written by Dayna Abel, Jason Froikin and Cara Russell
SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT
And so we address the red-and-blue elephant in the room. Superman finally shows up in this episode, portrayed by reliable actor CGI. At this point I have to wonder what reason CBS has for not actually casting an actor or having Clark appear for more than a fuzzy cameo or an IM. I’m sure it’s a licensing issue somehow, but the extent to which Superman is a non-presence is, at this point, detrimental to the plot itself. There are just too many holes in the plot that need addressing: Clark’s ignorance of the Fort Rozz villains, Kara not knowing what Kryptonite is until the DEO uses it on her, and the reasoning behind dumping Kara with the Danvers family. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m about to implement a drinking game for every problem that could have been solved had Clark just friggin’ spoken with Kara, and I don’t want to die of alcohol poisoning.
That said, there was some good supporting character development this episode. Winn finally proves himself useful when he fills the “tech assistant” sidekick role, although I still can’t shake a kind of creepy vibe from him. There’s something about the way he uses his assistance as a bargaining chip for her affections when he has her “pay her debt” to him with a dance that he is far too excited about (“this is happening, girl!”) that gives me a gross feeling. James, on the other hand, has won my heart by moving from a panicked over-protectiveness to a renewed faith in Kara’s competence. Plus I’ll never get sick of how adorably Kara 404s whenever James is around. (Although, holy crap James, blow giant secrets much!?) Cat provides an interesting role: not quite a foil, but a unique challenge to Kara. With every on-point criticism, she forces Kara to move past the sting of Cat’s words to truly reflect on why they were written. When Kara confronts her own shortcomings, it tempers her into a stronger heroine, and I feel like Cat is smart enough to both know that and use it (and I’m not at all convinced she doesn’t know Kara is Supergirl). In return, Kara also challenges Cat’s preconceived notions with her innate sense of morality and altruism. Their relationship is a symbiotic one, and I look forward to seeing them continue to learn from each other.
Reactron is the first sympathetic villain Kara faces, with a hatred born from genuine grief and loss. It’s telling that Kara’s first instinct is to reach out to him. Gail Simone wrote a timeless quote in Wonder Woman: “We have a saying, my people. ‘Don’t kill if you can wound, don’t wound if you can subdue, don’t subdue if you can pacify, and don’t raise your hand at all until you’ve extended it.'” What was written as a core tenet of Wonder Woman’s beliefs becomes an integral part of Kara Zor-El, and it fits perfectly. Supergirl’s compassion is a huge part of what will end up making her a role model. I’m also glad to see obvious improvement in her heroics due to Alex’s fight training, and overjoyed to see Kara using her brains as well as brawn when she uses a car door to deflect Reactron’s nuclear blasts. I think gaining strength via confronting your own weaknesses is an excellent lesson to impart, and I’m glad it’s championed on this show.
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Supergirl begins testing our patience a little, but in a good way. As we watch Kara struggle to fight her way through supposed “low-level” villains, she becomes frustrated and impatient. Cat Grant taunts her with allegations of being second-rate. We feel her frustration through her, and also through the show, as we watch her struggle, and we wait for something more epic to happen. We’re right alongside her, and hardly even realize it.
I do like that as Kara works her way through some low-level villains, the “not quite as strong as Superman” part is coming out. Because she’s learning to fight more intelligently, she’s learning things that Superman never had to. And in the long run, that will make her able to handle bigger threats. Although this episode was written and filmed several weeks ago, it’s as if the writers heard some of the internet criticism of Superman abandoning his cousin, or being an unhelpful and distant jerk, and dealt with the issue with the explanation that he’s distant because he doesn’t want to get in the way. Not quite an amazing explanation, but sufficient considering the real-world reasons why he’s not there. It’s just as well, though, because if those licensing issues were settled, he’d probably get in the way of Kara’s personal growth.
Kara’s friendships were tested, and each one of them passed the test amazingly well. The honest talk between Kara and James Olsen during the party was refreshing, and finally dropped some of the distance and secrecy between the two; but at the same time, it once again felt like he’s Superman’s avatar, displaying the same personality and values we saw later from “Clark” via instant messaging.
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Supergirl continues to be a breath of fresh air in its third episode, as it focuses slightly more on Kara’s work/heroine balancing act instead of the evil machinations of her aunt. This week, an abrupt interview with Cat Grant sets our adventure in motion when Supergirl lets slip that she and Superman are cousins. Cat naturally takes the opportunity to release this information – a “scoop” on the Daily Planet – tipping off Reactron to a prime venue for revenge on the big blue boy scout, whom he blames for the death of his own family.
In the midst of this, Kara is forced to help promote Cat’s acerbic take on Supergirl without much success in either softening Cat’s perception or acting more heroically to receive a better reputation. Complicating matters is James Olsen, who despite moving from Metropolis to cut the cape strings, calls on Superman to cut in on Supergirl’s fight with Reactron. It’s a great piece of backstory and characterization for Jimmy, though it plays into Cat Grant’s criticism that Supergirl would call on her cousin whenever times got tough. While I expect an equal measure of fallout from this act, it was nice to see the trust between Kara and James falter and be reforged stronger, as well as Clark finally reaching out to her without a proxy.
In the end, Supergirl proves that while Superman can carry a fight, she is the one who can end it with the assistance of her backup gang, by removing the source of Reactron’s power suit and remitting him to police custody. I also hope that this is not the last we see of Benjamin Krull. Now that Kara has discovered the source of his grudge against Superman, there can be hope for rehabilitation, and illustrate yet another fundamental difference between the cast members of Keeping Up With the Kryptonians.
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