Okay, second episode! The pilot introduced us to Kara/Supergirl, but this is the episode that really tells us what she’s all about.
It begins with Kara being put through some tests by the DEO, and with an annoying trope.
Kara: Are these tests mandatory for everyone or just because I’m a…
Henshaw: It is not because you’re a woman, Miss Danvers. The DEO requires rigorous physical and psychological evaluation for all its prospective field operatives.
I hate that trope. You know, where a female character thinks she’s being treated unfairly because of her gender, and the male character says that’s not the reason and gives a reasonable explanation for why she’s being treated that way, so the female character looks like the Angry Oversensitive Feminist who sees sexism in everything and the male character looks Totally Not Sexist and reasonable and it’s basically just a backhanded way of saying “Haha silly feminists, sexism is over! Calm down!” Yeah. I hate that. Please can we put an end to this trope.
Then again, Henshaw’s explanation is followed by this:
Kara: I was gonna say “alien.”
So, maybe they were trying to turn the trope on its head? I don’t know, the whole thing is just kind of awkward, but luckily it passes pretty quickly.
After hours of training, Kara gets a call from Winn about a fire at the port, and she dashes off to the rescue despite Alex advising her not to. It doesn’t go very well. She fails to put out the fire because she apparently still has trouble with her ice breath. She does manage to move the boat, but she also causes an oil spill.
Supergirl is torn apart by the media because of her mistake. Cat Grant even dubs her #Terriblegirl.
Also, I’m sorry, but I have to point something that I just find hilarious. The guy playing the newscaster in this is
PERD HAPLEY. The story about Supergirl is that she’s a girl, who is super.
Anyway, as if #Terriblegirl wasn’t enough of a kick to Kara’s confidence, she’s called into the DEO for yet more training, this time combat training with Alex.
I like this scene, but I wish the fight choreography was better. It’s not very impressive. I mean, I expect Kara to not be very impressive. She’s new to this. But even Alex, who supposedly trained twelve hours a day for five months, is kind of unimpressive here. Maybe that’s just because of who her opponent is, but in any case I wish the choreography was more imaginative.
Still, I like the scene. It isn’t fun for Kara to be humiliated, nor is it fun for Alex to humiliate her, but it was a necessary lesson. She needs to learn how to fight for real if she’s going to be taking on Fort Rozz escapees with powers of their own.
The next day a very sore Kara goes to work and sees Cat Grant’s latest article about Supergirl, which once again tears her apart. Kara immediately becomes defensive and asks Cat if maybe she’s being too hard on Supergirl. The conversation they have proves to be pretty useful to Kara.
Kara: Well, if Supergirl were here, what would you suggest she do?
Cat: Calm the hell down. She’s taking on way too much, way too fast.
Kara: She’s trying to save the day.
Cat: By screwing everything up? No, this inexperienced idiot has barely had a run in her tights, and yet there she is at the epicenter of danger. What’s next? “I think I’ll catch the meteor that’s headed straight for the White House?” Oh! Whoopsy. No, no, no. There is a learning curve. You don’t just walk through the front door and suddenly own the company. I started out as Perry White’s assistant. I worked my ass off until one day I finally had the chance to write an article for the gossip column. Every step of the way, I had to fight, to work hard, to get better, to come out ahead. Now, catching planes and boats on fire, hmm… How about we start small and work our way up? Supergirl should take a page out of your book, Kara.
Cat gets through to Kara in a way that no one else has been able to, and she decides to take her advice.
She enlists Winn and James to help her find small problems around the city that she can solve easily before working her way up to bigger stuff. Small armed robberies, ambulances stuck in traffic, rescuing a little girl’s snake from a tree, things like that. Pretty soon, she’s back in the city’s good books. Alex even comes over and apologizes for how things went down at the DEO and assures Kara that she does have faith in her, and Kara assures Alex that she now understands there is a learning curve.
Kara and Alex’s conversation is nice, and it also lays out their relationship and Alex’s character a bit more clearly for the audience. Alex is a lot more pragmatic than Kara is, and she feels it’s her responsibility to look after Kara. It’s typical for older siblings to feel protective of their siblings and responsible for their wellbeing, but it’s more complicated in Alex’s case because her younger sibling is a superpowered alien. We’ll learn more about Alex and her relationship with Kara later, but this scene does a good job of setting up what’s to come
The DEO has another alien on the loose to deal with, something called a Hellgrammite. It’s essentially a giant insect with the ability to disguise itself as human. Kara is familiar with Hellgrammite’s already, and we learn how she knows about them through a flashback. She heard about them from her mother, Alura, and then researched them more on her… device. Does it have a name? I can’t remember. Anyway, we also learn through this flashback that Kara has a lot of respect for her mother and aspired to be like her when she was younger.
The Hellgrammite is enlisted by Astra to kidnap Alex in order to lead Kara into a trap, which works. Kara is shocked to see that Astra is still alive, and to learn that she was in Fort Rozz when Krypton exploded, but she gets over her shock long enough to challenge Astra while Alex actually manages to kill the Hellgrammite itself. Pretty impressive considering that Alex was very badly injured. The battle ends when Henshaw arrives on the scene and stabs Astra in the arm with a knife made from Kryptonite, which incapacitates Astra so that Kara, Alex and Henshaw can escape.
Once back at the DEO, Kara and Alex talk about Astra. Finding out after all this time that her aunt is still alive is a punch to the gut, but Kara has decided that Astra has to be stopped. Kara says this about her aunt:
On Krypton, I remember Aunt Astra and my mother always arguing. Like sisters do. And when I asked my mother why they could never get along, she said that it was because Astra didn’t have faith in people.
This ties in to something Kara told James earlier in the episode, about what the S on her costume really means. It stands for her family’s motto, “Stronger together” (the title!!!), and it’s a reflection of the type of hero Kara wants to be. Unlike her cousin, who does everything alone, Kara wants to be able to accept help from people in her life. Apparenty on Krypton, no one did anything alone, and to accept help when it was needed was an honor. The difference between Kara and Clark is that Kara can actually remember Krypton, it was her home before Earth was, and it’s shaped who she is. Kara can recognize the importance of having faith in the people around her, and how all of them can help her in some way. All of them are stronger together. Astra’s flaw is that she can’t see the value in learning from those around her.
After this talk, Alex takes Kara to another room in the DEO, one that will only open for Kara. Inside that room is an artificial intelligence program that looks and sounds like Alura, and who can give Kara just about any information she asks for. The first thing Kara asks for is a hug and the AI Alura responds “I am not programmed to do that” and it’s gotta be one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen and Melissa Benoist is way too good of an actress and it isn’t fair to my emotions. The second thing Kara asks is for information about Astra, and we don’t get to find out how that went.
Two more important things happen at the end of this episode. One is that we breifly see Hank Henshaw’s eyes glow red, revealing to the audience that Henshaw isn’t human. Two is the conclusion to a subplot in this episode where Cat threatened to fire James Olsen unless he got her an interview with Supergirl. Though Kara initially didn’t want to do the interview, and James didn’t want to force her to, she decides to do it to save James’s job.
The episode ends with Kara carrying Cat’s car to a remote location late at night so they can do their interview and hopefully not let Cat get a good look at Supergirl’s face.
Okay, so, there’s a couple of interesting things going on in this episode. We learn more about the people around Kara, and we learn about the impact they have on the sort of person Kara is and the sort of hero she wants to be.
Aside from her relationship with Alex, Kara’s most important relationship is the one she has with Cat Grant. In this episode, and throughout the rest of the series, Cat proves to be a very valuable mentor to both Kara Danvers and Supergirl. She teaches Kara, albeit unknowingly, how to be a better hero, and Kara places a lot of value on Cat’s advice.
Even Winn and James are a big help to Kara. Not only because they help her find problems to stop around the city, but because they keep her grounded and give her a brief respite from her hectic life.
The themes of this episodes are the themes that keep popping up in the rest of the series: trust, hope, and solidarity.