Supergirl – Season 1 Episode 3
“Fight or Flight”
Supergirl continues the first season with an episode that quite possibly has one the most cliché titles imaginable but manages to deliver some solid content that deals with the Kryptonian elephant in the room.
Supergirl exists in a universe where Superman is well established and well thought of by people. My general issue is that the producers of this show seem to feel that Supergirl is living in Superman’s shadow when that likely isn’t the case for most people. If Superman had been mentioned in the pilot and left to the side for a while then I certainly wouldn’t have questioned it. This show needs to stand alone and I think this episode goes a long way towards doing that.
Superman does show up in an obscured CGI cameo to save Kara from being killed by Reactron (Chris Browning). Initially I was irritated that this show would do this so soon as it doesn’t bode well for the future of a show focuses on a female superhero if her “more capable” big cousin persistently turns up to bail her out when things become overwhelming. I say “more capable” in inverted commas because I don’t actually think that Superman is necessarily more capable but I do concede that he is definitely more experienced. It turns out that showing up wasn’t his idea as revealed when James owned up to calling for help using his signal watch. It’s the first appearance of it that I can think of and it fits into this episode really well.
Kara is annoyed that James had to call in her cousin for help but given the situation it’s really hard to disagree with his reasoning. Kara was getting absolutely demolished by Reactron in that fight and if Superman hadn’t shown up she would absolutely have died. I understand that she wants to be recognised for what she can do rather than who she is related to but Kara seems to forget that according to her own values accepting help is an honour. Even if she was too proud to directly ask her cousin to help her out she should have realised that the help was needed. To be fair she did come around to the idea when she calmed down but a lack of ability to swallow her pride is bound to get her in trouble.
The use of Superman in this episode was actually quite creative. His appearance was a big deal but didn’t linger any longer than it had to. Apparently he had to fly off to deal with a volcanic eruption but his presence was important to the episode overall. Kara was dealing with the problem of being compared to him when it became public knowledge that she is his cousin. She was already dealing with that by wearing the same symbol and colour scheme but the public knowledge of the familial connection means that Kara has more of a hill to climb before being accepted on her own merits. The scene where they chat by instant messaging was a good way to have them talk without having Clark Kent physically be there. It was a little corny but the sentiment was genuine and allows Kara to receive some validation from someone who has been doing this hero thing for a while. Hopefully now that Superman has been dealt with so clearly the show can move on from it.
Reactron was a solid villain because of what he represents. He is a threat that doesn’t come from outer space so his presence widens the scope of the series by showing that Kara will also have human problems to take care of as well as the escaped prisoners. Reactron also has a history with Superman that fuels his desire to kill Kara in order to show him the pain of loss. It is established that Superman stopped a Nuclear Power Plant for melting down but was unable to save Reactron’s wife. This gives him clear motivation to hate Superman without spending too much time developing him as a villain. This makes him a bit underdeveloped but since there was no need for the villain to be a fully formed character it works well enough for this episode.
The action sequences were plentiful and well staged though I wonder why Kara doesn’t use her speed in fights despite the fact that she knows Reactron is more than a match for her strength. It seems that using her speed would be a good asset that would give her an edge in a fight. It’s fine for now as she is inexperienced but it is something that will need to be addressed at some point as it is one of her abilities. I’m also having difficulty buying that Superman wouldn’t ever have the idea to remove Reactron’s power supply and coat it in lead. The intention makes sense as it’s necessary to show that Kara can solve problems in ways that he can’t but it’s a pretty obvious solution.
Kara is shown to be very compassionate as she always makes it very clear that she wants to help rather than fight. She isn’t resistant to the idea of defending herself but having her try to reason with Reactron at first is a good move. I like when heroes are more than just their powers. Kara’s compassionate nature should be a very big part of her identity and it seems that this will be the case.
I really like how the show is developing James. This episode expands on the insecurities that were mentioned in the last episode by revealing that he is something of a coward. He admits that Superman was a safety net for him and he wouldn’t hesitate to activate the signal watch whenever he’s scared. In this case he is scared of losing Kara so calls Superman in a misguided attempt to protect her but learns to put the same faith in her by the end of the episode. He also shows courage when he puts himself forward as bait for Reactron. There is the promise of further development for him with the arrival of his ex Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan-Tatum).
One thing I definitely didn’t buy about James is that he would casually reveal Superman’s secret around Winn. Saying it around Kara is fair enough but he has kept that secret for years so casually slipping up on it just shouldn’t happen at this point.
The sisterly relationship between Kara and Alex felt a bit more organic this week as shown by the scene of them having takeout in Kara’s apartment. They were just sitting around talking about nothing in particular but it showed a warmth to their relationship that has been otherwise lacking in previous outings.
Winn is used a bit more effectively in this episode but I wouldn’t go as far to say that he has become likeable. His role in the show is a lot better defined which makes him a little more interesting. He is sort of the Jimmy Olsen surrogate in this show -he even wears a bowtie- who has to compete with the real Jimmy Olsen. We aren’t quite at the stage of a love triangle quite yet but it does seem to be in the offing. Readers of this site will know that I really hate love triangles as they are a frustrating hallmark of lazy storytelling so I’m not looking forward to the inevitable Kara/Winn/James one rearing its head.
Cat Grant has probably the most depth out of the supporting cast. She is shown to be very confident about her talent as a writer as well as her ability to read people. I am convinced that she knows that Kara is Supergirl and uses her conversations with Kara as a method of dispensing advice on how to work her way up. It is mentioned that she respects Supergirl and that certainly seems to come across beneath the insulting exterior. The discussion of Supergirl representing the millennial concept is an interesting one but it’s a little on the nose especially with how it relates to the overall theme of living in the shadows of others.
Seeing Cat interact with someone she considers a peer in Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli) helps humanise her a lot despite the cringe inducing dialogue. Maxell Lord is fine so far but comes across as being something of a poor man’s Tony Stark. He is supposed to be a charming genius but falls far short. Maybe he’ll get better in subsequent appearances but for now he’s pretty irritating.
The interview between Cat and Supergirl was very short lived but worked in dredging up a lot of these issues. One of the questions that Cat asks is whether she plans to start a family which causes Cara to slip up and reveal the familial connection to Superman. She is kept off guard by Cat’s uncomfortable questions inclusive of valid points around her waiting so long to appear after living here for years. Kara may have superpowers but Cat is more powerful in a lot of ways. I get the impression that Cat wants to teach her how to be more confident.
Supergirl uses the team dynamic adopted by Arrow and The Flash in a very different way. Kara in effect has two teams that serve different purposes in her life. James and Winn are the people who help her find domestic problems such as robberies and the DEO will be of more use tracking down alien threats for her. The DEO are far less interesting because they seem to be your typical covert government organisation. The near blank slate that is Hank Henshaw doesn’t help matters much here either.
A solid episode that deals with the Kryptonian elephant in the room by directly dealing with Superman through an indirect appearance by the Man of Steel.
My general issue with this show is that the producers seem to feel that Supergirl as a show lives in the shadow of Superman when I really don’t think that this is the case. I think if he had been mentioned in the pilot and left for a while nobody would really be bothered. I certainly wouldn’t have had trouble with it.
Superman shows up in an obscured CGI cameo to save Kara’s life from Reactron. It turns out that James was responsible for calling him in which annoys Kara despite her insistence that there’s no shame in accepting help when it’s needed. I get that she wants to stand alone but she should also realise that she would be dead if it weren’t for Superman’s intervention.
The use of Superman was actually pretty creative. His presence didn’t linger longer than it was needed but became an important part of the episode. His appearance impacts her reputation and represents more of an uphill for her climb than before.
Reactron was a solid villain as he represents a human threat for Kara to deal with which creates scope beyond the alien prisoners. He also has a solid motivation to hate Superman as he blames him for the death of his wife. Making Superman want to suffer the same loss works.
The action scenes were plentiful and well staged. I do think that Kara needs to use her speed more in fights as Reactron was more than a match for her strength but hopefully that will be something that is addressed in later episodes.
Kara is shown to be compassionate when she tries to help Reactron but also shows that she isn’t afraid to fight when the occasion calls for it. She should be a compassionate hero and I like it when heroes are more than just their powers.
I like how the show is developing James by expanding on the insecurities established last week and revealing that he is a bit of a coward. It is mentioned that he would always call for help from Superman when he was a little scared. He learns to put the same faith in Kara by the end of the episode and even manages to be brave by offering himself as bait for Reactron. The appearance of his ex Lucy Lane should provide more development for him.
The sisterly relationship between Kara and Alex is used better this week as shown by the scene where they spend some time together eating takeout in Kara’s apartment. The dialogue is much more natural than last week and it feels much more like a conversation.
Winn is used a lot better but hasn’t quite become likeable. His role seems to be similar to the traditional Jimmy Olsen role but there is clearly a coming love triangle between James/Winn and Kara that I really don’t want. As readers know I really hate love triangles.
Cat has the most depth out of the supporting cast. I’m convinced that she knows that Kara is Supergirl and uses their chats to supply advice about how best to present herself. She definitely respects Supergirl and wants her to do well but hides it behind hostility. Her scenes with Maxwell Lord do a lot to humanise her as it’s the first time she has been seen with a peer.
The interview between Cat and Supergirl dredges up a lot of the issues explored in the episode. One question that is asked is whether Supergirl plans to start a family but she points out that nobody asks Superman these questions. There are also valid points made about where she has been all this time and it’s clear that Supergirl might have powers but Cat is more powerful.
Supergirl uses the team dynamic in a different way to Arrow and The Flash. Kara has two teams that she calls on for help with different things. Winn and James help her with more domestic problems such as robberies and the DEO help her with alien problems. The DEO are far less interesting as they are the standard covert government agency. Hank Henshaw being such a blank slate really doesn’t help matters.