Monday, December 7, 2015

REVIEW: 'Supergirl' - Kara Loses Her Powers While Hank's True Identity is Revealed in 'Human For a Day'

CBS' Supergirl - Episode 1.07 "Human For a Day"

Kara and her friends must rely on their inner strength and courage when an earthquake strikes National City. Alex's mistrust of Hank reaches a breaking point when the earthquake traps them in the DEO with Jemm (Charles Halford), a powerful alien escapee.

Kara is great at being the superhero lead of a show. And yet, it's also very important to make sure that the cast around her is just as meaningful and heroic. "Human For a Day" is a bit too on-the-nose in its need to make everyone go above and beyond what they are comfortable during when an earthquake hits National City while Kara's powers are temporarily gone after her fight with Red Tornado. But that still makes for some very meaningful and moving tension. This show is an ensemble after all. This hour showcases that everyone is capable of being a hero in their own special way when disaster strikes. It's in that way that the show truly finds some great character development. This hour shows just how strong the people of this city can be. It gives them the chance to shine.

In fact, the Kara story throughout this episode is a little weird. She is experiencing a solar flare - as her cousin has coiled it. She used so much of her energy and her powers fighting Red Tornado that she needs at least two days in order to recharge. Of course, that's when this massive natural event happens in National City. She can't just be a human for a day who can take off work for being sick. She is forced to stand up and watch a disaster affect so many people of this city and know that there is nothing she can do to help them. Since she embraced her true self, she has truly come to accept her need to help people. She just has to go about that in different ways in this episode. She has no powers. So, she has to be a hero in the way normal people can be. It's a severe learning curve for her. One that isn't always dramatized all that well. She goes for the extreme case in the beginning - a man bleeding out in the street with no doctors being able to get to him in time to save his life. She wants to help but she can't. It's heartbreaking to her. But it's also a very extreme case. It's something that she could help with if she had her powers. Without them, she needed to accept that there were certain things that she just wasn't going to be able to do.

But that doesn't stop Kara from putting on the Supergirl outfit to do good in the city. Maxwell Lord and Cat Grant are waging a war regarding Supergirl's absence during these trying times. Kara can't use her powers. But her influence in this city is still powerful. She can still make a difference in this time of need. It's because of that that she is able to stop a robbery. She doesn't need to be bullet proof. All she needs is her words and her ability to reach out to the good inside this other person. Max wants to be very critical of Supergirl's performance in this city because it helps his image. And yet, Supergirl can still inspire and unify National City. She needs help from others during this tragedy. That's okay too. Cat inspires the city to action as well. Even though she hasn't appeared on camera in a long time, she is still willing to do it if it means helping the city heal from this disaster. That's an action that Kara is very appreciative of in the end.

However, it's a tad silly that the episode tries to make Kara and the audience question whether or not her powers will actually return. When she talks to the people who understand what is happening to her, they assure her that everything will be fine. She just needs to wait for her powers to return which they will. It's only Max who questions it. Because she is aware of who he truly is, she fears that he may be right. So, it takes a new crisis for her to overcome those fears and be the superhero she has been all season long. It largely just gives Kara the chance to rescue James. It plays into the love triangle dynamic a little too much. He's the person who supports who during this day as a normal person. Winn is then frustrated because of it. But Kara still swoops in to save James as he falls down an elevator shaft because he is her friend and she cares about him. It's just silly that it takes an action like that for her powers to return. It's manipulative of the audience without a whole lot of value being added to that dynamic. Still, it's a good thing that she has her powers again because she'll need them to face off with her Aunt Astra - who has just returned to the city as well.

Meanwhile, a much more alien threat is present over in the DEO side of things. This is the first time the show has really spent a lot of time with that team away from Kara. She is unable of assisting them when this powerful alien creature escapes during the earthquake. They are forced to fend for themselves which shows just how resourceful Alex and Hank really are. And yet, Alex is very distrustful of Hank because she knows that he has been lying to her for years about her father working for the DEO. She wants answers and that does affect her judgment in her handling of things in this episode. Hank wants to take on this alien threat by himself in order to avoid any of his people getting hurt in the process. They are all sealed in the main room with the alien, Jemm, being somewhere else in the facility. Jemm is not only a powerful beast who shoots energy beams from his forehead but he also has mind control abilities. That makes him very dangerous. Because of Alex's willingness to question Hank's orders, she puts more agents in harm's way. And then, she actually handcuffs Hank because he didn't tell her the truth while they are dealing with this threat. That just seems really ill advised. She looks foolish for removing her closest ally in this battle with Jemm. Of course, Alex then becomes a total badass in the next scene where she lures Jemm into a trap and she unleashes so many weapons on him.

And yet, it's up to Hank to neutralize this threat because he has superhuman abilities. Those abilities have been teased consistently throughout the season so far. And now, it's finally time to pay them off with a big reveal. Alex doesn't trust Hank because of what her mother shared during Thanksgiving. She wants answers and she gets them too. She learns that her father really was a good guy who stood in the line of fire to protect an alien threat who meant no harm to the human race. Hank killed him. And then, the alien killed Hank and assumed his identity - given that he is a shapeshifter. Hank reveals his true form to Alex. He is really J'onn J'onzz - also known as the Martian Manhunter in the DC comic books. He's a monstrous alien with green skin who towers over Alex when he shows his true form. His physical appearance is so different than Kara's. It's more like the aliens the DEO hunts down every week. And yet, he insists that he is a good person and just wants to keep his promise to Alex's father to look out for her as if she were his own daughter. That's a crucial development that will help inform this story and character moving forward. It's a pretty fantastic reveal with some great special effects work. It provides answers while also teasing a much more personal history for the future.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Human For a Day" was written by Yahlin Chang & Ted Sullivan and directed by Larry Teng.
  • It's only slightly disappointing that Calista Flockhart and Luke Macfarlane never share the screen to make the Brothers & Sisters reunion more meaningful.
  • Cat also supports Supergirl and stands up for her when she is absent during this crisis. She fills the void in a genuine way with her message to the city. But she is also furious with Supergirl. She wants to know why she disappeared as well. The only thing Kara can do though is tell Cat just much she appreciates everything that she did for National City today.
  • The joke about Cat not knowing who Winn was was fun a few weeks ago. But now, it's just formulaic and lame. Now that they've actually interacted, it will hopefully lead to a more interesting dynamic moving forward.
  • Does the Supergirl costume just magically appear whenever Kara decides to use her powers now? Why else would she make that quick change before saving James in the elevator shaft?
  • Kara has gotten more confident with her abilities over the last few weeks. But does that make her ready to do battle with Astra again (who is aided by two other aliens)? I'm not so sure.