This Supergirl review contains spoilers.
Supergirl Season 1 Episode 8
“Hostile Takeover” wasn’t a great episode of Supergirl. But great things happened in it.
When I first saw the Supergirl pilot, it seemed pretty obvious that they were going to use Fort Rozz, Astra, and the rogue Kryptonians as the primary story engine for the season. It’s perhaps fitting that they strayed from that pretty quickly. The Flash is the best of the network superhero shows by a considerable margin, but I’ve felt that its reliance on the partice accelerator (season one) and Earth-Two (season two) as virtually the only source of villains each week is sometimes a little…lazy. So I’m glad that Supergirl has taken time off from the Evil Aunt Astra story for a bit.
The problem is that now that Astra and friends are back, I’m not really sure what to make of it all. It definitely feels a little “too soon” for all this, doesn’t it? The similarities in Astra’s motivation to Zod’s in Man of Steel (in addition to the other obvious Superman II/Man of Steel parallels) doesn’t do the show a world of good in terms of forging its own identity. It doesn’t help that I remain unconvinced by Laura Benanti as a villain. This should have been the episode where she could really step out of the shadows and stake some territory out, but right now, there’s something lacking.
Still, the Kryptonian throwdowns are mighty impressive for a TV budget, and we’ve come a long way from Lois and Clark episodes like “Through a Glass, Darkly” and “Big Girls Don’t Fly.” I found it amusing that there were a few moments in the Kara/Astra fight that were lifted almost right out of Man of Steel (the DBZ style punch and punch again through the sky), while at the same time, the episode went out of its way to throw side-eye at that notoriously violent and dark interpretation of the Superman legend (“Superman doesn’t kill,” Kara says at one point, and also goes out of her way to stop debris from falling on people).
It was fairly obvious that this wasn’t going to be some kind of climactic battle this early in the season, so the idea that Astra was playing possum to get into the DEO was obvious enough to the audience. But shouldn’t Kara have figured it out, too? Or is the idea that she was too blinded by her conflicting emotions about her mother to really pick up on this? I suppose this plays off of Kara’s emotional issues that we saw in “Red Faced” but something about it felt a little disjointed. On the other hand, the battle at the end with the aliens storming Max Lord’s building was a little more fun and a lot less heavy handed.
The fact that the “human plot” of the week dealt with a potential takeover of CatCo kind of added to the disjointedness of it all. Wrapping that story up in one episode was the biggest mistake of all, though. I’ve harped on this several times this season. Supergirl needs to stop dismissing big problems in 45 minutes, especially when they’re the kind of things that could play out naturally over the background of much of a season without interfering with the necessarily episodic nature of the show. Cat Grant dealing with the potential loss of her company and public revelations about her past is an entire season two kinda thing. I don’t know why they blew it all out here.
My reservations about wasting a good story like that aside, it did give us some good moments, though. The back and forth on the e-mails was legitimately funny. It gave us a nice little detail like Jimmy struggling with a banker’s box of papers and handing it off to Kara who effortlessly handles it. But most importantly, it gave us one of the best moments the show has delivered, with Cat calling out Kara about her secret identity.
I had no idea they were going to go for this so early, and considering that Cat Grant needs to be smarter than your average Daily Planet reporter, I’m glad they did. It wasn’t telegraphed. It was handled nicely. And coming hot on the heels of her inspirational speech in “Human For a Day” made the whole thing feel more natural and deserved. Really great stuff from Calista Flockhart and Melissa Benoist, and it saved the whole episode.
All told, it wasn’t enough to really elevate “Hostile Takeover” that far above its rather poor first two acts. But it’s still great to see how nearly every episode of Supergirl manages to dust itself off even when it stumbles. This could have been a more consistent installment, without question, but I’m now more invested in Cat Grant than I thought possible during the earliest episodes, and the show still touches just the right optimistic and emotional notes when it needs to. There’s enormous potential here, and with a full season order now under the cape, maybe the show can start taking some more chances.
Kryptonian Memory Crystals
– There are about a million reasons why Cat Grant and Lois Lane can and should be professional rivals from their time at The Daily Planet. But the fact that it’s so damn personal makes me wonder if there’s another element to it, as well. When Cat Grant was first introduced in Adventures of Superman #424 in 1987, she was very much a rival for Clark Kent’s attentions.
– The revelation that Cat has another son (Adam Foster), and the confessional way she goes about opening up about it, is straight out of her early appearances in Adventures of Superman, as well.
But more importantly…
– Adam lives in Opal City! Opal City is home to Jack Knight, and the setting of one of the finest superhero series of the ’90s, Starman.
– Dirk Armstrong was created by Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove in Superman: The Man of Steel #61.
– So, Astra is married to…Non!?!?
Non wasn’t created in the Superman comics, although many of the other Phantom Zone villains were. Instead, Non first appeared in Superman: The Movie and then more famously in Superman II, where he was played by Jack O’Halloran. He didn’t make the jump to comics until Action Comics #845 in 2007.
What did I miss? You can let me know in the comments or on Twitter!