeled CatCo offices (did they lose the old set or something?). He briefs her on his new case, and asks for some help since neither one of them have the DEO to rely on anymore. He also makes a suggestion about one of Kara’s ongoing recent concerns. James visits Lena, bringing a gift, and she makes her own proposal that catches him off guard. No, not THAT kind of proposal.
Kara and J’Onn go over his missing persons case. Somehow, despite the fact that this guy is a relatively high-ranking government official, they seem to be the only ones looking for him. Brainy is dividing his time between actually doing his job for Alex and hunting for Valentine’s gifts. J’Onn calls for help on his case, and Alex says she’s too busy, but suggests he calls Brainy, making a self-pitying comment about him being good at multitasking. It’s an odd suggestion, since Brainy is still in the same room with her. Wouldn’t just handing him the phone have made more sense? Kara and J’Onn come up with a lead that make them think their missing man may just be indulging in extra-marital activities.
Haley offers a business deal to Lena, who spoils Haley’s nice dramatic entrance. George Lockwood decides to carry on in his father’s name, inciting people to illegal action. J’Onn and Kara track down their lead, find some bad news, and their investigation runs smack into Alex’s. After some explanations, Kara offers to help, and J’Onn backs her up. Alex is in overprotective sister mode, since she doesn’t know who Kara really is anymore. They call in Brainy for a consult, but he’s at Nia and Yvonne’s (Nia’s roommate) Valentine’s party. Somehow, what makes the most sense in a murder investigation is to go the party. While the President continues to fume about Lockwood’s popularity, Alex runs into someone she had drinks with, another part of her personal life she’s let slip away from her.
Lena and James leave for a romantic trip together, while George goes to see his father in prison again. Once more, the writers show their ignorance of the criminal justice/prison system, as there’s no way in hell they’d let an unaccompanied minor in on their own. Lockwood encourages his son to keep going with their cause. Kara and J’Onn find Brainy hiding in a closet, because the superhero can’t handle a roommate who likes to dance. Kara sees Nia off by herself and goes to offer some encouraging words. Alex talks to her friend some more, and Brainy sends them off with another lead after Kara wheedles her way into the investigation.
They all get to the suspect’s place, and Brainy immediately attacks, surprising everyone else. General chaos ensues as Brainy is proven right, J’Onn temporarily forgets his own powers, and Kara’s newly secret identity hampers Alex’s effectiveness. The villain names themselves, and Brainy pulls a maneuver straight out of a Warner Brothers cartoon while the villain gets away and heroes rescue themselves.
We detour into soap opera land, as Alex goes on about never forgiving herself if Kara got hurt. Lena brings up Haley’s offer, and the two of them have an escalating disagreement about it which ends in the trip, and possibly the relationship, being cancelled. I like Lena and James as a couple, but not the ridiculous drama they are attaching to it. Nia has a vision of Supergirl fighting the alien, then wakes up and realizes it hasn’t happened yet. Kara talks to J’Onn about the new status quo being bad for Alex. The Children of Liberty show up to fight a powerful, killer alien with bats and axes (no pitchforks and torches?), and the few that survive pass a lead on to George.
Things come to a dramatic climax at the Heart Association Ball (ironic on a few levels, as Brainy points out). There’s a several sided fight between Supergirl, the alien, the DEO, and the Children. Somehow, after a few of the Children dying, the rest decided to show up bigger numbers, which generally isn’t how this kind of thing works. In the end, the heroes win, the Children take credit, and Haley isn’t happy. Bizarrely, given her attitude of late, Alex suddenly sticks up for Supergirl with the Colonel. Supergirl and Dreamer (Nia) have a post-fight chat, and she later confuses Brainy by asking for training.
Things end in a series of strange notes. Alex comes by Kara’s place, bearing discount chocolate and resolve to fix her personal life. Lena makes a tearful phone call to persons unknown, although we can probably guess. The President makes a calculated, cowardly political decision, leading to a big break for a bad guy and a public demonstration. And there are more writer prison screw ups as the villain gets a letter from someone we haven’t seen in a bit, setting up to echo some events in the comics.
What I liked: Supergirl is very supportive of her friends, which is a great quality she shares with Barry Allen and they both have more of than Oliver Queen. I’m glad they at least mentioned Winn in passing. Nice to know he hasn’t been forgotten entirely. J’Onn has a nice niche carved out for himself. I’m glad Nia is taking the first steps toward being a hero, even if she’s in the wrong century.
What I didn’t: Where are the Children of Liberty getting energy weapons from? They lost all their big backers as far as we know. There were multiple errors about the prison which just show a basic lack of research or indifference to accuracy. I am really not liking the Alex can’t know Kara is Supergirl drama, or the Lena/James soap opera. The President is a disappointing weasel, harder to swallow after Lynda Carter’s turn as the former Chief Executive. Why did they decide to go to a party in the midst of a murder investigation, and why were so few people looking for a missing government official?
The show strikes a warm moral tone overall, which I like, but is slipping on almost every other level. I’ll give this a 2.5 out of 5.