Monday, November 9, 2015

REVIEW: 'Supergirl' - Kara Attempts to Escape Superman's Shadow When Reactron Attacks in 'Fight or Flight'

CBS' Supergirl - Episode 1.03 "Fight or Flight"

Supergirl's powers are tested when Reactron, one of Superman's formidable enemies, arrives in National City and targets the young hero. Cat plans to run an exposé on Supergirl.

Superman has a huge influence in the world of Supergirl. Society has grown accustomed to him being the hero who will save them from whatever alien disasters come towards Earth. That's a high standard for Kara to live up to. Everyone wants to compare her to him. Superman didn't have those comparisons when he first started. It makes it nearly impossible for Kara to step out of her cousin's shadow. The appeal of National City getting their own superhero has worn off. They don't want the second best superhero of the world protecting their city. They want the best. It's a lot of expectations for Kara. It's unfair to her as she is trying to be her own hero. She is still figuring this out and what her identity will be to the citizens of National City. It's just an uphill battle to get that chance.

Even the bad guys only want to view Kara as Superman's cousin. They want to exploit that connection in order to get to him. He is the threat. Supergirl is not. That's an interesting place to find drama for the show so early in its run. Astra and her big plan for Earth are no where to be seen in this episode. "Fight or Flight" is all about Kara dealing with the complications that Superman has created through his work as a hero. Reactron is a villain that Superman inadvertently created when he stopped a nuclear power plant from melting down. The creation of a villain was the consequence of doing something incredibly heroic. It's the kind of tragic backstory that's perfect for a bad guy of the week. The hour does frequently state that Superman and Reactron have fought many times over the years - with neither emerging victorious. This is Supergirl's chance to step up in the public spotlight and do something that Superman could never do.

It's a difficult task for Kara though. She is so afraid that her intentions for this work aren't coming across the way she wants them to. She is very idealistic about Supergirl being seen as just as good a hero as Superman. And yet, she is still just figuring things out. She lets it slip during her big interview with Cat that she is Superman's cousin. That's the one piece of exclusive content that Cat could easily market. It's just a sliver of information. But it's enough to form an even strong bond between the two heroes in the media. It makes sure that their stories are linked in a way that's even more symbolic than just the S on their chests. It puts the spotlight on the idea that Superman can come in to save the day whenever there's a situation that Supergirl can't handle on her own.

The show can only reasonably show Superman abstractly saving the day so many times. He has been referenced so frequently in these first three episodes. That is to be expected considering the impact he has had on this world. James has that direct connection to him. So he can be in National City very quickly. He does show up to save Kara when her second fight with Reactron looks pretty hopeless. That's a moment that still works on the show - but it's not something that should be used a whole lot. Much like the citizens of National City, the audience could easily assume that Superman will fly in to save the day whenever Kara can't handle things by herself. It's good that Kara has a relationship with her cousin. But it could also be a cheat to her heroic journey. She has to fend for herself and become the hero that this city deserves. This is her show after all.

That's the main takeaway from this episode. Everyone is trying to step out of Superman's shadows. James definitely sympathizes with what Kara is feeling. She wants to take on Reactron without her cousin's help while James doesn't want to rely on Superman to save him whenever he gets scared. Both want to be their own people. That's likely why their romantic spark is so much stronger right now than Kara's with Winn. Kara and James have similar emotional journeys. That makes it easier for them to connect. The show is still trying too hard with Winn hopelessly pining after Kara. That could create an effective love triangle in the future. But Winn needs some character development first so that he can work whenever he's not with Kara. Both James and Winn are important in helping Kara stop Reactron though - as are Alex and Henshaw. This was a slightly complicated episode with one too many things on its mind as well as the need to repeat some other things constantly. But it was a good foundation for the emotional connections amongst these characters as they all set out to do things differently from the way that the rest of society expects. That's a message that's easy to root for right now.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Fight or Flight" was written by Michael Grassi & Rachel Shukert and directed by Dermott Downs.
  • Cat wrote an exposé on Supergirl based on the interview they had on top of the CatCo building that turned out to be a bit more nasty and judgmental than Kara thought it was going to be. And yet, the show is doing a decent job giving Kara a relationship with Cat both as her assistant and as Supergirl. The differences are quite interesting too.
  • Winn has created a new secret lair for him, Kara and James to use when they work together. It was probably necessary. It's better than the three working out of her apartment. But it's still nowhere close to the facility that the DEO is able to use.
  • There are still no answers as to why Henshaw's eyes glow red. But when it happens this week, he is able to know that Alex is in the DEO building doing something not sanctioned by the organization. But then, he still helps Supergirl with her cause.
  • A new obstacle is thrown into the Kara-James romantic tension with the introduction of Jenna Dewan Tatum as Lucy Lane - the younger sister of Superman's love interest, Lois Lane. That's filled with a ton of promise.
  • Peter Facinelli was seen briefly in the previous episode as Maxwell Lord but this episode is a much stronger entrance for the character. He remains critical of Supergirl - noting that Superman is the hero who saved him when Reactron kidnaps him. But he also has a tense dance with Cat during her big party. Plus, he has a pretty fun moment when he thinks Supergirl should come work security for him.
  • Alex is pushing hard for Kara to go be with James. She stated it a few times too many though.
  • Winn learning that Clark Kent is Superman was pretty much a fantastic moment.