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Welcome back to Maid of Steel! I’m flyin’ solo this week while Karen (the Scarlet Cougar) takes care of some life stuff. Most of my thoughts about the episode are in this podcast, as I keep the podcast pretty tight and stick to listener feedback. This post and podcast cover Supergirl Season 3 Episode 4 “The Faithful” which originally aired on October 30, 2017. Guest actors this week included Chad Lowe as cult leader (Thomas Coville) and Sofia Vassilieva as Olivia.
The Cult of Rao
Remember when Supergirl used to be humble? And spent time saving cats out of trees, standing up for young girls on the playground, and rushing to the aid of firemen because she just had so much fun helping people? Since we’ve strayed so far from the season one characterization of Supergirl, I’m not surprised that we got the person we did on screen this week, but it still has me scratching my head over why I continue to watch this show when the person of Supergirl is no longer someone I want to be like.
And I don’t mean be like as in… I want powers or want her hair. She used to be inspiring. Being Supergirl used to fill Kara with a sense of purpose. And now, since it is the only identity she thinks matters at all, it is her obligation. Two seasons after her introduction to the world, she is jaded and dark. She has been hurt and she suffers a broken heart. No, none of us can be surprised that events, transpiring as they did, have led us to this point. But… when do we get to see any growth? All I’ve seen are set backs, arrogance, ignorance, and a bunch of injected idealisms.
Just because an agenda is handled well, doesn’t make it any less of an agenda-centric episode. Perhaps the reason the message of “freedom of religion” is handled in a more balanced light is because the writers don’t care as much about it and had to take pains to research both sides. Instead of just ham-fisting their own ideology and then setting up the polar opposite, they rooted the cult of Rao (whose symbol, incidentally, made me think of an ice cream cone) in something real. After being saved by Supergirl’s debut plane catch, and being surrounded by people who were praying to their own god, Thomas Coville starts to look to Supergirl. And shortly thereafter he is rewarded by receiving a legitimate copy of Rao’s teachings from the mouths of Kryptonians themselves. His knowledge of Rao is real, even if he’s adapting it to his own whacked out sense of tribute.
As cliche as the taking-things-out-of-context cult story may be, it still provokes some more genuine responses from unique characters. It gives us backstory to Kara and James (even if we’ll never hear of their religiosity again) and it meshes pretty well with this state of uncertainty that Kara has been in. She’s reminded of something else she lost on Krypton.
However, there was one line that bothered me (more than others) in this episode. It comes from Kara… who supposedly practiced this religion or practiced her faith back on Krypton pretty regularly. As a fairly religious person myself, it’s always very interesting to see how writers handle the attitudes of someone who is supposed to be “rooted” in their faith. As in… this isn’t Kara’s first rodeo.
“If I am a god, you have got to do as I say. You have to trust me.” This is why she doesn’t understand blind faith, simply enough. Trust in anyone comes from a deep understanding of who they are, not what they tell you to do. How do you fight someone’s faith? You’ve got to understand who it is they are putting their faith in. If Thomas Coville does indeed have, and has been studying, the teachings of Rao, she should have so much more to work with than the old cliche “because I said so.”
The one thing that Thomas Coville does get right is how far removed Kara is from the girl who saved the plane back in Season 1 Episode 1. As much as I don’t want to spend any more time thinking about this Supergirl-inspired cult, I do hope that the writers are using this as a way to snap Kara out of her funk.
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