Hey, remember how in my review of the pilot I mentioned that they’re not allowed to actually show Superman and they have to find ways around it and it’s hilarious?
This episode picks up right where the last one left off, with Supergirl about to be interviewed by Cat Grant. Cat is… pretty merciless. She asks Supergirl about her history, and about why she only surfaced as a hero now. Why not help with any of the crimes and disasters they’ve had over the last couple of years? Supergirl does her best to answer the questions honestly without giving too much away, but then this happens:
Cat: Any plans to start a family?
Kara: Nobody ever asks my cousin these questions.
Okay I laughed at this because it is true that women are always asked about when we plan to “settle down” and start a family and there’s always the expectation that this is not only a part of our plans for the future but our most important plan, and men are rarely if ever asked questions like this. It’s totally ridiculous and yet somehow totally plausible that people would ask these questions even to a woman who happens to be a superpowered alien from another planet.
Oh and also, WAY TO GO, KARA. You just accidentally told Cat Grant that you’re related to Superman. Which, to be fair, Cat and probably everyone had suspicions about anyway, but still, this wasn’t something that Kara wanted to be common knowledge. OOPS.
Kara abruptly leaves after that fuckup and the next day the news that Supergirl and Superman are cousins is all over the place. Cat is ecstatic to have gotten this scoop over the Daily Planet, and wants to write an expose on Supergirl herself, complete with a special monthly edition of the magazine and a launch party that Kara has to plan herself. Kara is not so ecstatic with the secret being revealed nor about the article that Cat is going to write, and everyone in her life who knows her secret identity are not happy either. Their reactions range from unimpressed to angry.
I liked this little exchange between Kara and Winn:
Winn: Interesting choice mentioning that in an interview. Isn’t that a little dangerous?
Kara: I didn’t mean to. I got confused and it just popped out. She… She tricked me. She’s like a villain. She’s like a super interviewing villain.
Winn: That is literally the most boring power ever.
I don’t know, Winn. Sounds like it would be a pretty useful power to me. Tricking people into revealing valuable information with just a few simple questions? Okay, maybe it’s not exactly cool, but it’s definitely useful.
Kara’s been getting a lot of crap about revealing her relation to Superman and for doing the interview at all, but Hank Henshaw has the best reaction to it, hands down: “What’s next? A book deal? A reality show? Keeping Up with the Kryptonians?” I’m sorry but who wouldn’t want to watch that show?!
At this point, it’s pretty clear where the episode is going. One of Superman’s enemies, known as Reactron, targets Supergirl to get revenge on Superman, and everyone insists that Kara call Superman for help, which she doesn’t want to do. And that’s basically the central conflict of the episode: Kara’s need to prove herself as her own hero, and not just a watered down Superman.
The Pilot had a weird fixation on addressing nonexistent criticism, and I think Fight or Flight suffers from the same fixation. This episode seems obsessed with justifying the existence of its own show as an entity separate from Superman. It’s like they were afraid that viewers might be uninterested in a show without him, so they have to explain why he isn’t going to be around, why Supergirl can stand on its own without the Man of Steel. But was anyone who was interested in watching this show expecting him to play a big part anyway? I wanted to watch Supergirl for Supergirl, for a female hero. Mind you, I’m not a fan of Superman at all, so maybe it’s a bit different for me, and I’m also unfamiliar with Supergirl from the comics so I wouldn’t know if this arc is lifted from the comics or not. Still, this is felt kind of forced to me, and I think most people knew not to expect a lot of Superman when they went into this show. I think they knew what they were watching.
I guess it’s a good idea to address why Superman isn’t helping Kara out more, because if you have a superhero in one city and a superhero in another city, of course you might question why they’re not helping each other out. I don’t think they needed an entire episode to address it, though. A few throwaway lines would have been fine.
However, I will say this for Fight or Flight. It addresses these nonexistent criticisms much less clumsily than the pilot did, possibly because they were also able to get some character building out of it as well as an actual story.
Anyway, back to the plot. This episode further introduces us to Maxwell Lord, who was seen briefly in the last episode. All he did was talk about how Supergirl is bringing more problems to National City. I have many thoughts about Maxwell Lord but I’ll save them for when we get to later episodes. For now, all we really know about Maxwell Lord is that he’s a very powerful businessman and if I’m being honest I’m not entirely certain what he does exactly. But he’s powerful. And extremely narcissistic. He’s kidnapped by Reactron in this episode, because Reactron needs his suit to be repaired and Maxwell can do that for him.
Oh right, about Reactron. He’s not an alien, he’s a human in a nuclear-powered suit. So the DEO can’t do anything about him because he’s technically out of their jurisdiction, they only deal with aliens. The first time Reactron attacks Supergirl, she holds her own against him and damages his suit, which forces him to flee. (By the way, I like that you can tell that Kara’s fighting, though still a bit shaky, has improved. It seems that training with Alex is paying off.) Kara’s second fight with Reactron, when she rescues Maxwell Lord, does not go so well. She gets Maxwell out of there safely, but is nearly killed by Reactron herself. She’s saved, to her chagrin, by Superman. We only see him from behind, and everything is hazy because we see it from Supergirl’s point of view as she’s losing consciousness, and it kind of looks silly.
When Kara regains consciousness at her apartment, Alex and James Olsen are with her. Apparently, James was the one who called Superman. Kara knows he did it because he was concerned about her, but she doesn’t like the fact that he didn’t think she could handle Reactron on her own. It doesn’t help that on TV, Maxwell Lord is telling everyone about how Superman saved him. Ouch. Also, Max… can I call you Max? Max, I know you don’t like Supergirl, but this is just petty. What do you even gain from lying about who saved you?
Anyway, Kara basically kicks James out, which isn’t fun for either of them, and then she has to get to Cat’s launch party, which she is late for. Alex lends her a dress, which Kara looks really good in and wow am I gay.
Kara and Winn have some cute interaction at the party, though it’s also painfully awkward because Kara is reading their interactions as totally platonic and we know that Winn isn’t on the same page. I’m not saying that as a criticism to the show, by the way. I know that’s intentional. But Kara and Winn make such cute friends, so I remember thinking at this point how much I couldn’t wait for Winn to get over his crush on Kara so they could be just that, friends.
Other things that happen at the party include Kara and James making up, and Cat Grant and Maxwell Lord having an… interesting conversation. Let’s focus Cat and Max. They know each other, and there’s an implication that their relationship, in the past, was sexual. There’s also a pretty clear power struggle between them that they kind of play out with insincere flirting. Max wants to know how she managed to get an interview with Supergirl, acting as though he’s impressed with Cat, but we all know he’s looking to get information on Supergirl himself, stuff he can use against her. Cat is smart enough to see through this and avoids giving him a direct answer, and then she exits with a line that I always thought was kind of odd: “Oh, look at the time. Nothing says “powerful” more than leaving your own party early.”
Um. If you say so? I don’t know, whenever I see someone leaving their own party early my first thought isn’t something like, “Wow, they’re obviously important and powerful,” it’s more like “Ha, look at this nerd”. But I guess it’s different when you’re an incredibly rich and successful businesswoman at a launch party and not a poor struggling university student trying to drink away your sadness and stress at the cheapest bar you could find. Okay fine it’s different.
So of course Reactron crashes the party and Kara quickly changes out of her dress and into her Supergirl outfit and am I to assume that she flew all the way back to her apartment to get it? Because I can’t tell where she was supposed to have been keeping it. Whatever. Reactron causes a lot of destruction and panic, but Kara now has the DEO on her side (Alex convinced Henshaw to help Supergirl with Reactron). Alex tells Kara that to defeat Reactron she has to remove the power core from his suit, but it isn’t safe to touch unless it’s encased in lead. James diverts Reactron’s attention to himself so Kara can find some lead. It’s an incredibly dangerous thing for him to have done, and it’s also a nice moment because it’s James’ way of showing Kara that he does have complete faith in her. He trusts her to save him, to save everyone. And she does, of course.
The next day, Kara is over the moon about having been able to defeat Reactron, something that not even Superman was able to do. She also takes some advice given to her by Alex, and tries to ask James out on a date. I say “tries to” because before she has a chance to ask, she finds James with Lucy Lane (yep, Lois’ younger sister). Listening to their conversation, she gathers that Lucy is James’ ex, and that she came all the way to National City to try and patch things up with him.
That’s kind of a downer, but Kara is cheered up when she gets a message from Clark, telling her that he’s sorry about butting in during one of her fights with Reactron, and congratulating her for defeating him. And that’s the most we get from Clark in this first season. Just some instant messages.
So, okay, I’ve already talked about how this episode’s purpose is mainly to address an issue that I’m not even sure was ever an issue, which means Fight or Flight feels a bit unnecessary. Just a bit. I wouldn’t say it’s entirely unnecessary because it does give us some nice character moments and developments.
It allows Kara to assert herself as her own hero, albeit one who’s still trying to find her way. It also allows us to learn a bit more about James and his relationship with Superman, how he was beginning to rely on Superman too heavily and now has to become accustomed to not contacting Superman every time things get intense. It allows Maxwell Lord to establish himself as an asshole and someone we’re definitely going to be seeing more of, whether we want to or not.
It’s not that this episode is a total waste, it’s just that it chose to revolve around something that was kind of a waste. Nobody really needed an entire episode to explain why the show called “Supergirl” is in fact about Supergirl and not Superman.