Saturday, June 22, 2024

Supergirl: 1.6 Red Faced Review

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Mommy doesn’t always know best.

You know what’s neat about Supergirl?

They’re taking a look at accountability.

The opening shows Kara stopping two men who, in a fit of road rage, were about to run over a children’s soccer team. When she confronts the men whose cars she crushed, one tries to punch her, and she twists his fist so he crumples— and then looks horrified at her own strength. We cut to Maxwell Lord, who’s calling her out: in a land that struggles with issues of police brutality, having a superpowered woman flying around stopping people can be seen as a potential threat. If she loses her temper, she could kill someone for even the smallest crime… and how are we supposed to hold her accountable?

It’s kind of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, but without the unnecessary gritty.

On one hand I’m irritated. Kara saved children from some road-rage jerks and stopped one of them from retaliating; what’s the problem with that? She didn’t maim him.

On the other hand, Lord has a point. What happens if Kara loses her temper? If she’s infected with some sort of alien artifact that turns her destructive (a la Red Kryptonite)? We have Superman, sure, but he’s the same sort of threat. Kara’s shown to be irrevocably kindhearted, but she has a responsibility to control her temper.

Cat Grant’s mother is in town, too: Katherine Grant, played by Joan Juliet Buck. After “Livewire”, we knew it was coming. (Observation: they have essentially the same name.)

She raises the question too: why Supergirl? It’s brushed off with an eye-roll that feels almost like the showrunners rolling their eyes at people criticizing them, which is frustrating because I do feel like it’s a legitimate question for this day and age, but hey.

I’d also feel frustrated at the Elder Grant for being married to her career and portrayed as an unfeeling woman (just like many people critiqued Jurassic World‘s Claire), but in a show that’s filled with so many women, it’s less of an issue, I feel. She doesn’t have time for her grandson, nor to read her daughter’s articles; all she has time for is her career. She even goes so far as to say she feels safer in Metropolis, with male doctors and Superman. Perhaps she’s a critique of the older generation versus the newer.

She’s certainly not the world’s best mother. After Cat clears out her entire evening—quite a feat for a busy woman like her—Katherine decides to go have dinner with Toni Morrison instead: “Kitty, what would you possibly have to talk about with two Nobel laureates and Margaret Atwood?”

Katherine Grant makes Cat look like a teddy bear.

Until Cat tells Kara to be more professional instead of “throwing herself at James Olsen”. Ouch.

Meanwhile, Kara and Alex rope Winn into helping investigate Hank to figure out what happened to Alex’s dad. Given that Kara was old enough to remember her Kryptonian family, it shouldn’t be odd that she consistently refers to the Danvers as her foster family, but something about it sticks out. Alex’s parents aren’t her parents, and Kara differentiates them by saying “Alex’s mom” or “Alex’s dad” or their first names instead of any other sort of informal “Mom” or “Dad” moniker. Given how close they’re supposed to be as a family, it’s a little jarring, especially in this episode.

Also in town is Lucy Lane’s father, General Sam Lane (Glenn Morshower). He doesn’t like the DEO working with Supergirl, but he recruits her to test out a new anti-insurgent weapon, a robot called Red Tornado. Also with him is Lucy herself, bearing an executive order for Supergirl to help the military, signed by the President of the United States (who happens, in this universe, to be a woman).

Red Tornado is probably the worst job the costume department’s done so far, though. Red face paint and a leather outfit make him look like a footballer trying to be a Blue Man Group spinoff.

Kara agrees to fight him, despite the bad construction job. She wants to prove that she’s trustworthy, that she’s agreeable—especially to Lucy, who James holds in high esteem. But Lucy thinks Supergirl is unimpressive, and she says so, making tensions at Office Game Night rise.

Her fight against Red Tornado doesn’t go well, either. She loses her temper and causes so much damage to the unit that it runs away to hide, prompting General Lane to get mad at her. It makes no sense to me, because he was the one to ask her to fight in the first place, but Go Go Gadget Plot Device, I guess. He argues that her recklessness unleashed an “uncontrollable killing machine” on the city, so it’s up to her to find and stop it.

I really thought the writing for the show was getting better, but what???

Let’s get this straight: the government asked Kara to fight an anti-terrorist robot they created with self-preservation instincts. She needs to blow off some steam and agrees, and when she gives it a little extra damage, suddenly the city’s in danger and she’s a threat… because she fought a robot she was asked to fight. A robot that cost billions of dollars and eleven years, and, because she proved it wasn’t as durable as they thought, she’s in the wrong?

Okay, guys. [/sarcasm]

So now it’s time to find Red Tornado before he hurts civilians, and his development lead, T.O. Morrow (both played by Iddo Goldberg) is declared a failure.

Because the first test drive of the robot failed.

I’m side-eyeing this episode a lot, guys.

At least we get Kara standing up for herself, though. Cat Grant decides it’s acceptable to shout for Kara in her office instead of calling her like a normal human being, and when she berates her for not answering immediately (“Each one of my seconds is worth more than your yearly salary!”), Kara breaks. She’s sick of working tirelessly for Cat. She rarely if ever complains, she does more than she should, she does everything she can and all Cat can do is tell her she’s not good enough; it’s downright mean.

So they go for a drink, and Cat gives advice: Kara can’t get angry at work. Not just because it could be seen as unprofessional, but because she’s a girl. From there, Cat drinks more and shares more of her life: where men (like Perry White from The Daily Planet) can get angry and throw tantrums, but if women show even a hint of frustration, it’s detrimental to their careers. Kara, Cat says, needs to find an outlet. Cat took her anger at her mother out on Kara and it’s unacceptable; Kara needs to find a way to avoid doing the same thing.

The phrase of the day is “anger management”, kids!

So Kara gets an old car to beat up and tells James that Clark doesn’t have to do the same thing because he’s a man; women are taught to smile and keep anger in. James understands, seeing as black men have to restrain themselves lest they be labeled thugs or other less savory terms. They vent to each other, and finally Kara comes out with it: she wishes she could have a normal life. She’s scared she’ll never have a partner that knows her inside and out; she knows that being herself isn’t Earth-normal, that her “normal” ended the instant she was sent to Earth.

Meanwhile, Alex attempts to recruit Maxwell Lord to find Red Tornado and prove that Lord himself is one of the good guys. Also trying to prove his worth is James, attempting to win over General Lane. Unfortunately, even the simple act of ordering club soda instead of alcohol is an affront to Lane, steeped in self-righteousness and hypocrisy.

Man, I really hope he’s supposed to be a jerk, because I can’t stand him. He hates that James is friends with Superman and is in contact with Supergirl, and goes so far as to say he’s not good enough for Lucy. James is a glorified paparazzo to Lane.

Yep. A successful news photographer isn’t good enough for General Sam Lane. A man with a career, with connections, with stability… isn’t good enough.

Given that the show racebent James, it makes me almost wonder if they’re trying to hide racial tension behind the “not good enough” argument, especially considering James’ comment about black men and anger.

Finally, Red Tornado manages to fix itself and inexplicably attacks the Lanes, prompting General Lane to order it to stand down. Honestly, it’s bringing the episode down. Morrow apparently lacks the ability to stop it through its controls; Lane somehow thinks it’s a good idea to bleat at a homicidal robot to stop acting, well, homicidal. Kara steps in, but Lane is absolutely ungrateful; where Lucy thanks her, General Lane insists it’s Kara’s fault that Red Tornado got away, and the DEO needs to be held responsible. And then Hank breaks the news: Red Tornado was designed to kill Kryptonians, not terrorists.

“Do you know the difference between [the horned, acid-spitting aliens] and her?” Lane spits at Hank. “She’s blonde.” He says it tellingly, as if the only reason the general populace likes her is because she’s pretty and not that she’s consistently trying to save people from live-threatening events. The episode’s not as good at analyzing accountability as I thought it was going to be from the onset, and it’s a bit disappointing.

With Lord’s help, Alex and Kara find out that Red Tornado is still being controlled by Morrow (because duh). Alex manages to kill him after a fight, but Tornado is still at it: it’s become sentient. Kara uses her anger to project her laser vision and destroy it.

Lucy quits the military, angering her father, and we find out that Alex’s father died alongside Hank… who was suddenly alive and well, furthering the mystery of who killed Dr. Danvers. Katherine Grant ridicules Kara, prompting Cat to step in and defend her. Katherine leaves, and Kara breaks a glass, and suddenly she’s… bleeding?

Another mystery awaits.

I know we’re only six episodes in, but I’m noticing something: like fellow CBS show Elementary, Supergirl‘s strengths lie in character development rather than weekly or even season-long arcs. Sometimes they get some good mysteries (Moriarty in Elementary, Hank in Supergirl), but this episode really proves that the heart of the show is in the dynamics. Though it was a weak episode, it was nice seeing Cat and Kara learn each other again, and see how Kara adjusts to life as Supergirl.

Until next time, readers.

Image courtesy of CBS

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