REVIEW: Supergirl, S4E19 – American Dreamer

There was a lot to take in during this week’s Supergirl, but at its core “American Dreamer” was about new heroes rising up when they were most needed. Between Nia (Nicole Maines) making her public debut as Dreamer in the wake of Supergirl’s apparent disappearance and James (Mehcad Brooks) facing his fears in order to unlock his powers, National City’s aliens gained some powerful allies even as martial law cracks down all around them. Unfortunately the episode itself wasn’t as inspiring as its characters were, but that was more due to the sheer number of plotlines.

Take a stand, ladies.

Nia was in full Gryffindor form throughout, rescuing aliens and fending off Children of Liberty with the help of some expert coaching from Brainy (Jesse Rath). The only problem was that the 63% change of bring apprehended prevented him from joining her out on the field, and try as she might she couldn’t coax Kara out of hiding either. But that didn’t stop her from single-handedly protecting a group of aliens who were seeking refuge at the city’s favorite alien bar while “American Woman” was blasting through the speakers, even if general fear kept the victims from being as grateful as they otherwise could be. Her light-based powers weren’t the only method she used to help, and in fact it was her voice that may have done more damage to Ben Lockwood’s (Sam Witwer) xenophobic cause.

After poring over documents and sticking notes to windows failed to turn up any good Lex-related leads for Kara, the intrepid journalist realized she needed a source with a closer connection to Luthor’s corruption. Her Dryad coworker revealed that his sister Edna worked for Amertek, but Kara couldn’t get her to give up classified documents when her neck was on the line. Edna’s helplessness matched with the aliens at the bar so perfectly that Kara and Nia instead came up with the brilliant plan to take over national airwaves with an alien-human hybrid personality quiz for Nia, in order to inspire hearts and minds everywhere to stand up and fight the oppression of other species. If it sounds like I’m being facetious, it’s because this is where “American Alien” began dipping its to in the extreme cheese territory. I very much appreciated that broadcasting Dreamer’s story would (literally) humanize aliens, and I loved learning that Nia was a Gryffindor and Stark – not to mention how loudly I squealed when she covertly confessed her feelings for Brainy with an “I love nerdy boys who think too much” – but the logistics of this scenario stretched belief a little.

But at least the heartfelt ploy worked well enough to convince Ben’s son George to lay down his armband and throw away his mask, especially because he had just learned that his friend Charlie was an alien too. Not only that, it also inspired one of Ben’s own men to text Alex a warning that the Children of Liberty were coming to take Nia down and it convinced Edna to hand over the files to Kara. In this way, Supergirl managed to tie the storylines together without too much of a leap – but “American Dreamer” still had a lot more threads to weave in.

James was going through it.

Lena (Katie McGrath) was busy running tests on James to stop the Harun-El from attacking his system and causing panic attacks, but nothing seemed to work. So once more Brainy acted as an aide and took James into his “mind palace,” where they expected to find the Lex-adjacent root of his trauma. Instead, what they learned was that his fears stemmed from the day of his father’s funeral – a memory that was equally traumatic for Kelly (Azie Tesfai), who at the tender age of 8 needed her brother and was heartbroken when he bailed. While Brainy did his best to nudge them in the right direction, that of memory suppression, he accidentally triggered some deep-seated resentment between the siblings. Kelly was able to confide in Alex (Chyler Leigh), however, which allowed both women to find common ground and deepen their bond.

With that newfound strength, Kelly stepped into her brother’s mind and learned the truth about that day: James had been overtaken by bullies and locked in a casket. By rewriting his own narrative and defeating the other kids in his palace, James managed to grab hold of his powers and thus join the fight for Nia’s right to free speech at CatCo. And he wasn’t alone, because Brainy (after pondering “What does love feel like?” in response to Nia’s interview) came to her aid as well regardless of the percentage of apprehension. That was probably the climax of “American Dreamer,” and it was certainly satisfying even if it was a bit lost in the ocean of other stories.

One such story was the brewing feud between Lena and Kara, which in previous episodes of Supergirl seemed to exist more in fans’ minds than onscreen. But it was easy for Lena to turn that subtext into text when her negative emotions were exacerbated by her fear of failing James, and she tore into Kara when she came for help on her Lex research. After having spent more time with Supergirl (hmmm…) than her own best friend, Lena couldn’t help but notice that Kara had abandoned her to pursue her stories instead. It was a shoutout to fans clamoring for more Supercorp interaction, but it also brought up the question of why in the world Kara can’t just tell Lena the truth when the latter has more than proven herself. Nevertheless, after a pep talk from Brainy (who was really assisting everyone his week), the girls made up and Lena even confessed to working with Lex and saving his life. Kara of course understood standing by family when the chips are down, so hopefully the two will be closer than ever in future episodes… While Lena remains gaslighted for unknown reasons.

After sharing a sweet and simple moment together, Kara and Lena got started on their Lex investigation, which led them right back to Kaznia. But before they can go, and presumably before George can abandon the Children of Liberty and become a full-blown alien rights activist, a bereaved alien woman decided to kill Lockwood’s wife Lydia as vengeance for her husband’s unfair arrest. Which means that all the messy, hard-fought progress made in “American Woman” may have been reset to zero. And let’s not forget how we saw J’onn (David Harewood) drop off the Martian symbols in the desert in a scene totally unconnected to the rest of the hour, unless that will somehow come into play soon.

Supergirl airs Sundays at 8/7c on the CW.