When we last left Supergirl/Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) in the stakes-raising mid-season, winter-break finale several weeks ago, she had taken down her super-powered Kryptonian aunt, Astra (Laura Benanti), the insurgent leader/general whose views on how to save and/or protect humanity from itself contrasted sharply with Supergirl’s save-one, save-all superhero philosophy. A super-powered battled above the mid-day skies of National City left Supergirl apparently triumphant and Astra defeated, but a closer look at the videotape revealed that Astra threw the fight. She wanted to be captured by Supergirl and imprisoned in the DEO (Department of Extra-Normal Operations), in part as a diversionary tactic to allow Astra’s second-in-command and husband, Non (Chris Vance), a head start on breaking and entering Maxwell “Lex Luthor Lite” Lord’s (Peter Facinelli) HQ to steal something or other before Supergirl and the DEO, led by Hank Henshaw/Martian Manhunter (David Harewood) and Alex (Chyler Leigh), Supergirl’s adopted sister, attempted to stop them.
Episode 10, “Blood Bonds,” opens seconds later after the conclusion of episode 8, “Hostile Takeover,” with Supergirl in a punch-fest with Non – easily one of the better superhero vs. super-villain fight in the series to this point – before Non flees, but not before kidnapping Henshaw, leaving a stunned, slow-to-react Supergirl and Alex behind. Non’s break-in of Lord’s HQ only confirms Lord’s suspicions about superpowered aliens: They pose an existential threat that must be handled with extreme prejudice. That existential threat includes Supergirl and her much more famous cousin, Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman. Lord isn’t completely wrong, of course, though his prejudice/hatred blinds him to Supergirl’s true allegiance to her adopted home. Whatever Non and his Kryptonian army attempted to uncover, however, remains a mystery until the final shot, a tease for an all-new, if slightly familiar, super-villain once again borrowed from the Superman mythos.
With Henshaw effectively out of commission, leadership of the DEO falls on Alex, but before she enjoy the perks of being called “Director Danvers,” General Sam Lane (Glenn Morshower), all-around nuisance and champion meddler, steps in to take control both of the DEO and the plan to recover Henshaw safely. It’s clear what Non wants (Astra), but a seriously misguided, under-prepared Lane, a militarist at heart, can only think in zero-sum terms (humans win or the Kryptonians do). He’s even willing to torture Astra to obtain the location of her super-secret base, a decision that sours Supergirl, potentially tipping her allegiance against the U.S. military, a potentially destructive Lane ignores. His “violence solves every problem” essentially pairs him up with Non philosophically with Astra, torn here more than in earlier episodes, struggling with her feelings toward Supergirl and her late (twin) sister, Alura, and finding an equitable solution to the still non-specific conflict.
“Blood Bonds” doesn’t come close to solving the Kryptonian problem – apparently, that conflict will slide from stalemate to open war in the second half of season one as needed – but at least it delivered one legit superpowered battle (a prerequisite to keep viewers watching) with the promise of future superpowered conflicts to come. On the plus side, foregrounding the Kryptonian problem pushed the Supergirl-James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) romance into the background if only for an episode. With Winn (Jeremy Jordan) still pining for Supergirl (he desperately needs to move on and move quickly), the C-plot (Lord’s nefarious doings filled up the B-plot quotient) turned on Cat Grant’s (Calista Flockhart) near breathless revelation that she knows Supergirl and Kara are one and the same person.
Grant’s certainty, however, didn’t create a new status quo for Kara and Grant’s relationship. Instead, the C-plot turned on Kara’s increasingly futile, half-hearted efforts to convince Grant she’s not Supergirl (and vice versa). By the end of the episode, a little subterfuge helped Supergirl convince Grant of the errors of her ways/thinking, a disappointing resolution that felt too close to the similar bait-and-switch technique all too common in comic books: A return to the status quo after the promise of the opposite. Hopefully, Supergirl’s producers won’t return to this dry well again in the near future (or the semi-distant one too). Supergirl could also do without Clark Kent’s periodic check-ins via text. One, we don’t need weekly reminders of Superman’s co-presence in the Supergirl universe. Two, it’s a clumsy workaround the “Don’t show Superman (except in silhouette or partially” rule the producers have imposed on the series. Better to not show Superman at all or even mention him than to half-ass it the way the series keeps doing. Just say no to Superman – at least where Supergirl is involved.