[Review] Supergirl Episode 1×16: “Falling”

written by Dayna Abel and Jason Froikin

Cara’s out sick this week, everyone. Wish her well!

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

A lot of what I love the most about this show is its portrayal of Supergirl as a paragon of kindness with a strong moral center. It’s an incredibly refreshing alternative to the incessant bleakness of, say, Man Of Steel and “edgy” comic book characters. The opening scene of “Falling” pretty much sums it up – Supergirl, overhearing a little girl being bullied for wearing a Supergirl costume, flies down and greets the girl like an old friend, telling the bullies how she’s friends with all the nice girls. Saccharine? Sure, but who cares because we kind of freaking need that. Society’s gotten openly meaner, and Supergirl‘s emphasis on the rewarding nature of being kind is a wonderful ray of sunshine piercing that gloom. Supergirl herself makes for a great role model.

But here’s the flip side. Hero worship piles certain expectations on a person. They cannot falter, they cannot have a bad day, they cannot make mistakes. In other words, they aren’t allowed to be human beings. Red-K Kara makes this abundantly clear to Cat. The meta-commentary is pretty heavy-handed but it needs to be said. When a group is under-represented in media, the “token” character has to become all things for all people. In this case, female superheroes tend to get short shrift. Black Widow was criticized because people unrealistically expected her to live up to preconceived notions of womanhood, rather than allowing her to be her own person. I have passionately defended the need for both Supergirl and Jessica Jones to have their own shows because women are not a monolith. We are people. Some of us are “dark and edgy” and some of us are “girly and sweet.” We have to have more diverse women in our media because women are diverse. Two-dimensional characters with no dark side, as Kara points out to Cat, is unrealistic. Showing more female superheroes provides women who love superheroes the opportunity to relate to the characters because then we don’t just have one token chick that we’re expected to love because she’s a chick.

That heavily-padded paragraph aside, the other really great part of “Falling” was that at no point were Kara’s actions hand-waved away by “well, it was Red Kryptonite, it wasn’t really you, you were mind-controlled” and everyone forgave her at the end. No, instead Supergirl throws that awful trope in the garbage and says that this is a side of Kara. It’s destructive and horrible, and it’s “every bad thought [she] ever had” coming out. It might be a side she suppresses and hates, but it’s still part of who Kara is. It’s Kara with the moral brakes off. Alex doesn’t absolve Kara of her actions, but because she loves her sister, she says “we’ll work through it.” When you fuck up, you take responsibility, and you work really hard to make amends for it. That’s an incredibly important moral lesson. It looks as though we’ll be seeing the fallout next episode, and although this is just a story and not real life, I’m glad to see that National City forgiving Kara is not promised or guaranteed, but an ongoing process, and Kara knows that. Like Alfred said in The Dark Knight Rises, “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up again.”

-Dayna

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This week was another episode of Supergirl where all its best characters shone. Kara stated at the end, when her personality was back to normal, that it was like all of those awful thoughts just came out. Melissa Benoist stuck to that line through the whole episode. Instead of Supergirl “turning evil”, she simply began listening to her doubts, anger, and worries. The things she said in that state of mind all had a spooky amount of truth to them. That’s important, because even after she was restored to normal, she not only has to make things right, but has to face the truth in those things she said. This episode’s topic promises to be far from a one-off.

It was easy to be upset with Cat Grant halfway through the episode when she decided not to stand behind Supergirl anymore. To feel like she abandoned Kara in her time of need. But then at the end, we start to understand how tough that decision was. She was being fair – because the city depended on her as a leader. And she was just as fair to Kara at the end.

Another well-written point in the episode was Martian Manhunter. I wondered, right along with Alex, why he would surrender instead of fleeing. Right along with her again, I kept wondering until she spoke to him in the cell at the DEO. And then, along with her again, I understood why. He said he wouldn’t be able to keep his promise to protect Alex and Kara if he left. I think there’s more to it than that: things are going to become tough at the DEO without him as leader. Alex and Kara are going to need him to be there now more than ever.

-Jason

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BONUS REVIEW: ADVENTURES OF SUPERGIRL #4 by Sterling Gates and Jonboy Meyers

The new chapter of Adventures Of Supergirl introduces the artistic talents of Jonboy Meyers, whose fresh, cartoony style really suits the characters. In this arc, we’re introduced to the villain Vril Dox who uses computer technology to frame Winn as a terrorist for reasons as yet unknown. It points out the dangers of doxxing and “black hat” hacking as tools for abuse with the poignant line “Well, you’ve clearly never been a woman on the internet” as Kara says to James’ dismissal of doxxing as a threatening behavior. While never doxxed, I have been subjected to targeted online harassment in the past year, and so this is an important arc to me. Hopefully it addresses the subject well, as it’s an important message to send about how harmful these techniques can be.

[ComiXology link]

-Dayna

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

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