Sixteen episodes in to the first season of Supergirl and I should probably learn not to underestimate the show. You see, prior to the airing of last week’s Red Kryptonite-influenced episode, titled “Falling,” I assumed we would be getting filler between stronger episodes. Boy, was I wrong! Seeing Melissa Benoist channel Bad Supergirl might be some of my favorite moments all season. It also doesn’t hurt that after the previous episode’s many homages to Smallville and other past Super history, the show kicked it up a notch this week.
Before we dive into that, though, Supergirl has to engage in some light corporate network synergy and have Cat Grant appear on The Talk, the real life CBS daytime talk show.
We listen to Cat talk about all the good Supergirl has done for National City over a montage of her good deeds. The best part is when Kara finds a prepubescent admirer getting picked on by bullies.
Seeing Supergirl helping a small child stand up to bullies is the kind of superheroing stuff will likely never see in the movie universe, so it’s great that the more aspirational version of the DC heroes get to live on in television. Of course, showing Supergirl in this light is all prelude to the real gist of the episode: her exposure to Red Kryptonite.
For those unfamiliar, Red Kryptonite is a variation that affects Kryptonians differently than the green stuff. Instead of making them sick, it changes their personalities, usually by unleashing their inhibitions and bringing out their dark side. Red K has had different incarnations and effects in the comics, but its introduction on Smallville is, arguably, the most mainstream interpretation of it.
While Red-K was just a naturally occurring strain of kryptonite on Smallville, its origin on Supergirl is quite different. Their Red-K is an artificially engineered substance created by Maxwell Lord. Also different from Smallville, this Red-K’s radiation is absorbed during initial contact and needs an antidote to be removed. On Smallville, Clark is only under its influence when he is in physical contact with the substance.
When Kara is exposed, the effects start to take over rather quickly. She comes to work the next day in a whole new wardrobe. And a new attitude. With her DEO co-workers, she’s dismissive and cocky. In fact, when they’re in pursuit of an alien baddie, she ends up letting him go because she’s bored. Senator Crane, who has come 180 from her previous stance on aliens, is at DEO HQ and is not pleased by Supergirl’s new attitude. Supergirl doesn’t care.
And if you had any doubt that Supergirl was drawing a lot of influence from how Smallville dealt with Red Kryptonite, this gifset kind of sets the record straight:
There was one huge difference though.
After coming so close to death, Cat goes on television and denounces Supergirl, who has coincidentally adopted a new look that, appropriately, resembles the military tunics worn by Astra and the evil Kryptonians.
This leads to my favorite moment of the entire series. You see, Smallville isn’t the only Superman story being alluded to on the show. When Kara flies off in to the night, she ends up at her favorite cafe, flicking peanuts at the bar… just like Bad Superman from Superman III.
When the DEO shows up to take down Evil Kara, Hank has to reveal his secret identity as the Martian Manhunter in order to finally bring her down. Of course, this also means he can no longer be head of the organization since he’s outed as not Hank Henshaw. But it’s a sacrifice he had to make for Kara’s safety.
Later, in a DEO cell, J’onn reveals who he is to Senator Crane — earlier in the episode, they hinted at some possible romantic sparks between the two, but it’s unlikely she’ll reciprocate now that she knows he’s a Martian like the one who abducted her. Now that the Hank Henshaw guise is exposed, we’re perfectly set up for a retelling of how J’onn came to earth and will be reminded about why Martian Manhunter needs his own show already.