Previously on Supergirl, ‘Fight or Flight’
Out of respect for the victims of the attacks in France, CBS aired the fifth episode of this season (“Livewire”) in place of the originally scheduled fourth episode (“How Does She Do It?”) because the latter features a series of bombings across National City. We have kept the original episode order numbering, so the missing S1E4 recap will be posted after “How Does She Do It?” airs next week.
This episode held up pretty well despite it airing out of order, with two exceptions: James and Lucy’s relationship, which seems to be way better than last week, and the out-of-place fight that opened the episode. Maybe we’ll get clues to both next week.
In the meantime, airing these two episodes out-of-order did end up feeling kind of appropriate given how out-of-order the Danvers family is. Dr. Eliza Danvers visits Alex and Kara for Thanksgiving, which gives Alex and Kara a chance to come to terms with the differences between how she has treated them over the years; namely, Alex gets way more scrutiny and is held to a higher standard than Kara.
The reason for this behavior gets explained through a series of flashbacks, wherein Alex is constantly told it is her responsibility to make sure that her new alien-sister doesn’t go and do things like fly recklessly around the city at night. Dr. Danvers decided a while ago that Alex deserves extra scrutiny because she knows better (“Kara still thinks everybody is good”) and Alex is, after all, her daughter. She considers Alex her Supergirl.
I’ve become sensitive to adoption/fostering issues like that since my wife and I adopted our newborn son last year, so I’m not a huge fan of Dr. Danvers at the moment, even though I realize our situation is quite different than theirs. (Besides the fact that our son is not an alien with superpowers, he also was not adopted as a teen with a complete memory and history with his birth mother.) Nevertheless, I hope the Zor-El/Danvers dynamic is being set up to explore this kind of stuff rather than just being insensitivity on the part of the writers.
The Nuclear Family
The theme this week was family. Winn, for instance, has none to call his own ever since his dad ended up in prison, so Kara invites him over to their Thanksgiving dinner. She invites James, too, but he already has plans with Lucy.
At dinner, Kara heats up the turkey using her eye-beams, and Eliza and Alex address a concern I had about Kara using her heat-vision to warm up Cat’s latte a few episodes back. The practice of using eye-beams to heat foot is apparently totally safe, since her eye-beams function more like a concentrated microwave than say, an unlicensed positronic nuclear accelerator (see: Proton Packs, from Ghostbusters).
When Kara wants to go around the table and have everybody say what they are thankful for, James calls her and she steps out just as Winn stands up to speak. This gives things a chance to get awkward, so Alex goes all out and admits to her mother that she is actually an agent with the DEO. Eliza responds to the news about as well as they expected, and reveals that somebody named Hank Henshaw from the DEO visited them after Kara’s arrival and wanted to take her, but their dad made a deal to tell them everything he knew about Superman instead. Worse, Eliza thinks that the DEO is covering up the truth about their father’s death.
The news makes Alex and Kara question everything they know about Henshaw, and the tension between the three is readily evident by the end of the episode. Before then, though, Kara gets a call from Cat that she needs help because the office has lost power.
Who Ya Gonna Call? Ghostbusters! Spider-Man! Supergirl!
Unbeknownst to either of them, the reason CatCo has lost power is because the villain Livewire has infected the building. Livewire is actually Leslie Willis, a radio DJ (shock jock… get it? haha) in Cat’s media empire who Cat reassigned to cover the weather after she started using her show to unfairly bash Supergirl. On Leslie’s inaugural trip into the air, lightning struck (literally) and did something to her physiology to give her control over electricity.
Can we stop for a minute to acknowledge the blatant similarities between Livewire and Electro from 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2? Granted, it isn’t all that unusual for two characters to have similar powers, but Electro has a good 30 years on Livewire (who was created as part of the animated DC universe rather than in the comics). While I can probably excuse the fact that they both travel around via power lines, I can’t quite excuse how both heroes ultimately defeat their respective villains the same way: by dousing them with water.
You’d think somebody on the show would have been able to say, “y’know, Spider-Man kinda did this already, so maybe we can think of something else?” Barring that, it would have been easy to write-in a line for somebody on-screen to say, “Hey, does this remind anyone else of that movie where Jamie Foxx was the bad guy? What was the name of that one?”
In fact, Kara does something similar when she calls out the similarities between Henshaw’s “Livewire trap” and the one used by the Ghostbusters. I thought that was clever, but they stretched the gimmick a little thin when Livewire had Supergirl ensnared with electricity in a manner very similar to the Proton Packs.
But I digress. The biggest takeaway from this episode, for me, has to do with Cat. I like that Cat seems to be evolving into something of a mother-figure for Supergirl and Kara, and even admits that she’d adopt Supergirl if she could (a line that makes Kara smile). Likewise, Supergirl has inspired a bit of goodwill from Cat, who wants to keep Supergirl’s aura of positivity and hope alive by killing two tabloid-esque stories and running a feature on the city’s soup kitchens instead.
I hope we can trust her.
The villain-of-the-week formula continues to serve a purpose. In this case, it was nice to see Livewire/Leslie soften Cat’s attitude toward Supergirl/Kara. In particular, the scene when Livewire shows up and Cat holds a protective arm over Kara was subtle yet touching, as was Cat’s attempt to get to know her assistant better by sharing stories about her own mother. Otherwise, the action was still better than average, although it seemed to be a little too inspired by Spider-Man and (oddly enough) Ghostbusters. In the end, I’m left wanting to learn more about what happened to Alex and Kara’s father, and how Henshaw factors into it.