After a strong debut last week, the second episode of Supergirl’s inaugural season took a bit of a ratings hit, losing 30% of the audience that tuned in for the premiere. And that’s too bad because those people who decided not to come back missed a really strong follow-up episode and a better indication of what kind of show Supergirl will be. Still, nine million viewers is nothing to sneeze at. To put those numbers in perspective, The Flash and Arrow get a total of about six million viewers a week. Combined.
Granted, ratings on a smaller network like The CW are different relative to what a Big Four network like CBS expects. But after being the most watched new show of the season, I think the show was bound to come back to Earth a little bit.
Since episode two doesn’t have to worry about retelling the origin (that’s what the “previously on” is for), “Stronger Together” kicks off with Supergirl in mid-flight. What seems like a peaceful jaunt through the desert turns out to be a training exercise for the DEO.
I’m really starting to think the DEO is my least favorite aspect of the show. Using the Flarrowverse template, Supergirl is trying, desperately, to turn these scenes into their equivalent to S.T.A.R. Labs or the Arrow Cave. The thing is, I don’t think Alex and Henshaw are that compelling, and they clearly lack chemistry with their superhero, especially when compared to Cisco/Caitlin and Felicity on their respective shows.
Also, why is Alex so concerned with Kara keeping her identity secret when there are at least two dozen DEO agents — and probably more — who are well aware that Kara Danvers and Supergirl are one in the same? But I digress.
After dodging cruise missiles for a few hours, Kara decides to head back to National City and rescue an oil liner. Apparently, she hasn’t done much superhero-ing since taking down Vartox — maybe the DEO’s been “testing” her all this time? — so she isn’t quite as good at her superjob yet. When she arrives on the scene, Overacting Extra #1 chides her for not being her cousin (and they actually said “Superman” this time!) and putting out the fire fast enough.
After her freeze breath fails to do the trick, Kara decides to bring the oil tanker away from the fire on the port. At first, it seems to be working. That is until her strength rips the tanker in half and tons of crude oil pours into the Bay.
And like that, Supergirl goes from hero to terrorist “in a single bound.” The residents of National City are a fickle bunch. A week after falling head over heels for their own superhero, the public turns on her as soon as she makes a mistake. Cat Grant isn’t helping since she’s continually publishing headlines insulting the Maid of Might, which is weird since she was just as gung ho about branding and claiming Supergirl as her own creation. We even see our first shot of Maxwell Lord, who’s also pushing the narrative of Supergirl as a menace to society.
Quick aside, one of the things I love about Superman stories is when they show Clark using his powers to do mundane, ordinary activities. Like Dean Cain’s Clark flying off to China to bring dim sum back to Lois or Tom Welling’s Clark using his super strength to help Jonathan fix a fence. So the shot of Kara using her laser eyes to heat Cat’s latte was extra cool.
Anyway, Cat tasks her reporters to secure an exclusive interview with Supergirl lest they get scooped by the Daily Planet. And once again, folks from Metropolis get named-dropped, including Clark, Lois, and Perry White. Also, Cat’s time at the Planet is also canon on the show since she tells Kara about being Perry’s assistant before writing her own gossip column for the paper.
Of course, Kara understands that the second Cat interviews her in her supersuit, she’s going to see right through her (not so) secret identity. Kara and James have a back-and-forth about Clark Kent’s glasses that’s a little on the nose for me, but is probably necessary to sell the general public on the fiction. After a quick pep talk from James, Kara is still unconvinced about sitting down with Cat for an interview.
Meanwhile, an alien insect/humanoid hybrid — played by an actor named Justice Leak, by the way1 — is stealing chemicals all over the city and takes out Overacting Extras #2 and #3. The DEO is on the case, and so is Supergirl, much to Henshaw’s disapproval. Fortunately, her presence at the scene leads to a memory that helps them ID the perp. In a flashback to her time on Krypton, kid Kara and Alura have a conversation about the bad guys she puts away as Krypton’s lead adjudicator.
I hope we get more flashbacks to Krypton. Not only is it nice to see Laura Benanti as Alura (though not using conjunctions in her speech is weird. Maybe it’s a Kryptonian thing?), but I’m digging the producers’ take on Krypton. It’s always appreciated to see a version that isn’t so beholden to Donner’s ice planet.
Anyway, via Kara’s flashback we find out the perp of the week is part of an alien species called Helgrammites — which is also the name of a Superman villain, though he’s not an alien in the comics. Kara wants to take him out, but Henshaw prevents her from doing so until she learns how to fight. Coincidentally, the DEO just so happens to have an octagon ring equipped with Kryptonite emitters. After a not-so-well-choreographed sparring sequence between the two sisters, Kara begins to doubt herself again.
Ironically, a Cat Grant scolding inspires Kara to get the National citizens back on her side by doing smaller heroic feats with less collateral damage. To do so, she employs the two men in her life — James and Winn — to be her eyes and ears on the ground and Team Supergirl is born.
This leads us into my favorite part of the episode. James and Winn display a ton of chemistry together, and I’d much prefer the bulk of the show to be about these three fighting crime than Kara + the DEO fighting aliens. Not only are Mehcad Brooks and Jeremy Jordan infinitely more entertaining than Chyler Leigh and David Harewood, their scenes are also less heavy-handed and clunky than any DEO-related ones. Also, I’m not sure Leigh and Harewood have figured out how to play their parts yet. Maybe it’s because they’re the ones who have all of the dialogue about aliens and such, but it’s just hard to take them seriously. The only thing the DEO has that James/Winn don’t is a secret lair with hi-tech equipment. But maybe that’s on the way?
— Jeremy Jordan (@JeremyMJordan) November 3, 2015
Anyway, Team Supergirl sends Kara on a montage of heroism that’s straight out of the first Donner movie. Kara stops a bank robbery, rescues an ambulance, and helps a little girl get her
kitten boa constrictor down from a tree. Extra points to Melissa Benoist for her reaction upon learning “Fluffy” wasn’t referring to a cat.
After many celebratory pizzas, our trio of do-gooders are relieved that Supergirl’s heroic deeds are not only helping the good citizens of National City, but are rehabilitating Supergirl’s public image as well. The news even travels all the way to Pawnee, Indiana.
— The Nerds of Color (@TheNerdsofColor) November 3, 2015
Their celebration is cut short, however, when Sister Buzzkill shows up at the apartment and chides Kara for doing non-sanctioned superhero-ing. Sorry, but I think Alex is my least favorite character so far. Not sure what it is, but I get a bad vibe from her, and Leigh’s acting is definitely the clunkiest of the main cast. Who knows? Maybe this is all intentional because they’re setting her up for a heel turn?
— The Nerds of Color (@TheNerdsofColor) November 3, 2015
After a quick heart-to-heart, Alex is summoned back to the DEO because they have a lead on the Hellgrammite. It seems that the alien is attacking chemical plants because he is actually feeding off of DDT. We know this because Overacting Extra #4 tells us so.
Henshaw decides to use this fact to lure the Hellgrammite out of hiding, but forbids Alex from letting Kara know they’re doing this without any Super help. Little do they know but Hellgrammite isn’t working alone and is actually in league with a trio of Kryptonian baddies led by General Astra. While the DEO is trying to bait the Hellgrammite, the insect flips the script and captures Alex to bait Supergirl instead.
Back at the not-Daily Planet, Cat is getting impatient with James’ inability to land an interview with Kara. But he’s a photographer/art director. Why should it be his job to arrange interviews? Because Kara’s S-shield implies a connection to Big Blue — sister? girlfriend? — and Cat wants James to call Superman — on his watch maybe? — to get the scoop on Supergirl. Unfortunately for Cat, James refuses to exploit friends to get ahead and is given a 24-hour ultimatum to get Supergirl to agree to the interview or be fired.
Oh…. Jimmy James is also trying to prove himself. Find his purpose.
— The Nerds of Color (@TheNerdsofColor) November 3, 2015
Kara overhears all of this — of course — and flips the script on James. This time, she’s the one who has to give James the pep talk. You see, he didn’t move to National City just because Supes asked him to. He wanted to get out from under the shadow of Superman’s cape and be his own man. Despite what we learned in the pilot, he never intended to hitch himself to another cape. James has a great line about being a scared kid with a camera when he first met the Big Guy — though it’s hard to believe Mehcad Brooks was ever a “scared kid” since we was obviously just carved out of granite, but whatevs.
Kara tells him that the “S” that she shares with Kal-El doesn’t just stand for the House of El. It also stands for their family motto, a Kryptonian saying that means
“hope” “stronger together.”
Kara then learns about her sister’s capture and speeds directly to the DEO cave (why exactly are they inside a cave again?) and scolds the director for not trusting her. Henshaw admits that even with all of their satellites and fancy tech, they can’t find Alex, but Supergirl can. She takes to the skies and uses her super hearing to locate her sister. When she finds Alex in an abandoned warehouse, she’s ambushed by her Crazy Aunt.
Kara is shocked. Not just because her aunt is alive but because she’s evil. Apparently, Kara was unaware that her aunt was a bad guy. What follows is a pretty impressive Kryptonian super fight that makes the Alex/Kara match up from earlier in the ep look even worse by comparison.
I mean, there’s even dueling heat vision!
Just as Astra is about to get the upper hand, Kara remembers her sister’s training lesson and basically uses her enemy’s own momentum to defeat her. With Supergirl and The Walking Dead back to back, what’s with the sudden infatuation with aikido in our live action comic book properties?
Aikido classes are about get a huge bump in attendance after this episode #TheWalkingDead
— Rebecca Theodore-Vachon (@FilmFatale_NYC) November 2, 2015
Henshaw and a DEO task force show up just in time to subdue Astra with a kryptonite dagger to the arm. She speeds away before the agents can get to her though. Later, Astra and another alien scientist — who I’m guessing isn’t Kryptonian because he seems perfectly fine around the green stuff — analyze the weapon and realize they aren’t as invincible as they thought on Earth.
So I guess this means Superman has been operating for the last dozen or so years without Kryptonite around? That’s weird.
Back underground, Alex and Kara have a heart to heart about the importance of family and how weird it must be to know that she still has blood relatives who survived the destruction of Krypton. Alex then shows Kara a special room in the DEO’s underground bunker that has been designed just for her. And I have to cry foul a little bit. Like, I’m glad Kara gets her own Fortress and what not, but why did the DEO have to build it? Also, how the hell did they build it? Like, did that artifact from the Pilot create this room? So many questions here.
Anyway, the room houses a special A.I. hologram of Alura that can interact with Kara in every way. Though it can’t give Kara a hug, it can tell her everything it knows about Astra.
We also learn why Henshaw is always a dick to Kara. Most comic fans probably figured a potentially cybernetic turn was coming sooner or later. Just probably not this soon. At the tag of the DEO scenes, Henshaw turns to camera with a pair of glowing red eyes. So, there’s that.
The episode ends with Cat Grant on the phone with James, prepared to fire him since Supergirl never agreed to the interview. As Cat’s driver pulls away from her building, though, James tells her that he actually got the interview set up after all. In fact, she’s headed there now. Cat looks out her window and sees her car flying away from the ground.
Kara takes Cat to a remote location far away from National City. Either they’re going to do an interview or Kara is going to murder Cat and toss the body off a cliff. Guess we’ll have to tune in next week to find out.