Supergirl, Ep. 1.03, “Fight or Flight”

Supergirl S1 Ep3

Supergirl, Season 1, Episode 3, “Fight or Flight”
Written by Michael Grassi & Rachel Shukert
Directed by Dermott Downs
Airs Mondays at 8pm (ET) on CBS

After two decent to solid episodes to open the series, the third hour of Supergirl falls almost completely flat in every area. It is only a matter of time with any new series before an episode loses the sheen of some of the early efforts, most often due to quicker script turnaround and filming schedules as the season ramps up, but with any luck, promising new shows will still maintain the general aura of what makes them great. In the case of “Fight or Flight”, not so much. Only Melissa Benoist’s consistent effervescence and the dual smiles of Jeremy Jordan and Mehcad Brooks come close to salvaging the episode. Most of the issues here originate from what seems to be the show backtracking on itself in the Superman quadrant of the story. It’s a similar problem to what the James Bond franchise is going through in Spectre, in that the central “hero” cannot just go ahead and be the person the audience knows they will turn into. Before that happens, there have to be weeks, months, or years of buildup showing their incremental character transformation before they are the fully fledged namesake of the movie or show. Supergirl isn’t Smallville so there’s no true origin story arc, which is nice, but replacing that standard starting point with a repetitive cycle of Kara finding herself without the help of others is going to get old fast.

This is especially the case if the show insists on repeatedly tying Superman to Kara’s growth instead of letting her stand on her own. It’s a bit of a meta problem, as the show is relying on Superman’s presence in the background just as much as Jimmy Olsen. The temptation to include Clark Kent in the ongoing troubles with Fort Rozz and other super villains around National City makes sense on some level—it wouldn’t seem right if Kal-El didn’t come to visit his cousin once or twice now that she is a fully public superhero. However it is far too early in the series for him to take up so much time in an episode and not actually be a presence at all. Further down the line when the show is steadier on its feet and has the wherewithal to do so, inviting Superman around for an adventure or two is actually an appetizing idea, if and only if it deems him worthy enough of being a character and not just a billowing cape and some lens flare. The decision to have the shadow of Superman intrude on Kara’s life to such a degree takes away whatever agency the show is trying to give her in her hunt for independence. How is the audience supposed to root for Kara to do things on her own when it will barely let her have her own storyline about independence?

Supergirl B

Much of the fun of the first two episodes is missing as well, as many of the characters are plunged into the unfortunate position of being caricatures rather than people. This is a byproduct of there being so much story packed into a tight 43 minutes, and is especially apparent with Cat. Calista Flockhart’s performance has been purposely broad to this point, but in this episode every line seems to be overly focus-grouped or plucked from what a mean boss would say. Even her small piece of background building, the dance with Maxwell Lord meant to tease a some sort of history between them, is stilted and awkward. If Cat’s purpose is to push Kara to prove the people who underestimate her wrong, then there is the way to do that without it being a clichéd strut around her office every time. If she is only there to be the whip-cracking boss who has some humorous one-liners and lets there be a reason for Catco to exist as a workplace drama aspect of the show, then Flockhart is much better than what she is being asked to do.

Jeremy Jordan and Chyler Leigh are similarly marginalized, and as the show’s respective class clown and human advice columnist, it is noticeable. Much of this is a byproduct of the Jimmy, Clark, Kara trifecta taking up both the A- and B-plots and forcing the office chemistry and the DEO to the side, but some of it is the show continuing to rejigger the parts that work best in the right doses. Wynn and Alex are both very much meant to be in the show, but making Wynn nothing but the tech genius who has a crush on Kara sells his character short of what he originally appeared to be, a three-dimensional addition to Kara’s work life and a trusted friend. Continuing the friendly rivalry between Jimmy and Wynn is the best the show can do by either of the main men here, and hopefully that rivalry won’t be completely centered around Kara’s heart, but more of a cheeky friendship between the two. The show is already shifting too far towards having Kara be a stereotypical representation of the “having it all” question and a triumvirate of friends and crime fighters is far better than yet another love triangle in a comic book adaptation.

Flybys

  • Chris Browning is always welcome, especially if the guest appearance lets him chew some scenery, but he is almost entirely wasted here in a fairly boring villain plot.
  • Maxwell Lord is a rare bright spot in the Reactron brouhaha, especially when Peter Facinelli gets to show off his snark skills.
  • The flying in general isn’t the best special effect in the show’s arsenal, but Kara floating in space during her interview with Cat is the weirdest of all examples so far.
  • Pronoun Watch: Only eight times that the show alluded to Superman using something besides his name this week. This actually seems like the appropriate balance going forward: not too many to seem out of place, not too few that they’re saying “Superman” every time.
  • Having the S-Club’s base of operations be in the Catco building is just about the only way it would seem reasonable for Kara to be crime fighting and fetching Cat’s coffees during the day.
  • Could someone please give Supergirl a hair tie? Fighting with her hair down looks miserable.
  • Jenna Dewan is here! As Jimmy Olsen’s ex-girlfriend! Who is also Lois Lane’s younger sister! That love triangle looks like it will be fun and soapy.
  • There are some stretches of dialogue so bad in this episode that it would have been fine for Reactron to win the battle if only so people would stop talking. That said, absolutely nothing is worse than the end of episode IM Kara has with Clark. What’s the next way the show will have him be a part of her life without actually needing to hire an actor? Carrier pigeons emblazoned with “S”?
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