Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Supergirl Episode 5ish: Livewire

Supergirl Episode 4 "How Does She Do It" was shelved for a week when its plot of terrorist time bombings around National City was felt to be too close to the attacks on France to be aired. As a result, this week, we got to see Episode 5 "Livewire" one week early.

"Livewire" was a very good episode focusing as much on character development as it did on action. This was a world-building episode, adding history to all the female characters of the show. We got to see how expectations and mentoring can mold people. We learned that too much pressure can make someone crack. And we learned that a lack of a role model can create a monster. All of this was extremely well done. Brit Morgan played a great Livewire villain. The standout performance was by Calista Flockhart who  showed that Cat Grant  may appear callous and sometimes shallow but whose waters run deep. The standout scene was between Chyler Leigh and Helen Slater where Alex finally confronted her mother Eliza about unrealistic expectations and disappointment.

That doesn't mean Supergirl is absent. Melissa Benoist still brings a positive vibe  and joy to the role. There is humor. There is maturity. There is optimism. There is fierceness. Supergirl is a complex character because of the breadth of her emotions. Benoist shines, capturing it all. And her wire work and action sequences are improving weekly.

I don't want these reviews to be a simple rehash. So I'll try to hit the high points.

The episode starts with Supergirl stopping an alien who has escaped and is running amok in the DEO headquarters. It is an excellent action sequence with this alien tossing agents through windows and Kara eventually body slamming it into submission with flight powers. The choreography is great. Kara uses fighting technique. And there is a definite emergence of a little body quirk, Kara floating/flying with her right leg bent at the knee and flexed. That is 'her' pose.

But the best part of the fight is when Kara learns this behemoth was female and gives a quick 'respect'. That flip from determined combatant to quipster is perfect.

Helen Slater is in the episode as Eliza Danvers, the girls' mother visiting for Thanksgiving. One thing that is obvious is that Alex walks on egg shells around her. Eliza has put a lot of pressure on Alex to protect Kara. And Alex knows Eliza won't be happy about Kara's coming out as Supergirl. In an interesting turn, Eliza doesn't know that Alex works for the DEO. She thinks she is still just a lab rat, not a field agent.

The scene is quick but lays the foundation of the relationship. Alex is under the microscope and feels the pressure.

And we learn that Kara's favorite pie is chocolate pecan. It is 'the best dessert on 12 planets'. Does this mean Kara has visited other planets? That other planets visited Krypton so she sampled other alien confections? Hmmm ...

We then get a montage of Leslie Willis, CatCo's shock jock. And Willis aims her wrath at Supergirl. In a mini-monologue she insults Supergirl's looks, her 'adorkable' nature, her idiotic costume of skirt and tights, her 'Sapphic' vibe. She wonders who would try to penetrate the chastity belt of steel and if Kryptonian genitalia is horrific.  It is a nice scene. We see everyone's reaction to specific parts of the rant. So Winn hears about the costume. James rolls his eyes about the sexuality. It is nothing but the attack of a bully, trying to shame Supergirl.

And Cat isn't going to let it go on. First off, CatCo wants a 'relationship' with Supergirl. Cat would 'adopt' Supergirl if she could. In a great line, we hear Cat say that Supergirl's presence is changing National City to something more optimistic, a place of hope. That is phenomenal.

But personally, Cat realizes she should have been a better mentor for Leslie. It is here that we begin to see more of Cat. It isn't all about ratings. It is sometimes about doing what's right.

Despite Leslie's threat that Cat will regret it, Grant demotes Leslie to a traffic reporter in the 'Cat Copter'.

 As I said above, this is episode 5. Episode 4 was skipped.

The only speed bump to that was James seemingly being back together with Lucy Lane. This should get explained more in that fourth episode. But James is off for a long Thanksgiving with Lucy.

 Leslie's first broadcast as a traffic reporter is in a thunderstorm and soon the helicopter is out of control. Supergirl has to swoop in for the rescue. There is something very classic about a copter save, evocative of the Donner movie.

But while grabbing Leslie, a lightning bolt hits Kara. The energy courses into Leslie, turning her hair blue and knocking the DJ into a coma.

The effects on this show is brilliant. The lightning/electric powers this whole episode is just great.

 The Eliza and Alex friction increases during the show. Eliza blames Alex for letting Kara get herself into this situation. I love how Eliza says that Kara just assumes that everyone is as good as she is. That is the Supergirl optimism and brightness I love.

We then flashback to seeing Kara flying over Midvale with Alex when they were kids. It's a dangerous silly thing to do.

But what I love was Malina Weissman adopt that same 'right leg bent' flying pose. It is continuity nods like this that enrich a show like this.

 Finally, filled with the liquid courage of wine, Alex tells her mother that she is a DEO agent. It absolutely ruins Thanksgiving dinner. But at least the air is cleared. Eliza should be proud of Alex. She should know that Alex is helping and protecting Kara in that role. Her mother shouldn't be disappointed in her.

Alex has been pushed by Eliza and has accomplished so much. It should be enough to garner respect. This theme is woven throughout the show.

I also like Kara standing up to Eliza. Kara decided to be Supergirl. It was her decision. The mother shouldn't be deriding Alex.

Alex storms off. Winn slinks away. And Kara is called to CatCo.

Meanwhile, Livewire has awoken from her coma and loves her new powers. She absorbs the energy from the city and confronts Cat in the CatCo office.  Kara is there and the two run for cover. Cat tells Kara to run 20 floors down to get security. It allows Kara to slip away and become Supergirl. There are lots of clues that Cat knows Kara is Supergirl. This is one of them.

Livewire and Supergirl fight in another great scene. The effects are great, especially a spot were we see Supergirl rise outside the window of the CatCo building and fly through the glass. And we again see more fighting technique from Kara: heat vision, haymakers, and head butts.

 The Alex/Eliza relationship builds up until we get a powerful scene between the two. Alex sheds tears as she asks her mother why she has never been good enough for her mother. Eliza admits that Alex makes the tough decisions. Alex is better than Eliza could hope to be. And Eliza calls Alex 'her Supergirl'.

This is so well acted. The best scene of the episode for me.

Meanwhile, the DEO has helped Kara by creating a sort of capacitor trap that reminds Supergirl of Ghostbusters. I love that the Ghostbuster quip falls flat in the serious conference room of the DEO. Perfect.

But better than that was Henshaw saying it is a trap modified to capture a Zarolatt! That is a deep cut reference to the 80s mini-series The Weird!

 Echoing the sentiments from the Alex/Eliza scene, we hear from Cat how she should have mentored Leslie in a better way. Cat's mother pushed and pushed Cat all her life. Sometimes it is unhealthy, but it has made Cat who she is. It is why Cat pushes those she cares about (admitting Supergirl is one of those people). She is trying to bring the best out of people. She didn't do that with Leslie. Cat created this monster.

The trap is set with Cat and Supergirl luring Livewire to 'where it all started', her first radio station. In another great small thing, we see Leslie's first show's poster. It is a smiling Leslie. The font is cursive, not the sharp style of her current show. We see how Leslie has changed without guidance.

Again, small things like personality quirks and continuity nods, and this visual prompt of Livewire's past adds so much to a show.

 Supergirl and Livewire brawl in the street and it is beautiful. The effects are stunning, especially seeing Livewire teleport into wiring and wielding lightning whips. Just spectacular.

The Ghostbuster device fails so Supergirl has to fall back onto an old favorite to beat an electric villain. She grabs a water main and douses Leslie, shorting her out. I liked that this was Kara needing to think on her own and not use a gadget of the week.

Look at this screen grab. Those are unreal effects.

The fallout from the defeat are varied.

Cat decides that she won't run nonsense about celebrities (one getting drunk at Club Apokolips?) and instead will run positive stories instead. Supergirl's positivity is working its magic here?

Winn tells Kara that he is jealous of her family. His father is a bad person and is in prison. He didn't name drop Toyman. But we know that.

And Eliza lets her girls know a secret she has been keeping. We see in flashbacks that young Kara's flight with Alex got the attention of the DEO back then. A more hirsute Henshaw wants Kara to be taken in. Instead, Jeremiah Danvers makes a deal. He will work for the DEO and Kara will stay put. Jeremiah knows everything there is to know about Superman (a bit meta coming from Dean Cain). All Danvers' research and expertise will now be in the DEO's hands. This explains why the DEO has Kara's ship, knows so much about Kryptonite, and knew to recruit Alex. And while Jeremiah died 'in a plane crash', Eliza thinks something else happened.

I can't believe this is a heel turn for Henshaw. And it echoes a bit too much like Harrison Wells to me. I guess I'll have to see where it goes.

If I had one complaint about the episode, it is Kara calling Eliza her foster mother. She doesn't call her mom, she calls her Eliza. I was hoping for something more familial here. Like 'adoptive mother'. She considers Alex her sister. Why not think of Eliza as a mother figure? She can still love Alura.

But that seems a quibble in comparison to all the backstory and character building we saw here. Just great stuff. And the battle scenes and effects were top notch.

My prediction? In the season finale, Cat reveals she knows Kara is Supergirl.

Each episode seems like it is getting better.


Anonymous said...

Well this was the episode that replaced ep 4 which will air this monday. And based on early numbers, CBS did the right thing. Rating went up to 1.8, but 7.7 million people tuned in. And that plot hole will it seems be filled with next week's showing of 4 barring another "attack."

Trying to figure out Neilsen ratings is like trying to figure out baseball. You just can't. Experts predicted the Washington Nationals would be in the World Series. Instead the Mets nearly shocked the world though losing in 5 to Kansas City in the fall classic.

The music was great in this ep too. There were two versions of What a Wonderful World. When Leslie was doing her anti-Supergirl tirade, it was a version by punk rock icons The Ramones. But then at the Danvers' apartment as Kara, Alex, Eliza and Winn sit down to the most awkward Friendsgiving (expect that to be a buzzword) dinner around we hear Louis Armstrong's classic 1967 version.

*--It would be the last big hit for him before his 1971 death.
*--Perhaps also a subtle tribute to Robin Williams who played that song as Adrien Kroner in "Good Morning, Vietnam."

Line of the night..."You have the wit of a YouTube Commenter!"

Also, great to see the relationship with Cat and Kara beginning to show growth.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anj, thanks for the review again.

I love the bended knee floating pose, as well as the use of Kara's apartment's patio as a takeoff / landing point. Very
iconic, and hope they continue to do that in the future!

I have to agree some of the supposed "familial" dialog was off... you would think that after 12 years staying with the
Danvers that Kara would call Eliza "Mom;" that seemed off for me as well. Regarding the "12 planets" comment, someone
mentioned to me that perhaps the El family went to other worlds when Kara was younger... which kinda makes sense, and
may have been the writers' rationale.

As for Leslie / Livewire... what can't be said about her opening tirade against Supergirl... when I heard some of the crap,
pretty sure I heard the Haters hating on and jeering. Cringeworthy... But the thunder (whip) effects and the way that
Supergirl defeated her... CLASSIC comicbook style takedown! My inner geek leapt with joy seeing that scene!

Regarding the DEO / Danvers revelation, I was going to go more XFiles / Mulder style myself. Interesting future plot thread... perhaps Jeremiah was killed for
discovering the Henshaw / Cyborg Superman connection?


Uncle Screensaver said...

I really didn't like Supergirl constantly referring to Edna, I mean Sylvia, I mean Eliza (Yuck) as her *foster* mom and call her by her first name. As you stated, she considers Alex her *sister* not foster sister, and it really seemed to detract from the loving relationship Comics Kara had with her adoptive mother (Does this also mean Kara Danvers was actually never adopted?). Having Eliza have those moments with Alex also seemed to empathize that Supergirl wasn't her daughter, just as Supergirl's words "like your daughter" instead of "for making me your daugther." While it makes sense for Barry Allen to not refer to his foster father as "Dad", it doesn't for Supergirl. Granted, at first she wouldn't want to call her that, but after years of being with her, you'd think she would. At least have a nod to the comics, but maybe having "Jeremiah" and "Eliza" as her foster-not-adoptive parents names this was a way to wipe that aspect away. Perhaps this was to emphasize a reality with foster children. It was emphasized again in the episode that Supergirl didn't have an adoptive father because Alex said, "let's find out what happened to my dad," not "Dad" or "our dad."

I also didn't like that Supergirl wore glasses to the table, why still have a fake identity thing going on when you're with everyone who knows who you are. That made me think, why was there ever a need for her to wear glasses, and to act so awkward. She was hiding her powers completely, there wasn't even a "secret emergency weapon" going on, so why use it.
It bothers me then that the determination and strength shown when she's Supergirl is just the act.

Watching The Flash yesterday made me realize how similar the two characters are written except that Iris is not totally his "sister" but possible love interest. As Anj pointed out, now we have a Wells/ Thawne/ Reverse-Flash-enemy-as-our-friend-in-our-midst factor. Of course there's the team thing, but that's been how super hero shows are written since Smallville.

I'm afraid I'm as others felt and thought Livewire looked and acted terrible.

The only things I liked about the show was seeing Helen Slater and M.B. together, though I was so disappointed there wasn't the mother/ daughter bond as I think there should have been. It also made me long for a Supergirl who was actually blonde. Anyway, I really enjoyed Cat's development and their interaction. The "parents dying in a fire" made me think maybe she didn't know about who her assistant really is, but I hope as Anj says she will reveal she knows. However, I don't like today's "everyone knows my secret identity" as opposed to how things were in comics in the past.

Speaking of the "parents dying in a fire," did anyone else have the movie's Lucy Lane and Linda Lee interaction come to mind?

After watching the third episode I started to love and accept this version of Supergirl and the show but "Livewire" brought back all my concerns and has me loathing it again. I also don't know why it bothers me so much about having a brunette "Carra" who doesn't seem to have a strong relationship with *Eliza* and *Jeremiah* Danvers who reveals in a second her identity and who is so awkward and pining over *James* Olsen. I don't want to be one of *those* fans, but this show has me cringing. I really miss Laura Vandervoort's Kara Zor-El/ Linda Danvers.

Oh, I did like Dean Cain's "I know everything there is to know about Superman"!

Anonymous said...

I love how the ratings jumped when Helen Slater showed up....Karma is a wonderful thing...I think Kara might be calling Eliza by her first name and or using the "foster mother" appellation out of respect for other words the New Sister doesn't want to seem presumptuous in the face of her sister's tangled relationship.
Thats how I saw it anyway.
"Livewire" by the way has always been the DCU's in house caricature of Howard Stern (She is "The Queen of All Media" btw) which is ironic since Stern hates the show with a mortal passion...
Meanwhile my own private death pool simmers on Win being at the top of the list with Cat running a close second. Win is showing all the signs of being a thoroughly smitten Berlanti sacrifice on the alter of eternal heroism.....

Anj said...

Thanks for the great comments!

This show is just wonderful!

Martin Gray said...

Great review, random comments!

I still think cat knows. And she's pretending not to know Win - you don't build an empire from being a gossip columnist without knowing people.

Martian Manhunter as a warden at Fort Rox? Shades of Futures End!

Hey, maybe that female escape was Mongal? I do like that the DEO plonks big sheets of glass randomly around the base for people to get smashed through.

Kara's been to 12 planets? I need to know more... maybe she's been to a certain future Metropolis ice cream parlour?

That flying flashback was great. Did I miss them call it Midvale, then?

I appreciated Leslie making the comparison of Kara's uniform to an ice skater's outfit – wasn't that what her original look was all about? Overall though, that rant was a bit too smutty for a family show.

I really didn't like Kara being so emphatic in correcting Win and calling Eliza her foster mom (speaking of whom, I do hope Auntie Astra decides killing Eliza would be a great way to cut some of Kara's ties to Earth - and Eliza kicks her Kryptonian arse).

It's interesting to see that Cat has mentored other young women.

The cat copter!

The young actress playing Alex is brilliantly cast. She is the spit of Chyler Leigh.

Notice how Cat was holding Kara behind her in the kitchen – I still think she's worked out the secret, yet her first instinct was to protect the younger woman. I love Cat.

'You have a foster mother? That's mildly intriguing'. Have a I said, I love Cat?

Cat admits she pushes the people she cares about, it's brilliant that we're seeing the real Miss Grant so early.

The one thing I hated this episode was the sappy song in the background telling us how to feel around the Alex/Eliza scene.

Superb catch on The Weird!

I hate that our heroine is so insensitive to Winn – she knows he likes her, but rather than deal with it she just gives him the cold shoulder. Also,mint makes her look shallow to go for the super-butch, assured guy (with whom she has zero chemistry). I'm Team Win all the way... he may not have the name, but he's very much the Jimmy of the group.

What is a, was it Lexabro? That Cat wants as one of her three Ls? Is it a Lex personal computer?

I do hope Jeremiah Danvers doesn't become the Cyborg Superman

I'm not keen on the way Kara and Alex don't bat an eyelid at the way criminals are held below child in tiny tubes.

Martin Gray said...

'Below child'? Really, 'without trial', surely!