Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Supergirl Episode 6: Red-Faced

Supergirl episode 6, 'Red Faced', came out this week and was a very good episode, building all the characters' back stories and showing how Supergirl is growing. The title works in a couple of ways. Anger is a big component of this plot, how to control your anger and how to channel it. But red-faced can also mean Red Tornado, the villain of the week here.

I am going to sound a bit repetitive but one of the reasons I love Supergirl as a character is that she has these great powers but she is beginning her hero's journey. She is much more human to me, much more fallible than Superman. She is optimistic but she can be fierce if she sees people wronged. So having her come to grips with rage and, in some ways, sadness in this episode was wonderful. And how that thread of anger is bounced off the supporting cast works well in making them three dimensional as well.

And, to again sound like a broken record here, Melissa Benoist completely shines in this episode. She shows such a range of emotions, played out often just in her expression and body language. She is amazing.

 We start with a very happy Supergirl flying high in the clouds, just clearing her head and enjoying herself. Her alone time is interrupted when she hears two drivers engaging in crazy road rage, banging into each other like a demolition derby and nearly plowing into a kid soccer team crossing the street.

Kara sounds almost a bit annoyed that she has to break away from her flight to stop these guys. And when one throws a punch at her, she defiantly yells at him and accidentally injures him. Captured on all the kids' cell phones, this is another episode where the public might distrust her. And Maxwell Lord takes the opportunity to hit the airwaves and talk about her brutality. Meanwhile, Hank Henshaw tells her she needs to control her anger or people will be afraid of her.

This is the first time we have seen Kara irritated when helping people.

I do like that she takes the time to help with small crimes like this as well as big threats like Vartox.

 Back at CatCo we finally meet Cat Grant's mother. The woman is a psychologically abusive woman and a product of her generation.

She belittles Cat constantly, calling her Kitty, saying Cat can't read and would rely on audio books, questioning Cat's importance, and even saying she prefers male heroes and doctors.

All this needling definitely gets under Cat's skin. And that anger is redirected at Kara and the staff.

Two episodes of anger both which end wrong.

Lucy let Jimmy know that her curmudgeon of a father is in town and we learn why. Lane is testing a new military deterrent codenamed Red Tornado and he wants Supergirl to fight it as a test. Lane's judicial counsel is none other then Lucy who informs both Hank and Supergirl that she has a written order from the President that the DEO needs to comply.

Lucy looks just as she did in the Jamal Igle pages of the Supergirl book. I love it.

And General Lane falls in line with his pre-New 52 persona. He hates aliens. He dislikes the DEO's 'foreign assistance' with Supergirl. And he is definitely a prickly personality, throwing blame at anyone but himself.

The night before the test, Kara hosts Game Night at her home. Earlier we hear her describe Game Night as the last shred of normalcy she has in her life. Unfortunately, this isn't the escape she wants as she sees Lucy and James dominate in games, clearly knowing each other well, and acting perfect. Meanwhile, #PoorWinn can't answer one question right with Kara.

Kara's general annoyance is unleashed on Red Tornado the next day. After initially being tossed about by whirlwinds (very nice effects here), she pulls a Bugs Bunny, burrowing underground, popping up next to the android, and batters him. I mean, it is like old school Nintendo Punch Out.

Unfortunately she does her job too well. She rips off a forearm, triggering a self-preservation program in the Tornado. He takes off in stealth mode, completely invisible.

General Lane quickly blames the DEO and Supergirl for this. Of course, he can't see that he is the one who created a semi-self-aware killing machine.

Her emotions simmering, Kara gets laid into my Cat for being late. And, for once, Kara lashes back, yelling at Cat for being mean. What I love about this scene is not only that Kara stands up for herself but her immediate recognition that this isn't who she is. Melissa Benoist is incredible here, shaking a bit and putting her hands in front of her face. It shows how distraught she is by all this.

Instead of being infuriated, Cat decides to mentor Kara more. While under the haze of martinis, Cat drops some wisdom. She talks how women can't easily show their emotions. Perry White can toss chairs like Bobby Knight and he is lauded. She can't do anything like that without it being professional suicide. Cat had to learn how to find 'the anger behind the anger', to find out what she is truly mad at and deal with it. 

After another encounter with the Red Tornado where she has to rescue General Lane and stop a twister from ripping the city apart,  Kara decides to box to let off some steam. She heads to a garage with James where he hits the heavy bag and she punches a car.

This was such a pivotal scene for the Supergirl character. She talks about Cat. She talks about being angry that she doesn't know how Jeremiah died. She talks about how, as a woman, she has to smile and keep her feelings in check.

And then she has this moment where she gets to the bottom of her anger. She wonders if she will never have a normal life. She is angry that she doesn't have a Game Night partner. She is angry that her life changed when her parents saved her. Nothing will ever be normal.

Once again, we see Benoist just dominate the screen. She hovers on tears, nearly shaking. This is sort of moment of understanding of what her life is.

 But the moment ends when Alex figures out how to track the Tornado. Working with Maxwell Lord, Alex has learned that the Tornado is now under the control of creator T.O. Morrow who was fired by General Lane.

In a great ending scene, we see a nice montage of two fights. Alex fights Morrow. Kara fights the Tornado. The director cuts back and forth brilliantly between the two.

Alex kills Morrow, cutting the telepathic cord. But when the Tornado remains active, Kara unleashes a primal scream, blasting it with her heat vision while visions of her youth, of her being rocketed off Krypton fill her head. It is an unbelievably powerful ending, with Benoist showing all the emotion we need to see.

This blast, perhaps the most intense heat vision blast I have ever seen, vaporizes the android.

And I am convinced that when Morrow was killed by Alex, his consciousness went into the robot. Someone will find that head, rebuild him, and find Morrow's intellect within. Mark it down!

There is nothing left but the wrap up.

Lucy finally realizes her father is misguided. She resigns her commission.
Cat finally stands up to her mother.
Winn, who has been hacking into the DEO, tells Alex that her father's last mission was in South America with Hank Henshaw.
And Alex discovers she is vulnerable, cutting her hand on a glass.

There are other great moments in this episode. Lord continues to woo Alex. At one point Alex reveals that Jeremiah worked for the government. It makes me wonder if Lord has telepathic powers like he did in the comic.

Hank at one point steps up and almost angrily defends Supergirl when General Lane attacks. He doesn't seem to be a villain. I am keeping with my Martian Manhunter guess.

Winn is coerced to hack the DEO when he learns it is about Jeremiah, noting he has daddy issues.

And the reveal that Henshaw and Jeremiah Danvers went on a mission together and only Henshaw returned, with no recollection of what happened, has led me to crazy guesses. Could Henshaw be Jeremiah? Did they discover J'Onn there and the Manhunter accidentally killed the two of them? This could sort of mirror the Erdel death in J'onn's origin.

But the high point here was Kara's self-discovery of her pain and anger and where it stems from. It is like she sort of turned a corner here. This isn't fun and games. This isn't jumping up and down on her couch like when she saved the plane. To be a hero like this is a vocation and it means sacrifice. And that can be difficult. That primal scream at the end was just a perfect capstone to that revelation.

This show continues to shine. I am one happy fan.


Martin Gray said...

Best. Episode. Yet.

The whole production team is on fire, from the writers to the effects guys to the actors. Such a packed, intense episode - Kara unleashing her heat vision while gruntscreaming was terrifying - she'll give Silver Banshee a run for her money should she show up - but happily cathartic.

Apparently the actress playing Cat's mother used to be the editor of Vogue, I can see why they cast her. Loved her, she's a real stinker.

But not as bad as General Lane, who for me, goes way beyond 'curmudgeon'. He's a dangerous fanatic, easily the kind of horrible father who will use Lucy against Kara at some point. I could see her falling out with Jimmy, running back to Daddy and going Superwoman on us.

And while I can see Jimmy showing respect, he really should have manned up and given Lane as good as he got. It seemed unrealistic that Jimmy wouldn't assume there's some racism at work - I then assumed the show just wanted to be totally colour blind until Jimmy referenced assumptions about Black men in that excellent training scene (where were they, anyway?).

That scene with the lost powers, it was very Supergirl #40, wasn't it?

And Red Tornado? Wow. I can't believe how well he worked on screen. Give that guy a comeback. And a cape.

That Alex, she just can't stop killing those villains.

I'm not convinced J'onn is Hank, he just seems too ruddy grumpy! Slip him a cookie and we'll see...

Oh, and #poorwinn.

Gene said...

That scene where Kara stopped the tornado in the middle of the city reminded me of the fight scene in Superman II. Its amazing that major cinematic scene 30 years ago can be recreated today on a television budget. Also, Supergirl emerging from the tornado was an unintended movie homage.


Anonymous said...

Y'know I wanted to like this ep more than I did...but maybe thats because I thought Red Tornado's design owed a lot more to "Sid & Marty Krofft" than "Industrial Light & Magic".
Oh....and how did RT "regrow" that arm that Supergirl so delicately detached?? And every time the script invokes Kara's super hearing it's a close up of a pierced earring.....or is it her DEO comlink? Its a small thing but I wish they'd clarify it all the same.
Agreed there was a lot of deft playing from Ms Benoist this week mostly centering on the downside of being a super heroine with survivor's guilt (which is exactly how SG should process the end of Krypton it's a species of PTS for her it's an infantile trauma for Kal El)...maybe that got rushed in a bit early but overall quality of the acting obscures that issue. And they are sure rushing into the "temporarily powerless" plotline good and early (Buffy the Vampire Slayer was deep into it's third season before it explored the theme) but I guess the temptation is hard to resist.

The show has been renewed for twenty eps a full season run per CBS (the usual run in 22 eps but they may have blown the budget on the pilot or else the rumored team up with "The Flash" will fill up the deficit).


Starsaber said...

Since Morrow was remote controlling Tornado, he probably repaired it. Or it had a self-repair protocol (which would make sense in a combat android)

KET said...

There's no 'usual run' for a full season anymore, thanks to the changing ways networks premiere and restart their series. In Supergirl's case, the show started late in the fall season, so CBS obviously didn't need any more for a full season run. Some consideration was also probably made for quality consistency for future episodes, but the definition of what constitutes 'full season' tends to be evolving in televised media today.

However, one of my favorite parts of this episode was when Supergirl tunneled underground, just like in her Silver Age adventures.


Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

I agree Mart that Lane is a dangerous fanatic. Its the way he was presented in the comics. I do wonder if we will see him again. If he is making anti-alien weapons, I wonder if he'll be recruited in the war on Astra. Shades of New Krypton!

Gene, you can see there is a lot of love for the character here. There is a feeling of iconic heroism which will always feel like Donner. But it isn't as overt as, say, Superman Returns was. I love how they are portraying her.

I agree with Starsaber that Morrow must have fixed Tornado.

And lastly, KET, I love the burrowing scene! Reminds me of that other Warner star, Bugs!

Anonymous said...

On the other hand I've never really liked the whole "Superman and Supergirl are living solar batteries" meme, but clearly the ship sailed on that one a long long time ago.
Speaking of Lane he was rather openly eavesdropping on Henshaw as he was talking to SG while she was melting Red Tornado...trying to get a line on her limitations clearly. He is being set up a villain down the line maybe next season...fingers crossed.
BTW if Lucy is resigning from the army and walking out on Daddy that makes HER literally the only member of Kara's circle who is unaware of her dual identity (save Cat, and we all have our doubts about Cat don't we?)....that too may have down-the-line-consequences especially if SuperWOMAN is in the mix.


Anonymous said...

Still bothers me why she doesnt have super speed when hand to hand combat but do when flying

Anonymous said...

I vaguely remember them saying that Red Tornado was built out of some bio-polymer-something, which I thought would account for the arm regrowth. I imagine that a scene or bit of dialogue explicitly explaining it was on the cutting room floor.