Feb 6, 2020
Supergirl: You Better Shut Your Big Mouth (S1 E2 RECAP)
Previously on Supergirl: Kara Zor-El Danvers wasn’t living up to her full potential on Earth and was mostly just fetching coffee for catty Cat Grant. But then she decided to save an airplane, which exposed her to the world, much to the dismay of her sister Alex. And then it turned out Alex worked for the DEO, a task force that protects Earth from aliens, and with their help, Supergirl defeated Vartox the Super-Trucker. And it would seem no one even has to bother watching last week’s episode, because they’ve basically replayed the whole thing in the previouslies.
We begin with Supergirl flying around the desert and outrunning missiles, and this turns out to be the DEO testing her abilities before allowing her to join up. Two more heat-seeking missiles are launched, and Supergirl uses her super-speed to evade both missiles and cause them to collide in mid-air and explode.
She lands near Director Hank Henshaw, asking, “Well, did I pass?”
Henshaw replies with, “I see you share your cousin’s appetite for wanton destruction, Ms. Danvers!” Was that a subtle swipe at the complete obliteration of Metropolis in Man of Steel? She tells him it’s okay to call her Supergirl now, and he just looks at her like she’s insane.
Supergirl then receives a message on her earpiece from her co-worker Winn, who’s still doing the thing where he monitors police communications and tells her about crimes and other emergencies in progress. This time, there’s a huge fire raging down at the National City port, but Alex points out she spent the whole day being put through her paces, so maybe she should rest before responding. However, Kara doesn’t want to miss a moment of being a superhero, and “Besides, this sounds like a job for Supergirl!”
She flies down to the port, where the fire chief says that the fire is getting dangerously close to reaching an oil tanker and causing a major catastrophe. Supergirl hesitates, and so the fire chief yells at her, saying that Superman would’ve blown the fire out by now. Amazingly, Supergirl refrains from vaporizing him on the spot and attempts to put out the fire with her super-breath, which somehow makes it worse, at least according to the dialogue.
So Supergirl thinks fast and decides to move the tanker. She flies to the bow of the ship and pulls it forward, which does the trick, but then suddenly the entire front of the ship cracks open and oil comes gushing out. Though, I’m sort of doubting that oil tankers would actually have oil in that part of the ship. Also, I have no idea why Supergirl doesn’t just quickly seal up the crack with her heat vision, instead of just hovering there looking mortified.
Aerial footage of L.A., I mean, National City, accompanies news reports wondering if Supergirl is really a “miracle or menace” due to the mess she made. Kara goes to work, where she tells Winn that she “went from superhero to eco-terrorist in a single bound!” Right, right. “Single bound.” “This sounds like a job for Supergirl.” She’s related to Superman, we got it. Though, the big red S logo at the top of the show kind of tipped us off already.
Kara and Winn look at a TV, where reporters are interviewing wealthy businessman Maxwell Lord, who’s offered to help clean up the oil spill. He also talks about how Metropolis has become a bad guy magnet since Superman showed up, and he argues that having Supergirl around is only going to cause the same kind of problems for National City. This is Lord’s only scene, but he’ll obviously be back later in the season because he’s played by a recognizable actor (Peter Facinelli, patriarch of the Cullen clan from the Twilight movies) and also because Maxwell Lord is a pretty important character in the comics, having helped form the late ‘80s iteration of the Justice League.
Kara then uses her super-hearing to detect Cat Grant coming up in her private elevator and overhears Cat saying (to herself?) that she’s already drunk at nine in the morning. “That’s the last time I’m having breakfast with Ruth Bader Ginsburg!” Hah! The kids love the memes about Supreme Court justices.
Cat calls another meeting of her reporters. She notes that with all of her screw-ups lately, Supergirl is becoming the “opposite of super.” She then says, “Hashtag… terrible-girl?” Well, to be fair, she did say she was drunk.
Cat hopes to rehabilitate Supergirl’s image, and also scoop the Daily Planet (she even name-drops Lois Lane and Clark Kent here) by scoring a sit-down interview with Supergirl. She’s convinced that James (née Jimmy) Olsen can work his super-connections to get her an interview by the end of the week.
Cut to a chemical factory, which is called, per the sign out front, “Plastino Chemicals,” a reference to Al Plastino, who co-created Supergirl with Otto Binder. Two night watchmen are making the rounds and shooting the bull, and I think we’ve all seen enough superhero movies and TV shows to know what’s in store for these guys.
Sure enough, one guard comes upon a skinny guy with stretch mark-like scars on his face who’s doing something suspicious. The guard pulls a gun on him, but is terrified to find the guy can open his mouth really wide. Like, really wide. He can also crawl across walls and overhead pipes as he chases the guard down and eventually kills him.
The next day, the DEO is there to investigate, and Henshaw is a bit miffed to learn that Alex invited Supergirl to the scene. Another DEO investigator pulls a long, translucent spike out of the guard’s body, triggering a bright light for Supergirl. It’s not a near-death experience, however, but rather a flashback to her younger days on Krypton.
With lens flares-a-plenty, we see L’il Kara playing with a tiny computer in her palm and waiting up late for her mom Alura to get home. Though, based on the view outside her window, it’s the middle of the day (and for those curious, they’ve gone with the reddish-orange desert planet of Man of Steel over the ice-covered Krypton of the previous movies). Alura tells Kara about her day and how a dangerous criminal was brought to the “Citadel” and “His people are called Hellgrammites!” She says it’s her job as “adjudicator” to make sure he never hurts anyone again. And once she leaves, Kara looks up “Hellgrammites” on her tiny computer.
Wait… Kara remembers her mom being an “adjudicator” on Krypton? Are we just going to forget that in the pilot, she was totally stunned and shocked to learn her mom was responsible for locking up a bunch of criminals in Fort Rozz? Indeed we are.
Armed with this flashback, Supergirl tells the DEO people that she’s seen a translucent spike like this before, and it’s actually a “stinger,” and the killer is a Hellgrammite, an insect-like race that can shape-shift into any form. And “Hellgrammite” is the name of an obscure Superman villain (even more obscure than Vartox, if you can imagine that), which means they’re doing that thing that all comic book TV shows do nowadays, where they dredge up all the Z-list villains so as not to interfere with anything planned for the parent company’s cinematic universe.
And by the way, “hellgrammite” is an actual English word (it refers to the larval form of a certain species of fly), so it really makes no sense for an alien race to be called that on Krypton.
Henshaw thinks this Hellgrammite must be trying to acquire bomb-making materials. Supergirl wants to go after him, but first Henshaw decides Supergirl has to first submit to another “test.”
Alex takes Supergirl into a training room and tells her she has to learn how to fight. Supergirl doesn’t see the point since she can “bend steel,” so Alex punches her in the face and knocks her flat. In turns out this room has devices that emit low levels of Kryptonite radiation, removing her powers. And the room glows green, but only after Alex reveals the Kryptonite emitters, which was obviously done so as not to ruin the surprise punch.
The two proceed to have a big martial arts fight where Alex has a powerless Supergirl on the ropes, while dispensing wisdom like, “When you are facing a superior opponent, you need to use their strength against them!” Alex kicks her ass, and Supergirl walks away feeling defeated, thinking that she might not be “DEO material” after all.
Kara goes to work, noticeably sore from the fight. She sees that Cat has cooked up a new asinine headline for the Tribune that bashes Supergirl and asks Cat why she has to be so critical. Cat goes on a rant about how women need to work twice as hard as men to be considered “half as good,” and Supergirl is taking on too much too soon. She says there’s a “learning curve” to being a superhero, and Supergirl should be more like Cat, who started out as “Perry White’s assistant” and had to fight her way up to writing a gossip column, indicating that this is indeed the same Cat Grant we know from the Superman mythos, just older and richer and much, much bitchier.
Kara gets the message that she needs to start small, and so she enlists the help of James and Winn, who are both irked to learn that Kara revealed her secret identity to the other guy. We then get yet another superheroing montage that’s almost identical to the one in the pilot, except instead of Winn telling Supergirl about minor crimes going down in the city, James and Winn are doing it together. Oh, and this one is set to a different pop song: Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.” Between this and “Bad Mama Jama” in the pilot, I have to wonder what demo they’re trying to court with hit songs from 30 years ago.
Supergirl stops another armed robbery, pulls an ambulance out of traffic, and even goes to get a cat out of a tree, only to find out it’s a snake, and Winn says in her earpiece, “Who names their snake Fluffy?” Following this, we get TV news reports that show that the public approves of Supergirl’s new, not-screwing-up agenda, and the oil spill fiasco has been all but forgotten.
In a random industrial area, the Hellgrammite gets a visit from a couple of black-clad Kryptonian bad guys, who tell him “General Astra” is perturbed that he revealed himself. And then General Astra herself appears, and it’s of course Alura’s twin sister who we saw in the pilot. Though now, she’s got one long blonde hair extension, I guess so we can tell her apart from her sister. She reminds the Hellgrammite that when they all crashed here on Earth in Fort Rozz, she told everyone they would be “stronger together,” just like it says in the episode title. Then she tells him her niece is here on Earth, working with the humans, and she wants to use the Hellgrammite as bait to capture her.
Back at the DEO, they’re convinced the Hellgrammite is building some sort of chemical weapon. That is, until that nameless agent runs in and triumphantly holds up a vial of the Hellgrammite’s (blue) blood to say that it’s not “carbon-based” like humans, but rather has a “chlorine foundation.” Alex and Henshaw figure out the alien is actually stealing confiscated DDT (which is chlorine based… apparently) to use as food. So… it’s an insectoid alien who eats pesticide? Is that supposed to be humorously ironic? Because nobody comments on it.
Meanwhile at Catco, Cat continues to demand that James use his status as Superman’s “pal” to arrange an interview with Supergirl. Kara listens in with her super-hearing and gets a funny disgusted look when Cat suggests that Supergirl might be Superman’s “girlfriend.”
It would appear that James is going to get fired if he doesn’t score that interview. So Kara finds James sulking on a balcony and offers to do the interview to help him out. But James is bummed out because his whole life, people have only cared who he is because of who he’s friends with. He thought coming to National City meant he could strike out on his own, but now here he is, once again relying on his friendship with a superhero. Though really, what did he think would happen when Superman sent him out here for the express purpose of helping his cousin become a superhero?
Kara then explains the real meaning of the S she wears. It’s not just the symbol of the House of El; it’s a Kryptonian phrase, “el mayarah,” which means “stronger together.” Wait, I thought it meant hope? I think the letter S is going to mean about 50 different things by the time this series is over. Kara brings up the motto as a way of telling James that he shouldn’t be afraid to rely on others, and she too doesn’t want to be like her cousin, who always goes it alone.
Meanwhile, the DEO has set a trap for the Hellgrammite, and it’s about the lamest, most obvious trap possible: Henshaw and Alex are driving around behind a truck loaded up with barrels full of DDT. And yet, the Hellgrammite turns out to be that stupid, and he takes the bait. The DEO agents start shooting at him, so he hits the DEO car with his stingers and eventually rips open the roof and abducts Alex.
Supergirl is livid when she finds out, and she chews out Henshaw for not letting her come along to protect Alex, because she’s family. She asks Henshaw if he has family, and he hints at a tragic backstory with, “I did.” This crack in his asshole exterior shuts Supergirl up, and she decides to help them locate Alex, which she does by flying around and imitating that scene in Superman Returns as she listens to all the sounds of the city.
Cut to Alex being held captive by General Astra, who she initially thinks is Alura, until Astra sets her straight. Alex thinks her plan is to kill a lot of people, but Astra says she’s really here to “save you all,” though by the tone of her voice, I don’t think the human race will appreciate her brand of “saving.”
Supergirl arrives and is stunned to see that her Aunt Astra is alive and well, and didn’t die when Krypton blew up. Astra reveals she was being held in Fort Rozz, and Supergirl’s mom sent her there “For being a hero! For trying to save our world!” They start to fight, and soon they get into a ridiculous heat vision staring contest where you’d think anything in the immediately vicinity should be instantly incinerated, but evidently not.
The standoff ends, and they brawl in midair. And as expected, Supergirl flashes back to the sparring match she had with Alex earlier in the episode and remembers that when fighting a “superior opponent,” she must “use their strength against them!” So she does some kind of judo toss on Astra, sending her flying out a window.
Astra immediately comes back for more, but then Henshaw shows up and distracts her. She starts to choke him, saying, “You possess no weapon that can hurt me.” Henshaw immediately proves her wrong by stabbing her with what looks like a Kryptonite-infused bowie knife. The pain stuns Astra, and she flies away. And Henshaw gets off a good quip when he asks Supergirl, “Any more family I should know about?”
Back at DEO HQ, Alex has something to show Supergirl. She mentions how the DEO has figured out that Superman has a base in the Arctic, which they somehow know is a “fortress” where Superman goes to communicate with his ancestors. Supergirl is confused, so Alex takes her into a room where they’ve set up a Jor-El style hologram of Alura. It would seem the message Alex played for Kara in the previous episode was just a small part of a larger, artificially intelligent program, and now Supergirl will be able to interact with this holographic version of her mom.
The first thing Supergirl asks for is a hug, but Holo-Mom says, “I am not programmed to do that.” Ah, just like a real mom! So instead, Supergirl asks her to tell her everything about Aunt Astra.
Outside the room, Alex thanks Henshaw for doing this, and he says it’s the “least they can do for Supergirl,” and hey, he’s calling her Supergirl now! And then he walks away, and… his eyes turn red for a moment, because… well, why not? But I hope this means Henshaw is a cyborg like he is in the comics and not one of the Fort Rozz escapees, because that would just be way too predictable.
Cut to Astra in a dark, featureless room as she gets the knife taken out of her arm, and her people have no idea what it’s made out of. Wait, they’ve been on Earth for over a decade, and this is the first time they’ve seen Kryptonite? Then a man speaks to her from the shadows, and Astra tells him they may have to “rethink our timetable,” hinting at a bigger villain behind the villain. And let’s hope that unlike the previous episode, the reveal of this bad guy is worth the buildup.
And there’s one final scene where Cat is on the phone in her limo, telling James she’s about to give him the axe for not getting her that interview with Supergirl. And then we get a pretty cool shot where Cat looks out her window and sees she’s suddenly floating over the tops of skyscrapers. It’s pretty obvious who’s responsible for this, and a moment later, Supergirl sets Cat’s limo down on top of a hill. When Cat gets out, Supergirl says, “Let’s talk!”
While there was a smattering of good moments in this episode, it was a bit of a disappointment. I had sincerely hoped that after the blandness of Vartox the Super-Trucker, this show would know better than to give us another generic alien of the week. Instead, we got a bad guy with the terrifying power of… opening his mouth freakishly wide. It’s like someone on the staff just learned how to create that particular special effect and so they decided to build an entire episode around it.
And while I can appreciate getting to see a superhero learn how to be a hero, did we really need a near-repeat of a montage that happened one week ago? This is an episode that basically hits all the same beats as the previous episode without revealing much of anything we didn’t already know. I still like the cast and think this show has promise, so hopefully next week they’ll step up their game with more tension and higher stakes, and actually move the story forward.