Series Issues: Supergirl 1×02 – Stronger Together

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… Spoilers.

(Source: CBS)

(Source: CBS)

Yes, I’m reviewing Supergirl 1×02: Stronger Together. I wasn’t too impressed with the pilot because of the way they tried to setup the entire storyline in one episode. I understand why that happens though. In the US, pilots sell the series. They had to go for broke and not miss a thing so that the network would pick up the show. So it becomes a lot of exposition and setup, which is not all bad.

We got a little bit of cheese setting up the Krypton escape. However it’s all good as we get Helen Slater (80’s Supergirl) and Dean Cain (90’s Superman) as Kara’s adoptive parents, the Danvers. So far it was a super-short cameo of an appearance but a necessary one. Supergirl aka Kara (Melissa Benoist, superbly casted) has on her corner the likes of her sister Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), superstar photograph James Olsen (the charismatic Mecah Brooks) and computer expert Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan). Adding spice is Kara’s boss, revised character Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) who goes from antagonistic reporter to antagonistic woman in charge.

It’s hard not to see patterns between Greg Berlanti’s properties. The hero, the love interest, the sister, the computer hacker, the mentor… But despite what everyone brings to the table, I like that the roles blur a bit. Winn starts as a possible love interest and quickly becomes more of a best friend and Kara’s tech expert/intel person. A Cisco/Felicity role if you want to oversimplify it, but you’d never confuse those two characters. If all, Winn needs a little more personality.

Alex Danvers is the surprise. She starts as the supportive, yet conservative sister that wants Kara to keep hidden. During the pilot episode, she was revealed to be an agent with a bio-engineer degree working for the DEO (Department of Extra-Normal Operations) led by Hank Henshaw (David Harewood). Yes, you might recognize his name from the comics as well. Hank and Cat both seem to be casted as bosses and antagonists for Kara, but their roles also take a mentor approach. Hank is trying to train Kara to be as stronger and fit as possible, since she’s taking on extra-terrestrials. Cat, unknowingly, does offer some tough love advice for Supergirl’s persona while she’s berating Kara as an assistant for not getting her latte right.

And now, we go to the second episode making leaps and bounds. Supergirl 1×02: Stronger Together is actually a stronger showing.

The whole Fort Rozz plot is Kara’s main overall quest at the start, but now she’s got a nemesis. Kara’s mother Alura has a twin sister named Astra, apparently a general in the Kryptonian military, also a prisoner in Fort Rozz. While the newest escapee is a Hellgrammite capable on stabbing people with red crystal spikes, Astra is the real threat. Alex ends up meeting her face to face after a failed attempt to capture the fugitive which ends up with her being a hostage. Kara flies to her aid, and ends up facing Astra face to face. She’s outmatched. Enter Hank Henshaw, who manages to hurt Astra with a kryptonite knife.

I’m going to hesitantly hold back on the nitpicking. I do want certain characters to be better defined. I do like the blurring of the roles. In the end, Kara understands she’s not starting from scratch if she listens to everyone, something that she’s doing far better than other heroes. Took a couple of seasons for Oliver Queen from Arrow to let people in as much as Kara does.

Confession time, I saw a lot of rushing through the pilot that could be easily attributed to the nature of pilots for TV series. However, this second episode grounds our flying heroine and her world a little more. I know I’ve skipped a ton of things, let’s get to the highs and lows.

Highs/Lows/UpUpAndAway:

  • I have to level with you. Adding something else to review, specially on Mondays were I’m catching up with the Walking Dead, is going to be a challenge. But there’s too much not to like about this series.
  • We get a female superhero. That doesn’t seem like a lot to ask for this days, but in reality it is. Because you don’t see it. Specially in the lead.
  • Superb casting. Melissa Benoist is crazy talented as the wide-eyed but determined Kara Zor-El. You will believe a woman can fly. Calista Flockhart, whose eyebrow situation I’m trying to accept, plays a good antagonist with a hidden mentor streak. I believe Mecah Brooks as the charismatic photographer James Olsen, who’s here as a mentor role, whether he might be a love interest as well in incidental.
  • James Olsen’s motive started with the patronizing “Superman sent me” but has transitioned more into a much more welcome “I want to help.” He seems to know Clark’s secret identity too. In this episode he gets threatened to be fire by Cat if he doesn’t get her an interview with Supergirl. The discussion of the entire secret identity gig for superheroes, specifically the glasses thing, was a meta thing. Nice to have it addressed although I’m not convinced.
  • Hank Henshaw. In the comics, spoiler alert, that’s the name of Cyborg Superman, Supe’s nemesis from the Four Supermen storyline. Here, David Harewood plays the strict boss of the DEO who doesn’t let his guard down although he’s trusting Supergirl more and more. However in this episode his eyes flashed red for a moment. Foreshadowing of him becoming a future threat?
  • Winn Schott. Right now, not a break out character in the series. In this episode he joins James to try to improve Kara’s image after a few fiascos. He’s not indispensable right now. James, Alex or Hank can do what he does. He needs some personality.
  • Alex starts training Kara to fight using martial arts instead of just punching things. This addresses the weakness of every superhero that has super-strength, the lack of method. Why learn to fight if the fight is over with one punch? Because you’ll soon find someone that is stronger than you. On the other hand, if Astra is part of the military caste, shouldn’t she be trained to counter that in a hundred different ways?
  • My pet peeve: extraterrestrials who come from a culture that is more advanced in technology but are dumb as bricks regarding art, music, relationships, street smarts and now I can add fighting to the mix. I don’t want it to happen with the Kryptonian depiction in this show. Humans are stronger than ants. Would we go to fight something we don’t know and assume that they are only as threatening as ants? So why would a Kryptonian general like Astra assume she has nothing to fear from humankind?
  • Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli) appears on TV after Kara causes an oil spill. Seems like he will be a recurring antagonist. Also, the oil spill. It would have been a nice turnaround if at the end of the episode, Kara would’ve found a way to clean it. Like, really!

That will do for now.

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