Last week, the debut of CBS’s Supergirl established a brand new television version of one of DC Comics’ deep bench of superheroes, and set the tone for what the series intends itself to be: fun, action-packed, and a study in self identity. In its approximately 43 minutes of airtime, the pilot tried to squeeze in as much expository background as it could so as to present Kara successfully adopting her Supergirl identity by the end of the episode. Now that the second episode has aired, it’s clear the writers and network are going to attempt to give the scenarios more time to play out, even if the villain of the week format is still the name of the game.
The episode, aptly titled “Stronger Together”, sees Supergirl being put through some rigorous testing by the D.E.O., under supervision by Director Henshaw and Kara’s sister Alex. Having Supergirl dodge missiles is Henshaw’s scaled-up version for testing her speed, agility, and stamina. After Kara creates a sonic boom with her speed, Alex beams with sisterly pride while Henshaw makes a thinly veiled reference to Superman’s “knack for wanton destruction.” Supergirl and Man of Steel do not exist in the same universe, but Superman’s battle with Zod in that movie left many fans crying foul at just how many buildings Kal-El managed to destroy all in his mission to save people. No doubt Henshaw’s jab is a meta reference to the famous metahuman on behalf of the writers. Towards the end of her training session, Kara gets a buzz from her would-be Oracle, Winn, informing her of a dangerous fire at the National City docks. In her successful effort to steer a oil tanker away from the fire, she manages to cause a relatively minor oil spill in the waters of the bay. No oil spill can ever be classified as a “good” oil spill, though, and so proves the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished.
Strength is the theme of the episode. Physical strength, emotional strength, strength in numbers — each is explored in the hour. The benefit of Kara’s backstory is that she had just passed the threshold of teenagehood when she left Krypton, giving her a knowledge of her planet, its people, and, to an extent, its enemies. This knowledge is convenient for moving the story ahead in instances where Earth agencies like the D.E.O. are still sorely lacking extraterrestrial resources, but it’s also a huge advantage that Kara has over her cousin Clark in the mythology of their Kryptonian heritage. After the enemy is revealed to be an insect-like Hellgrammite, it’s Kara’s Kryptonian studies that help the D.E.O. identify weaknesses in the would-be foe.
When Supergirl decides to try to start building her experience in earnest by tackling smaller scenarios of distress rather than rushing into a major crisis, it’s her pals Winn and James Olsen who comprise the two-man dispatch team at home base. They send her on quests to save a pet in a tree, a traffic-jammed ambulance, and an armed robbery situation (in a montage set to some Pat Benatar, no less) in an effort not just to teach her to use her powers with a more refined finesse, but also cancel out the bad press that the oil spill generated. Side note: Jay Jackson (a.k.a. Perd Freakin’ Hapley!) is reprising his most frequent IMDB credit as “Newscaster” for Supergirl!
When Kara is finally comes face to face with her aunt, General Astra (Laura Benanti in a dual role), an earlier tete-a-tete between the Danvers sisters resonates with and aids Kara in holding her own ground with her villainous relative. The series is wasting no time in reintroducing Astra to her niece, opting to go right for the rivalry rather than string it out by keeping her in the shadows as a puppet master. Nonetheless, there is still a sense for the viewer that Astra’s web of criminal cohorts expands farther than we have seen thus far. She can be seen speaking to a character off-screen — one whose face is obviously strategically hidden for a later reveal – about shared plans the two have for the planet and how each has underestimated both the humans of Earth and Kara herself.
Going forward, I’m looking most forward to Laura Benanti’s double-duty (technically triple-duty) as present day Astra, flashback Alura, and the Kryptonian A.I. interface at D.E.O. headquarters who takes the form of Alura. We saw a similar Jor-El interface in Man of Steel, but again, these are entirely separate entities — something of which Supergirl is all too eager to remind us.
- “My sister just broke the sound barrier, sir.” – Alex Danvers
- “I went from superhero to ecoterrorist in a single bound!” – Kara Danvers/Supergirl
- “I will always be your big sister. That doesn’t just suddenly change because last week you started to fight criminals.” – Alex Danvers
- “Drunk at 9 A.M. That’s the last time I have breakfast with Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” – Cat Grant
Blink and you’ll miss it:
Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli) makes his debut via TV interview after the dock fire incident
“Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar
What did you think of tonight’s episode? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Why doesn’t anyone recognize Superman? Find out on Because Science