Supergirl: Red Faced review
Red Tornado makes his debut on Supergirl this week. Here's Mike's review...
This Supergirl review contains spoilers.
Supergirl Season 1 Episode 6
I really wanted to like “Red Faced.” I did. And not just because it introduced Red Tornado, although that was certainly part of it. No, I wanted to like “Red Faced” a lot more than I did because I feel that this episode had something important to say. The problem is that it went about saying it in ways that I don’t think are going to help it with the “red faced” keyboard warriors who have condemned Supergirl since the first trailer hit.
The basic premise of the episode, which turned into a “moral of the story” situation, was more than sound and applies especially well to Supergirl, is that women are judged more harshly for displays of anger than men. It’s true, and Cat Grant’s juxtaposition of her own behavior with Perry White’s in a professional setting was quite sensible. Kicking things up a notch by showing how people who are already suspicious of Superman but will come down even harder on a female Kryptonian, then, made perfect sense.
The problem is that this isn’t a problem that gets solved in 45 minutes of story. That’s a theme you explore over the course of a season, and it’s one throughly worth exploring in our post-Man of Steel culture, where big screen Kryptonian power levels are measured in terms of how much “act of God” insurance you can take out in any given city block. Getting this issue of Kara’s own anger as well as how it’s perceived by others out of the way with a stack of platitudes, even with a convenient android and a hanging automobile (you had to be there) for her to beat the holy hell out of, just made the whole thing feel a little too heavy-handed. When the Supergirl haters come out to play this week, they’ll throw words like “preachy” around…and this time they might not be wrong.
Seriously. That opening with Supergirl getting involved in a road rage incident so cartoonish that I half-expected it to be a result of this week’s villain being Brainiac manipulating these two hyper-masculine douchebags? That was pretty lazy. Kara working out her issues with one session at the gym and some some empty “anger behind your anger” drunken advice from her boss? That didn’t help, either. Padding everything else out with some really uncomfortable and unconvincing “romantic tension,” General Sam Lane, and Cat Grant’s mother (who has no reason to be here)? Nope.
An insufferable slowed-down cover of a Fleetwood Mac song I already dislike intensely just fueled the misery.
This episode gets a slightly higher rating than it should, simply for the novelty of seeing Red Tornado in action, but even that is tainted by the fact that, well…he doesn’t look as good in action as I’d hoped. Making Dr. Morrow the single most one-dimensional villain we’ve seen on the show so far (and that’s saying something…remember, we had Vartox in week one) felt like a massive cheat. Once again, there is no conflict with General Sam Lane already established, so there’s no tension. There’s no reason to believe anything Dr. Morrow says from the minute he steps on screen, either.
I understand the constraints of network television, and I don’t expect massive cable-style arcs on a CBS TV series. But I do expect that the show knows when to establish threats ahead of time, and use its arsenal of supporting characters to their best advantage. They didn’t do this with LiveWire, and they really dropped the ball this week with General Lane, Dr. Morrow, and Red Tornado. Those three alone would have merited a two-parter, and like I said, the theme about the repercussions of Kara’s anger could have fueled at least half this season, without it turning into a Smallville style mope-fest.
But hey, at least we got “game night” and drunk/hungover Cat Grant, right? There’s a place for both of those things and all the other relationship drama, too (although I was really, really hoping that Lucy Lane would get on that plane at the end of the episode), but not all at once. This episode tried to do too much, and as a result, it got nothing done.
All that being said, “rage Kara” was pretty badass. She should have some pent-up issues considering the front she has to present to the world. And her completely losing her shit on Red Tornado at the end was a great moment and visual. I liked how the heat vision did the Man of Steel “veins in your face” thing when she got too intense with it. I suspect that her sudden power outage at episode’s end had to do with her expending that much energy in one go, but we’ll see.
I’m thrilled CBS has picked Supergirl up for a full season, and I expect we’ll get news of a season 2 come spring. But this show is better than “Red Faced.” Maybe now that they have some breathing room, they’ll explore issues like this in a less “what we learned this week” fashion. They’ll have to.
Kryptonian Memory Crystals
– Red Tornado has a rather complicated comic book history that would take an article all its own just to sort out. To keep things simple, just know that he first appeared in Red Tornado form in Justice League of America #64 in 1968.
– Dr. T.O. Morrow has been kicking around the DCU since 1964. He was created by Flash geniuses John Broome and Carmine Infantino in the pages of The Flash #143.
There is some parallel here with Red Tornado’s origins, in that he was indeed created by a villain, but ultimately wasn’t one himself. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him, and even though I haven’t been kind to this episode, I’d love to see what they can do with a redemptive arc for Tornado.
– General Sam Lane has been around since 1959, but the father of Lois and Lucy wasn’t a military man until Adventures of Superman #424 in 1987. And yes, he’s pretty much always been this much of a dick.
– General Lane talks some crap about how some of the aliens at the DEO “have wings.” Any chance there’s a Thanagarian waiting to come out to play?
– The General also gives Jimmy some crap about how he’s “not special.” I think that comic book creators like Jack Kirby, Grant Morrison, and Frank Quitely would disagree. They’ve all given us very proactive, quite “special” interpretations of the character.
– Cool use of Jimmy’s signal watch. The “zee” tone is faint. It mostly appears to be kind of a homing beacon for Supergirl to train her hearing on. Like the tone is a faint alert that draws her hearing in. It makes more sense than the ol’ Zee! Zee! Zee! “What the hell has Jimmy gotten himself into now?” routine.
– Wynn is drinking a “super soda” at one point. What about the recent crack on The Flash about how there’s a Big Belly Burger everywhere in the Multiverse? I don’t think I’ve seen one show up on Supergirl yet!
If I missed anything, let me know in the comments or on Twitter!