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Supergirl: Human for a Day

“You don't even need powers to be a hero.”

This is my favorite episode of season one and not just because we finally find out what Hank has been hiding.

Kara has lost her powers just in time for Los Angeles, er, National City, to be struck with a massive earthquake. As Kara comes to grip with what it’s like to be human, Alex and Hank are caught in an anything but standard alien prison lockdown.

My main reason for never loving Superman is that everything is just too easy for him. With all those superpowers, how can anything really be a challenge? And with nothing to lose thanks to handy invulnerability, does saving people from a burning building even count as heroic?

This episode sees Kara prove that super strength or no super strength she is a hero and willing to put her very life on the line. I love that her leap into danger isn’t for the benefit of the world or thousands of innocent souls but just one guy. Kara was willing to get shot to save one life. Isn’t that what a hero is?

Fortunately Kara gets her powers back just in time to save James from plummeting to his death after some heroics of his own. It was nice that James, Winn, and even Cat got little moments to shine. The earthquake really brought out the best in everyone, even Maxwell Lord in his own insufferably sanctimonious way. My favorite scene of the episode is the one where Kara, Max, and James look on helplessly as a man dies in front of them. Kara is desperate to use her powers, to save this stranger, but she can’t. Watching someone who has been so strong fail and break down is extremely powerful. It was like a mini Buffy season six. I really like that they included this failure instead of having Supergirl go straight to pretending to have superpowers to save National City.

Plus there was barely any Astra! No offense to the divine Laura Benanti, but I can’t stand the whole Krypton drama. Speaking of things I can’t stand: the Winn/James/Kara love triangle took a turn for the more annoying this week. After Winn saw James and Kara hugging he turned into a total dick, taking Kara down a peg or three by telling her he was disappointed in her and that James has a girlfriend. I’m not defending cheating here, but I am defending hugging. The way Winn reacted it was like he walked in on something a lot less G-rated instead of a sweet moment. Not to mention, Winn only cares because he’s seriously into Kara; it’s not like he’s taking a moral stand here.

So the big revelation of the episode is (trumpet noise): Hank Henshaw is a shape-shifting alien from Mars named J’onn J’onzz. There was a lot of backstory here but the gist is that Hank died looking for J’onn and J’onn assumed his identity to escape a life on the run, reform the DEO, and keep a promise made to Jeremiah Danvers to protect his daughter. The relationship between J’onn and Alex is one of my favorite parts of the series. Here we see it in its incipient stage. Alex isn’t given a lot of time to react to this startling development but at least she doesn’t start screaming when he turns green. It’s a good start.

Bits and Pieces

Cat is a serious germaphobe.

Annoying moment: Alex asking Hank why he never mentioned working with her father and then screaming “You don’t get to talk about him!” Which do you want?

We get a bit of backstory about James. I don’t know much about the character so I can’t say how true it is to the source material.

Who’s the other person who knows about J’onn?


James: “Lost your powers? Solar flare.”
Kara: “I did not know we were calling it that.”
James: “Well, he does. He likes to name them, you know? Heat vision. Freeze breath.”
Kara: “He is such a nerd.”

Cat: “Wit, you’ve proven yourself not to be incompetent. Let’s start a feed in my office. We are going to counter Max’s message about my girl.”
Winn: “If I’m not back in half an hour, send help.”

Max: “Supergirl lulls us into complacency, she fools us into thinking she’ll save us and renders us incapable of saving ourselves like heroin or the welfare state.”

Cat: “This is why I’m not nice to people. One compliment and now you’re coasting.”

three and a half out of four broken arms


  1. I agree -- this is a good one. Kara putting on her costume and risking her life to save one person when she was vulnerable and in pain was lovely. And the Hank reveal completely changed everything. MMH was one of my favorites on Smallville.

  2. Forgive me if I'm remembering wrong, it's been awhile since I saw this episode. But, wasn't it implied Superman was the other one that knew?

  3. It's mentioned that J'onn knows Superman but I don't think they specifically mention him knowing J'onn is Hank. Or if they did, I missed it.

  4. I’m not defending cheating here, but I am defending hugging.

    Yes! Yes! A thousand times: yes!

    I can only assume that Winn got self-righteous because he wanted to hug Kara, so he made it out to be her problem rather than his own issue. But that drove me crazy, especially since it just perpetuates the idea that straight men and women can't be friends.

    Maybe that's just the show being subtle, though: portraying Winn's creepiness and how easily Kara falls into that trap.



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