Supergirl: Stronger Together

"My sister just broke the sound barrier, sir."

What kind of hero is Kara Danvers going to be? When Supergirl accidentally throws National City Bay into an ecological disaster, she's forced to think more about what wearing the blue and red means to her. Meanwhile, an alien, toothy-mouthed baddie starts causing mayhem–but who it leads to, only reinforces Kara's need to set herself apart.

Supergirl is still finding its pace in this second episode; there seems to be way too much happening, and the show has a tendency to hit you in the face with its sometimes-cutesy messages about identity. There are also moments when Kara gets to pull out lines that make me think this show is a lot older than it ought to be. This kind of awkward adolescence is perfectly portrayed in this episode when Kara tries to rescue an oil tanker from a fire and accidentally cracks the ship instead, releasing smelly oil everywhere. It seems like poor Supergirl's instantly put on the spot: Batman and Superman destroy an entire city and get thanks, but Supergirl makes one mistake and gets slammed. Cat's advice about the issue is for Kara to take things small and build up hero skills. Why try to catch planes every day when you can save friendly pets from trees? (It doesn't escape me that the pet everyone thinks is a cat is actually a snake. Symbolism much? And yet the snake is often the guardian of truth, in mythology.) I loved Cat's line about women needing to be twice as hardworking as men to get half the notice, and she's definitely right; look at how the media treats poor Black Widow. But I digress.

Cat's gone off on a bender of her own: she wants to own Supergirl the way the Daily Planet owns Superman. To do so, she's pressuring poor James to produce an interview. James is perfectly willing to respect Kara's response of Hell to the No!, but the whole event leaves a bad taste on his editing hand. Does he have any value intrinsically, or is his value only linked up with the fact that he's Superman's pal? What's interesting is that Kara's response to James' insecurity is to criticize Superman. Kara points out Superman is a loner and always has been - and this is possibly very true and possibly due to how he was raised, by loving farmers who epitomize the American independence myth. Kara's seen a different way to be a hero, and she wants to pursue it - as part of a team and a family. It could just be the way she said it, but I felt the comment went deeper than the surface, emphasizing James' value as a team member. Question for me is whether she'll keep building her independent team or find herself subsumed into the government and Hank Henshaw's group. I see problems both ways. We don't really resolve this today, but James gets Cat her interview.

The secondary plot for this episode, the baddie of the week, is a Hellgrammite, a prisoner of Fort Rozz captured by Supergirl's mother. He turns out to want DDT for eating purposes. This plot contrivance made no sense to me (why doesn't the government just contract with the Hellgrammite to eliminate its remaining DDT stores for free?) but allows the show to introduce what's quite probably the Big Baddie for the season, Aunt Astra, Kara's actual aunt who was imprisoned by her mother. Astra has a power profile which seems to match Kara's to a T; they don't seem able to overmatch each other until Hank shows with a Kryptonian knife. Can I just pause to mention how amazing Alex is throughout all of this? I thought Supergirl's sister would be annoying and tripey, but instead she's got mad skills that don't involve sewing. Her easy takedown of the Hellgrammite shows Kara isn't the only superhero in National City - and that she has a mentor ready-made for her path to heroism.

Overall, Astra seems far more terrifying than the chlorine sucker, and a more interesting villain. I'm not too impressed with Hank's strategy; Alex seems like a serious heroine, and I'm glad Kara recognizes what her sister is. Questions: So what or who is Hank Henshaw, actually? Why don't the Kryptonians know about Kryptonite? Is Astra good, evil, or a mix of the two? And is anyone else worried about what a Cat Grant interview will do to Supergirl's image?

Bits and Pieces

National City is named for DC Comics' original company name, National Periodical Publications. And I can't really figure out where it is. In this episode, it has a bay and some mountains. Someplace in California? Near LA would explain Cat Grant.

Supergirl hasn't mastered cold breath. She seems to be doing okay with heat vision, x-ray vision and powerful hearing, though. 

The cast doesn't seem to be working too hard to keep Kara's identity secret. In the office, private conversations seem to be held at a touch too loud volumewise. Maybe they follow the Flash's Secret Identity Rule: Hope for the Best?

This ep continued a cape-mocking tradition; Astra seems convinced Kara needs to rethink the style.


Winn: Armed robbery at a pizza place on 5th and Siegel. Remember, bulletproof means bullets bounce off of you. So, if you don't want anyone to get hurt, don't let the bad guys even get a shot off. Oh yeah, and also try not to damage the suit. (to James) I, uh, helped make that outfit. I got some mad sewing skills.
James: Mmm-hmmm.

Kara: James and Winn believe in me, but... I need your faith, Alex. More than that S, more than that cape... more than anyone's.

Cat: The S is not some "who wore it best" fashion faux pas. It's a team logo. Maybe Supergirl is his sister, maybe it's his girlfriend, but there's definitely a connection. And because you are famously "his pal," I have to wonder why you haven't exploited that relationship to get me what I want.
James: I have a policy against using my friends for business reasons.
Cat: And I have a policy against losing. Whose policy do you think means more to me?

Kara: Did he ever tell you what that "S" means?
James: The House of El.
Kara: Yes, but it also stands for a Kryptonian phrase, our family motto. "El mayarah." It means, "Stronger Together." You say people will see me the way they see Superman one day, but... I don't want to be a hero like him. My cousin, he's so used to going it alone, he doesn't know any other way. But I do. I see it now. You, Winn, my sister, Ms. Grant even, you've all showed me that. James, part of being your own man is knowing when to accept help.


I am loving the way this show is being set up. Kara is very nicely realized and, for a Kryptonian, very human. Mehcad Brooks is suave eye-candy as James Olsen and I like what's happened to the Cat Grant character in this series so far; I'm not sold on Winn, but I'm starting to think this version of Supergirl may just become the definitive one in the minds of a generation. Four out of five Kryptonian knives.


sunbunny said...

"why doesn't the government just contract with the Hellgrammite to eliminate its remaining DDT stores for free?" that is a REALLY good question. It's not like he's eating gold or something we like and want.

I always think of National City as LA because, at least for the first season, they shot here and didn't go to a bit of trouble to hide very recognizable landmarks. Geography in the DCTVU is a huge sore point for me. There's no consistency and it drives me crazy. I swear Star(ling) City changes locations at least once a season.

Great review Joseph!

Billie Doux said...

"Stronger Together" is Hillary Clinton's catchphrase, although I'm not sure it was a year ago when this episode was written.

Seriously, I love the feminist focus on this show. A female superhero, working with her strong, professional adopted sister, working for... okay, I really hate Cat and the way she treats Kara and wish they hadn't gone that way, but at least Cat is successful and smart. And now we have Aunt Astra as a big bad.

JRS, I am also disturbed by how openly Supergirl's secret identity is bandied about in front of all of the people who work for the DEO. How many people know it? Why hasn't even one of them leaked it to the press?

Sunbunny, I always think of "National City" as Los Angeles, too, for the same reason.

Anonymous said...

People will be very surprised with this show..
I would argue that SOME of the episodes this season rival anything in Arrow season 1 and 2 or Flash S1.
Also has pretty good character growth and development from everyone(especially from someone 90% of the audience hated at first)..
This show works better on Binge...3 or 4 episodes at once rather than week to week.