Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Supergirl Episode 201: Adventures of Supergirl
Earlier this week the season premiere of Supergirl aired on its new network, The CW. After the months of speculation about where the show would air and would the CW mean a lower quality production, we finally got a season two.
For those who don't want a deeper dive into the episode, I can sum up the episode in three words.
It was wonderful.
There was a ton to love about this episode. And it all starts with the voiceover of the opening. The new opening talks about how Kara hid herself in the past but now with friends, allies, and family she is finally home. That theme of finding who you are and being proud of your identity is going to be a running theme here.
As usual, Melissa Benoist is brilliant, shining bright as Kara who is maturing in this world and discovering her way in the world. It really felt like it mirrored her growth in comics, suddenly realizing that she could be defined by who she is alone, rather than just her relationships with her cousin or boyfriend or adopted family. And that growth was in both aspects of her character, Supergirl and Kara.
The Tyler Hoechlin Superman was another bright spot, smiling, winking, supporting his cousin, and basically saving the day. This was about as far as you can get from Zach Snyder Superman. But don't think this is a meek Kal. He has a bone to pick with J'onn and he isn't backing down from that. And we hear that Kryptonians age more slowly, explaining his youthful look despite being 12 years older (thanks for dealing with this CW!).
And thank goodness Cat Grant was on the premiere, pushing Kara into her new role and new confidence. As usual, Cat is a mentor. I am pretty convinced, based on some lines she says, that Cat still knows Kara is Supergirl. She also has her usual blistering dialogue, zinging multiple people. And I think we got the hints of a reason why Cat might be less visible this season.
On top of that we got great moments from Winn (now working for the DEO, acting like a fanboy), Lena Luthor (strong in person and determined to polish the Luthor family name), and Jimmy (looking a bit forlorn as his relationship with Kara takes a turn.
In fact, the one problem I have with the episode is the relative dearth of Alex. Sure, she has a decent fistfight and some fun moments. But she seemed more on the periphery of the show than in its center this time around.
Finally, in this preamble, I will say that the special effects and action scenes were definitely on par with last season. Things looked sharp.
On to the specifics.
And then we see who is inside ... Mon-El. Of course we don't know that now. He is an unknown, comatose, and now cared for in the 'new DEO', a skyscraper in the city with windows and bright lights. No more shots of the same three trucks driving into the bunker compound.
Meanwhile at CatCo, Cat is upset that her former assistant hasn't chosen a field. You can tell how irked Cat is because she calls Supergirl 'Kira', the ultimate show of disdain.
And when Kara says an on-line quiz said she should go into marketing, Cat flares even hotter. Kara needs to choose who she wants to be. Not let something random ... or someone else ... tell her who to be.
I do like the addition of 'Miss Tessmacher', the new assistant to Cat. This isn't the only callback to the Donner movies in this episode.
We then get the action sequence teased at in the trailers. The 'Venture', a low orbit transport, falls to the Earth after its engine explodes. It takes the combined effort of Supergirl and Superman to save it. It hearkens back to Byrne's Man of Steel and Superman Returns.
This is our first look at Hoechlin's Clark and Superman and he pulls it off with ease.
And this sequence and Supergirl's elation on teaming up is heartwarming. I love when she says 'this is a job for both of us', a riff on the famous line about Superman alone. And when she tells some nearby kids that she changed Superman's diapers, I had to chuckle.
Perhaps most encouraging is that the effects are stunning.
With Superman in town, we see him tag along with Kara in her life.
He heads to the DEO and Supergirl is thrilled to introduce her famous cousin to her workmates. Winn is practically a puddle on the floor, and asks about Superman stopping the earthquake Luthor started in California (another Donner callback). But this is a classic Superman, saying hi to everyone, shaking everyone's hands and thanking them for their service. And seeing the awe of everyone, even Alex, shows his presence. It is only J'onn that gets the cold shoulder.
Then Clark joins Kara at CatCo. Seeing Cat get all nervous and giggly was hysterical. Perhaps her crush on Clark is why she bad mouths Lois so much. And we get a hint that Lois is with Clark romantically and that (perhaps) she knows his dual identity. Lois has room for both Superman and Clark in her life, something that makes Cat raise an eyebrow.
We learn that Lena Luthor was supposed to be on the Venture. Clark and Kara go to interview Lena to try to figure out if she was behind the explosion. It looks murkier when we learn that LexCorp (now called LCorp) made the part that malfunctioned.
But Lena is pretty resolute in talking about reclaiming her family's name, removing the stain that Lex has put on it. She seems believable. Katie McGrath is the right blend of steely determination and sympathetic figure to make me think she might be my favorite of the new characters on the show.
Back in National City, Kara tells Clark she is struggling a bit with her life. Now that she has options ... in work and romance and heroics ... she seems stuck, as if she doesn't know what to do. I love how supportive Clark is here, telling her she needs to trust her feelings
It becomes apparent that Lena was the culprit behind the Venture explosion. She was the target. Lena's helicopter is attacked by an armed drone with other drones whizzing around the city. The cousins again team up to save the day. Supergirl catching Lena's helicopter again invoked some of the Donner movie (although not on the nose like the others).
How great is it to see Superman save citizens, blast the drones with heat vision, and then wink!
The episode isn't all action.
This idea of Kara now finding herself means that she has to address her new romance with Jimmy. Throughout the episode the two can't find a moment to be alone. And when they finally do, Kara admits this romance seems wrong. They are better friends.
I doubt this is the last we have felt of romantic tension between the two. But this scene was pretty powerful.
Frankly, I never felt like these two had chemistry. I am glad this is being pushed aside.
Back at the DEO, we learn that the assassin is John Corben. He is a world renowned assassin, linked to Intergang and insurrections in Corto Maltese and Khandaq, and he is known for finishing the job. Lena is still in danger.
It is here we learn that Superman isn't happy with J'onn stockpiling Kryptonite at the DEO. J'onn says he needed it for 'other Kryptonians'. But Superman worries that it can be used by more nefarious people.
That is a good wedge to drive between the characters. It feels natural. And I can see both sides of that conflict.
The climax happens with Corben setting off explosions at LCorp as a diversion to kill Lena. The cousins team up to keep the headquarters upright. Kal keeps things vertical while Kara makes an jerryrigged support. It is a nice scene showing the cousins team up again. And not having the building fall. Again, it is the opposite of Man of Steel.
Finally Alex gets something to do, getting into a brawl with Corben before Lena ends things by shooting the killer twice. I guess we learn not to mess with Lena!
Nothing is left but the wrapup, setting the stage for the upcoming season.
Kara decides to be a reporter for CatCo. A reporter is connected to the community, it trusted, and lives a life in service. A reporter tells stories that will make the world better. It is an extension of her Supergirl persona, someone striving for justice.
Cat then shows that she pegged Kara as a reporter from her interview to be Cat's assistant. And then Cat drops a ton of lines hinting she knows Kara is Supergirl. 'I see the hero within', 'you live with integrity', and her need to right wrongs and seek out justice. It's obvious. She knows.
But this scene where Cat tells Kara to take the plunge also makes Cat pause. I think Cat is bored with her life. She needs to shake things up. This has to explain why Cat leaves the show.
Winn ends up joining the DEO. I like this for his character.
And Clark decides to stick around for a bit. He is proud to have worked with his cousin. She is family. And he likes hearing about Krypton.
This is the dynamic we should be seeing with the cousins all the time.
Things get ominous when we see Corben recovering in Cadmus. Here, 'the doctor' gives Corben a choice. He can die. Or he can become Metallo. He chooses the latter. Nice ending hook.
Whew! That was a lot for one episode. But it didn't feel rushed or forced like last season's premiere. The show seems to have found its footing. And there was so much to love here and a lot to mull over. Superman's presence. Superman's strained friendship with J'onn is interesting. Lena's redeeming the Luthor name. The mystery of Mon-El. All this is food for thought.
But it all pales to the growth in Kara herself. Confident and ready to assert herself, she feels different from last year. She has grown so much. I love it.
Overall grade: A