This Supergirl review contains spoilers.
Supergirl Season 1 Episode 3
So, you won’t be able to tell from my star rating, but this is the best episode of Supergirl yet. It’s just better in such incremental ways that it really isn’t gonna register in such a simple, imperfect system that doesn’t allow for a whole lot of nuance.
There were some missteps, to be sure, really irritating ones, but as grating as they were, they were brief. I do believe “Fight or Flight” proves that Supergirl is no fluke, and that this show can absolutely deliver on a weekly basis. I think it also erases any doubt whatsoever that this is the most impressive and ambitious small screen interpretation of the Superman legend ever attempted.
Holy moley, did “Fight or Flight” look amazing, or what? There’s more action/special effects scenes in this episode than I think we’ve gotten out of any two from The Flash‘s second season so far (not that I’m complaining about the good they’re doing over there). There was as much or more just out and out superhero throwdown time in “Fight or Flight” than in most episodes of the excellent Superman: The Animated Series. The fact that they’re doing all this in live action, and that it looks so damn convincing, is unlikely to get old any time soon.
Even the way Kara fights is different. No small screen Kryptonian has ever kicked quite as much as quite as convincingly as Melissa Benoist did this week (and this is coming from a guy who positively loves George Reeves’ alternately bored/rough and tumble interpretation of superhuman self defense). More importantly, though, we can really see Melissa Benoist getting more comfortable with the role, just as Kara is getting more comfortable with hers. I’m looking forward to, say, season two, when we can really say that she’s settled comfortably into the role of superhero, the way that Barry Allen now has on The Flash (and I do promise I’ll stop with The Flash comparisons soon…well, as soon as they stop being appropriate).
The real crux of the episode basically boils down to Supergirl saving Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli seems right on the money as Max) from Reactron. If that’s not pure DC Comics, I don’t know what is. Reactron is a pretty minor supervillain, essentially an energy projecting tank of a bad guy, and absolutely perfect villain of the week fodder.
But this is the first “villain of the week” that doesn’t fit the Fort Rozz formula, and it’s nice to see that this puts the DEO in a weird position. As they point out, this won’t be the only time Supergirl isn’t facing an alien on this show, and Kara does a nice job pointing out the silliness of their logic. On the other hand, there’s pretty much zero chance we’re ever going to see her spending an episode figuring out how a bunch of dudes in business suits robbed a bank, a problem that nearly every other small screen Superman TV series has spent far too many episodes on.
Are there problems? Yes, but they’re mostly still “early TV series” problems, and nothing insurmountable.
I finally started to buy into the Kara/Alex relationship this week, and it was undermined by a positively hideous cover of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” played softly in the background. For real, Supergirl has shown that it isn’t shy about using some good old tunes in key moments, so I don’t see why the Cyndi Lauper version wasn’t appropriate here. This version needs to be destroyed with heat vision. On the other hand, it seemed like such a dopey, networky place to put a musical bed anyway, particularly a song like that. It turned what otherwise might have been a nice moment into something overly saccharine and calculated.
There’s some preachiness, particulalry the millennial/generation grap nonsense with Kara and Cat Grant that was just too painfully on-the-nose. I don’t buy any of it, least of all Alex’s “she respects you” line. That may be the case, but the show hasn’t earned it yet. In Ms. Grant’s defense (and isn’t Calista Flockhart a delight?), she asked some fair questions about why Supergirl took so damn long to reveal herself. I do hope they get around to giving her some more depth, and that she isn’t just going to be the J. Jonah Jameson of this show. Perhaps a little more exploration of her background with Max Lord will help.
Oh, and I guess we need to discuss that other Kryptonian who showed up this week. It was inevitable, and it was an interesting way to handle things. You can’t pull this trigger too often unless you’re going to actually, y’know, cast Superman for real on the show, though. And if they do that, it had better be somebody cool. I realize Brandon Routh is busy, and perhaps Gerard Christopher, immortal though he may appear to be, has finally aged out of the part. But whatever.
The little “chat” at the end was a little much, though, and it veered a little too far into the sappy. It also makes me wonder what kind of secure channel they think they’re chatting on. Don’t these two read the newspapers they work for? Holy moley.
I don’t even know how to sum this all up. It was enormous fun, despite being flawed. They need to find David Harewood some better dialogue, but they also need to find Ms. Benoist more lines like “I’m going to slip into something a little more durable.” Oh, and, I dunno…keep delivering the high powered action. It sure is making me awfully forgiving.
Kryptonian Memory Crystals
– Maxwell Lord first appeared in 1987’s Justice League #1. He was kind of the League’s svengali/financier for awhile, and helped fuel all manner of madcap schemes during their “bwa-ha-ha” era. Actually, those are some of the best Justice League comics ever, and you should totally seek them out.
Max has some dark secrets, though. Did you know he was the villain of the unproduced George Miller Justice League: Mortal movie? No? You should read everything I wrote about it.
– Reactron first appeared in 1983 in the pages of The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #8, and he was created by Paul Kupperberg and Carmine Infantino. He’s a radioactive jerk, sometimes wearing an exo-skeleton to control his powers. They really went pretty much all out adaptins his look from the comics, didn’t they?
Check him out…
– Jimmy Olsen’s signal watch has been kicking around the DC Universe since nineteen-fifty-freakin’-eight and first appeared in Action Comics #238. That’s right, the signal watch is older than Kara. It has yet to make it into a movie. Here’s hoping we get to hear the trademark “zee-zee-zee!” sound one of these episodes.
– Lucy Lane has always had a romantic connection with Jimmy Olsen since her first appearance in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #36 in 1959. She’s had some weird stuff happen to her in her life. She was blind for awhile (but cured by Bizarro), and she developed superpowers and a secret identity of her own for a bit, too. I can’t imagine we’re going that route on this show, though.
– They mention a power plant in Bakerline. Bakerline is indeed a neighborhood in Metropolis. I knew this without looking it up, and I’m not terribly proud of that. I know the general geography of Metropolis almost as well as I know New York City. If you get me drunk enough, I can probably even tell you what neighborhoods and landmarks correspond to ones in NYC. If I really like you, I’ll take you on a walking tour of the locations from Superman: The Movie. I probably don’t like you that much, though.
– It has been brought to my attention that some folks don’t believe that Hank Henshaw is just Hank Henshaw, and that he is, quite possibly J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter. I don’t know if I buy that theory, but given the twists and turns that The Flash led us on with Harrison Wells’ identity last year, I wouldn’t rule out Supergirl playing similar mind games with us in regards to Kara’s similarly prickly mentor.
The difference, though, is that Harrison was a pretty intriguing character right out of the gate. We haven’t really gotten much out of Hank Henshaw yet. If you’re going to swerve us, you need to earn it.
All that out of the way, Martian Manhunter seems like he’d be such a natural fit for this show in a supporting role, and I would be okay with this happening, with or without David Harewood. I’m just not sure I buy it yet.
If you’re looking for the DC Comics references from previous episodes, click here.
What did I miss? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter, please!