Jan 6, 2020
Supergirl: Supergirl Killed the Radio Star (S1 E4-ish RECAP)
Previously on Supergirl: Supergirl wanted to be a hero, so she saved a plane! Wow, seeing this clip from the pilot only reminds me how much more optimistic I was about this show in my younger days. Kara’s foster mom knew she wasn’t Kara’s mom, sweetheart, but she was safe here. Alex told Henshaw that saving the world means they have to stop all possible threats, not just evil aliens.
Well, as you may have heard, the episode of Supergirl that was originally supposed to air this week was rescheduled due to the attacks in Paris. Reportedly, that episode featured Supergirl having to deal with a series of bombings around National City, so yeah, yanking it probably was for the best. Though I recommend not reading online comments about CBS’s decision, because there seems to be a surprisingly large number of people who genuinely believe a TV network shuffling around episodes means the terrorists have won.
Instead, we’re getting the episode that was originally supposed to air next week, which means it’s full of references to Thanksgiving. But other than that and a slight jump ahead in one storyline, you’d never know this episode was airing a week early. And I think that really says it all about how little this show has progressed from the pilot.
Also in this episode, they’ve brought back special guest star Helen Slater, who played Supergirl in the 1984 movie, to reprise her role as Supergirl’s foster mom from the pilot. Which could have been a nice passing of the torch between Supergirls, but instead, they’ve used Slater’s appearance to create a weird, banal conflict between her and Kara’s sister Alex that has almost nothing to do with Supergirl.
This episode begins at DEO headquarters, where a giant alien prisoner breaks free of his shackles and starts beating up on DEO agents. Their bullets don’t harm him, but they do hit the pod that brought Kara to Earth. What’s with this advanced piece of alien tech just sitting out in the open all the time? It’s like the DEO is using it as lobby art.
Supergirl shows up to do battle with the big alien, and this fight ends in a totally lame way, where she defeats the alien by lifting him up and then, I think, falling on him, or something. And the punchline comes when Henshaw arrives on the scene: Kara says “he” was tough, but Henshaw informs her the alien is a “she.” Kara does her usual adorkable-gangsta thing with, “Oh! Respect!” But let’s be serious, this clearly is a male stunt person. He even has facial hair.
Kara flies home, where Alex is freaking out because her mom is coming to visit for Thanksgiving. But Kara is looking forward to her chocolate pecan pie, which is the best dessert in the galaxy, which she should know because she’s “been to 12 planets,” Alas, we didn’t get to see any of those amazing interplanetary adventures, but I’m sure Kara beating up on the junkyard clone of Iron Man was every bit as interesting.
Her mom knocks on the door, and we get a bewildering moment where Kara actually answers the door of her apartment in her Supergirl costume. Also, it would appear Kara address her foster mom by her first name, which is Eliza (and not Sylvia like in the comics). Eliza tells Kara she looks great in her costume and then turns to Alex to say she looks “tired.” I’m sure you can see where this is going.
Cut to a blonde woman in a studio doing a radio broadcast. Her name is Leslie Willis, and she’s about to become (spoiler alert!) Livewire, a villain first introduced in the ‘90s Superman animated series and then later brought into the main DC continuity. And according to the sign behind Leslie, the name of her radio show is “Alive and Wired with Leslie Willis.” The villain soon to be called “Livewire” hosts a show called “Alive and Wired.” Sigh.
As in the comics, she’s supposed to be a shock jock, and she goes off on a not-very-shocking rant about Supergirl, making fun of the “hideous, rejected-from-the-Olympics figure skating outfit” she wears. Over at Kara’s apartment, we see that she and Alex and Eliza just happen to be listening to Leslie Willis’s broadcast and looking pained.
And then we see Winn at his desk, and he’s also listening to the broadcast on his computer, while Leslie makes fun of Supergirl for wearing a “skirt and tights,” which seems like “overkill” because “no one is trying to get in there!” Then we see James Olsen listening to the same broadcast and fuming as Leslie wonders if there’s anyone out there who’s “hombre enough” to get through the “Chastity Belt of Steel.” And this cutting- edge parody of shock jocks feels like it was written by someone who’s never listened to Howard Stern in their lives.
Leslie then says Supergirl gives off a “Sapphic vibe, with that big ol’ butch S plate!” She wonders what Kara has going on “down there,” being an alien and all, and implies she might have tentacles instead of genitalia. Upon hearing this, Cat Grant shuts off her radio. And I love how when this show needs to introduce a radio DJ character, suddenly all the characters listen to the radio (when’s the last time anyone in the real world listened to FM radio? I mean, by choice?). Also, we’re later expected to believe that Leslie has a huge fanbase, as if an entire city would listen in rapt attention to a woman sitting alone in a studio and going off on idiotic rants.
At the CatCo office, Kara and Winn talk about her foster mom coming to visit, and Kara says her sister always seems to be “waiting for a bomb to go off” when her mom’s around. Winn laughs and says, “it’s nice when we talk about a metaphoric bomb for a change!” Ouch, too soon, Winn. Also, that’s probably a reference to the episode we didn’t get to see. Then it comes out that Winn is spending Thanksgiving alone, so Kara invites him over to her apartment for “Friendsgiving” with Alex and Eliza.
Then Kara sees Leslie Willis in Cat’s office and wonders what they’re talking about. Winn actually has to remind her she has super-hearing and can eavesdrop on them.
Leslie Willis works for Cat, it seems, and Cat is none too happy about her going after Supergirl and making fun of her body and talking about her in sexual ways. Unfortunately, she can’t fire Leslie, because she’s under contract, so instead, Cat is reassigning her to traffic chopper duty, where she’ll have to fly around in the “CatCopter.” She warns her it’s going to be a “bumpy ride,” while we get post-production lightning flashes to drive the point home, even though it’s sunny outside.
Kara meets up with James in a restaurant and learns he’s going on a romantic getaway with Lucy Lane for Thanksgiving. Last we saw, he wasn’t all that interested in even talking to her, so I guess we missed the episode where they became a couple again. Then Alex comes in, and we find out why her mom is mad at her: she doesn’t like that Alex allowed Kara to become Supergirl. Even though she’s not mad at Kara at all for actually becoming Supergirl. And this nonsensical conflict takes up over half the damn episode.
Kara suggests that Alex should tell her mom she’s a DEO agent and has been protecting Kara. But Alex says that would be crazy, particularly because the DEO doesn’t even officially exist.
A helicopter flies through a storm, and inside are Leslie Willis and a pilot about to do their traffic report. The pilot is worried about the weather, and naturally, a bolt of lightning immediately hits the tail of the chopper, sending it spinning. Kara just happens to see this and quickly flies to the rescue. The pilot falls out of the chopper, and Supergirl catches him, then goes to save Leslie. And we see the helicopter spinning around near an office building, along with a few shots of a guy in an office vacuuming with his headphones on, totally oblivious to the disaster going on behind him. Wow, are they really going with a gag this tired? Worst of all, there’s not even any payoff where the guy finally turns around and sees what’s happening.
Leslie Willis is now comatose in a hospital bed, and the event has caused her hair to instantly turn white. Cat has come to visit her with Kara in tow, and she quips that Leslie’s “new do” is “very Katy Perry.” Kara feels awful about this, though what she actually says is, “Supergirl must feel awful!” But Cat points out she’s the reason Leslie was up in that helicopter in the first place. “If anyone should feel guilty, it’s me! Not that I do.” Okay, at least there’s one decent line in this episode.
And as soon as they leave, we get the expected moment where Leslie’s eyes pop open, and she’s got blue swirls of electricity going on in her pupils.
At home, Eliza and Alex get into a fight, and Alex leaves in a huff. This leads into Eliza having a flashback to her husband Dean Cain (previously seen in the pilot) looking through a telescope. Because he’s a scientist, you see. Eliza gets him to come to bed, and as soon as they head inside, L’il Kara and L’il Alex sneak out on the roof. Kara takes her sister out on a joy-flight across the city. And lest you think this is pointless filler, there’s more to this plot thread later.
Back in the present, an electrified Leslie Willis has apparently just strolled on out of the hospital. She stumbles around in an alley and happens to come upon a creepy, drunk frat boy-looking guy who’s just walking around by himself… in an alley… on Thanksgiving. He leers at her and says, “Happy Turkey Day to me!” He grabs her, so she instinctively hits him with electricity and kills him. Wow, a super-powered female taking down a would-be rapist who doesn’t realize who he’s dealing with. Earth-shattering stuff, show. And just like in the comics, Leslie has the ability to transform into pure energy, and so she morphs into a cloud of electricity and disappears into a streetlight.
And now it’s time for Thanksgiving dinner at Kara’s place with Winn and Alex and Eliza. The turkey looks a bit undercooked, so Eliza has Kara finish it off with her heat vision.
Eliza notices Alex is tolerating this holiday dinner the way most of us do, by polishing off an entire bottle of wine by herself. Kara then wants to go around the table and have everyone share what they’re thankful for. Kara goes first, and then it’s Alex’s turn, and all she does it takes a big swig of wine. So Kara moves onto Winn, who starts to say what he’s thankful for, until Kara gets a call from James and totally blows everybody off to go talk to him. James is just calling to say hello and talk about how he’s a “little bored” on his trip with Lucy, and this whole conversation is clearly supposed to be making us think he should be with Kara for the holidays.
Alex pours more wine and then finally confesses to her mom that she’s an operative for the DEO. Eliza is completely upset by this, saying, “You think your father would be proud of this?” As you’d expect, that pretty much ends Thanksgiving dinner, and Kara gets called away by Cat to handle some emergency.
Once they’re all gone, Eliza has another flashback where the Danverses yell at Kara and Alex for flying around in public and exposing themselves. And I think they put some de-aging digital effects on Helen Slater’s face in this scene, which makes her look like a creepy android. And it also makes no sense, because we saw her looking her actual age in the flashback in the pilot.
They then send the girls upstairs to their room as they get a knock at the door. Mr. Danvers answers, and it’s a whole bunch of DEO agents, led by… a young Hank Henshaw. The plot thickens!
In the present, Cat has called Kara in because none of the computers and electronics in her office are working. Eventually, all the lights go out, and then all the screens in Cat’s office come to life, somehow showing one contiguous image of Leslie Willis. Blah blah blah, she tells them the old Leslie is dead, and “this is Leslie 2.0: Livewire!” Then energy shoots out of the TVs, and Livewire materializes in front of them, firing bolts of electricity at them.
Cat and Kara hide while Livewire blows up a few things around the office. Kara runs out to go “find security,” while Livewire walks around going, “Here, kitty kitty kitty.” Because she’s after Cat. She finally corners her, but then Supergirl shows up in the nick of time. Livewire fires electricity at Supergirl, which she blocks with her heat vision. Yes, she’s using her heat vision to block a blast of electricity. I guess that’s a thing she can do.
Cat tries to escape in her private elevator, so Livewire transforms into energy and gets inside the elevator controls, sending Cat hurtling down to certain death. Supergirl saves her, of course, while Livewire gets away.
Back from break, Henshaw has arrived at CatCo to investigate. I guess he’s now completely over the whole DEO “aliens only” policy. There have been blackouts all over the city, and Kara wonders how Leslie was transformed into Livewire. Henshaw says that Supergirl is “Element X” and the lightning bolt “intensified as it passed through your Kryptonian DNA,” which gave Leslie superpowers. Yeah, sure, that checks out.
Cat refuses to go home, so Kara stays with her in her darkened office. They start talking, and Kara mentions her foster mom and how her parents died “in a, um, fire.” Well, it was a fire big enough to consume an entire planet, so that’s technically accurate. Cat then opens up about her own mom, and how she’s never lived up to her expectations, yadda yadda, so this explains why Cat is so “pushy.” And this is all very Character Development 101.
Back at Kara’s place, Eliza is lighting candles due to the blackout, and soon she and Alex have a teary heart-to-heart about why Eliza has always been so tough on her. It turns out, “I wanted you to be better than me!” and “You have always been my Supergirl!” There’s hugging and crying and sniffles all around. Well, from Alex, anyway. Nothing against Helen Slater, but she’s never struck me as an especially emotive actress.
Eliza has something she really needs to tell Alex, but of course Alex gets called away on DEO business right at that moment. At DEO HQ, she and Henshaw are showing Supergirl a device that can suck in Livewire when she’s in her pure energy form and trap her inside. Supergirl is all, “Cool, it’s like Ghostbusters!” But everyone is stone-faced, and Alex warns Kara that Livewire could kill her. I love how this show always tries to make the villain sound like the most threatening enemy ever, only to have Supergirl defeat every one of them in ten seconds or less. And just wait until you see how easily she defeats this week’s villain.
Supergirl and Cat team up to lure Livewire in. Cat accomplishes this by getting on the radio and telling Livewire exactly where to come and get her, and since all villains on this show are morons and walking clichés, she immediately takes the bait.
On a city street that’s totally not the Warner Brothers backlot, Livewire arrives to kill Cat, saying, “There are so many ways to skin a…” And then Cat cuts her off, because she knows where she’s going with that, and tells Livewire she has the “wit of a YouTube comment.”
Supergirl shows up, and Livewire does some more standard-issue villain taunting, so Supergirl yells the awful line, “Oh, shut up, you mean girl!” They battle it out as Livewire transforms back and forth into energy, and she’s already onto the DEO scheme with the Ghostbusters device, which she easily knocks away. Livewire is about to deal the death blow to Supergirl when Cat provides a distraction long enough for Supergirl to reach through the street and pull out a water main and blast Livewire with water. Supergirl says that electricity and water don’t mix, and that’s the end of the fight. Yes, water was her fatal weakness.
Back at the office, Winn thanks Kara for the Thanksgiving invite. And it turns out the reason he didn’t have any family to be with for the holiday is because his dad is in prison. Which seems weird and random, but as noted previously, his name is Winn Schott, which suggests his father is Winslow Schott, the Superman villain Toyman. Anyhow, Winn is so grateful that he gives Kara a kiss on the cheek, and she totally freaks out while Winn stands around looking dumb.
Back at Kara’s apartment, it’s finally time for Eliza to reveal the truth to her daughters. Daddy Danvers didn’t actually die in a plane crash (which, um, we didn’t know until this moment), and he was really working for the DEO.
One final flashback shows Henshaw threatening to take L’il Kara away from the Danvers, so Mr. Danvers (whose name turns out to be Jeremiah, instead of Fred like in the comics) offers himself instead. He volunteers to work for the DEO and share all of his research about Superman.
Back in the present, Eliza says that Jeremiah died while working for Hank Henshaw, which is clearly news to Alex and Kara. They both resolve to find out what really happened to Jeremiah Danvers.
And with that, I edge ever so much closer to losing faith that this show will get any better. Other than the surprise appearance of Hank Henshaw in Supergirl’s past, there wasn’t one story beat you couldn’t see coming a mile away. A villain accidentally created by the hero? Check. The villain goes on a single-minded quest to kill the one person they hated most before the accident? Check. The villain has absolutely no plan for what they’ll do after they kill the person they hate the most? Check.
Once again, Supergirl got into a sparring match with a bottom-tier Superman villain from the comics, which means four episodes in a row have now followed roughly the same formula. (Yes, I realize it’s possible that the episode that didn’t air might have gone in a different direction, but how likely is that?) You know how when you go to see comic book movies nowadays, and it feels like roughly 85% of them are origin stories? And now it’s gotten to the point where all origin stories feel totally predictable and tedious? Well, the producers of Supergirl have responded by bringing us a new, predictable, tedious villain origin story every single week. This to me does not feel like a formula for success.