This review contains spoilers.
1.2 Stronger Together
The Supergirl pilot was what it was, and I’d argue that it needed to get out of the gate in a certain way in order to get noticed. This episode, however, is the true test of the show’s staying power, and had an even bigger job of putting forward the show’s major themes and ideas while welcoming new viewers but not just rehashing the pilot entirely. That, in essence, is the job of any second episode, and Stronger Together was a pretty good example of how to do it well.
After a few awkward exchanges in which people called each other by their full names and relationships, things settled down into an episode that, while having similar beats to the premiere, actually improved upon a few of its flaws. The feminist message, for instance, felt much more a part of the show’s DNA, not constantly thrown at us with trailer sound-bites and random waitresses announcing Supergirl’s role-model status.
A starting point for Supergirl was established in a semi-meta statement about starting small and working hard in order to gain people’s respect. Cat Grant is right, Kara will have to work her way up if she wants to be on the same level as other heroes in other properties on sister networks, and that’s also the position of Supergirl the TV show. Audiences still aren’t sure what to make of it and even small mistakes could send it tumbling down.
So we saw at the beginning of this episode, in which Kara realised that trying to save the world all at once will probably just end with more casualties. A subtle criticism of Superman ran throughout this episode, which was surprising but not unwelcome. What I want more than anything right now is a realisation for Kara down the road that her cousin might actually be a bit of an arse, as I feel like we’re already headed there.
The episode title, Stronger Together, stands for the House of El family motto, after all, and after just one week of heroism Kara has realised that isolation and independence as a hero is probably not the smartest way to go. She needs her friends and her family and, Superman or no Superman, they’re the ones who are going to help her save the day week after week.
I wasn’t so crazy about James’ mini-arc. His relationship with Clark is so thinly drawn and taken for granted by the writers that it just seems a bit dysfunctional right now. Why is he loyal to a guy who can’t even be bothered to mentor his cousin himself? Yes, he’s Superman, but it’s the show’s job to show us reasons why things are happening rather than relying on any foreknowledge of the comics or the films.
Family is a huge thing for the show, however, and the decision to have Kara’s aunt be the big bad of the season is paying off. She might have taken a class in the Charmed school of villainous acting, but Kara’s struggle with where her loyalty lies is not dissimilar to Barry Allen’s in the first season of The Flash. That show deals with fathers, and I guess Supergirl is more interested in maternal figures for Kara.
The ingredients are all here and, even if it feels like the show is relying on a tried and true Greg Berlanti formula right now, I think that’s understandable for a series dealing with so many expectations. It’s still just tons of fun, which is important, with just the right amount of depth and humanity to get us invested long-term. If Stronger Together is what Supergirl is going to be moving forward, then I’m on well and truly on board.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Pilot, here.