Now that I’m out of the haze of binge-watching Jessica Jones and writing about it, I’m settling back in to watching Supergirl (which just got picked up for a full season!) through what feels like a new lens. Compared to the literal and figurative darkness of Jessica Jones‘ contained miniseries-like structure, Supergirl is sunny and optimistic and open-ended. And whereas Jessica Jones devoted its entire first season to sexual assault and mind control, and the PTSD resulting from these, Supergirl tackles more of the day-to-day sexism women face. There is some overlap, however, such as with the issue of anger: Jessica Jones harnesses hers as fuel, whereas Kara Danvers must restrain hers.
Spoilers for Supergirl 1×06 “Red Faced.”
A problem I’m finding with Supergirl is that it’s too pat: Each episode introduces a problem, only to wrap it almost all the way up 42 minutes later. I’ve said before that I would prefer to see more lead-up to important debates such as the constant strain of dealing with mean girls and trolls, or working yourself to exhaustion trying to do everything. The latter plotline does bleed over a little into 1×06, when Kara finally snaps at Cat Grant:
Cat: “Finally. I have been screaming your name over and over for the past minute and a half. Ninety seconds I have been boiling alive in my office. Ninety seconds, each one of which, if amortized to reflect my yearly earnings, is worth more than your yearly salary. One second of my time is ninety times more valuable than your pointless, sad, pathetic—”
Kara: “Don’t talk to me like that! Please. I work so hard for you. I don’t ask questions, I don’t complain, and all you do is yell at me and tell me I’m not good enough, and it’s mean. Why are you so mean?”
And then she makes this face:
Reader, I cheered. Of course, we knew that Cat was doubling down on her criticism of Kara because her awful mother was delivering bitchy commentary on how she couldn’t possibly invite Cat to a party with Toni Morrison because “what would you even talk about?” Katherine Grant’s derision of her daughter’s career path smacks a little of cliché, but it’s still exactly what this show needs: The battle between old and new media isn’t all that different from boomer-era women looking down their noses at Millennial girls. But the entire reason that these women’s weapons are sharpened barbs is because the alternative is Supergirl rage-screaming her way through a tornado or blowing up a robot with her laser eyes.
And by “alternative,” I mean that that is exactly what Supergirl does. But only after Cat responds to Kara’s outburst with coolly evaluating pride, forwards her calls so they can leave the office, and proceeds to get sloshed on martinis. During their little bonding session—set to Fleetwood Mac’s “You Can Go Your Own Way”—Cat shares an anecdote from her days of being Kara’s age and working at The Daily Planet:
“Here’s the thing, Kara: Everybody gets angry. Everybody. And there is no pill that will eradicate this particular emotion. I know this, because if there were such a pill, I would be popping those babies like Pez…. This is about work, and anger. Whatever you do, you cannot get angry at work. Especially when you’re a girl. When I was working at The Daily Planet, Perry White picked up a chair and threw it out the window… because somebody missed a deadline, and no, he did not open the window first. If I had thrown a chair—or, my God, if I had thrown a napkin—it would’ve been all over the papers. It would’ve been professional and cultural suicide.”
And this was before social media! In the episode’s cold open, Supergirl saves a gaggle of middle schoolers from getting flattened by two guys in expensive cars gripped by road rage… only for the kids to whip out their phones and document Supergirl’s “scary” strength. (Fickle little shits.) She has to be a benevolent protector without erring on the side of nightmare; she must never make the residents of National City wonder, “What happens if she gets mad at us?”
Cat’s ultimate advice is that Kara find a release: boxing, or yoga, or some way to channel that energy. What she winds up “channeling” is lasers into the body of Red Tornado, a humanoid robot developed by the military to fight Kryptonians. That plot was even more cliché, with General Sam Lane (yes, Lois and Lucy’s dad) setting up Supergirl to fail and whining when she causes the robot go rogue. (She doesn’t, but we already knew she’d get blamed.) So, I was glad to see Red Tornado get summarily dealt with… except that there’s one odd moment I’d like to get other viewers’ reads on.
After Alex Danvers kills the scientist who was neurologically controlling Red Tornado, the robot keeps going after Supergirl, because apparently it’s developed sentience. Yet Supergirl doesn’t hesitate to turn the full force of her laser eyes on the robot, blowing it(? him?) into smithereens. I had hoped that, with all of our cultural commentary around artificial intelligence, there might have been some consideration of the robot as a sentient being. Instead, it remains an object—the object of Supergirl’s fury, as she takes out all of her frustration on it. I’ll hand it to her, in that moment she looked actually scary, instead of a sweet girl.
Cat’s other advice is for Kara to find the anger behind the anger… and it turns out to be her frustration that she’ll never have a normal life. But oh, to her surprise, she discovers in the last scene that for some reason, she can bleed. Has she temporarily used up her powers? Is this the punishment when a woman shows anger? We’ll find out next week…
Can we talk about General Lane’s dis of James Olsen?
“You ally yourself with people you think are special, but that doesn’t make you special. And I think you know that.”
Best line of the episode, and another example of carrying a plotline from prior episodes that I’d like to see more of. James has already wrestled with his dependence on Superman and others’ perception of him as a starfucker. Moving from Metropolis to National City hasn’t been easy, and he’s still carrying some angst with him. And with Lucy quitting her job for the military to effectively take James’ side, I’m curious how we’ll see his relationship with Supergirl develop.
Also, how quickly Lucy goes from “oh, I didn’t think Supergirl was all that impressive” to “let’s be allies!” was laughable. I’m really not sure what the writers are going to do with her, aside from fridging her at some point. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see another strong female character, but so far she hasn’t thrilled me.
Second-best line, from Winn after Alex asks him for help discovering what happened to her father:
“That’s a dirty pull, Danvers, you know I have daddy issues.”