Monday, December 4, 2023

Supergirl: 1.2 Stronger Together Review

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In Which They Finally Say “Superman”.

Supergirl‘s first true episode begins!

And into the action we go: after the recap, we’re treated to the DEO testing Kara to find out how well she fares in the field, and apparently Hank thinks she’s just as destructive as That One Man. Kara’s understandably frustrated, but she’s still in the field, and happy about it.

So happy that she doesn’t want to waste a minute of it, going so far as to have Winn act as her dispatch. It’s a cute dynamic, and though Kara’s a novice, she does her best. Civilians respond to her without questioning her existence, and in the week since the pilot, we see that Kara’s been doing That Man’s work.

We also get an actual mention of The Guy In Red And Blue by name!

Unfortunately, not everyone’s happy about Supergirl. She manages to cause an oil spill when saving a boat, and news pundit Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli) calls out the Big Red Dude in Metropolis for the destructive tendencies he brought to that city. Speaking of Metropolis, Cat Grant is frustrated that its Daily Planet is taking stories about her… and that Supergirl is “sloppy and awkward”, even when James Olson defends her.

So she wants an interview.

And James can’t do it through SuperDude.

So Grant makes it her mission to get the entire staff to get the interview, and makes it Kara’s mission to fix her performance at work.

Kara, in response, is naturally worried about Grant figuring out she’s Supergirl, and finally we get what most superhero shows haven’t explained properly: why are these secret identities so secret?

“Most people can’t believe there’s a hero in their midst.”

A hero is what Kara needs to be. James gives her a pep talk, and of course she awkwards out of the room after, but it’s pleasantly devoid of romantic tension. It’s easy for superhero shows to end up focusing on the romance, especially with society wanting female leads to always have a romantic interest, but it’s nice to see Supergirl not forcing it.

Naturally, we have a monster-of-the-week as well.

But this episode focuses on the fallout from Kara’s weeklong stint as Supergirl. We get some flashbacks to Kara’s time on Krypton to explain the monster-of-the-week, sure, but it’s primarily about Kara herself. She trains with Alex, weakened by kryptonite for a fair fight; Grant and Kara argue about Supergirl needing to work harder than Superman to be recognized, though Grant says she needs to calm down and learn how to actually save the day; she trains with Winn and James to make things more manageable as she starts to work around National City and do things properly.

There are family dynamics at play, too–and they dovetail nicely with the theme of Kara learning to really be Supergirl. “Is it a good idea to tell your friends about your secret?” Alex asks Kara before apologizing for beating up on her when training. It seems harsh, but it’s a valid question, and Kara stands by her decision before admitting she needs not just Winn’s, not just James’, but Alex’s help and support too.

Unfortunately, Kara’s stint as Supergirl puts James’ job at risk when Grant gives him an ultimatum: use SuperGuy to get an interview with her because the “S” means they’re obviously related somehow, or return to the Daily Planet.

And it weighs heavily on his mind: James “Jimmy” Olson is tired of feeling used for his connections. Kara, doing the right thing, decides to do the interview with Grant…

… and promptly finds out Alex was kidnapped by the monster-of-the-week. Alex is busy being taunted by Astra, used as bait for Kara, and gets her to reveal her plan: to “save the humans”.

Kara, of course, comes to the rescue… and face-to-face with her aunt. It’s a little strange, having the confrontation so early in the season given how the pilot made her out to be the Big Bad, but it’s a moment we needed: Kara learns that Astra was imprisoned by Alura for “attempting to save Krypton”. We’re not given what exactly she did to save it or what she plans to do to save Earth, and instead the two launch into a fight scene.

Meanwhile, Alex manages to kill the monster-of-the-week, and her advice to Kara during their sparring match help them distract Astra before Hank finally stabs her with a kryptonite dagger.

But naturally, the pilot built her up to be the Big Bad: she escapes.

And Alex and Kara have a heart-to-heart before Alex shows her something she’s been working on: her own Fortress of Solitude, a place to commune with an artificial intelligence version of her mother.

It’s something I really appreciate, honestly. Having Kara have memories of Krypton gives us a little more to work with than a plain fish-out-of-water story like we would get with Clark Kent, and having an artificial version of Alura gives us a way of getting exposition without it feeling too explainy.

We also see Hank with glowing eyes. Ominous.

What we don’t see, though, is Kara’s interview with Cat Grant.

I’m okay with that, though. Like I’ve said, this episode isn’t about Kara’s relationship with the media so much as it’s about Kara learning to actively be Supergirl. The monster-of-the-week plot is sidelined, and even the fight with Astra is scored with talk of how inexperienced and clueless Kara actually is.

It feels less crowded than the pilot did. We get hints of plots to come–Astra’s first experience with kryptonite, Hank’s glowing red eyes, the interview with Cat Grant–but primarily this episode works to humanize Kara as Supergirl. Like the pilot, it’s lighthearted but treats the important moments with gravitas. It’s a worthy second episode, and I’m excited to see where else Supergirl goes this season.

Image courtesy of CBS


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