This review contains spoilers.
1.8 Hostile Takeover
Few things are perfect right out of the gate, and even fewer things have the amount of expectations Supergirl had on its shoulders from its first episode. This show hasn’t offered the grim nuance of Jessica Jones or even the giddy joy of The Flash, but at least it’s managed to do something different. We’re in an age where it’s almost impossible to watch every comic book-themed show on television, let alone everything on offer to geek audiences right now, and I feel like Supergirl can’t be faulted for finding its own niche and sticking to it.
That said, these last two episodes have been very good examples of what the show has been trying to do from the start, but that’s not to say it’s always done a stellar job. It’s been clumsy and awkward for the most part, but there’s been a confidence to both this mid-season finale and its preceding episode that gives me lots of hope for the future of the show.
Without doubt, Hostile Takeover was a showcase for what Supergirl can be when its firing on all cylinders. It didn’t trade in its heavy feminist message or ignore any of the characters, but it did introduce a genuine threat for Kara, drag familial tensions back into play and let Melissa Benoist get her teeth into material beyond what the show has been asking of her from week to week.
Two complementary storylines run side-by-side, as has been Supergirl‘s go-to narrative style, with Cat becoming a victim of hacking just as Astra re-enters Kara’s life. The hacking thread feels a lot like something to fill airtime right up until the end, but is made completely worthwhile by Cat’s ultimate admission.
She had another child when she was younger, she tells Kara, and chose to give up on a nasty custody battle when it became clear she wouldn’t have been the best parent for him.
This intersects with Kara’s struggles with her own mother when she discovers the real reasons behind Astra’s ‘betrayal’. We discover they had been close back on Krypton, which adds some much-needed depth to both Kara’s backstory and Astra’s position as an antagonist, and Alura had manipulated Kara before Krypton was destroyed despite warnings from Astra that said disaster was imminent.
And this is where it became clear that, without Melissa Benoist, Supergirl might have much bigger problems than it does. She’s excellent throughout Hostile Takeover, never more so than when Kara confronts the hologram of her mother, unable to give her answers or comfort – the two things she really needs. She gets increasingly frustrated and angry, before ineffectively using her heat vision and breaking down. She’s great.
It’s all leading up to a big showdown that won’t be resolved until we’re back in January, but it’s interesting that both villains in this episode turn out to be men, one a jealous board member intent on taking over CatCo and the other Non, Astra’s husband. After this episode, I don’t really expect Astra to remain the season’s main villain, which is a smart way to support the theme of female solidarity without having it be overtly men vs women.
Which would be boring, because so far the men on this show just haven’t been good. Sure, Winn is likeable enough and people who aren’t me seem to enjoy James, but neither of them seem worthy of Kara in a romantic sense. Their chat was a step in the right direction, as was the brief development we got for James last week, but they need to be stronger characters on their own if we’re to root for a love square.
(Funny, but that’s usually a point we’re forced to make about female love interests on comic-book shows, so points for subversion, Supergirl!)
The biggest thing, though, is the fact that Cat has figured out Supergirl’s real identity, likely a product of getting to know Kara enough to recognise the hero underneath the glasses and hair-bun. It’s a good move, mainly because I have no idea how this will change the dynamic of both of Kara’s worlds, but I hope Cat gets to join in on the heroics now that she has more information. Knowing what we do, I wouldn’t expect any less.
Supergirl has had a shaky start, but a full-season pick-up and room to figure itself out seem to have paid off. I’m excited to see what’s next, despite the show’s many glaring flaws. In the end, that’s what matters.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Human For A Day, here.