Well there’s a definite problem in National City and it’s not that Supergirl is seemingly out for the count. Reign (Odette Annable) finally made her presence known on the Supergirl midseason finale Monday, as she staged an epic battle against the Girl of Steel (Melissa Benoist), but it was the episode’s B plot that really gave me cause for concern. Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath) and James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), possibly the only character not sparking on screen with the CEO until this point, were all the sudden making heart eyes at each other at a holiday party and later Lena even kissed him. Not only did the sudden emergence of this relationship give viewers a sense of whiplash, since up until now James has questioned Lena’s motives on more than one occasion, but it also felt like a direct slap in the face to fans who long to see Lena and Kara as more than just friends.
Since practically the moment McGrath joined the show in Season 2 there have been fans shipping Supercorp, and hoping that a Super and a Luthor may one day be more than just friends. While the show has never said Kara is anything but straight, and the writers have almost insistently made Kara and Lena call each other “best friends” and now even “sisters. However, the on screen chemistry between McGrath and Benoist has continued to rage on, leaving Supercorp fans continuously holding out hope. That’s why it’s very disappointing, and frankly transparent, that the show’s latest attempt to silence Kara and Lena shippers is to put Lena into a romantic relationship with James, based on nothing more than the fact that he is a man.
Now, go with me for a minute and consider the following characteristics when looking at a potential suitor for Ms. Luthor: this person works at CatCo, masquerades as a superhero, has a special connection to Superman, suffered parental loss at an early age and is kind, caring and longs for justice. None of those traits set James and Kara a part from one another. The only evident difference is the fact that Kara is the suitor fans have actually been clamoring for and the one that Lena has been building a friendship and relationship with. Instead, Supergirl wants us to believe that just because James is a guy that he’s the one who is great for Lena, and try as I might, I’m sorry but I just cannot buy what the show is selling this time. There’s a reason that the ‘ship name for James and Lena is “Lames.” It pretty much speaks for itself in regards to the heteronormative agenda the show is trying to push with this pairing.
Not only do the writers think by coupling up James and Lena that they will further silence vocal fans of Supercorp, but it solves another big problem in that they have absolutely no clue what to do with James as a character. With Supergirl being a CW show, the easy and natural answer is to put him in a relationship of course! However, audiences are smarter than that and definitely deserve more. Heck, the Season 1 James Olsen we all met and that Kara Danvers fell for deserves more than that! Putting him into a relationship with Lena feels forced on so many levels and it’s not the fix the show is looking for. Please Supergirl, stop forcing chemistry where it doesn’t exist, instead of leaning into it when it’s leaping off the screen at you.
There are many reasons that James and Lena taking things to the next level feels forced, but the least of which is James’ behavior regarding Lena in practically every episode we’ve seen until now. James, on more than one occasion, has questioned Lena’s true motives and allegiances to Kara, Supergirl and the greater good. He’s routinely doubted her and seen her as no more than her last name, the very thing that Lena has been actively fighting against since the moment we met her. Why would Lena, a brilliant woman, be so quick to change her mind about him solely because he helped her one time in regards to Morgan Edge? It just makes no sense.
While Supergirl is on the CW, it should look no further than fellow DC property Legends of Tomorrow to see that not every character must be in a romantic relationship. Ensemble characters can interact without a romance existing between them. Some of Supergirl’s best relationships have been friendships, and I think the show would be well served to go back to that for James. Remember how James was Guardian and Winn was helping him out? Let’s build that relationship back up, and in the process, you’d be solving two problems that plague the show. Both James and Winn deserve a better story than the one they currently have, which is almost non-existent at times.
I’m not even saying that there’s no storyline to be had for James and Lena. She is his boss at CatCo after all, and the show hasn’t known what to do there since Cat Grant left. Keep exploring how these two work together to take down Edge, but why oh why does it have to be in a romantic context? Again, the answer, while incorrect and extremely heteronormative, is simply because James is a man and Lena is a woman. Therefore, by all TV law, that dictates that they should date.
In stark contrast, if Supergirl ever allowed itself to actually explore a relationship between Kara Zor-El and a Luthor, that’s one story that would be so much more interesting. Kara may not be currently ready for a relationship, since she’s still clearly dealing with fallout from the one she had with Mon-El (Chris Wood), but that’s probably not always going to be the case. At its core, TV is about creating drama, keeping viewers engaged and wanting more. What is more dramatic than a Luthor and a Super working together and having a special connection?
Whether or not the special connection shared by Kara and Lena one day turns romantic remains to be seen. But I can’t fathom why Supergirl so defiantly and resolutely has closed itself off to the possibility of something more between them potentially happening by having the writers and cast constantly insist the characters are just friends and nothing more. One can argue all day long that McGrath just has chemistry with every actor she works with, but the difference between the glances given by James and Kara to Lena is evident with every scene.
The litmus test I constantly use when it comes to Supercorp is “If I described this scene to you and instead had one of those characters be a guy, then what would we be expected to believe?” More often than not, the answer to my question is that the two characters are unknowingly involved in the plot of a rom-com movie. Think about it for a second: they are from different backgrounds and families that were never meant to get along, yet somehow they’ve formed a tight bond. When everything else is against them and no one believes them, they know there’s one person who always will. For goodness sake, just last week in the DC crossover episode the vows said by The Flash’s Iris to Barry at their wedding were almost exactly the same to something Lena said to Kara in Season 2. To not acknowledge that feels like the latest in a series of slaps to the face for Supercorp fans.
As much as I don’t believe in setting Lena up for a romance with James just because he’s a guy, I also don’t believe that writers should do everything fans want either. Even though Supercorp is an insanely popular ship and many Supergirl viewers want it to come to fruition, that doesn’t mean the writers should automatically put them together if the story isn’t ready or right. All I ask Supergirl is that you not be cruel and please be mindful of the decisions you are making.
Storylines can have ramifications far reaching just what happens to the characters on screen. Unfortunately, for the time being, the fact that the James and Lena ship is setting sail comes across more as a result of the fact that he’s a guy than because the characters have any real spark or chemistry. You may prove me wrong in the future Supergirl, that remains to be seen, but now I can’t help but be left with a feeling that I have far too often when it comes to this show: just do better. I know you can and you have the potential, so just be better.
What did you think of the Supergirl midseason finale and the start of James and Lena’s relationship? Add your thoughts below!
Supergirl airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on Showcase and The CW.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.