I may once or twice have been accused of reading too much into the titles of television episodes. (Mostly by myself—I accuse myself.) So, “City of Lost Children” may have been more than a little misleading for me.
In case you aren’t overly familiar with ’90s French cinema—and honestly, if you aren’t, you probably had a way more productive ’90s than I did—Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s La Cité des Enfants Perdus is a science-fiction dystopian classic. Released in the Untied State as The City of Lost Children, it deals with an evil being who is aging prematurely because he lacks the ability to dream. To combat this, he takes to kidnapping children from a French seaside town, imprisons them in his offshore oil rig/lair, and through the use of some very suspect science, extracts their dreams.
He gets away with this for a long time. In fact, he’s so successful that almost no children are left in the city by the beginning of the film. I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot here, as the movie is phenomenal. It’s dark and weird in all the right ways, and the best on-camera interpretation of “realistic” steampunk I can name. Also, the hero is a French-speaking Ron Pearlman. His character, a strongman named One, is desperately trying to track down his recently kidnapped adopted brother. It’s a film I recommend to pretty much anyone willing to listen, but in the case of last night’s Supergirl, it put some ideas in my head that just weren’t going to be there.
I was expecting a plot line involving missing children. Possibly kidnapped alien children or accidently/purposefully transported to another planet/dimension/CW television show by Rhea’s experiment children. So imagine my confusion when, halfway through the episode, the only person missing is the mother of one very adorable alien boy. Frustrating, though I had to wonder what they were getting at with this title.
Ah, it occurred to me—perhaps they are playing with a reversal of my expectations. Perhaps the children in this episode aren’t lost themselves. Maybe they are “lost” because their parents will disappear. Clever. It didn’t happen. But clever.
I threw my hands up in frustration. Why choose such a provocative title, such a specific idea, if you aren’t going to make use of it? Do television shows do this just to annoy me? Should I assume that they just use phrases they think sound cool without any care for the implications those phrases have for the episode? And will someone please tell me why Lena has regressed into a giant quivering lip of mommy issues? I thought we were past this! I thought after everything with Mama Luthor she’d grown up! I thought—oh.
And then, gentle reader, I got it. The lost children aren’t children. Not in the physiological sense, anyway. So, here it is: the top eight childish moments, both subtle and not so subtle, in last night’s Supergirl.
1. The Cruelest Decision Since Sophie’s Choice: ’90s Kid Edition
Kara and Lena’s lunch date gives us our first moment of levity in what will turn out to be a pretty heavy episode overall. It should probably have been a hint that our characters weren’t going to be acting their most mature when conversation reverted to who’s actually responsible for holding up the big N’SYNC reunion we all know is just around the corner. And while Kara totally nails that one—obviously, it’s Justin—we descend even deeper into TigerBeat madness with one very simple question from Lena: Would you rather have an N’SYNC reunion or Justin and Britney back together again? No one should be forced to make that kind of choice, or be able to wield that kind of power.
2. Lena’s Mommy Issues
So, the “lost children” of the title are none other than our cast of heroes. Mon-El, Kara, and Winn all have their moments, but the brunt of this idea seems to rest on James and Lena. We’ll come back to James in a bit, but Lena’s need for a mentor is bordering on the unhealthy from the very start tonight.
In Rhea, she finds some kind of surrogate mommy figure, and constantly referring to her as a mentor does not help. First, because—despite The CW’s love of pretending that no one over the age of 30 exists—Lena is long past the stage in her career where she would need mentoring, and second, because Rhea’s way of handling Lena isn’t really all that mentor-ly. They’re business partners, and most of the platitudes Rhea offers are just that: Generic phrases that amount to little more than “believe in yourself.” Lena is obviously a bit dissociated from the idea of a healthy family life, but watching her rehash this issue with Rhea just shows how lost she truly is.
3. Mon-El, Ice Cream and a Not-Cool Dude
Mon-El loves ice cream. Mon-El eats ice cream the same way your ten-year-old self ate the first Dairy Queen cone of the summer. The only things that can separate Mon-El from his beloved ice cream are his mother and a rude pedestrian not watching where he’s walking. Not cool, dude. Not cool.
4. Pouty Lena Is Pouty
Feeding into Lena’s more annoying character traits is her new, hopefully one- night-only tendency to pout when her experiments don’t work out. It’s OK to be frustrated. It’s OK to want to throw something. But adults don’t. Adults, especially adults in leadership positions at Fortune 500 companies, take a deep breath, shake it off, and reassure everyone that progress is just around the corner.
5. Action Figures for the Winn
There’s a lot of really clever writing on Supergirl, but I have to say one of the finest aspects is how the series handles Winn’s backstory. They’ll go weeks without bringing up his criminally insane father, yet they never seem to miss a good opportunity to drop in just how subtly messed up Winn is. In “City of Lost Children,” as Alex tries to get some information out of Marcus, Winn mentions that he would have sold his dad out for some action figures. The line is delivered in such a matter-of-fact way that one wonders how many times Winn has daydreamed such a scenario. It’s just a little peak at his scars, but reminds us that underneath wisecracking Winn there’s a lost child as well.
6. James’ Office Playground
This one’s a bit of a two-fer. First, we get a slight nod to James’ “child” status when he points out the marble game in his office to Marcus. But my favorite—and far subtler—hint comes just after Marcus loses control of his powers and is pulled away by Kara. James follows them, watching to see where Supergirl takes his charge. He then climbs through a section of broken window, using the support frame like a jungle gym. It’s an awesome moment of childlike physicality, even if it’s a bit nonsensical. I mean, there’s an open door six inches to your left, James. Just saying.
7. Pu Pu On You
So, not for nothing, but am I the only one who felt Kara and Mon-El skating dangerously close to toilet humor? Funny sounding words and actual references to bathroom etiquette made their lunch exchange just slightly lower brow than Supergirl’s usual sense of humor. Overall, the nine-year-old in me was pretty impressed.
8. Identity Crisis
It’s probably the biggest way in which none of us ever really grow up. James’ dissatisfaction with being The Guardian, with how other people see him and how he sees his own role in the greater world, is something most of us go through several times in our life. It doesn’t help that society at large pushes us all to “find ourselves” at a young age, nor does the constant media focus on how important it is to be rich and successful early in life, too—which, by the way, is why it’s important to acknowledge characters over the age of 30.
How can one hope to be rich and successful if you’re not even sure what you want to do with your life? Or worse, what if you thought you knew what you wanted to do, but then discover it isn’t the right fit? What then? It’s enough to make you go hide in a blanket fort for the next decade or so. But don’t do that, because you never know when your purpose might reveal itself.
Katherine Siegel is a Chicago-based writer and director, and a regular contributor to Paste. You can find out more by checking out her website or follow her on Twitter.