How to Be Kara: Supergirl Season 2 Premiere, “The Adventures of Supergirl”

Kara Danvers, a.k.a. Supergirl, is back! Same time, different place—the shiny, real headquarters of the DEO! Which is a sly little metaphor for Supergirl finding its “real” home with the rest of Greg Berlanti’s superhero television series on The CW after CBS. That little dig is the show’s only display of attitude toward its former network, as the season 2 premiere takes off flying, picking up at the very end of the season 1 finale. Kara is joined by her cousin Clark Kent, a.k.a. Superman, to investigate a crash-landed Kryptonian pod; to save Lena Luthor from an assassin armed with killer drones; and to help Kara decide what she wants out of her budding romance with James Olsen and her future at CatCo Media. Or, as she aptly sums it up: “Last year was all about figuring out how to be Supergirl, and now it’s time I figure out how to be Kara.”

Spoilers for Supergirl 2×01 “The Adventures of Supergirl.”

Too bad that she gets constantly distracted from being Kara by all manner of emergencies and mysteries. The crashed pod is identical to Kara’s, yet she doesn’t recognize the unconscious body of the man inside it. (Outlets have already identified him as Mon-El from Krypton neighboring planet Daxam.) Both body and pod get transferred to the DEO for further testing. However, Kara barely has enough time to return to the office and have Cat Grant chide her for spending the last 12 hours sleeping (or so she claims) instead of deciding what she wants her new job to be now that Cat has released her from the thankless role of assistant. Kara’s stuttering protests about online quizzes are met with a classic Cat Grant shutdown: “You can’t internet-search a calling, Kira.”

But before Kara can really ponder her job prospects, she’s needed in her cape and tights again: The Venture, a suborbital rocket carrying 200+ billionaires and movers and shakers, has had an engine malfunction and is careening to Earth. It’s the season 1 premiere all over again, with the stakes multiplied by ten. Which is why the Man of Steel rushes over from Metropolis to help! And why not—a crashing plane was what brought Supergirl out of hiding in the first place, so of course a rocket draws Superman into the fray.

Supergirl 2x01 "The Adventures of Supergirl" television review

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and where there’s a faulty rocket, there’s… drones? Superman and Supergirl—and Clark and Kara—discover that the engine malfunction was sabotage, intended to target Lena Luthor. One of Supergirl‘s new characters, Lena is the adopted (interesting) sister of Lex, the subject of some nasty sibling rivalry from her brother despite being locked away in prison. Seems like Lex doesn’t like Lena changing the family company name from LexCorp to the less controversial LCorp, so he hires British assassin John Corben to pilot a bunch of murder-drones.

Compared to the villains created by freak accidents and/or alien tech and/or secret government tech, this threat was pretty banal. So it’s no surprise when Supergirl and Superman handily keep the LCorp building from collapsing, while Alex beats up Corben… with some help from Lena, who shoots him before he can kill Alex. Does this mean we can trust Lena, or is she playing the long con like her brother and merely disposing of his assassins? Time will tell, because Lena isn’t leaving Metropolis.

You know who else is sticking around? Superman. He’d forgotten how nice National City is—and, more importantly, he hasn’t gotten nearly enough time to simply bond with his cousin. While the episode’s primary bits of humor are Kara lording over Clark the fact that she’s technically older than him (“I used to change his diapers,” she tells some awed kids), there’s heart to it, too: Despite him knowing every fact and statistic about Krypton thanks to archives, Kara is the one who makes their home real for him by telling him childhood stories. Awww.

Supergirl 2x01 "The Adventures of Supergirl" television review

It helps that (almost) everyone fawns over Superman: Winn stumbles over a bunch of adoring questions, and even Alex admits that “your cousin smells good” despite it being such an odd thing to say to your adopted sister. However, there’s some friction between J’onn J’onnz and Superman, which Alex discovers: The two had worked together on Operation Emerald, in which they discovered (and J’onn named) kryptonite… which J’onn decided to keep at the DEO. Despite J’onn claiming he would never use it on Clark or Kara, it remains a game-changing threat if dropped into the wrong hands. And considering the DEO’s various takeovers last season, that doesn’t seem so out of bounds that someone would stumble upon this alien weapon.

But overall—and I’m really surprised I’m saying this—Superman seems like a welcome addition to the cast. Tyler Hoechlin is absolutely adorable without ever grating: His Clark/Supes is goodnatured, kindhearted, measured, charming as hell, with a healthy sense of humor and especially self-deprecation:

Kara: (after Clark trips on his way out of the elevator) You really have that klutzy thing down, don’t you?

Clark: No, that was real.

There was the worry that finally bringing in Superman would overshadow Kara, especially as so much of the first season was about her struggling to get out of the shadow of his cape. Some of that may have been due to the marketing materials that put him in the forefront with her; I admit that some of my own bias came from countless stories and real-life examples of women getting talked over and walked over by men. But Clark’s relationship to Kara is radical in that it’s not a big deal: There’s no jockeying aside from the most playful, because Clark knows that Kara is a proven entity and he can trust her.

Supergirl 2x01 "The Adventures of Supergirl" television review

In fact, what I would be most interested in seeing, in terms of dramatic conflict, is Superman and Supergirl being A-OK but Clark and Kara potentially butting heads—especially since so much of this season is about her finding herself in her non-superhero alter ego. If the DEO swooned over Superman, that’s nothing compared to CatCo, and especially Cat Grant herself, who can’t resist getting a dig in at her eternal rival Lois Lane:

Cat: She’s not still hung up on Superman?

Clark: I think she has room in her life for both of us.

Cat: Oh! How modern.

The expressions during this exchange were golden.

Supergirl 2x01 "The Adventures of Supergirl" James Olsen

The A.V. Club makes a really good point about how Clark doesn’t need to have a big personal arc:

In both his heroic life and his personal life, Clark is relatively stable. He’s put Lex Luthor behind bars, he’s well-respected at the Daily Planet (annoyed Perry White phone calls aside), and he’s happily dating Lois Lane. That stability allows Clark to serve first and foremost as a foil for Kara, which is a smart way to use the character without letting him overshadow her.

I can see him butting in on Kara’s life too much, in a well-meaning, older-cousin way, only for it to backfire. For one, what will he think when he finds out that Kara turned down James (after Clark gave them his blessing)??

This was the biggest letdown of the episode—that somehow in the 48 hours since the season finale, Kara decided that she and James would be better off as friends. Their only hiccup was in struggling to find time for a proper first date, what with all her Supergirl duties, but he doesn’t resent her one bit for having to reschedule. And yet, Kara approaches James on the Balcony of Feelings to let him down gently: A few days ago, being with James was everything she wanted, but now she’s not sure; she needs to figure out who Kara is, blah blah. I don’t mean to be dismissive, because it’s not as if I have anything against young women taking time to be single rather than define themselves by a relationship… but it was such an abrupt 180 from the James/Kara emotional arc that built up over twenty episodes last season. I don’t understand what it is about Clark’s arrival, or Cat’s inspirational speeches (more below) that prompted Kara to have such a change of heart.

But at least Clark and James can commiserate over beers?

Supergirl 2x01 "The Adventures of Supergirl" television review

The Supergirl writers were smart to include another rousing, only slightly disdainful, speech from Cat Grant to Kara involving an extended metaphor about diving into the icy water—smooth, turbulent, or choppy, it doesn’t matter, so long as she steps off the shore already. So, Kara Danvers, what’s your calling? You know, aside from saving the world. Less than an hour before Cat’s deadline, our heroine has an answer: She wants to be a reporter!

It’s perfect—she gets to connect with people, find the truth and share it with the world, and become the best version of herself. Now, I had some misgivings about this big revelation, because it felt a little pat that Kara would follow Clark in two ways—first as a superhero, and now as a journalist? If this whole season is about her finding her identity, it’s odd that she’s in the same industries.

Except… this feels like another of Supergirl‘s sly commentaries on feminism, established in the series premiere when Supergirl fails to meet the expectations of a female superhero. No doubt Kara will encounter similar biases and preconceived notions about her potential as a reporter, so why not explore that storyline? Plus, there’s something so touching about the fact that two women recommended her to this path: Lena, with her “you could’ve fooled me” bit of encouragement, and Cat Grant, who scrawled “REPORTER” on Kara’s resumé at her first interview to be Cat’s assistant. She was just waiting for Kara to figure it out for herself.

Cat’s kick in the ass seems to have an unexpected effect on her, too; she asks her new assistant to “make some calls” for her, which must be the show’s way of writing her off, or at least into an excuse to only appear every few episodes. (With the CW pickup, the show’s production has moved to Vancouver, instead of Calista Flockhart’s home of Los Angeles.) My guess is that Cat will have her own change of heart about spending more time with her family. That, or she and Lois will suddenly become friends now that Clark’s off in National City.

The last scene of the premiere sets up the next villain arc for at least the next few episodes, if not the entire season: Corben wakes up in a mysterious lab with an even more mysterious woman (Brenda Strong, last seen as the fearsome Ice Queen on The 100) standing over him. He has two choices: She can turn off his ventilator, or she’ll inject him with some sort of kryptonite material so he can join Project Cadmus. He chooses the latter, and is dubbed Metallo.

Dun dun DUNNN.

Other Thoughts

  • Winn not knowing how to address J’onn/Hank/Martian Manhunter is me. <3 Though I’m gonna stick with J’onn going forward.
  • “This lettuce is drowning in a sea of ranch, like little Kate Winslets in Titanic.” Love Cat’s grab-bag of pop culture references. Though if she were going for that esoteric, no opinion on whether any of the lettuce pieces was big enough for Rose and Jack?
  • Cat Grant and Lena Luthor were invited aboard the Venture, but we didn’t hear if Maxwell Lord got a seat? Seems odd.
  • I’m still not sure about the significance of the title, aside from coming up with something straightforward/action serial-sounding to appeal to first-time viewers?
  • You know what is significant? All the Superman (1978) Easter eggs: Lex setting off an earthquake in California, Lena’s comment about flying being the statistically safest way to travel, and of course, Cat’s new assistant: “MISS TESCHMACHEEERRRRRR!!!!”
  • Next week: President Lynda Carter Olivia Marsdin!

Photos: Courtesy of The CW

Natalie Zutter hopes Supergirl season 2 brings back ALL the Clark/Kara inter-office IMs. Chat TV and geekery with her on Twitter.

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