National City finally has a new Guardian, and it’s none other than the one and only Kelly Olsen! After the official reveal back in May, Kelly finally made her debut as Guardian in tonight’s episode. And we couldn’t be more thrilled to see her step into the role.
From the start of the series, everyone knew James Olsen as an immensely talented photographer, former Daily Planet employee turned head of CatCo. Mehcad Brooks brought a wonderful portrayal of the character to the screen, immediately creating a likable character. Through season 1 and the first few episodes of season 2, James focuses primarily on his job. And his friendship (and occasional will they, won’t they) with Kara. He almost never seemed like the kind of guy who would don a mask and cape (so to speak) and fight crime.
Only, James was also never one to shy away from taking on a stance on social injustices. By episode 6 of season 2, James refuses to sit on the sidelines while Supergirl and co. take on National City’s worst. So, he (secretly) decides to join the action, gaining his own suit, complete with identity protecting mask, to fight not only for his city, but also for Supergirl.
Eventually, James decides to unmask, letting everyone know he’s Guardian. Before I continue, it must be noted that this decision was made by Brooks. He’s stated multiple times (one occasion you can find here) that he didn’t want another Black superhero to wear a mask. As such, James/Guardian becomes a massively important character in more ways than one.
James certainly didn’t disappoint as Guardian. But soon, he realized that his path led elsewhere.
Paving the Way for Kelly
Early in season 5, James chose to leave National City to pursue a new path. He heads back to his hometown to take over the local paper. Of course, this meant that James and his rendition of Guardian would no longer appear on the show. While we were endlessly proud of James’ decision, he left a couple of questions in his wake — Will the show introduce a new Guardian, and if so, who?
Many fans firmly believed that Kelly would take his place. It only seemed natural. The family business, right? However, when asked, Brooks could neither confirm nor deny whether this was the case. Even up until this year, we didn’t really know for certain. Regardless, all the signs pointed to Kelly.
It’s not secret that both Olsen siblings cared deeply about helping the Black community. They were also both passionate about helping those who are underprivileged and often ignored in general. It’s only fitting that both would pursue career fields in which they could do just that. Once Kelly became a regular presence in the series after James’ departure, viewers began to fully see just how passionate she is about her work.
The Build Up
During “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” viewers saw a little taste of Kelly in the Guardian position. In order to protect National City’s citizens, Kelly deploys the shield, protecting some from rogue debris. Since then, it was a waiting game to see if she was, in fact, our new Guardian. But viewers would have to wait just a little bit longer to see this hope fulfilled.
While “Crisis” was the perfect teaser, the real set up begins in the ninth episode of this season, “Dream Weaver.” In the episode, Kelly has started her new job as a social worker. Her first case is for a young alien orphan named Joey, whose only remaining family is his older brother, Orlando, who’s currently incarcerated at Van Skull Prison. As such, Joey resides in a group home with other alien children, where Kelly realizes Miss Hochschild, the woman in charge, is hurting the children by dampening their powers through painful methods. But Kelly won’t let that stand, doing whatever she can to help.
By the end of the episode, Orlando is released and reunited with Joey. Miss Hochschild is arrested, thanks to security footage Kelly downloaded and submitted to the police. Most of the children weren’t sure what happened. However, one child, Esme, knows Kelly is to thank.
“This house needed a guardian angel, and now we have you.”Esme
Just as the episode is ready to cut to credits, Kelly tells Alex about what happened. Ever the perfect girlfriend, Alex presents the Guardian helmet to Kelly. (No, YOU’RE crying.) Kelly is ready to begin training, and Alex is ready to support her every step of the way.
Kelly Olsen: Guardian and a Beacon of Hope
In tonight’s episode, titled “Blind Spot,” viewers finally, finally got see Kelly formally take up the Guardian mantle. In the episode, Kelly faces the aftermath of the Ormfell building exploding and injuring several people in the community, including Joey. Her frustration only grows when she realizes no one is around to help when she needs it the most. So, she takes matters into her own hands, suiting up as Guardian. This heartwrenching episode is co-written by Tesfai and J. Holtham, and directed by David Ramsey, who appears as John Diggle.
Thanks to Nyxly, the Super Friends are stressed trying to track both her and Mxy down. Kelly, however, is much more focused on the immediate damage caused by the explosion. But no one seems to hear her. Her attempts to get Supergirl focused on the residents of the neighborhood are nearly for naught. Desperate, Kelly does everything she knows how, but she only has so many resources. Even getting the Super Friends to assess the damage does no good. Slowly, she loses more and more hope. Soon after, Diggle shows up to help.
One person, though, seems better than ever after the explosion: City Council Member Jean Rankin. Rankin is no friend to her own constituents, and she only views this explosion as a good thing. But her newfound powers from the fifth dimensional debris continue to make matters worse. As she gives a statement to the press outside the hospital, Orlando spots her from outside Joey’s room. He is fuming, and goes to confront her. One of her guards attempts to attack him. Thankfully, Kelly, with the Guardian helmet and shield, protects him and fends off Rankin.
Cue the Super Friends reconvening, still hyper-focused on Nyxly. Again, Kelly tries to remind them about the residents. Again, they aren’t hearing her.
“I know that you are all trying to stop Nyxly. I know. But do you hear me? Do you see what is happening? People are gonna die, and I feel like I am yelling into a void. We are supposed to fight for everyone. Together. And yet I am look at people suffer. People that look like me. And everyone here is just too busy. Where is the outrage that people are gonna die without help? Without hope. Maybe you could spare a second for them.”
After a much-needed talk with Diggle, Kelly regroups and is ready to keep fighting. But first, a new suit. And Brainy, who was just as excited to see Kelly become Guardian, already had several ideas. Kelly (now suited up) returns to the hospital, where she speaks with Joey. She knows he won’t trust her right away, but all she wants is a chance to prove herself. As she and the Super Friends finally take down Rankin, Guardian reinstills some hope.
Before she leaves, two things happen. First, she tells Joey the community will need a new city council member. He’s not so sure it’s him, but Guardian believes in him. (And so do we.) Second, two young Black girls already feel the impact of Guardian. One holds a trash can lid like a shield. The second stands proud while shouting, “I’m Guardian!”
This was just the beginning for Guardian and is important to note. Alex and Supergirl finally hear her. Even though Kelly’s proud of the work done, it’s still a long road ahead, and she’s exhausted from centuries of trauma. This episode offers such important commentary on the ongoing battle for racial justice. Despite Kelly’s team supporting her throughout the show, Supergirl and Alex especially struggle to truly hear her. They realize their missteps, but they also emphasize how white people will simply never understand what they will never experience. This episode was one of the best of the show and a gut-wrenching, necessary one at that.
The Legacy of Guardian
While neither James nor Kelly are the primary focus of the series, their roles are still incredibly significant. First, like Black Lightning and season 2 of Batwoman, Supergirl has provided both Olsen siblings to thrive as heroes, continuing to place Black superheroes in the spotlight. As previously mentioned, Brooks’ decision to unmask his Guardian remains one of the most impactful events on this show, in my humble opinion. Though James isn’t the character who originally steps into the shoes of Guardian, he was the perfect fit for the show.
Now, with Kelly, viewers get to see a Black woman, who’s also a lesbian, follow in the footsteps of her brother and leave her own mark on the show. Kelly has always been a wonderful character. And, yes, the brother passes along the shield to sister pipeline was the logical move here, but no one could have done it better than Kelly (or Azie Tesfai).
Tonight was only the official debut of Kelly as Guardian, but we already can’t wait to (hopefully) see more of her in action as Guardian. Regardless of how often she wears the suit from here on out, she will continue to be a valuable and beloved asset to the team and her community.
Supergirl airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on The CW.