The words “creepy” and “uncomfortable” are not words that I would usually use to describe this show, but Childish Things is an exception.
This episode is mainly about Winn, who I haven’t really talked about in depth yet. There hasn’t been an opportunity to talk about him in depth until now, so let’s do that.
Like Lucy, Winn’s character made me nervous at first. He was Kara’s nerdy white guy friend who has a huge crush on her that she’s oblivious to. I mean… do I even need to say it? I thought for sure he was going to be the Frienzoned Nice Guy who does nothing but whine about how his female friend won’t date him and then Kara would be made out to be in the wrong for not being interested in him and oh god I hate Nice Guys™ and I hate the concept of the “friendzone” and I was really just. Not looking forward to where they might go with Winn.
Then it turned out that they didn’t go there. Winn isn’t a Nice Guy™, he’s actually just… a nice guy. As in, he’s actually nice. He does border on whiny territory occasionally, but he respects Kara and he helps her without expecting anything in return because she is above all his friend and someone he genuinely cares about, not just someone he wants to date.
The only problem with Winn is that he didn’t have that much of a purpose. He did help Kara and other characters with technical stuff sometimes and he occasionally had a funny sarcastic comment, but for the most part I didn’t feel like he added much to the show. I liked him but I didn’t care about him, and it was easy to forget him most of the time.
Although, he did say something in Livewire that was intriguing, about how his father was in prison and deserved to be there, but he didn’t expand on that. I figured that was something the show would come back to.
Which brings us to Childish Things, an episode that puts the spotlight on Winn and digs into his past and his relationship with his father and also his relationship with Kara and it’s a whole lot of uncomfortable. However, it’s also nice to have Winn actually be relevant and get some development and show some real emotion, and Jeremy Jordan, the actor who plays Winn, does a really great job and I was happy to see him get a chance to shine.
This episode is interesting because it’s the first one that really isn’t about Supergirl. She’s in it, of course, but she’s mostly a supporting character while the story focuses primarily on Winn and secondarily on J’onn, Lucy, and James. As much as I love Kara/Supergirl, it’s kind of a refreshing change of pace to have her be more on the sides of this episode and giving us a chance to focus more on other characters.
Anyway, let’s jump right into the episode, which begins at a maximum security prison. We see two guards approaching an inmate’s cell to give him a meal. Peering into his cell, they see a (creepy as hell) talking doll on his bed, and the inmate appears to be lying on the ground. Assuming something is wrong, the guard opens the cell and becomes the victim of a trap when the inmate kills him with a yo-yo with razor blade in it.
I’ll repeat that.
A yo-yo with razor blades in it.
That is horrifying and silly and cool ALL AT ONCE.
So, the inmate escapes and kills more guards with his yo-yo weapon. The inmate? Winslow Schott Sr., otherwise known as Toyman. I have to wonder why he had a yo-yo and dolls in his cell, let alone razor blades, but whatever.
At Catco, Winn is approached by agent Cameron Chase for information about Toyman. It’s awkward and painful and Winn really doesn’t want anything to do with his father. Kara goes to ask him about herself, and he tells her how his father ended up in prison. He was a toy designer and his designs were stolen by his boss. His father planted a bomb in a teddy bear, intending to kill his boss, but the bomb went off before reaching him and killed six people but not the intended target. Watching his father be taken to prison for murder was extremely traumatizing for eleven year-old Winn, especially because he knows his father wasn’t always like that. He’s spent most of his life trying to forget about what happened, but I think what makes it even more difficult and painful for Winn is that he does still have some good memories of his father. Growing up, his father was normal, they had a lot in common, they were close. The idea that his father could suddenly snap like that, with barely a sign, is scary. What’s to stop it from happening to Winn?
He tells Kara that on his desk this morning was a doll. When Winn pulls the string on it, it tells Winn to meet his father at their favorite place. Winn shares the information with Cameron so they can make a plan to catch the Toyman.
Winn meets Toyman at an arcade, where Toyman creepily starts telling Winn that Winn was the “best thing he ever made” and how they’re very much alike. That’s what makes this situation so disturbing and complex, Toyman genuinely loves his son (or believes he does, anyway) but he also feels no remorse for the horrible things he’s done, and he doesn’t even seem to realize how much he hurt Winn by doing them. As far as he’s concerned, it’s not his fault they were separated and it’s not his fault that Winn’s childhood was ruined. Also, villains telling the good guys that they’re alike is pretty cheesy, but it’s effective here because we know that it’s a thought that torments Winn already. Winn is terrified of the idea that he might be like his father, that he might one day lose control like he did. Toyman telling Winn that they’re alike is basically the worst thing he could do to Winn, at least psychologically.
As it turns out, the arcade was a trap. When Cameron and the other agents start to close in on Toyman, it’s discovered that they’ve been tricked by a wall of mirrors that collapses when shot at. Toyman’s voice then tells Winn to run as a cloud of gas appears meant to take out the agents, but Supergirl comes to the rescue before any harm can be done. Any physical harm, I mean. Winn has definitely been emotionally and mentally harmed by this encounter.
There’s a weird scene after this where Supergirl goes to an abandoned factory where it’s suggested Toyman is actually hiding and Toyman has set a trap for her that involves a creepy doll that looks like her and quicksand and a box that Supergirl thinks has a child trapped inside but it’s actually just another creepy doll that looks like her? It’s kind of a dumb scene?? Like, where did Toyman get quicksand and why would the quicksand even pose a threat to Supergirl?? It’s just silly and the episode could have done without that scene.
Anyway, Kara and Winn then go to Kara’s apartment and Winn talks to Kara about his fear of turning out like his father.
Kara: That’s not going to happen. You’re a good person.
Winn: That’s what people said about him. And then he cracked. And now every time I start to get angry, I think, “Could this be it? Could this be the day that I lose everything?”
Kara: Winn, the day that your father killed those six people was like for me the day my planet exploded. The course of our lives changed in that single moment. You are not going to turn into your father. Because the day your world was destroyed, you didn’t give in to rage and hate like your father, like my aunt. We both lost our worlds and now we’re trying to give back because of it. And you and your father aren’t the only ones that are linked. We are too. And I’m not gonna let anyone mess with that.
What Kara said is a nice sentiment and it’s probably exactly what Winn needed to hear. To be compared with Kara, someone he loves and respects and who’s the embodiment of goodness and strength in his eyes. And then Winn tries to kiss her. Winn that’s a terrible idea! Everything is made super awkward and Winn stammers out an apology and then hastily gets the hell out of there.
He’s kidnapped by his father and taken to a warehouse, where they have an even more unsettling confrontation. Toyman tells Winn about what he has planned, and how that plan involves Winn. He wants Winn to kill his old boss for him. At a convention full of people. Winn says he would never do that, and Toyman says he knows that, which is why he’s taking the decision out of Winn’s hands. Toyman has planted ten bombs throughout the convention, and he’s not going to tell Winn where they are. If Winn doesn’t shoot his old boss, Toyman will set off the bombs.
Horrifying, right? IT GETS WORSE
Winn: Dad, listen to me. There will be hundreds of people there. Kids. They will all die.
Toyman: No, no, they won’t, they won’t. Because you won’t let that happen. You are going to save them by killing him.
Look at that phrasing. You won’t let that happen. What an awful manipulation tactic. Awful as in creepy and immortal, not as in ineffective. Making it so that Winn has to do something morally repugnant in order to stop something even worse from happening, making it sound like it’s noble for Winn to do it because hey at least it will stop that other even worse thing from happening. Ugh, it’s horrible.
Winn: We’ll both end up in prison.
Toyman: And that’s what makes this the perfect plan. Because whether we escape or end up in prison or what have you, we are gonna be together.
OH WELL THAT’S REASSURING. He doesn’t even care whether or not the plan succeeds or if they escape, he doesn’t care what it does to Winn, whatever happens Toyman gets what he wants, which is to be with Winn. GREAT.
Winn: How did this happen to you?
Toyman: Do you know that even with all the amazing toys I’ve built, you’re the best thing I ever made. You’re just like me.
Winn: I am nothing like you.
Toyman: Don’t underestimate yourself.
And with that final line we know that Toyman just doesn’t Get It at all. What do you even say after that?
At the convention, Winn almost goes through with the plan, but instead he fires his weapon (disguised as a plastic gun) into the air. Supergirl shows up and she saves the day with a pretty clever move. She sets off the sprinklers and then uses her freeze breath to create an ice shield that protects everyone from the bombs as they go off. Realistically, I’m not sure an ice shield would actually protect anyone from that, but it’s still a clever move. Toyman is apprehended and put in prison, and the nightmarish ordeal is over.
Well, sort of over. Winn is still shaken by the whole thing. I mean, how couldn’t he be?! But the whole thing has compelled him to bring up something with Kara that he had been avoiding. He apologizes again for kissing her, and then
Winn: My dad kept his feelings bottled up for years, and then he exploded. Because he was a coward like me. Look, I know I dropped this huge bomb on our friendship when I kissed you and I should have told you how I felt a long time ago. But I was too scared to say anything, I was too scared to stand up for myself. Kara, I am going to tell you the truth now. I’m in love with you. I have been in love with you for a long time. Since before you were Supergirl.
Kara: Winn… I don’t want things to change.
Winn: Before this thing with my dad, I probably would have gone along with that. God, I just would have pretended that kiss never happened. But I don’t know if I can sit and smile and eat potstickers and pretend like it is not killing me. Kara, I cannot keep bottling things up, I am too afraid of what could happen.
Kara: So… What does this mean for us?
Winn: I don’t know. I don’t know.
Well, it’s out there. And you know what I like about this scene? Both Kara and Winn are made sympathetic, and neither of them is in the wrong.
Rejection sucks. It sucks when you like someone and they don’t like you back. Most people have probably experienced this before and we all know it hurts. But at the same times, you can’t get mad at the other person for not feeling the same way you do. It’s unfair and it’s immature. No one is obligated to like you.
Winn never told Kara how he felt, and Kara never led Winn on. I can sympathize with Winn because I know how much it hurts to be rejected by someone you like, and I can also sympathize with Kara because I know what it’s like to be on her side of the situation, to have what you thought was a friendship turn into something messy and complicated. I’m so glad the show doesn’t blame Kara for Winn’s hurt feelings, and they don’t minimize how hurt either of them are by this. It’s painful for both of them, but it’s also something that had to be dealt with eventually.
I haven’t talked about the other plot threads weaving through this episode because the Winn and Toyman storyline was a lot more important and I also had a lot more to say about it, so I figured I would talk about that first and then talk about the other stuff at the end.
J’onn’s storyline in this episode is mainly about Alex trying to convince him to show his true identity or at the very least use his powers more, neither of which he wants to do. Alex even brings up Supergirl as an example of an alien being accepted and loved, to which J’onn responds: “Your sister looks like a pretty blonde cheerleader. J’onn J’onzz looks like a monster.” It’s a good point. Supergirl looks like a normal and conventionally attractive human, so it’s easier for most people to accept and trust her, and yet even she has people who distrust her and want to be rid of her, like Maxwell Lord and General Lane. How would people react to an alien like J’onn J’onnz, who looks like… like exactly what you imagine when you hear the word “alien”?
J’onn does use his powers when he and Alex investigate Maxwell Lord, however. Alex has dinner with Max and tries to get some information out of him, it’s really awkward because the entire time I wanted to threaten Max to stay away from Alex. She’s too good for him. Anyway, while Alex has Max distracted, J’onn disguises himself as Max and finds the mystery woman Max is keeping hidden. When J’onn is caught by a guard, he has to use his powers to wipe the guard’s memory, and apparently his powers are stronger than he remembered because the guard can no longer remember anything after afterward, including his own family.
The other storyline is short and takes up very little time in the episode, but it centers around Lucy and James. Again, I like Lucy and James as characters but their relationship drama generally doesn’t interest me so I was glad that out of everything going on in the episode, this got the least amount of focus. Still, the scene that kicks off this storyline is nice. Cat offers Lucy a job as her legal counsel, because as she says, “a woman with brains who gives up everything for love inevitably finds herself staring into an existential abyss that men, babies and cardio bars simply cannot fill. You are a smart and accomplished woman who needs to work, or you will lose your confidence, your sense of identity, and most importantly, your mind”, which might be one of the best things that Cat has ever said.
Lucy is excited about the job offer, and she tells James “I want to work for a cool, powerful, kickass woman instead of a bunch of angry old white men”. Amen to that, sister. James isn’t as enthusiastic as Lucy was hoping he would be and that leads to an argument, which in turn leads James to realize that the reason he wasn’t enthusiastic was because he isn’t enthusiastic about his own job. So Lucy encourages James to talk to Cat about it, and the two of them make up. And Lucy accepts Cat’s offer, of course. Not the most interesting storyline, but I like what Cat said to Lucy when offering her the job and I liked how excited Lucy was about the prospect. I like women supporting and liking other women and I like that there’s so much of that in this show.
The episode ends with us discovering that Maxwell Lord put a big in Alex’s purse (CREEPY CREEPY CREEPY) and so he now knows that Alex and Supergirl are sisters and honestly can Maxwell Lord just… stop. Like, in general.
This is getting long so I’ll wrap this up quickly, but this is a really good episode, y’all. It’s funny that I don’t watch or think about this episode much and I think that’s a result of me feeling personally uncomfortable and creeped out by the episode, but it’s probably one of the better written episodes of the first season, at least so far. Toyman is effectively unsettling, especially since I’ve always been mildly creeped out by puppets and mannequins and certain types of dolls and the like. Winn becomes a much more interesting character because of this episode and it does a decent job of exploring one way that abuse and trauma can affect people. It’s not uncommon for people who were abused by parental figures as children to be afraid of turning into their abusers. Winn’s fear of becoming like the Toyman, of giving into his rage and turmoil and hurting people he loves in the process, felt very real. And it’s good that the episode assures him that no, he’s not like the person who hurt him, and he still has a choice in what sort of person he’ll be no matter what, and it does so without being condescending or invalidating his fears and experiences. It’s just a really good and really interesting episode, even if it’s one I personally can’t watch too often.