This Supergirl review contains spoilers.
Supergirl Season 1 Episode 4
Okay, technically, “Livewire” is actually episode 5 of Supergirl even though it’s only the fourth to air. Tonight’s episode was swapped out because of a bombing supblot that CBS feared might appear insenstive in light of the horrific events in Paris. It doesn’t seem to have had too much of an effect on how things flow, other than a bit of a jump with the Jimmy Olsen/Lucy Lane relationship, which was only hinted at last week.
Whatever, that’s the absolute least of the world’s worries. I needed some light escapism to take my mind off the actual problems out there tonight, and that’s what Supergirl delivers.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean “Livewire” is a great episode. Last week’s “Fight or Flight” showed the most promise of any installment so far, and I felt gave us the best sense of what the series is capable of over time. “Livewire” is a bit of a step back.
A Thanksgiving-themed episode is easy pickings for oversentimentality, and when it’s combined with a villain of the week like Livewire (Brit Morgan), things just don’t click. It’s not like Livewire is exactly the most storied villain in Superman history (a little bit more on her down below), and when you really boil it down, an electricity thrower/converter is as basic as it gets for TV baddies. There’s just never any real reason for us to fear her or care about what she’s got in store for everyone.
Livewire’s “shock jock” roots and origin (mostly) are in place, but I think she would have been better served getting a later introduction. Give us a few weeks of Leslie Willis being a jerk to Supergirl on the air, showcase her contentious relationship with Cat Grant (who at least got something substantial to do this week) for a few episodes, build her up as someone who will eventually be trouble, and maybe we’d be on to something. Sandwiching her electric rebirth, battle with Supergirl and Cat, and whatever else in between an episode that’s also juggling sibling rivalry, a guest star mother, and a major revelation about the DEO, and things just don’t quite come together.
As nice as it is to see Helen Slater again, the Thanksgiving dinner scene fell pretty flat. Four or five episodes in might be asking a little too much for the show to give up on the navel gazing about what it means to be a hero, but this one seemed to lean on it a little harder than was strictly necessary. On the other hand, the news that Fred Danvers (Dean Cain) gave up his own freedom to work for the DEO (and protect Kara’s) was a nice touch, even if it’s an obvious set up for a future swerve that (gasp) he didn’t really die in that plane crash.
I honestly feel the episode peaked in its first five minutes, before we even got a look at Livewire or the larger concerns of the week. That opening fight with Supergirl and a nameless alien at the DEO was really badass. The Flash makes much of how its superpowered hero is a lousy fighter, while Arrow delivers tremendous hand-to-hand combat by the bucket every week. I love Supergirl’s fighting style, and I love how the production manages to get her to use the full range of her powers and the fact that she doesn’t have to keep both feet on the ground to fight effectively.
I don’t expect it to be all action all the time on this show, and I do think there’s a lot of great interpersonal stuff that can be done with this cast. But “Livewire” felt a little disjointed, with a villain who never really rose above cartoon level, and a bunch of family issues that just kinda orbited around aimlessly. I’m certainly not giving up on Supergirl, but a little more focus might do everyone some good.
Kryptonian Memory Crystals
– Livewire had a kind of non-traditional path to the screen. A few months before her first televised appearance on a rather good episode of the generally rather good (okay, fine, it was excellent) episode of Superman: The Animated Series with the appropriate title of “Livewire” (where she was voiced by Tank Girl herself, Lori Petty), she appeared in the tie-in comic for the series, Superman Adventures #5, which was written by comics virtuoso Scott McCloud. (thanks to John Saavedra for keeping me honest, here)
Livewire eventually made her way to the proper DC Universe in Action Comics #835. It was written by the brilliant Gail Simone and had art by the legendary John Byrne. Worth seeking out if you’ve got the patience!
– Helen Slater, as you probably already know, played Kara in the not really awesome Supergirl movie in 1984. She was on the money as Kara. The rest of the movie…less so.
– I don’t really need to introduce former Superman, Dean Cain, do I? Didn’t think so.
– The song that plays during pre-Livewire Leslie Willis’ shock jock routine is the Joey Ramone version of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” I love it, and I always love hearing it. Kind of a puzzling choice for that particular scene. Surely there are more mean-spirited Ramones tunes that could have made that point, right?
– This week was the first mention of Wynn Schott’s Dad being in prison. That would be Winslow Schott, Sr., who will be played by Henry Czerny when he eventually makes his way to the show. Who is Winslow Schott and why should you care? He’s the Superman villain known as the Toyman. More on him when we get to his episode.
If I missed anything, you certainly know the routine by now! Let me know in the comments or on Twitter, and I’ll see about getting this updated.