"Stronger Together", the second episode of Supergirl, aired at the beginning of this week and was simply fantastic. I had some issues with the rushed sort of pace of the pilot, as that episode shoved a bit too much story into a mere 48 minutes.
This issue keeps the pedal to the metal, keeps the pace brisk, but doesn't have the rushed feel of the first. There are character turns here and plot twists. But nothing seems too fast, no turn too quick, to feel as if there was a scene missing. That fast pace works both in character development and action sequences. And the action sequences are superb.
But most of all, the feel of the show remains pitch perfect. I have said over and over that I love that Supergirl is at the beginning of the hero's journey. She has the weight of the S-Shield, the weight of Superman's presence and perfection, on her. She can fail. But she remains optimistic, hopeful, and always dusts herself off and keeps on fighting. I'll review many of my favorite moments here but the foundation of this show is Melissa Benoist who is able to pull off the gamut of Kara's emotions - joy, confidence, anger, disgust, sadness, surprise. She simply is Kara.
Supergirl is feeling pretty good about herself as she outruns missiles and seems to prove herself to Hank Henshaw. Unfortunately the good feelings end when she can't put out a fire near an oil tanker and ends up accidentally spilling the crude into the ocean.
The fallout is that the media asks if Supergirl is a miracle or a menace. Even local National City celebrity Maxwell Lord asks if her presence is worth it, knowing the danger she represents.
It all feels like Gates' Supergirl #34, even when Cat seems to want to pile on. But then the show takes a nice turn from the book. Cat wants to control Supergirl's narrative; she sounds almost supportive. Of course she also wants to beat the 'Daily Planet hags' Lois Lane and Clark Kent. Awesome.
In the end Cat wants Jimmy to use his role as a 'famous pal' to set up an interview. Kara isn't interested.
Later, we see Hellgrammite robbing 'Plastino Chemicals', a nice nod to Al Plastino.
Supergirl sees a sort of spike at the crime scene and we see her flashback to Krypton. There is a great scene between Alura and a young Kara. There is a lot to love here. We see a studious Kara, using a hand held device to study. And Laura Benanti is great as this supportive, strong mother telling Kara about her work. The conversation she recalls is about Hellgrammite, someone Alura imprisoned.
This Krypton seems much more in line with the Man of Steel look.
It becomes clear that Kara needs to train more, learning not only to use her powers but also to learn how to fight.
As expected from the sizzle reel, we see Alex fighting Kara in a Kryptonite Danger Room. Kara is all big right hand haymakers and Alex easily parries and trashes Supergirl. It is another moment where Kara questions Alex's support.
Kara storms off, saying she knows why Superman works alone.
This theme of family support and working alone is key to this entire episode.
I do worry that the DEO has so much Kryptonite that they have airgun darts, a whole room infused, and later hand weapons. Will it be a crutch?
I will say that Benoist is fantastic. But Benanti is amazing. She exudes this love and support as Alura. And as Astra, she is deliciously wicked, grinning and sneering at the same time. Perfect.
Much like we had a montage scene last episode, we see the same here.
Cat again talks about Supergirl needing to start small and then have huge adventures. Cat equates it to her own story, going from Perry White's assistant to gossip columnist to media mogul. It is a journey. Supergirl shouldn't jump to the end.
Kara realizes that she has mentors and friends who can help her. Leaning on Super Friends Win and Jimmy, we see Kara foil an armed robbery on 5th and Siegel (nice homage). We see her carry an ambulance on Donner Avenue (again nice) to the hospital (lowering the vehicle down in a classic super-image). And we see her save a snake (not a kitten) in a tree.
Pat Benatar's 'Hit me with your best shot' plays as we see Supergirl succeed in turning public sentiment around. Can 'Invincible' be far behind?? Please say yes!!
This series of rescues brings Alex back to Alex's life where again we see the sisters talk about supporting each other. I hope this argument/reconciliation pattern between the sisters not happen every episode.
Kara isn't the only one on a personal journey.
There is a great scene were we learn that Jimmy no longer wanted to be defined as being Superman's Pal. He wants to define himself. If Kara doesn't talk to Cat, Jimmy will be sent packing back to Metropolis. And he doesn't want that.
Kara talks about the S-shield. It is the crest of the House of El. But it also means 'El My Arah', a motto which means 'stronger together'. Supergirl is going to embrace that. Unlike Superman, she realizes she needs a support system, she likes her circle, and she will grow with them. And it is okay for James to need help too.
I didn't think this was a shot at Superman's support system (Lois, the Kents, etc.). I think this simply meant that Superman is established enough to fight super-villains on her own. Kara isn't their yet. She is stronger when all her friends are there helping her.
The DEO ends up in a skirmish with Hellgrammite. During that fight Alex is captured. All this ends up with Supergirl and Alex in a factory fight with General Astra and the Hellgrammite.
There is a fantastic brawl between Astra and Kara with lots of super-powers on display. We see people tossed through walls, heat vision fights, girders bent and twisted. And all of this while Kara deals with learning Astra is back and evil.
There is a perfect moment where Astra says that Alura jailed her for 'speaking the truth.' Alura says she won't let another world die. Kara then looks back determined and says 'I was about to say the same thing'. It shows Kara's conviction. Just fantastic.
In the fight, Hellgrammite is killed by Alex (a rather casual murder, akin to last week's Vartox death). And Hank Henshaw shows up brandishing a K-knife and driving Alura away.
It is clear that Astra isn't the big bad. She is working for someone else. At first I was thinking Mongul. Now I wonder if it is Maxwell Lord!
Again, Alex decides to support Kara. The two vow to have faith in each other. And then Alex says a line which pretty much defines Supergirl for me. When discussing Kara coming to Earth and losing her world, Alex says that Kara 'never let that loss diminish her light.' That is Supergirl in a nut shell ... bright and optimistic and heroic.
Alex has also set up a sort of 'Conference Room of Solitude' for Kara at the DEO headquarters. Inside is an Alura AI, a working computer that Kara can ask questions to. It smacks a bit too much like the Jor-El AI of Smallville. But I loved that Kara asked if she could have a hug. All the feels!
But the biggest reveal was Hank Henshaw sporting red eyes. Henshaw's character was still a bit too one-dimensionally gruff for me in this show. But we learn that he had a family (I assume their death led to his hatred of aliens). And then this shot.
My hope is that he is a Martian.
That said, he's probably Cyborg Superman?
The episode ends with a cliffhanger with Kara carrying Cat's car outside the city to grant that interview.
So, like the pilot, a lot happens here. But this time the events seem to unfold a bit more naturally. There weren't character 180's that seem odd.
Melissa Benoist really shines. I love the disgust on her face when she hears Cat think that Supergirl might be Superman's girlfriend. Kissing cousins? There is this look of 'icky' on Kara's face. But we also see a fierce Kara yelling at Henshaw. We see her smiling with joy when flying. We see her awkwardness when she fiddles with her glasses. Just perfect.
There were even more references embedded in the show. Talk of 'single bounds', the military guild, Superman's fortress and other Easter eggs were all there.
This episode seem to answer the concerns I had last week. I still think the Henshaw/Alex/Kara dynamic is the part of the show that needs some work. The Win/Cat/Jimmy/Kara stuff is just solid!
This was a big win overall!
Overall grade: A