Supergirl – Season 1 Episode 6
Supergirl introduces Red Tornado (Iddo Goldberg) and Dr. T.O. Morrow (also played by Iddo Goldberg) while Kara struggles to deal with some really intense anger issues that bleed into all aspects of her life.
Anger is the big theme of the week and the episode explores how dangerous an emotion it can be when applied to a Kryptonian who has the potential to lose control of their powers. Kara has been struggling to find her identity as Supergirl since the show began and has made a number of public mistakes that have been torn apart in the media. There was the oil spill in “Stronger Together” to use a notable example and this episode sees her injure a man because her temper got the best of her. I think in this instance the guy deserved it as he was involved in severe road rage with another driver that almost resulted in the death of a group of kids. The fact that he got annoyed at Supergirl for damaging his car so that she could save the kids shows how awful a person he is. He also tries to attack her so it’s perfectly reasonable for her to defend herself. I also feel that it’s perfectly fair that he has his hand broken to teach him a lesson.
The media doesn’t share the same view I do and use this is an excuse to demonise Supergirl again. Something that Maxwell Lord is all too eager to comment on. At first I thought the episode was going to tell a story where the media blew something so far out of proportion that wasn’t a big issue to begin with but the idea that Kara made a mistake is very much at the forefront of everything.
It could be that the media treatment of Supergirl combined with her own insecurities caused her to conclude that she made a mistake when she really didn’t. Confidence isn’t Kara’s strong suit at this point and she has been known to take criticism to heart before so it’s very possible that the media echo the doubts that she already has in herself.
The big question asked by the episode is around how people with super strength deal with their anger. Many of the villains she faces can’t withstand her strength so she can’t unleash without killing someone and -as she points out- joining a boxing class is out of question so what is she supposed to do? Some alternatives are posed such as the military using her to combat test their new android and punching a suspended car. This allows her to be semi-honest with James about her jealousy of his relationship with Lucy. She doesn’t admit her feelings for him but does admit that she doesn’t feel like she will ever have that kind of relationship with anyone. At her core Kara is a very lonely person and needs more companionship than her friends and family can give her.
Her decision to use a car as a punching bag is informed by advice from Cat. Kara snaps at her when she gets yet another chewing out for no real reason. Even though she apologises seconds later the fact that she did it speaks volumes. Cat recognises that Kara is angry about something else and is taking that out on her when that isn’t the right way to channel it. There’s another reference to gender politics when Cat mentions that Perry White threw a chair out of a window. His behaviour was accepted because he’s a man and that’s what is expected but if Cat did the same then she would be branded emotionally unstable. It’s an unreasonable reaction no matter who does it but the point is that the rules are different for women than they are for men. It’s a real problem in society and part of the reason Supergirl exists as a show in the first place. Cat points out that she has to work hard every day to earn the respect of her peers by behaving better than men in similar positions. She has learned to channel her anger into less public outbursts. This is unfair on her employees but it’s part of the reason she is so respected.
I like the way that the show deals with gender roles in society in a way that feels real. It’s definitely not right but it’s also very much the way things are. Despite how good this is I can’t help but think of that joke from The Simpsons featuring the cover of a comic book called “Supergirl vs. The Glass Ceiling”.
Having Cat’s mother Katherine (Joan Juliet Buck) around gives us some real insight into why Cat is the way she is. Her mother is so far beyond insufferable that it borders on cartoonish. I didn’t believe their relationship for a second as I have trouble believing that people like Katherine could actually exist. Their scenes together serve the purpose of showing why Cat is so uncompromising but not much else. I definitely preferred imagining what her mother was like rather than actually seeing her. Some of their exchanges were mildly amusing such as Cat’s sarcastic comment about the savings bond Katherine bought her son Carter for his birthday.
Cat’s advice to Kara about channeling her anger is yet another piece of evidence that she knows Kara’s secret identity. Kara’s outburst is immaculately timed with Supergirl being demonised for losing her temper so the dots aren’t difficult to connect if you’re as smart as Cat is. I’m convinced that she knows and dispenses advice that will help her career as Supergirl whenever she can. It’s a good dynamic that has been working really well so far and I expect it’ll continue.
The introduction of Red Tornado comes at a convenient point for Kara as it gives her something inhuman to hit that can’t feel pain and can’t die. Her initial fight to test the capabilities was really cool. I loved seeing her burrowing under the ground to try and surprise it. Her temper gets the best of her when she continues her attack even after being told to stop which apparently causes Red Tornado to activate some kind of self preservation protocol and put National City at risk.
It turns out that Dr. T.O. Morrow is controlling Red Tornado from afar because he is annoyed that his work is being cast aside. It’s a pretty thin villain motivation that really doesn’t work. Morrow is only in a handful of scenes and fails to be in any way compelling. Red Tornado is much more effective but only as an engine of destruction. He doesn’t have the opportunity to do much but his tornado abilities look cool and I really liked the design.
The mention that Red Tornado had become sentient completely came out of nowhere and added nothing to the story. Why did he/it become sentient and what difference did that make other than extending Kara’s fight with him/it for a while longer?
I did enjoy the final battle between Supergirl and Red Tornado as it allowed the main theme to come to a dramatic close. Kara unleashes the full force of her heat vision on Red Tornado while channeling her anger. The scene is really effective as it cuts the sound while splicing in clips of Kara’s escape from Krypton. It seems that losing her planet and her family is the root of her anger. It makes sense that this would be prominent now despite it happening years ago as she has learned more about her origins since becoming Supergirl so the pain associated with the loss will be more raw than it has ever been. I have to question the fact that she so quickly “killed” Red Tornado after finding out that he/it had become sentient but it was an effective scene showing her unleash her emotions at the point when she really needed to. I wonder if her bout of powerlessness is something to do with how much energy was released by using her heat vision.
Lucy’s -and Lois’- father General Sam Lane (Glenn Morshower) comes to National City associated with the Red Tornado project. He quickly establishes himself as a force to be reckoned with as he pulls no punches when relating his distaste of the DEO. He and Hank disagree at several points throughout the episode. Interestingly it’s hard to disagree with Sam Lane’s assertions that the DEO are bad news given what we know of their involvement in Jeremiah Danvers’ death. Sam’s lack of love for Superman adds some scope to the world that is being built. I like that Superman isn’t adored by everyone as that isn’t all that realistic.
Sam also doesn’t approve of James as he feels that he is nowhere near good enough for his daughter. James assumes that the dislike comes from him making friends with aliens but Sam simply feels that he is lacking in any real talent and uses his association with people who make a difference to make himself feel relevant. This is something that James agrees with as previously established but Sam puts it very harshly.
Winn has almost nothing to do in this episode but he does hack into the DEO servers and finds out that Hank was with Jeremiah when he died so the suggestion of foul play is definitely confirmed. I’m unsure what Alex will do with that information but I get the feeling that Jeremiah isn’t dead and his disappearance has something to do with Hank’s mysterious glowing eyes.
Alex also has very little to do but her skills are shown when she takes on Morrow and kills him. I thought that killing him would be something that would haunt her but it is quickly dropped. I suppose this might not be the first time she has had to kill someone given her role as a government agent. She also gets to do some chemistry free flirting with Maxwell Lord who has no business being in this episode as all he does is tell Alex information that could have been figured out by the DEO.
A strong episode that explores how someone with super strength deals with uncontrollable anger without putting people around them in danger.
The issue comes to a head when Kara loses her temper and accidentally injures someone. This causes the media to question her ability to protect people and adds to the self doubt that she is already experiencing.
Kara has to find some way to deal with her anger as joining a boxing class is out of the question and there aren’t many people around who can take a hit from her so it’s all about channeling it in the right way. Some choice advice from Cat after Kara’s much needed outburst points out how difficult it is for women to release their anger without being seen as unstable where the same scrutiny isn’t applied to men.
Kara tries boxing a car which does help her confess her jealousy of James’ relationship with Lucy to him without revealing her feelings for him. It seems to help as she realises that there are some unresolved issues that she really needs to deal with.
Cat’s mother being around offers some insight into why Cat is the way she is. Having her present does no more than that and I think it was better when she was mentioned and not seen as Katherine is so insufferable that I can’t believe that someone like her really exists. Some of the dialogue was mildly amusing but the appearance was completely unnecessary.
The introduction of Red Tornado is at a good point for Kara as she can using the combat test as an excuse to cut loose. Unfortunately she takes it too far and activates a protocol in Red Tornado that means he goes rogue. It turns out that he/it is being controlled from afar but this adds nothing to the episode due to the limited appearance of Dr. T.O. Morrow. The Red Tornado suddenly becoming sentient comes out of nowhere and makes no sense.
Kara’s final battle with the Red Tornado was really effective as it allowed her to release her anger through her heat vision in a way that was really needed. It turns out that the root of her anger is the pain of losing her planet and family which makes sense as she has learned more about her origins since becoming Supergirl. It was a really well done scene with the sound cut off to increase the impact. Kara casually destroying Red Tornado after finding out that he/it has become sentient is pretty questionable though.
General Sam Lane’s appearance works really well. He is instantly established as a force to be reckoned with as he butts heads with Hank. It’s hard to disagree with Sam Lane as we are all well aware of how dodgy the DEO is with the recent information about their involvement in Jeremiah Danvers’ death.
Sam also has no love for James as he chews him out over not being good enough for his daughter. He thinks that James looks to people who make a difference to validate himself and it’s hard for James to counter that as he believes that about himself. Everyone knows where they stand with Sam which is good and I like the fact that not everyone loves Superman.
Winn has nothing to do in the episode other than supply an information dump over Hank’s connection to Jeremiah’s apparent death. I’m not sure what Alex will do with the information but the mystery deepens.
Alex has little to do other than flirt with Maxwell Lord and be told information that she should have been able to figure out herself. I thought that being forced to kill Morrow would be a significant character beat but it is all but glossed over.