[Review] Supergirl Episode 1×02: “Stronger Together”

written by Dayna Abel, Jason Froikin and Cara Russell

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

Melissa Benoist as Supergirl is some damn inspired casting, I tell you what. I will never tire of the sheer unbridled delight on her face as Supergirl flies around. Episode Two of Supergirl opened with a beautifully-shot flying sequence reminiscent of Helen Slater taking flight in the 1984 movie, but that’s all I’m going to say about the plot for the episode. Let’s talk theme for a bit.

“Superman would have done this, Superman could do that.” Kara’s own self-doubt manifests in the reactions of people around her when she makes mistakes. She is extremely hard on herself, and it’s not a stretch to presume that she feels superfluous in a way. Maybe she thinks what can I do that Kal can’t already do better? Cat Grant is harsh on Kara, but she does have a point that Kara takes to heart about “practicing.” Not becoming better than someone else, but being a better you. Kara accepts Cat’s advice, and you have to admit that it takes real courage to realize when you need to improve yourself. Kara tends to hyperfocus on her failures, and it’s good to see her taking the El family motto “stronger together” to heart. “Knowing when to accept help,” as she says to James in the episode. Both James and Cat know the value of being appreciated on your own merits rather than by who you know, and Kara knows the value of letting the people closest to you help you become a better person. Both tactics practiced together is what is going to make Kara unique from her cousin.

While it’s good to see strong bonds with friends and family emphasized in the show, it bothers me that Kara has no real female friends to speak of. Cat Grant is her superior and doesn’t exactly count. Alex is her world, but she’s family. I think the character of Winn – who I still don’t feel is especially close to Kara – should have been scrapped and made a woman. For one, I’m a little on edge about Kara constantly relying on the advice of two men (three, if you count Henshaw, but he’s not exactly a friend) to help make her a hero. It doesn’t sit well with me, especially if the show is trying to work a feminist angle. I want Kara to have woman friends, just to provide an example for little girls that they don’t have to be in competition. The show’d do well to take a page from Gail Simone’s Birds Of Prey run in this regard. Speaking of, Alex seemed like she was trying to teach Kara judo techniques. I wonder if a “little bird” could help her out with that…?

-Dayna

* * *

“Stronger Together” seemed to be focused on building a family for Supergirl. I know, it sounds like that could be the first episode, too. What’s different is that the first episode paraded all of the players by quickly because it had to get introductions over with. So quickly, in fact, that I really wasn’t able to make out the purpose of either James Olsen, or the still-mostly-nameless IT guy, and I was reluctant to trust Kara’s foster sister.

But now the ties to “family” are starting to solidify. Kara’s two co-workers and friends and their support, her sister’s faith and training, and even the DEO’s slowly increasing trust. Within that is also some blatant symbolism, in that Kara soundly rejects her blood family (her aunt) and accepts her Earth family. She’s more of Earth than of Krypton. That point was driven home further when Kara spoke to the hologram of her mother – after a hug wasn’t possible, realizing that the avatar was alien and distant, while her friends and her sister are close.

We’ll have to wait until next week to see what the big talk between Cat and Kara will be like, but I have a feeling it will be a lot of fun.

-Jason

* * *

The second episode of Supergirl demonstrates that a strong footing leads to a stronger followup, without losing any momentum. With a smaller degree of exposition to roll through, we’re able to enjoy more time spent on relationships and characterization, with some excellent moments for James Olsen in particular, and expansion on Kara and how life on Krypton influenced her in strongly positive ways (and how the lack thereof influenced Superman). Interestingly enough, the same values that influenced Kara seem to influence her aunt Astra (blink and you’ll miss it!), though in clearly different ways.

While our villain-of-the-week Hellgrammite (an alien in this version) turned out to be a tragic red herring, he served well in moving longer running plots forward, while putting out an interesting idea – that the Phantom Zone convicts may not all be out for evil, and just want to survive on the planet they now inhabit, without the influence of General Astra.

I also remain impressed with the cast; not only excellent acting all around, the writers are taking full advantage of the highly female-dominated cast. Each woman clearly has her own personality, demeanor, and drives, and they’re being used to demonstrate different views and experiences. From learning how Astra and Kara interpret the El family motto, Kara’s fight lessons from Alex, and the life experience from Cat Grant, we’re shown that there is no one true path to success in life as a woman, and that we (as Kara) can learn from all of these experiences to move ourselves onward and upward against any challenge. Not only do I believe a girl can fly, I believe she can start small and get better. A lesson that is truly invaluable in this age of grand gestures and perceived perfection.

-Cara

Supergirl airs Monday nights at 8 Eastern/7 Central on CBS. Dayna can be reached on Twitter @queenanthai, Jason at @Mangacool, and Cara at @virtualcara.

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