Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Supergirl 3x01 Review: "Girl of Steel" (Not So Invulnerable) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

“Girl of Steel”
Original Airdate: October 9, 2017 

She’s faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap controversial Comic-Con appearances and disappointing spoiler rumors in an awkward bound — she’s... Supergirl! And she’s ushering in the return of the CW’s DCTV line-up with the premiere of the third season of her show. Will this be a good third season of a DCTV show? Or will it, like certain other DCTV shows’ third seasons, be a floundering mess of poor story structure and bad ideas that could have gone somewhere great if people had just put down the Red Bull and thought about their nonsense for half a minute? Only time will tell!

But first, let’s recap last season on Supergirl: Kara got a boyfriend, who got shoved into outer space for plot reasons. I frequently likened said boyfriend to dry toast, but Kara was rather fond of him and was sad when he had to fly into the endless void beyond our solar system, never to be seen again. Even though “Kara got a boyfriend” should have been the footiest of footnotes for a show about what virtually amounts to a demi-god saving the planet on a weekly basis, the fact that she had — and lost! — Mon-El is the driving plot point of this season premiere, which has me rolling my eyes so hard I’m surprised the force of it doesn’t fling me into space.

I don’t think anything else about last season is relevant for this episode. Uh... Alex and Maggie are getting married? That’s cool. James Olsen became a vigilante and the editor of CatCo and still managed to have absurdly little screen time — way less cool. Cat Grant became Press Secretary, which is great for her but it means we won’t be seeing much of Cat Grant so that’s a bummer. Lena Luthor was introduced and she’s still awesome. Daxam ships invaded the planet, which is important for the Villain of the Week plot this episode but not that important on a grander scale... I think that’s it. Boy, they should let me do those “Previously on” voiceovers for these shows, I’m a freaking natural.


We open with what appears to be a commercial for laundry detergent. Kara, wearing the whitest of dresses, is walking through a field. Everything is bright and golden as Kara moves in dreamy slow motion. Mon-El is there, also wearing white. They embrace. Kara sees a woman in blue in the distance, and goes to her. They smile, sadly. But everything is clean. Buy Tide: It’s Kryptonite for Super-Stains.

Kara wakes from what is, of course, a dream. It appears that the loss of Mon-El to outer space has re-triggered a sense of loneliness and abandonment in Kara, which is why she was dreaming of being reunited with Mon-El and her mother (the woman in blue) in picturesque wheat fields.

Six months have gone by since the events of the finale. The good news is that crime is way down in National City, but the bad news is that crime is way down in National City because Kara has become whatever the superhero equivalent of a workaholic is. She’s thoroughly invested in living life as Supergirl and only as Supergirl, to the point where she actually gets mad at James for trying to make her do her CatCo job (the one she gets paid to do) and quits. Hey, Kara? Uh, cool freak-out you’re having and all, but you have bills to pay. You have a large apartment to pay rent on and a lot of clothes that look like they come from that trendy “boutique” in National City’s hipster shopping district, so stop pretending you can just quit your job on a whim and be okay, you loon. This is the second time in three seasons Kara has lost her job and never had the realistic concern of paying bills. Why don’t these superhero shows understand how money works?

Alex has patiently waited for Kara to be okay post-breakup. For six months she’s cut her sister some slack, accepted Kara constantly brushing off hang-out sessions and invitations out to dinner, bars, and probably some Settlers of Catan sessions. Hearing that Kara has quit her job, however, is the last straw: Alex confronts Kara and tells her that she needs to open up and get back to normal, and Kara snaps and tell her that she doesn’t want to be Kara Danvers anymore. She wants to be Supergirl, and only Supergirl, because Supergirl is in control of her life and doesn’t have to worry about being left behind by anyone. Kara Danvers, on the other hand, is single and being single is like, lame or whatever?

It’s a very well-acted scene — especially when Alex tells Kara that Kara Danvers is her favorite person — but... Look, I am perfectly okay with Kara’s loneliness getting a jumpstart after losing Mon-El, and I do think that’s what the show is trying to say (rather than the surface reading of “Kara feels like she’s nothing when she doesn’t have a boyfriend” because, eww). I don’t think Kara’s mother would have featured in that detergent commercial at the beginning if it was all about Mon-El. Unfortunately, since so much emphasis is put on “Kara is sad her boyfriend’s gone,” you kinda lose the nuances of a much more interesting story: Kara, a person with indescribable amounts of power, dealing with the realization that she is powerless when it comes to keeping the people she loves in her life, so she embraces the power of Supergirl and attempts to shun the powerlessness of Kara.

To further emphasize the Kara/Supergirl dichotomy, a minor plot thread is Supergirl getting a statue made (financed by Lena Luthor, I think?) in her honor. By all accounts, it does seem like Supergirl has a better existence than single, jobless Kara Danvers, no matter what Alex tries to tell her. Kara observes the ceremony from a rooftop, height being a repeated motif in this episode as Kara’s favorite way to distance herself from the messy humanness of Earth, and seems humbled — and sad as she discusses loss with J’onn J’onzz.

The ceremony and the space-father/space-daughter moment is interrupted by a missile attack from under water. A submarine using stolen Daxam spaceship technology to prevent detection is attempting to level the waterfront where the ceremony is being held. It’s all part of the nefarious scheming of the nefarious Morgan Edge, who seeks to control more and more of National City by buying up land and, in one attempt, news and media companies like CatCo (a purchase thwarted by Lena Luthor, thankfully). Kara proceeds to save the day and stop the attack.

Oh wait, you know how I was saying this episode had some deep, nuanced potential? I’m taking that back because in the climax of the episode Kara almost drowns herself despite the fact that she’s literally been in space and shouldn’t be susceptible to drowning, and she’s only brought to her senses when she imagines the disembodied voice of her boyfriend telling her to wake up. Hey Supergirl, you almost had me but then you took a plot point from the second Twilight movie and I’m back to eye-rolling. Please be better than Twilight.

For what it’s worth, Kara seems almost back to normal at the end of the episode. She goes to dinner with her friends and re-joins CatCo at Lena’s urging, since Lena will need her to guide her through owning a media company. It looks like Kara is on her way to healing, which just means that Mon-El is going to show back up again and I’m gonna have to find more synonyms for “boring.”

Other Things:
  • Kara’s mother Alura is now being played by Smallville alum Erica Durance, continuing this show’s entertaining habit of casting previous Superman-related actors.
  • J’onn J’onzz and Alex crying over Alex asking him to walk her down the aisle was the best part of the episode.
  • A lady super-strengths a fallen steel thing off her daughter. Guess we’ll be seeing her again.
  • Ha! “Girl of Steel.” The Supergirl statue is steel. I get it.


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