Monday, November 23, 2015

REVIEW: 'Supergirl' - Kara Juggles Too Many Things as Supergirl Has to Save the City from a Bomber in 'How Does She Do It?'

CBS' Supergirl - Episode 1.05 "How Does She Do It?"

Kara's two identities are stretched thin when Supergirl must protect National City from a series of bombings and Kara is tasked with babysitting Cat's son, Carter. James is conflicted when his ex-girlfriend, Lucy Lane, seeks to rekindle their relationship.

"How Does She Do It?" was originally set to be the fourth episode of Supergirl's first season. The action picks up roughly one week after Supergirl's battle with Reactron. James is dealing with his feelings regarding the return of his ex, Lucy Lane, while the show further shows just how shifty Maxwell Lord actually is. Those two stories build off of what the show did two weeks ago in "Fight or Flight." And yet, it's slightly awkward picking up those stories again out of order. CBS postponed this episode - swapping it with what was meant to be the fifth episode "Livewire" - due to this hour's main bombing story being too similar to the terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month. With context, it does feel like the network made the right decision - since the bombings on the show targeted populated areas such as trains and airports. But the move also contains some unavoidable continuity errors. They are there and the audience knows why. It just makes this episode a little less enjoyable than it really deserved.

The most glaring problem in this episode that happened solely because the episodes were switched was the handling of James and Lucy's relationship. She showed up in town and the two spent a holiday weekend together. The audience knows that that is what this story is building towards. So it was easy to check out of it throughout this hour. Both James and Lucy were complaining to Kara about how their relationship went wrong. But it also felt inevitable that the two would get back together. However, the show went about that in a really predictable and laughable way. It's hard to care about either one of these characters when they are often defined by their romantic interests. That's all that Lucy talks about while James has always been presented as a romantic option for James. James does have more purpose on the show. But his chemistry with Kara has been pushed very hard as of late. So this love triangle just complicates that dynamic. Kara's romantic interests are probably the least interesting thing about her right now. So this story and how she is awkward around both of them doesn't really work at all. Plus, the dialogue during James and Lucy's big reunion outside the airport was awful.

It was also awkward whenever Kara and Alex are at the DEO and Alex is telling Kara that she can trust Hank. It is fun to see how these agents for a secret organization can go outside with official government identities. But it is also tense because the audience currently knows more than the two main characters. The show keeps teasing these suspicious red eyes and powers with Hank. Soon, it's going to have to be more than just teasing. During one of her big rescue missions, Kara is hit by the blast from the explosion. When coming in and out of consciousness, she notices Hank's red eyes. But that never becomes a crucial detail of the story. That just sets it up as something she should be wary about in the future. Hank is still an ally to Kara and Alex. He also seems to be using his special skills for good. When no one else can disarm the bomb at the airport, he clears the room and is able to dispose of the threat in an instant. It creates a false narrative that the rest of the characters are foolish for accepting so quickly. But it continues to build the anticipation and intrigue over what is going on with Hank.

Unsurprisingly, the show is at its best when it comes to its episodic story. Fortunately, there is a lot of it. So even though this episode has many awkward moments due to airing out of order, it still creates many great moments to watch that are filled with both action and character intrigue. Maxwell Lord is a character that Supergirl needs to keep her eye on this season. He's a man with a strong vision of the future and the kind of technology that can help society get there. He has a unique connection with Cat. But this hour also sets out to showcase how he is going to interact with Supergirl. Is he going to be an ally or an enemy? They have had several interactions before these bombings. This hour keeps Kara on high alert throughout the hour. That all starts with her discovering that a very advanced drone is following her in the sky. It's technology that comes from Lord's company. After that, she focuses so much of her energy on stopping these bombs from killing a bunch of people. She's successful in determining that it's a begrudged former employee trying to take his revenge for all the horrible things happening in his life. And yet, something is amiss with that story as well. When Supergirl is actually talking with the guy, she can't really reason with him. She knows his story but she doesn't know all of it. She saves the super train from exploding. But she also needs to find answers. She won't just embrace the official story.

So, Supergirl goes to confront Maxwell Lord over his hand in the events of the last few days. It turns out that he was testing her powers and her character. He wants to understand what her presence in this city means to his business. He knows how much Superman has changed Metropolis. And yet, he is willing to risk thousands of innocent lives just to see how Supergirl would react. He is a man with so much power and influence that he can put the events of this episode into motion. He is a determined man to know the truth. He wants to be in control of the situation at all times. Sure, it's a bit foolish for him to declare that he'll learn her secret identity when he is looking at her right in the face. But it also establishes him as an adversarial threat to Supergirl. He may have had a brief flirtatious moment with Alex. But he's a man scheming for more power and control. It should be interesting to see how that plays into the rest of the themes this season.

And lastly, the show has always had a strong willingness to embrace strong feminist themes. But they can also be very overbearing at times. That's how it felt in this episode as Kara was struggling with the very familiar idea of trying to do too much. She has committed herself to being a superhero for the city, an assistant for Cat Grant, a babysitter to Cat's son Carter, and a friend to James. It's a lot for her to handle. And yet, the execution of it all felt very trite and redundant. She's just learning how to balance it all in her life. She just has to slowly move into it. It's all a part of the show figuring itself out. Cat's advice is something the rest of the show should embrace as well. Right now, it's just a tad too awkward to really work at all. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "How Does She Do It?" was written by Yahlin Chang & Ted Sullivan and directed by Thor Freudenthal.
  • This show really doesn't need to add a teenage character just to put him into peril and show just how important he truly is to Kara and Cat. That was unnecessary. Plus, Carter was pretty one-note as well. He has shy and then shifted into something else completely once Supergirl showed up. It was an awkward transition.
  • Yeah, that totally wasn't the first time that Winn played video games in Cat's office.
  • Even though it comes from Maxwell Lord, that super train looks pretty cool.
  • It's a good thing to know that the DEO has a device that can help Kara heal whenever she is seriously injured in battle. Though it's a tad suspicious that a rescue team was able to save her and not be noticed by any civilians.
  • It's been awhile since the audience and Kara have seen what Astra is up to. That can't be good.