Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Recap Wednesday: Supergirl Episode 1.1 "Pilot"

(Note: Just assume all recaps contain spoilers for that episode)

So, Supergirl begins with us learning right away that Kara Zor-El is Superman’s cousin. When she was a teenager, she was shipped from Krypton to Earth in a pod (there's always a "pod" in this genre, isn't there?), with the intent that she protect him. That’s right. A mere girl sent to protect a boy. It’s too bad this Krypton they speak of exploded. Come to us, matriarchal overlords!

However, complications ensued and Kara didn't make it to Earth until 24 years later. By then Superman had grown up to be a hero without her.  So, she was taken in by the Danvers family, headed by previous superhero portrayers Helen Slater and Dean Cain! (Interjection to say that The Legend of Billie Jean starring Helen Slater was a *koff* formative film experience for me circa the late 1980s).

We also learn that the Danvers had a daughter, Alex. For some reason, here is our first glimpse of her, standing alone in an upstairs window looking forlorn:

Halp?
Is this shot a nod to the "madwoman in the attic" trope of feminist critique? Is she grounded? Just sad? Am I overthinking this? Probably. But, my angst-dar is pinging with that one.

So, after this prelude, the show cuts to the intro of The Devil Wears Prada. Okay, it’s actually just present-day Kara, a 20-something woman, carrying a tray of coffee and running errands for her boss, Cat Grant, the most powerful woman in National City. Be afraid, MRAs, be very afraid!

The first friend we meet is WinnXander. His name is actually Winn, but we’re introduced to him as a nerdy (he runs some sort of website about aliens) guy who asks Kara out on a date (she declines). So, it’s established he has an unrequited crush on her. Hmmmm. My opinion of Winn is on hold.

After Winn, we meet the famous Cat Grant, strutting through the office of CatCo, the company she runs and in which Kara works. Is she History’s Greatest Monster because she’s on a business call and throws her coat at Kara without acknowledgement?  I'm not sure yet. But at least we are spared eleventymillion clips of further coat-throwing, unlike Prada.

Now, I don’t usually pay attention to fashion on TV shows, but Cat is wearing a dress that is half black and half blue and all I can think about is that “Is the dress white and gold or black and blue?” meme. It’s clear that Ms. Grant is on Team Black/Blue, so that’s a point in her favor.

"Get me that piece of paper I had in my hand that one time."
And now I will stop talking about clothes because I am officially out of my league. The point about Cat is that she seems busy and assertive, which I guess translates to some as “bitchy.” My opinion of Cat is also on hold.

Next we meet James Olsen, a new hire at CatCo. James and Kara have prolonged eye contact suggestive of a future romantic storyline. While Kara is making eyes at him, however, James gets a little starry-eyed talking about his BFF Superman, whom he calls “everything you want him to be, and more.” At this point, I begin to question Kara’s superpowers because she has absolutely no ability to read subtext (it’s my only superpower). So, I hope…. no one gets hurt?

After work, Kara goes home and the next Scooby shows up: Alex Danvers, Kara’s foster sister (she was released from the attic phew!) Alex is wearing a power suit so we know she maybe has some sort of important job (and I swear I don’t usually notice fashion stuff although I realize I’m now unreliable on this point. But damn, sister Alex looks good in a suit). She’s about to get on a plane for some sort of business something-or-other and she’s also there to help Kara pick out an outfit for her blind date.

Later, Kara is on the blind date, which is going crappily, when the news runs a live report about how a plane that has just left National City is having engine trouble. Because I guess that would be on the news in real time? Kara realizes that Alex is on the plane, so she runs outside, sees the plane in the air (because of course she does), and flies to it, ultimately guiding it to a safe landing. People on the plane take pictures of her with their cell phones and she does an impressive power pose for them.

Afterwards, Kara is at home eating pizza and being adorkable by being excited at the news coverage of her heroism. Alex arrives and seems shell-shocked, upset, and ... to be honest, a smidge ungrateful. Is somebody jelly? Please don’t make two main female characters be rivals please.

The next morning, unable to contain her excitement, Kara decides to “come out” to Winn. Not “come out” in a lesbionic way. In fact, she explicitly says she’s not gay (so rest easy, hetero fans who need all heroes everywhere to be hetero). She reveals to Winn that she’s “her,” the woman who saved the plane. Winn is super excited about it, and it's cute. (Does that happen often, in TV, where men are portrayed as being thrilled about a woman's competence?).

After that, we meet the first villain of the show. His name is Botox or Buttocks. I can’t tell and it’s not important. This guy was responsible for the plane mishap and he also calls Kara “that female.” So we know right away he’s horrific. 

Winn then helps Kara make a superhero costume (+1 on the Winn scoreboard). The final product is good (Okay, it's time to confess: I'm joining Vogue's writing staff. Spoiler alert: not really). Anyway, the shirt is like under armor sporty material (lesbian approved), and no cleavage or midriff are showing. In short, it actually looks functional (except I'd recommend a ponytail rather than hair down for fighting, but alas):


Sensible shoes, too.
While she’s taking a flight around National City in her new duds, she’s shot down with some green dart thingies. Uh-oh, Kara is in peril for the first time! When she wakes up she’s strapped to a table. At this point, we meet Hank Henshaw and *dun dun dun* Agent Alex Danvers of the Initiative.  Okay, it’s actually the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO), which is a secret government agency that protects Earth from hostiles. Aliens. I mean, aliens. (At this point, you should know that Buffy is one of my key pop culture reference points for TV Shows Featuring a Strong Female Lead). 

ANYway, Alex is the right-hand gal to DEO Director, Hank Henshaw. Hank tells Kara that when she arrived on Earth, her pod carried with her a bunch of villains from Fort Rozz, an alien prison. 

The next morning, Kara gets to work at CatCo to see that Cat has christened her “Supergirl" and that the name is trending on Twitter so now it's official. Kara storms into Cat’s office and insists that they name her Superwoman. Cat goes into this spiel about how she herself is “a girl” and that she’s also powerful, a boss, rich, hot, and smart and that if Kara sees “Supergirl” as “anything less than excellent” than Kara is the real problem. Hrmm.

Back at the DEO, Alex reveals that Fort Rozz prisoners are now going to come after Supergirl, because her mother is the one who imprisoned them. So, that’s the reason Alex wasn’t psyched about Kara becoming Supergirl. Supergirl suggests that maybe she should just go back to being a regular person then, but Alex convinces her that the world needs Supergirl now. Then, she shows Kara a hologram of Kara’s mom, who tells her to always be true to herself. (Which, just spittballin’ here, but was it cool to have hid this endearing hologram of Kara’s dead mom for years?)

Supergirl then fights Botox/Buttocks. For some reason, he has the Slayer Scythe and I’m not sure why. But that’s okay because Supergirl has heat vision, which in the superhero game of rock, paper, scissors wins.


This battle is Supergirl’s first big win over a villain, and she seems to get some confidence from it.

The next day, James reveals that he knows Kara is Supergirl. His BFF Superman had told him already, apparently. We also learn that Kara’s aunt is alive, evil, and on Earth. Family is complicated, ya’ll. Stay tuned.

Deep Thought of the Week: Regarding the name Supergirl, it was smart for the show to address the elephant in the room right away. I'm not 100% satisfied with the answer, but when I guess our new standard is having a viable presidential contender who brags about grabbing "pussies," calling her Supergirl rather than Superwoman is something I can live with in the grand scheme of things.  Pick your battles and all.

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