Hoo boy, I love this episode. It’s possible that following a “meh” episode makes it look better than it is, but I really do think this is a great episode and also a very important one.
It opens with Supergirl trying to go for a peaceful fly over the city to clear her head, but she’s interrupted by two men’s road rage. Supergirl manages to stop their cars before they run over a group of children, but it was so abrupt that the cars are badly damaged and one of the men has a broken nose. He yells at Supergirl and tries to punch her. She blocks his punch and twists his arm, and he starts to cry out in pain. Supergirl lets go, horrified that she hurt him, and the onlookers of the scene are scared by her actions as well.
The incident ends up being all over the news, and when Supergirl is chewed out by Hank Hanshaw, he says this:
Henshaw: You cannot lose control like that!
Kara: Those two idiots nearly killed people, and you’re getting mad at me?
Henshaw: That’s the thing Ms. Danvers, I am not mad. I am controlling my anger. I suggest you get into the habit. You know, I once told you, there are people out there who fear your cousin. It’s not because he has god-like powers. It’s because of what he might do with them if he ever lost his temper.
So we know what this episode is going to focusing on now: Kara’s anger.
The majority of this episode is about these little things happening to Kara, these little insults and injustices that are rooted in something much bigger, and the way she bottles these things up until she finally bursts from the strain of it all.
Other characters like Cat and James have their patience tested in this episode too, but they have an easier time staying grounded and under control. Cat is tested by her overbearing mother, who is visiting Cat for a few days and who misses no opportunity to criticize Cat and undermine every one of her accomplishments. James is tested by General Lane, Lucy’s father, who is also visiting the city. General Lane dislikes James because he consorts with aliens, who General Lane doesn’t trust, and he believes that James isn’t good enough for Lucy.
And Kara… wow, she just can not catch a break in this episode.
General Lane and Lucy (who holds the rank of Major) visit the DEO with a strange request. They want Supergirl to fight Red Tornado, a robot designed by Dr. Morrow. They want Supergirl to test the robot’s strength by fighting it, which she agrees to do to prove that she and Superman can be trusted.
Later that night Kara hosts an office game night, which she, James, and Winn apparently have regularly and which is one of the last shreds of normalcy in Kara’s life. Lucy is present at game night as well, and she and James make an unstoppable team. This is hard for Kara to watch as she hasn’t gotten over her crush on James, but it only gets worse when Lucy mentions having met Supergirl earlier that day, and remarks that she was not impressed with her. Awkward.
Let’s talk about Lucy for a minute. She made me really nervous when she first appeared, because she felt like such a familiar sexist trope. The pretty girl who gets in the way of the main girl’s romantic plans and becomes her competition, and basically only exists to be unlikable and therefore make the main girl look good. It’s certainly possible to subvert the trope, like in Legally Blonde or in Legend of Korra, but otherwise it’s a really uncomfortable thing to watch. It didn’t help when James started talking about the reason that they broke up, which was apparently because of Lucy being too invested in her career, and I thought, oh great, now we’re going to demonize the woman who’s ambitious and passionate about her work, right? It turned out that the situation was more complicated than that, and plus, Lucy seems genuinely sweet. She cares about James a lot and she’s very nice to Kara. So I started to feel a little better. Kara is awkward around Lucy in these first couple of episodes with her, but she does make an effort to be friendly with Lucy and the awkward competitiveness does go away pretty quickly and the whole situation ends up being handled fairly well, to my relief.
Anyway, during her fight with Red Tornado the next day, Supergirl loses control. She keeps fighting the robot even after she’s told that she’s won and she has to stand down, and goes so far as to break off Red Tornado’s arm. She causes the robot to go into self-preservation mode and fly away, which means that Supergirl has allowed a dangerous robot to go loose in National City. General Lane berates Supergirl and fires Dr. Morrow for this.
Back at Catco, Kara is called into an impatient Cat’s office. Cat immediately begins to denigrate Kara, and Kara completely snaps.
Kara: Don’t talk to me like that! Please! I work so hard for you! I don’t ask questions, I don’t complain, and all you do is yell at me and tell me I’m not good enough. And it’s mean! Why are you so mean?
KARA WHAT ARE YOU DOING. I mean on the one hand, it’s great that Kara stood up for herself like this! Cat is often mean to her, after all. But on the other hand, KARA WHAT ARE YOU DOING.
Kara realizes her mistake immediately and is horrified that she let herself lose control like that. She starts stammering an apology to Cat, who hasn’t said anything about Kara’s outburst yet. Honestly a silent Cat Grant is more unsettling than a Cat Grant who’s yelling. Finally Cat tells Kara to come with her… somewhere. The fearful way that Kara asks where they’re going is pretty funny to me. Kara has all these powers and she’s still scared of Cat Grant.
Cat ends up taking Kara to a bar, and instead of yelling at Kara or even scolding her at all, Cat gives her some really good advice.
Cat: Here’s the thing, Kara, everybody gets angry. Everybody. And there is no pill that will eradicate this particular emotion. I know this because if there were such a pill I would be popping those babies like Pez.
Kara: Miss Grant, uh… I’m so sorry. I’m… Really sorry about…
Cat: You apologize too much, which is a separate, although not unrelated, problem. No, this is about work. And anger. Whatever you do, you cannot get angry at work. Especially when you’re a girl. […] When I was working at the Daily Planet, Perry White picked up a chair and he threw it out of the window, because somebody missed a deadline. And no he didn’t open the window first. If I had thrown a chair, or, my God, if I had thrown a napkin, it would have been all over the papers. It would have been professional and cultural suicide.
Kara: Then what do you do?
Cat: Well, you need to find a release. You need to… Take up some boxing or start screaming at your housekeeper. But the real key Kara, is that you need to figure out what’s really bothering you. For example, I am so furious with my mother, so I took it out on you. And you are so mad at me, but… And this is the important bit, you weren’t really mad at me.
Kara: Actually, I kind of was.
Cat: No. Uh-uh. You were really mad, at something else. You need to find, find that anger behind the anger. And you need to figure out what is really making you mad.
This scene is a perfect example of what I love about Cat as a character and what I love about her and this show in general from a feminist perspective.
I love Cat because, as harsh and intimidating as she can be, she’s also an understanding mentor. Cat could have fired Kara for her outburst and I’m pretty sure no one would find it surprising or unfair, but Cat knows that Kara didn’t really mean what she said, that her outburst was really the result of a lot of pent up frustration that had little to do with Cat herself, and that Kara is obviously going through a lot and that isn’t really Cat’s business.
What is Cat’s business is the way that Kara conducts herself at work. There’s an acknowledgement that emotion from women is seen as inherently irrational and extreme, especially ones like anger and especially in the workplace, and as unfair as that is Cat has had to learn to keep control of her emotions at work. Instead of yelling at Kara and punishing her for it, she gives her some advice on how to do the same. She lets Kara know that she understands being angry, but that it’s important to find an outlet for it and also to figure out the root of her anger. I mean… that’s seriously really cool of Cat, to not punish Kara for having emotions and instead help her manage them.
And it’s really great that Kara can get advice like this from a woman. What I really like about this show as a feminist is the relationships between the female characters on the show and how, for the most part, they’re extremely positive and supportive. I love that Kara’s most important relationships on the show are with women, and I love that all of these women love and support each other, that they take inspiration from each other and try to understand each other and help each other and believe in each other. Seeing female characters with these types of relationships is really wonderful.
That evening, while Lucy, General Lane, and James are at dinner, Red Tornado attacks. Supergirl shows up to fight the robot, but it does something surprising. It creates a tornado that travels down a busy street, forcing Supergirl to choose between saving the people there or follow the fleeing robot. She chooses to stop the tornado, which is exactly what the robot anticipated. It appears to be learning and using Supergirl’s humanity against her.
Back at the DEO, Lucy is grateful to Supergirl for saving them, but General Lane only reprimands her, saying that she’s only endangered more people by letting Red Tornado escape again. Hank Henshaw retaliates by telling Lane that he’s discovered that the Red Tornado was designed to kill Kryptonians, a fact that General Lane doesn’t deny. He distrusts aliens, including Supergirl, and he’s not bothering to keep it a secret. Then Henshaw says this: “She saved you and your daughter, tonight. You don’t owe her fear and contempt. You owe her a thank you.” I was really happy to see Henshaw stand up for Supergirl. He tends to be very hard on her (not unlike Cat) but he does respect Supergirl, and it was nice to see him defending her.
Alex is called by Maxwell Lord to meet with him. Alex had been trying to enlist Max’s help earlier in the episode, but Max refused to do so until now. During their meeting, Max and Alex talk about their similar past experiences. Max’s parents died working for the government, like Alex’s father died working for the DEO. Max informs Alex that Red Tornado is a drone and is in fact being controlled by Dr. Morrow.
Meanwhile, deciding to follow Cat’s advice and find a release for her anger, Kara and James meet up to release some of their anger, leading to one of the best scenes in the show. I’m posting it not just because I’m lazy but because the full impact of the scene can’t really be appreciated by quoting it or by describing it.
Just want to point out a little thing I liked at the beginning of this scene before we dig in deeper. I liked that Kara brought up how women are told to bottle up their emotions and their aggression, and I liked that James brought up that as a black man, he’s not exactly encouraged to be openly angry either. I liked that it’s acknowledged that both characters are victims of prejudice and oppression, Kara of misogyny and James of racism, and it’s not brought up in a way where either of them is trying to insist that they have it “worse” than the other. Not being allowed to express their anger is one way that they’re both oppressed, and while they don’t experience that oppression in the exact same way they can to some extent understand and relate to each other.
BUT WOW HOW ABOUT THAT EMOTION AMIRITE. The moment that Kara is finally able to realize where her anger is coming from is so fantastic and raw. The fact that it’s all coming from a place of loneliness is absolutely heartbreaking and it makes perfect sense once she says it, doesn’t it? While coming out as Supergirl was liberating in some ways, it was alienating in other ways. Kara will never be a human, she’ll always be an outsider and there’s nothing that will change that.
It’s pretty easy to see a parallel between the way Kara feels and the way LGBT+ people often feel. They always talk about Kara’s becoming Supergirl as her “coming out” and I’d find it very hard to believe that that’s not intentional. Oppression allegories rarely work very well, but I have to admit that what Kara said in this scene hit close to home for me. I remember when I first admitted to myself that I’m bisexual and started telling some of my friends about it, it did feel liberating, like a weight that I didn’t even know I was carrying was just lifted off me. But it didn’t take long for me to start feeling a heaviness again, because there were so many people in my life that I couldn’t tell, and I started to realize how lonely I’ve always been and how lonely I still feel. When the world around you is so aggressively heteronormative, it’s hard to not be constantly thinking about how you don’t really fit that image. I’ve struggled for so long with feeling like an outsider and feeling like I’d never be “normal”, and feeling scared and sad and frustrated and at the root of it all was just this sensation of being utterly alone.
It’s not all bad, of course. I’m not trying to paint a picture of being LGBT+ as being nothing but pain and tragedy. I have lots of friends who are also in the LGBT+ community and we can talk to each other and relate to each other, and often I do feel comfortable and happy with who I am. Just like Kara has people she can talk to, and generally feels comfortable with who she is. But there’s always going to be hardships and there’s always going to be bad days, and those things never seem to become easier to deal with.
So after that extremely emotional reveal, it’s time to wrap up this story. Supergirl has another showdown with Red Tornado while Alex confronts Dr. Morrow. He’s neurally linked to the robot’s actions, and he claims that Alex will have to kill him to stop it. Then he attacks her. Alex and Morrow have a pretty brutal fight, as do Supergirl and Red Tornado, but Alex eventually manages to kill Morrow. However, this still doesn’t stop the robot, who has become sentient. Kara uses her heat vision, unleashing all of her anger to increase the intensity of it, until the robot explodes.
Lucy resigns from the military to stay in National City with James, which her father disapproves of. This decision made me very happy, because it means there’s now one less reason to antagonize Lucy.
Earlier in the episode, Alex enlisted Winn’s help to hack into the DEO’s files and find out what happened to her father. Winn informs her that he died on a mission in South America. Another agent was with him and was presumed dead too, until he showed up at the DEO a month later without a scratch on him, claiming he didn’t remember what happened. That agent? Hank Henshaw.
The last scene of the episode shows us Cat’s mother about to leave town. Apparently she expected Kara to organize a car to the airport for her. Cats’s mother starts to complain about Kara’s ineptitude, but Cat finally stands up to her mother and defends Kara, saying that she is an excellent assistant. Afterwards, Kara thanks Cat, saying that the compliment made her feel normal. The episode ends with Kara picking up a glass that she dropped and cutting her finger on the shards. To her surprise, her finger is bleeding. She’s never bled on Earth before.
Right, so, final thoughts on this episode: it’s really, really good, y’all.
I’ve noticed that I tend to be drawn to characters who are angry, and to scenes where characters express their anger. I’m not sure why that is, I think there’s just something about it that’s very cathartic.
For a character like Kara, who’s generally optimistic and cute, I think it’s really important that we be able to see her express more negative emotions sometimes too. Nobody can be positive 100% of the time, and it’s a lot easier to relate to Kara and care about her when we realize that this applies to her too. It’s not about “breaking her spirit” or whatever either, Kara can still be joyful and sweet and that hasn’t changed, but she’s also more complex than that. There seems to be this idea in fandoms and in media that happy characters are inherently less interesting and less “deep” than characters who are dark and brooding. It’s a completely ridiculous idea for a multitude of reasons that I won’t get into right now. That’s why I’m so happy that this show gives us a character who is both joy and complexity and never has to sacrifice one for the other.