It’s clear by now that Supergirl is not a show about a hero who "happens to be female". It’s a show about a female superhero. I know that turned off some viewers at first, but I think it’s the right move. Supergirl is here to fill a void and present a worldview that is very rarely represented in comic book movies and series. This week’s episode was a great example of how the show can use its female perspective offer a fresh take on a saturated genre. In a world where troubled father/son relationships are a very common trope, "Livewire" stood out for being, at its core, an episode about mothers and daughters.
Warning: this review contains spoilers.
The two maternal relationships that drove this week’s plot forward were Cat Grant’s relationships with both Kara/Supergirl and Leslie Willis/Livewire. This episode did a great job shading in Cat’s character, and making her one of the show’s best. She was initially presented as a foil for our heroine, a Devil Wears Prada-esque J. Jonah Jameson. But we finally learned that her critical attitude was just her way of pushing Supergirl to be better, the same way that, in keeping with this episode’s theme, her own mother’s harshness brought out the best in Cat. This, combined with some almost-heartfelt exchanges with Kara, made her more sympathetic without sacrificing any of her bite.
However, it seems Cat hadn’t been as nurturing to Leslie, and that gave us this show’s first truly memorable villain. One of Supergirl‘s major weaknesses, much like Arrow and The Flash, has been the one-note and forgettable villains-of-the-week. Thankfully, despite a rushed arc and some cheesy dialogue, Livewire stands out. She’s more fleshed out, charismatically acted by Brit Morgan, and powerful to boot. Rather than a generic alien who can punch really hard, Livewire was very much human, with a personal vendetta and ties to the episode’s plot. Plus, her superpower was really cool and led to a visually thrilling climactic showdown, a nice change from traditional superpowered fistfights.
Unfortunately, the Thanksgiving subplot with Kara’s family, while fitting with the episode’s mother/daughter theme, felt a bit crammed in. It made the episode feel like there was too much going on, though it was a nice bit of characterization and added necessary layers to Kara’s foster family. Plus, it moved the DEO/Henshaw mystery forward instead of dragging it out as shows tend to do, so I can’t fault it too much.
Another of this show’s weak points has been some of the supporting cast, but that’s been improving, seeing as both Winn and Cat have grown into fully formed and interesting characters these past few weeks. However, this episode did James Olsen no favours, sidelining him for the majority of the events. Right now, he feels like no more than a potential love interest. On the other hand, it seems they’re setting up Winn as the "friendzoned nice guy", which given Supergirl‘s feminist streak could lead to a very interesting, subversive payoff.
Rating: 4/5 (Great)
Notes and Observations
- "Supergirl is changing the conversation in National City. People don’t want your brand of negativity anymore, Leslie. They want optimism, hope, positivity." Did this line come across as meta to anyone else? Not only is Supergirl wearing its feminism on its sleeve, it’s also vocal about its hopeful, upbeat tone and opposition to recent "grim and gritty" superhero tropes.
- Kara vs Livewire felt a lot like Spider-Man vs Electro, especially since Livewire was defeated the same way Electro was in his first comic book appearance.
- Nice X-Files reference there when Cat called Henshaw "Mulder". The Ghostbusters shout-out was funny as well.
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