This Supergirl review contains spoilers.
Supergirl Season 1 Episode 16
Sometimes, in the course of a long season, I can get a little cynical. I figured I was going to hate “Falling.” How could this possibly live up to “Solitude” which I firmly maintain is the best the series has been, and is one of the best hours of live action Superman-related TV in history, right?
And c’mon, a Red Kryptonite episode this early in its run? It has all the hallmarks of a midseason time killer! And what, a Cat Grant guest appearance on The Talk? That looks like gimmick TV to me! I’m not one to sharpen knives ahead of time, but I sure knew where the drawer was.
Holy moley. What a jerk I am.
“Falling” is tremendous superhero TV, the third great episode in a row (a first for this series!), and…the best episode of the season.
Cat Grant going on The Talk to tell the world why Supergirl is so important juxtaposed with Supergirl helping a little girl out with her bully problem should have been toxically saccharine stuff. It wasn’t. It was just another example of this show completely grasping what kind of a real world, positive, life-affirming force that the superhero concept can and should be.
Of course, we knew the Red Kryptonite and the accompanying descent into “bad girl” Kara would come along to shatter all that. But not before a genuinely funny sequence with Kara walking in on a workplace casual encounter that she really could have done without. Winn is a character it took some time for me to warm up to, but this was pretty great, and the shift in his relationship with Kara allows Ms. Benoist and Mr. Jordan to work on some easy comic timing that was really lacking when it was all wistful looks and friendzoning.
Does an episode like falling work as well without a lead like Melissa Benoist? Her “turn” as a bad girl wasn’t overdone (although it would have been neat if they had tried to tease this out over an episode or two), and it was fun seeing her adopt some of Cat’s mannerisms and speech inflections as she became progressively more self-centered.
Did I say this was Melissa Benoist’s episode? Maybe I should have said it was Calista Flockhart’s episode. Cat Grant is everything she can and should be this week. The character has been completely rehabilitated from the damage that they did to her earlier this year. They need to stick with this, and make her a legit mentor for Kara and Supergirl. Let her keep her Bosszilla edge, but under no circumstances should she become the addled cartoon character they threatened us with a few times.
Supergirl has jettisoned some dead weight since the break. Astra wasn’t much of a central villain, and Non doesn’t seem that much more promising. The James/Lucy/Kara triangle was a thorough drag, and now that’s gone. Winn looks like he has a chance to become his own character now and not a lovelorn version of Cisco Ramon, thereby allowing Jeremy Jordan’s charm to come through. Supergirl has just been telling good stories with its central cast, with the focus squarely on Kara’s emotional journey. If it keeps that up until the end of the season, nearly everything else can be forgiven. We can figure out how to make this show less episodic next season (and there will be a next season!), but for now, they’ve successfully made me care.
I have to confess, I got a little misty when J’onn gave himself up, and again when Kara broke down after waking up. Kara’s first question being “did I kill anyone?” before breaking down in tears, well…that’s what it’s supposed to be about, right there, if you’re gonna wear the S. Seriously, the last five minutes of “Falling” got to me in a way that I never really thought this show would.
If you’ve read some of my other Supergirl reviews, and you know I don’t pull my punches. I’ve been rooting for this show to succeed since day one, but that doesn’t mean I excuse it when I feel things aren’t going the way they should. I’ve occasionally compared Supergirl (unfavorably) to The Flash, which had a better central villain and a stronger season long arc.
But Supergirl has handled one-and-done installments better than The Flash has this year. And while The Flash has always been strongest when it delivers an episode that just hammers home something important (often with a bonkers twist), none of Supergirl‘s long game stories have felt hefty enough for me to care. So what does it go and do? It gives us a standalone episode that is a masterful use of an hour and manages to deliver emotional moments that work because of the good work the cast has done all season, even when everything else wasn’t quite clicking.
Sure, “Falling” was action packed, full of nerdy Superman stuff, and boasted some wonderful special effects. But it was also genuinely moving. Great stuff all around.
Kryptonian Memory Crystals
Red Kryptonite traditionally has unpredicatable effects on the Kryptonian of your choice. And I don’t mean “unpredictable” the way gin makes me unpredictable. I mean, “Superman now has the head of a lion” unpredictable. Red Kryptonite has been kicking around the DC Universe since the ’50s, but I’ll let Brian Cronin at CBR explain the intricacies a little better than I have time to tonight.
But the idea of Red Kryptonite turning a cape wearing Kryptonian into an arrogant jackass is nothing new. It was most famously done in Superman III. While that movie used synthetic Kryptonite instead of…wait a second…this is synthetic Kryptonite! So that’s another Superman III reference for the books!
For the second episode in a row, Supergirl was on a mission to rehabilitate concepts from Superman III. Christopher Reeve handled his dark, dick-ish Superman brilliantly in that film, but it’s tough to recommend much about Superman III. I say a few nice things about it here, I guess. But the similarities don’t end there…
Supergirl sitting in the bar flicking peanuts like they’re bullets? Straight outta Superman III. And here’s a slightly deeper cut. You see the banner that the fire department is hanging for Supergirl? Those are the Smallville High colors that we see at Clark’s class reunion in Superman III! Yes, I knew that without looking it up. Please don’t judge me.
– I can’t believe we got a Khund on TV. The Khunds were an alien race that gave the Legion of Super-Heroes a bunch of agita. They may not seem like much now, but give them a thousand years, and they’ll be big trouble for Earth.
– Somebody call Deadpool, because Martian Manhunter did a textbook superhero landing!
– Also, I seem to remember a “Clark wakes up and smashes the alarm clock” scene in an episode of The Adventures of Superboy, probably one from season 3 or 4. I’m pressed for time right now and can’t think of the exact episode, but if any of you know, please shout it out.
– I’m sorry, but there is no way that “did I kill anyone?” is NOT a jab at Zack Snyder. It’s impossible.
Mike Cecchini experimented with Red Kryptonite in college, but it mostly made him paranoid and the effects felt like they would never wear off. Talk him down on Twitter.