Supergirl – Season 1 Episode 17
Supergirl delivers origin stories for many of the main characters and features the return of Kara’s adoptive father Jeremiah Danvers.
After the status quo shift in the last episode it is to be expected that this one would be more low key to allow the characters to reflect on it and for the most part it works pretty well but it does feel a little heavy on the flashbacks.
The title of the episode suggested that it would deliver some insight into J’Onn and how he came to impersonate Hank Henshaw. This does sort of happen but we don’t get much more insight into the event through seeing it. It’s more or less a visualisation of what we were already told back in “Human for a Day”. We see J’Onn and Jeremiah bond, Hank trying to kill J’Onn which leaves both of the humans dead. It’s nothing we don’t already know and there’s no deeper significance added to it.
The scenes between J’Onn and Jeremiah were really good though and the CGI for the Martian Manhunter is great. I like that they connected over the fact that J’Onn is a refugee which reminds Jeremiah of Kara who can also be labelled as that. There’s the added connection of them both having daughters so it’s easy to believe that a fast bond could spring up as a result of that.
We also see some evidence of the real Hank Henshaw not being a very nice guy. David Harewood’s performance as Hank is very different. He is portrayed as blunt and uncompromising which contrasts with his more sympathetic nature when J’Onn takes his form. It’s great to see the contrast but I wonder why nobody suspected the switch sooner considering just how different the personality is.
This is especially true of his “best friend” Colonel James Harper (Eddie McClintock) who says that he had J’Onn in his home and around his children but he never once suspected that the man he thought to be Hank Henshaw might not be who he says he is.
Harper has far more problems than that though. He seemed like a caricature of someone in the military more than anything else. Everything he says sounds so misguided and insincere through his cartoonish delivery that it was impossible to take him seriously. Part of that was down to his unbelievable performance and part of it was down to the writing but there was nothing about this character that I believed. It wasn’t even possible to dislike him considering how over the top he was.
As a result the interrogation scenes were by far the weakest part of the episode with painfully obvious questions being asked that only serve to show the bias of Harper rather than dig into any real character revelations. Lucy being present offers something of a level head but she is holding some prejudice of her own in the beginning.
Alex’s interrogation showed her life before the DEO as a directionless party girl. Seeing that Alex wasn’t always the committed tough girl she always appears to be is interesting but it suffers from the problem of lacking depth. We see a scene of her drinking in a club followed by her getting arrested which then leads to her being recruited by J’Onn who offers to train her and get her life back on track. What is this revelation supposed to accomplish for the viewer or Alex’s character? There’s no real sense that this version of her has any bearing on the present, it shows that J’Onn recruits her and she’s grateful fore that. It might have been more effective if Alex going off the rails had been caused by finding out her father had died and the fact that she isn’t close to her mother makes it difficult for her to deal with. There could even have been a scene of Kara failing to get through to her. All this really shows is that she had a night where she got a little too drunk and tried to drive home. I can see what they are getting at but a little more work needs to be done to get the point across.
Kara also has a flashback to further develop what her early days on Earth were like. I like the idea that Alex saw her as something of a hindrance to her social life early on and reluctantly includes her because she feels that she has to. The idea of adapting to a new family member with no time to prepare for it is an idea that will resonate with anyone who has been put in a similar situation. Kara having super powers adds a further dimension to this as Alex has more reason to be jealous of this new arrival.
The young Kara (Malina Weissman) does a really good job of appearing alien in her scenes. She is new to Earth at this point so regards things with a childlike wonder as shown when she sees birds and comments that Krypton doesn’t have them. Her behaviour embarrasses Alex who notices that people are starting and probably think she’s weird.
Even when young Kara shows a desire to help others when she immediately rushes to help a woman and her baby after a car accident. She doesn’t think and merely acts as a child would do. Her instinct is to run towards danger and she knows that she has the abilities to back it up so doesn’t hesitate. This prompts a discussion with Jeremiah who tells her that she needs to be careful in future. His excuse to others about her getting lucky is something that won’t work more than once so it becomes Kara’s responsibility to take more care. Her motivation for remaining normal because the world already has a Superman is shown as a piece of advice Jeremiah gives her. We also see that her glasses have a practical function of suppressing her X-Ray vision using lead so that her senses aren’t constantly overwhelmed. I wonder if this could still be a crutch that she leans on long into adulthood. It’d be interesting to see that explored as she should be in better control of her abilities now.
The young Kara flashbacks were the strongest aspect of the episode but we really didn’t need to see her job interview at CatCo. First of all, I’ve never heard of a job interview in real life that goes anything like that and secondly it suffers from the recurring issue of showing us what we already know with no extra depth. She took the job as Cat’s assistant because she wanted to be really good at a job without standing out as shown by her using her powers to make her better than the average candidate. This was established in the opening minutes of the first episode so was unnecessary to see here. I’d be far more interested in seeing her cultivate the awkward persona that she projects outside of her Supergirl identity as that could show her having difficulty suppressing her naturally confident and heroic instincts.
Despite the flashbacks lacking depth overall they do have a really strong theme of trust flowing through all of them. J’Onn and Jeremiah learn to trust each other, Alex learns to trust J’Onn and Kara’s flashbacks act as a springboard to help Lucy trust her. I was really impressed that the reveal of Kara’s identity to Lucy wasn’t prompted by relationship angst and it has allowed the two characters to forge a deeper connection that has absolutely nothing to do with a love interest. Now that Lucy is in charge of the DEO and knows Kara’s secret there is a real opportunity for a fascinating dynamic to develop between the two as they truly work together as equals.
This episode drops in the first hint of Project Cadmus which has produced a lot of significant comic book content. Most notably they are responsible for the creation of Superboy who could potentially appear on this show in the absence of a Superman. It’s entirely possible that it will become an alternative villain factory to give viewers a break from Fort Rozz but we will have to wait and see on that one.
It is already established that they do genetic research and dissect aliens there. In many ways they represent what the DEO could be without the leadership of J’Onn. We also learn that Jeremiah Danvers seems to be alive as we learn when J’Onn probes Harper’s mind which I suspected from early on. I also suspect that Hank Henshaw will still be alive and this will allow the character to reappear as a version of the Cyborg Superman.
A few things irritated me about the mention of Project Cadmus. The first is that I feel like it’s too early in the run of this show to be establishing this. Season 1 has already been fairly busy with aliens, non alien villains, Red Kryptonite, an adaptation of one of the most famous Superman stories ever written and a crossover with The Flash so maybe some things should be left for later seasons. This could be an early mention to set them up for season 2 but I have a feeling it will play into the remaining episodes in some significant way.
Another thing that irritated me was that Harper just casually told Kara where he was taking J’Onn and Alex simply because Kara asked. This pretty much makes him the worst government agent ever as the right answer was something along the lines of “that’s classified” or “none of your damn business”. By confirming that such a thing exists Kara now has something to look for rather than having no leads at all. Harper will hopefully be fired for his incompetence.
J’Onn and Alex’s escape was a really cool scene but seeing Kara and Lucy show up on motorbikes to rescue them was really random. It looked great and showed the capability of this show to deliver varied action sequences. The goodbye scene between Alex and Kara was really well done and showing Alex’s lack of acceptance of her when they were children was a great way to show viewers how far this relationship has progressed. J’Onn erasing all memory of the events of that night from Harper’s mind was a little too convenient considering it was established that he was incapable of refining that ability earlier in the season. Has he been practicing? If so then on who?
Having J’Onn and Alex on the run is a good idea and I’m interested to see how the show plays with it. I wonder if J’Onn will return to the DEO disguised as someone else and have the character continue in season 2 played by another actor. This would allow David Harewood to be the central villain as the Cyborg Superman and the cast to have a real shakeup as a result. I would definitely like to see that.
Supergirl losing the trust of the public is part of the story but pretty much sits in the background. Cat is surprised it has taken the public this long to forgive her due to their quick forgiveness of others. Kara still needs to regain the trust of the public but she is doing so by saving whoever she can and proving that she is no longer a threat. It does tie into the theme of trust but not very strongly.
Siobhan finally shows her powers when an attempt to discredit Kara to Cat backfires on her and causes her to be drunk on a rooftop before falling to her apparent death only to be saved by a supersonic scream. Siobhan’s descent into villainy has worked really well as she was never a very nice person to begin with and has gradually shown more of her nasty side and proven herself capable of being completely self serving. Her fling with Winn adds a personal stake in the conflict for him so it’ll be interesting to see how he and Kara deal with this next week.
Next week, Barry Allen aka The Flash comes to National City to -among other things- race Kara to prove who is the fastest. My prediction is that Kara will win the race because it’s her show. It’ll be close though and I can’t wait to see these characters working together.
An uneven episode with lots of potential to deliver deeper insight into the characters. Unfortunately it largely suffers in the execution of that as the flashback scenes lacked any depth beyond what was known already. The theme of trust carries strongly though the story and scenes of a young Kara are great but the rest of the flashbacks suffer. Combine that with a cartoonishly unrealistic character in James Harper and the episode becomes more problematic. The shift in the dynamic between Lucy and Kara as well as the change in the status quo for Alex and J’Onn are really promising for the coming episodes though.
- a strong theme holding the episode together
- the excellent CGI for the Martian Manhunter
- a positive shift in the dynamic between Kara and Lucy
- changing up the status quo for Alex and J’Onn
- a lack of depth to the flashbacks
- the character of James Harper