Supergirl episode 5 review: How Does She Do It?

Supergirl's heart is in its right place, but the execution of its feminist message leaves much to be desired...

This review contains spoilers. 

1.5 How Does She Do It?

Delayed from last week and aired in Thanksgiving week in the US, How Does She Do It? seems designed not to be seen by many people. That’s a shame, mainly because the fourth episode of any first season is usually a good indicator of whether a show will be good, bad or average. I was curious to see this instalment, then, if only to clarify a few things about Supergirl in general.

It starts off badly, with Kara declaring that she finally feels like she can ‘have it all’ – a genuine line of dialogue in a show about female empowerment. I feel like everytime Supergirl does something like this a kitten dies. It’s this kind of clumsy handling of the show’s themes that are turning people off – subtlety is your friend, Supergirl, embrace it. We don’t need everything pointed out to us.

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Much of the episode, leading off of this opening, sees Kara try to juggle babysitting, super-heroics and her regular day job when Cat Grant has to take time out to accept an award for Women in Media. Kara offers to take care of her young son, which doesn’t come off as awfully as I suspected, and things spiral from there. Again, all of this would have been fine if the episode hadn’t paused to give us a speech about how she’s juggling too much.

We got to see a lot more of Lucy Lane following her introduction two weeks ago, and she’s more or less what we were promised. She’s the ex-girlfriend, but she’s also a career-woman in a different vein to Cat Grant and someone who genuinely appears to be courting a friendship with Kara despite the obvious love triangle forming.

Also James is still the worst, not only causing the show to use the term ‘friend-zone’, but also for choosing Superman over his girlfriend back when they were together. It’s painted as a joint mistake between two people way too focused on their careers, but I can totally picture James being that guy. They’re back together by the end of the episode, which we already knew, but I hope Lucy gets treated as more than just the disposable girlfriend.

There’s definitely promise with Maxwell Lord, who was a big part of this episode and is the first genuine threat to Kara that we’ve met so far. Yes, there’s still the matter of her Aunt and the rest of the escaped krypto-convicts, but Lord is sinister in a completely different way. I look forward to seeing more, as well as where the Henshaw story thread goes from here.

That said, the choice for this episode to be delayed following recent events makes perfect sense now that we’ve seen the content. It’s at times very hard to watch, contrasting starkly with the lighthearted stuff elsewhere.

Supergirl wants so badly to be the feminist champion of television, but despite all of its efforts, it’s just not doing anything particularly new or fresh. Right now, it at times comes across as a Twitter feed being read out by good actors against the backdrop of weird covers of 80s pop songs turned up way too loud (this week’s culprit – the strangest cover of Time After Time being played over the first Lucy/James scene).

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It needs to tone that stuff down, it needs to put more trust in the audience and, more than anything, it needs to find something new to say. Or at least a different way to say it. 

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Livewire, here.