[Review] Supergirl Episode 1×04: “How Does She Do It?”

written by Dayna Abel, Jason Froikin and Cara Russell

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

Prioritizing. That’s the word of the day for episode four of Supergirl, and it came up at the same time for our cast of characters as it did for me, so this week’s review is going to be a little personal.

I suffer from depression, generalized anxiety disorder and agoraphobia. It has taken up almost the entirety of my adulthood thus far. I’m no superhero, but I do try to shoulder as many responsibilities as I can in order to keep things running smoothly in my life. Those who know me personally know that I have a natural aptitude for organization and delegation (with a secretarial background to match), and the dark side of this is also being a control freak. My anxiety disorder makes it very easy for me to become overwhelmed quickly, especially under pressure. I found myself absolutely relating to Kara having to be everything to everyone, as the song goes. Kara has to juggle her feelings for James, her work responsibilities, babysitting, her superheroics and the pressure of having to focus on what’s most important at any given time. Alex was right to show concern for Kara’s well-being – you can do nothing for other people if you do not take care of yourself, which is why this review is going up later than usual today. I had to prioritize my mental and physical health last night in order to rest so that I could focus on watching the show this morning. As Cat said as eloquently as ever, you can have it all – but not all at once and not right away. Focus on self-care, then prioritize your tasks and take care of them one at a time.

Plot-wise, I was as confused as Kara by the bombing plot. I couldn’t figure out how Ethan Knox’s bombing plot did anything for his daughter either, and his death was just so sad. If it was all a result of Max Lord’s machinations just to study Supergirl, then one would think that Max would have done something to activate Ethan’s fail-safe instead of letting a sick child lose her father. Considering his orphan issues, you’d think he would have done everything in his power to prevent such a tragedy. I’m really unclear on Max’s motivations here, which is probably deliberate but also more confusing than I think the writers intended it to be. With that in mind, episode six is coming up next, and we all know that’s where the first season of a new drama traditionally kicks into high gear. I’m hoping we get to see some questions answered.

(P.S. This is an excellent site to visit if you are feeling stressed, depressed or overwhelmed. Check it out: You Feel Like Shit)

-Dayna

* * *

Early in episode 4 I wasn’t sure why it was put off for a week. It wasn’t until later in the show that CBS’ decision made sense. Toward the end of the show, the plot definitely crossed into Too Soon territory. CBS made the right move.

My opinion of Cat Grant improved a bit in this episode because of her son. When Kara volunteered to watch him while Cat was in Metropolis at an awards ceremony, I was expecting to see the classic spoiled brat terrorizing Kara and everyone else she knows for comedic effect. Instead, we saw a well-adjusted kid just smart enough to be a little bit of trouble, yet still well-raised. It further cements Cat’s place as a worthy mentor.

At the same time, my opinion of James Olsen eroded. I can see where the writers are trying to make him more human and fallible by giving the seemingly bulletproof James relationship problems; Unfortunately it hasn’t been executed quite smoothly, and instead he’s looking like someone who’s difficult to trust.

I can’t quite call Maxwell Lord a master villain just yet, because the writers cleverly left his reasoning a mystery. We know he’s testing Supergirl in a most dangerous and deadly way – we just don’t know why yet. We don’t know if he intends to create collateral deaths, or if he’s just playing games with Supergirl and no one was ever in danger (ex. the “fail-safe” measures). He’s yet another mystery among others in the show, and definitely worth watching as well.

-Jason

* * *

It feels like an unfair competition to compare Supergirl to Jessica Jones (Marvel’s latest on Netflix, released last Friday, and currently being reviewed by Jamus over here), but the more I try to stray away from it in this episode recap, the more the similarities become more stark. I hesitate to think that this episode of Supergirl was planned to have this effect, but it sure feels like there was a greater hand at work. Forewarning: very light Jessica Jones spoilers below. If you’ve seen a trailer, you’re good.

This week, Kara is pulled between her job as Cat Grant’s assistant (babysitting her son Carter), her job as Supergirl (hello mystery bomber), her work with the DEO (what the frig, Hank) and the balance with a personal life (oh, Jimmy James), all the while asking “how does she do it all?” How does one become the perfect modern woman without breaking down? With all of the expectations piled on a person, all of the pressure to look and feel and be perfect? Kara rightfully doesn’t understand how to live up to these expectations without being pulled apart from the core. It isn’t until the end of the episode, with a chat with Cat, that Kara gets the answers she needs: she can’t have everything at once, but she can master one and move on to the next, to build up from a solid foundation.

This isn’t advice that Jessica Jones received – a woman who runs from perfection, who is covered with scars, who is a walking disaster. And she still has worth. In this, we as viewers aren’t able to get everything we want or need at once from our superheroines, but we have two very solid, very visible pillars in our new foundation we can build from. And it’s a foundation we can learn from, with a veritable plethora of distinct women from whom we can learn and look up to. We can’t have everything at once, but we can keep going. That’s how we do it.

-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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