The presence of super powers does not an instant hero make. Sure, special abilities make fighting back against the darkness in the world a little easier. When you punch or fly your way through a problem, you have a bit more effectiveness on your side. But those with powers don't always want to be heroes, and sometimes those without powers are willing to step up. Like, for example, James Olsen.
Earlier in Season 2, James rose to the occasion when Mon-El wasn't ready to (and that's okay—no hate to Mon-El for initially being reluctant about following in Kara's footsteps). Inspired by Superman and Supergirl, James wanted to do more with his life, and he found a purpose by becoming Guardian. He pushed forward with his new alter ego even when one of his best friends, Kara, expressed her disapproval and tried to stop him. (Which, as I've mentioned before, wasn't cool of Kara. At all.) Though James has been fighting for the citizens of National City, he hasn't been welcomed with open arms. Case in point, he has to grapple with a chilly reception in the latest episode of Supergirl, "City of Lost Children."
Heroes don't step into their roles for the sake of gaining recognition and popularity or receiving endless gratitude. At least, they shouldn't. That would mean they're acting from a selfish place, and being a hero is about acting from a selfless place. James has been putting himself at risk on the streets and fighting for others. When a citizen reacts to him with fear, he's not sad because his efforts aren't being lauded. He's sad because Guardian isn't having the effect James wanted.
James' sentiment is captured in this line to Winn: "Guardian is not this beacon of hope I thought he would be."
He not only wanted to help others, he wanted his vigilante persona to become bigger than him and to be a shining light to those in in the dark. Supergirl already occupies such a role in National City, and while I think they can accept more than a single hero, they don't view Guardian in the same light. Supergirl operates openly and without a mask. Guardian works in the shadows in an armored suit and mask that mostly covers his face. I don't believe National City trusts him as much. Despite the fact that, hello, he and Supergirl are both vigilantes.
I sympathize with James. After thinking he'd finally found his place in the world, he feels like he isn't having any sort of positive effect. He and Winn have been rejuvenated by their work as and with Guardian, but if the citizens view Guardian as a negative force, what's the point? It has to be disheartening.
After feeling unwanted by the people of National City and then basically being kicked out of the DEO (which was correct), James seemed ready to throw in his armor. But then he ran into a kid who taught him about what it means to be a hero. The boy's mother, a Phorian, was affected by Lena and Rhea's experiment and ended up on the run as a result. Marcus was left alone, and he connected with James.
James helped Marcus survive and reconnect with his mother. He protected Marcus. He showed Marcus how to persevere in tough times. More than that, James and Marcus had a positive impact on each other. James was reminded about what it means to be a hero and how it doesn't require winning over the population of an entire city.
Elsewhere in the episode, Rhea continued to be terrible. She causes tremendous amounts of pain and suffering, but I have to admit a touch of respect for how she doesn't waver from her goals. As far as we know, Rhea doesn't have a tragic backstory or any kind of motivations we can empathize with. She's straight-up evil for the sake of gaining power and control. I guess she is fighting for what she believes to be best for her people, so there's that. She's just not taking any other factors or feelings into consideration.
Rhea lied to Lena and manipulated her in order to get a fleet of Daxamite ships to Earth. She lied to Mon-El about what happened to his father. I could make a long list of her recent terrible acts, but those are the two biggest highlights. She doesn't bend. She doesn't flinch. She's complete and total trouble.
Let's wrap up with a #DCTV Secret, shall we? Lena mentions Lex is locked away at Stryker's Island. The prison has its roots in the comics. First appearing in SUPERMAN #9, the penitentiary is the largest facility of its kind in Metropolis. Besides having all the usual features of a maximum security prison, it's designed to keep those with super powers locked away. Since it's not an inexpensive prison to run, they offer daily tours to help pay to keep the lights on.
Do you think James is being an effective hero? Did you spot any other #DCTV Secrets? Drop to the comments and let me know your thoughts.