It’s One Step Forward, Two Steps Back for Supergirl

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that CBS’ Supergirl seems like it wants to give itself a hard refresh. We came back from the holiday break exactly where we left—with Supergirl and her uncle Non flying at each other—yet despite that forward momentum, the rest of the episode seemed to be an ongoing attempt to backtrack. Mostly in regard to my favorite thing, secret identities.

Spoilers for Supergirl 1×09 “Blood Bonds.”

When we left off in December, I was squeeing super-hard about Cat Grant finally figuring out that Kara is Supergirl. The two of them had this amazing moment in which they stared one another in the eyes as equals, and it was so earned. But somehow Kara has decided that since she never explicitly said, “Yes, I’m Supergirl,” that moment didn’t actually happen? That’s her story, and she’s sticking to it, when she tries to convince Cat that aw shucks, no, she’s still just her mousy assistant Kira. She’s too darn busy tracking down that elusive perfectly-hot latte to ever be able to, as Cat so wonderfully puts it, catch a plane.

The only moment in which I could understand Kara’s odd attempts at misdirection was when Cat drops the coyness and gets straight to the point: This is a scoop she’s sinking her teeth into, and she’s not letting go. Yes, there is a real danger in Cat holding the power to “out” Kara as Supergirl; indeed, there’s a thread running through this episode about the media crafting the story it wants, as opposed to highlighting the truly important things. But what Kara fails to realize is that Cat isn’t talking about dropping a Twitter bomb; she doesn’t want this story to get in the hands of Lois Lane or any of her rivals. Cat has always had a certain ownership of Supergirl, and she wants to continue that.

Instead, what we get is a tiresome comedy of errors in which Cat grills Kara about her childhood details—which she remembers too well, betraying her need to lie—and then presents her with an ultimatum: Admit you’re Supergirl, or I fire you. While this sounds cruel, she makes a keen point; why should Supergirl be wasting her time toiling away at a thankless job?

Cat: “I stayed up until dawn watching the news coverage of Supergirl: all the interrupted muggings and the averted car crashes. And the more I watched, the more I thought about the terrible things that happen while you’re here at work.”

Kara: “Then that should prove to you that I’m not her! I’m in here while she’s out there.”

Cat: “Oh, please. We both know that Supergirl is capable of pulling off that parlor trick. What it really proves to me is how little this job means to you.”

Kara: “No, that’s not true. I love my job.”

Cat: “Every minute that you waste playing assistant here is a minute that someone out there isn’t being saved.”

Kara: “Ms. Grant, what are you saying?”

Cat: “I am saying that I will not partake in this ruse any longer. So you either prove to me that you are not Supergirl, or you can clean out your desk tomorrow.”

The show tries to convince us that, more than protecting her cover, Kara doesn’t want to lose her job. The office humanizes her; much like a normal person, seeing coworkers like Winn and James keeps her sane. And I have to imagine that everyone at CatCo has a shared a warlike camaraderie dealing with Cat’s difficult demands. Problem is, as with many of Supergirl‘s plot points, this would land better had it been introduced earlier. Had we seen Kara do anything but fetch coffee and throw together giant galas on a moment’s notice, we would get the sense that she actually loves and is enriched by her job. Instead, Cat gives her an out—the chance to pursue her passion, as it were, without the constraints of a desk job that clearly isn’t doing anything for her career.

And what does Kara do? She quits, briefly… then gets Hank, a.k.a. J’onn J’onzz, to shapeshift into Supergirl so they can pull a Parent Trap on Cat.

Supergirl 1x09 "Blood Bonds" television review

Oh yeah, that’s the other secret identity weirdness in “Blood Bonds.” Alex and Hank let the latter get kidnapped by Non so that they’ll do a trade of Astra, even though Hank could conceivably reveal himself in his alien form and escape on his own. Instead, Alex is temporarily promoted to Director of the DEO; General Lane tries to stage a coup, which later gets overturned; and Non gets Astra back, after she and Kara have a heart-to-heart about how maybe Astra was right about Krypton being in trouble. We end in an odd stalemate in which Astra and Kara are still adversaries, but maybe each better appreciates the other perspective.

Supergirl 1x09 "Blood Bonds" television review

During the standoff, Kara overhears Alex telling Hank, “You’ll have to transform,” about which she later confronts him. We don’t even get much of Kara’s reaction, aside from some briefly flailing shock and apparently no hurt feelings that Alex didn’t let her in on this secret. On the one hand, I’m glad that the show didn’t draw out Kara not knowing about J’onn’s true identity; on the other, what an anticlimactic reveal.

This episode’s overall theme is about humanity, or lack thereof. Has J’onn’s time masquerading as Hank Henshaw made him more sympathetic to humans, or is it just a physical and emotional shell? Is Kara the true heir to the House of El because she stayed on Krypton longer than Kal-El did? Is he more human since he had an actual childhood on Earth? Can all three of these extraterrestrials embody both alien and human cultures at the same time? Midway through the episode, a distraught Kara unburdens her feelings to Winn:

Kara: “You don’t understand, Winn. I feel like I lost everything. I can’t stop Max, or get through to Astra. I can’t rescue Hank, or salvage what I had with Cat. Even the memory of my own mother—one thing I could always count on—is ruined. I have nothing left. I don’t know what to do anymore. I have all these powers, but I’ve never felt more powerless.”

Supergirl 1x09 "Blood Bonds" television review

Sigh. It’s one of those odd Kara outbursts the show puts in, like when she realized she could never have a “normal” romance like James and Lucy’s. It comes out of nowhere, but it is an attempt to humanize her. (Also, “salvage what I had with Cat” made me go “aww.”)

So, does Kara get to keep her useless job? But of course. In perhaps the most disappointing moment of the show, Cat takes Kara and Supergirl in the same room as immediate rejection of her theory, even though in the above exchange she clearly said she knows Supergirl can be in two places at once. She’s dipped back into caricature, with her fierce insistence that Kara not reveal her moment of weakness. I’m holding out hope it’s an act on Cat’s part, that she’s letting Kara think she’s convinced, when she’s just going to double down on the Supergirl scoop.

We end with the return of Clark’s cheesy IMs:

Supergirl 1x09 "Blood Bonds" television review Clark Kent IM

Supergirl 1x09 "Blood Bonds" television review Clark Kent IM

Supergirl 1x09 "Blood Bonds" television review

Again, if Cat wants to unmask Kara, all she has to do is force Winn to go through the company chat logs. C’mon, Cat!

Natalie Zutter is a little worried by how underwhelmed she was with this episode, but she’s hoping the end of season 1 picks up. You can read more of her work on Twitter and elsewhere.


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