Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Review: Supergirl episode 2 - 'Stronger Together'

"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. 

The episode starts with Kara in a training exercise for the DEO and declaring that 'this is her story'. It so reminds me of the 'this is my life' opening statement in the Gates/Igle run.

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?

 That said, we see General Astra and other Kryptonians on Earth. They bully the Hellgrammite into tracking down Supergirl to kill her, blood relations or no.

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. 

The episode ends with a rapid fire display of revelations.

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.

Nice hook!

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   


Martin Gray said...

Great review of a great show. Everything - well, bar HoloMom - is great. Isn't it interesting that heat vision is blue here, like a gas flame.

Flockhart was especially fine this issue.

I was surprised at how easily Alex beat Hellgrammite.

Now, what I hope we see soon is a visit to the Danvers. A big change in Kara's life demands she talks to her parents, surely?

Unknown said...

I complained about the forced girl power anti-male tone in the pilot. This episode went to where I was hoping, Kara's story of growth. I loved when Hank finished Kara's sentence with "because you are a girl?" Kara replies "I was going to say because I was an alien". I loved that her sister is such a convincing "don't mess with me" character. She is going to be strong on this show and gives a great side by side duo with Kara. The show is filled with strong acting. My favorite moment overall was when Millissa Benoist lights up that smile. Even when she is crying you can tell a smile is about to breakout. Love it. Keep the happy in the show and let everyone be strong. Kara doesn't need anything but a family and love and maybe a job for Supergirl now and then.

Anonymous said...

It thought the episode was nice, but ratings dropped by 30%.

Unknown said...

Awesome review of episode two of Supergirl! I really like that all the high notes from the episode are in the review.

I'm glad that the series is referencing so many creators from the Superman family. I didn't catch the nod to Siegel... nice!

Henshaw as a Martian is a good idea! The episode does rise the question of what happened to his family. Personally, I think the 'red eyes' are due to Maxwell Lord controlling him. You make the excellent point it might be Lord meeting with Astra near the show's conclusion.

Gene said...

Kara picking up Cat's car at the end reminded me of the first episode of Superman the Animated Series when he picked up Lois Lane's car and flew it to a remote mountain top to grant her an interview.

I like how Kara floated above Cat as she says lets talk. I wonder if its possible (or comfortable for Benoist) for Kara to float less than a foot off the ground while talking to people like Supergirl did in Tiny Titans.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review Anj, definately hit the points about the episode I absolutely LOVED! And how much Melissa B
just lights up the screen, especially when she smiles -- when I saw that one she flashed shortly after the media
start sharing all the positive rescues and actions she's done, wow... like staring into the sun! :)

I caught most of the easter eggs you listed... I missed Seigel Avenue, though. Surprised you didn't mention about
the "This Is A Job For Supergirl!" line. THAT had me howling with glee!

Another scene that cracked me up was the "He knows?" scene in the alleyway... like finding out you're dating the
same girl as another guy, but played so humorously by the 3 actors.

@Martin Grey
Helen Slater has let on she's back in Ep 5... I _HOPE_ the producers find an excuse to have her onscreen in an S-tshirt...
or to have Kara catch her trying on her Supergirl costume on the sly, just for one of those moments :)

..and for those bot borth of the 49th, has shared the trailer for Ep 3 on it's site... sonic watch,
Reactron, and *gasp* Superman?! Be Still, My Beating Heart!


Martin Gray said...

Thanks for the info, Anon!

Anonymous said...

Loved the faint look of disgust that Supergirl betrays when she rescues "Fluffy the Python" from a tree....Good ep for throwing out multiple plot threads and the whole Astra thing got clarified first off which I liked I was afraid Astra was gonna try and impersonate her sister or some damn thing.
Doncha love how Henshaw came armed with a kryptonite knife? Gee who do you think inspired that nasty little killing weapon hmmm?
Ms Benoist has charisma, there I said it.


Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments and info.

The reaction on the net has been interesting, more split that I anticipated.

Hopefully the show thrives and finds a stable and satisfactory audience!

Anonymous said...

There was a significant drop off in the audience between the first two episodes and I'm not particularly surprised. Despite Melissa's great performance, its not a very good television show. It's a teen CW show with a larger budget. The plotting, the look and feel, etc... It's a straight knock off of the Smallville/Flash formula, and while those shows found a young niche audience, they never have drawn audiences that would justify airing the show on one of the big networks.

I'm not optimistic about the long term prospects of the show. Even if this episode was much better than the terrible pilot.

Anonymous said...

You couldn't get much worse scripts than Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman especially when it hit CBS it still managed to hang in there three years....This show displays vastly greater potential.
Anyhow they got "The Amazing Adventures of Batgirl's Dad" on over at Fox, enjoy....

KET said...

"There was a significant drop off in the audience between the first two episodes and I'm not particularly surprised."

Neither was the network, considering that the second episode wasn't as well advertised as the first. And all things said, it's standard attrition for a show that premiered with huge ratings all over the world.

"I'm not optimistic about the long term prospects of the show."

Well, then you're clearly not paying enough attention. Even with the drop-off for episode two, Supergirl is still one of the top new shows of this TV season, and it tied Blindspot at #1 for pre-scripted shows this past Monday night. It's also still the biggest comic book-based TV show to come along in more than a century. But, you know, feel free to keep on whining on pointless semantics that are distracting you from enjoying the show; it simply won't matter in the long run.


Anonymous said...

All I'm saying is a show geared primarily to tweens, that lacks smart snappy writing and is overly dependent on the metahuman monster of the week formula is probably going to struggle.

That said, the Ratings (Live +3 days) are more promising. It climbed back into the Top 10 overall. It doesn't look like as many people abandoned it as initially expected. It's just not must see, as in live, viewing. Whether those who DVR it will stick around, is the big question.

I'm 50/50 at the moment, best on the improvement between the pilot and the first episode, and I'm a hard core Supergirl fan. I'm curious if the general audience will be as committed.

Martin Gray said...

I too worry a tad about overdependency on the Fort Roz Escapee of the Week but we're just two episodes in ... do we know Reactron follows the same pattern? I doubt the apparently upcoming Toyman does.

Even if it does stick with their version of Kryptofreaks, there's so much to love about the show that I can forgive it. I cannot believe such a great Supergirl ha appeared, fully formed. I'll be cheering rather than fearing.

KET said...

"All I'm saying is a show geared primarily to tweens, that lacks smart snappy writing and is overly dependent on the metahuman monster of the week formula is probably going to struggle."

Except that you're merely speculating that this is what the show is going for; and it's NOT. For example, this week's featured supervillains aren't aliens from Fort Rozz.

One can already figure this out by looking at the difference in promos being made for upcoming episodes by the networks in the US and Canada. Canadian network Global has been mostly focusing on action and serious drama aspects of the show, while CBS is firmly promoting the Supergirl series by showing light-hearted funny aspects and critical acclaim. Clearly these latter promos are being made for a much wider audience demographic than the niche comic book geek audience. As producer Greg Berlanti mentioned in a recent interview for Variety, CBS continues to know what they're doing in their marketing department (unlike DC Comics, whose suits now have enormous egg on their faces by rushing to release a digital-first Supergirl comic book series too late into the game).

One should also seek out a recent online audio interview with one of the writers for the show, Ted Sullivan. It's very illuminating in explaining just how much work is going into this show, and the high standards that were required just to get on staff for this demanding gig.


Anj said...

While Roz clearly is a big part, we know Reactron, Livewire, And Toyman aren't. I also think Lord is a villain in waiting.

Its no more complicated than Flash with its villain of the week and romance plots. I think it'll be fine.

Great discussion here! Thanks!