Supergirl, Season 1, Episode 5, “How Does She Do It?”
Written by Yahlin Chang & Ted Sullivan
Directed by Thor Freudenthal
Airs Mondays at 8pm (ET) on CBS
It is becoming increasingly clear that Supergirl quite simply doesn’t know what kind of story it wants to tell. It has the tone of a superhero procedural down, and the airiness that it seems to be aiming for is present, but everything else is all over the place to the great detriment of each episode. “How Does She Do It?” is the sloppiest of all episodes to have aired so far and in the most varied of areas. Not only are the A and B plots all over the place, but character motivations are unclear at best or the complete opposite of characterizations that have already been established at the worst. It is astonishing that there are so many moving pieces throughout the episode and yet it seems as if no forward momentum is achieved except for the last one to two minutes of the hour. It is a weird middle ground to be occupying and is a result of the way that even with all of the craziness swirling around Kara, everything still seems pretty boring.
The biggest sin of this episode isn’t even the boring parts, it’s that the climactic sequence and many character actions are insulting to the audience or go completely against their previous foundation. National City is supposed to be a contemporary metro area, if not ever-so-slightly futuristic, and yet they apparently have the security measures of the 1950’s. That a bomb could make it’s way into Maxwell Lord’s labs is reasonable because he was facilitating the planting, and even the airport bomb could have reasonably been snuck in without drawing attention. But Knox gaining access to a high profile train launch that half the city is attending is beyond believability. Sure, he may have had a legitimate ticket to gain access to the train, even though it is likelier that Lord facilitated that too as so many passengers were VIPs. But that no security guard not under Lord’s control ever saw or patted down Knox while he wandered around the train looking extra special suspicious? Chances are slim to none. The man had a bomb strapped to his torso and his hoodie half unzipped! It is a lazy shortcut that gets Kara to the train station, Jimmy to the airport, and Carter in the line of fire.
The other part of the episode that is such a turn off, as mentioned above, is the way that multiple characters are undermined by plot choices even though they’ve already been established as competent and responsible professionals in prior episodes. Alex finds the remote kill switch on the airport bomb but instead of reaching the reasonable conclusion that it was actually a real device she questions why somebody would put a remote switch on a fake bomb. As somebody who was recruited out of college to join a government agency, and then recently warned that the government agency might be corrupt and dangerous, it comes off as an exceedingly false note that her train of thought is that of a citizen instead of a trained government agent. When Kara sees Henshaw’s eyes glowing after coming to briefly post-bomb drop, she fails to mention it throughout the rest of the episode. Not even as a passing mention that she “might have seen something weird when she was woozy” since it has to do with the DEO and again, she just found out that organization is probably super evil and maybe killed her foster dad. Seems like the responsible decision. Even with smaller character moments like Wynn’s behavior and Jimmy’s mood around Kara everything rings false. Wynn is a responsible enough person to hack into hospital records, keep the secret of Kara’s alter ego, and be a valued employe of Cat’s company, and yet he can’t keep track of a pre-teen for more than a little while? Furthermore, when he gets to the train station he doesn’t just tell the security guard that he is looking for a missing kid, he just yells about getting on the train. It’s not something that a technology genius and all around smart guy would do, but he does it here because the story needs him to. Never a good sign of a show’s confidence in the early going. These characters may have only been thinly sketched prior to this episode but they were at least sketched. Tonight is like a watercolor painting dipped in a pot of water.
The Maxwell Lord pieces of the episode are by far highlights, both his verbal sparring with Alex and his heel turn with Kara (even if he didn’t admit it outright). Peter Facinelli clearly enjoys chewing all of the scenery around him and that works for this environment, but he is also the third “big bad” the show has introduced and it is only the fifth episode. Astra has been a non-factor, even though she is reasonably the most looming of all the villains and the thrust behind a season-long arc. The supposed threat to Kara and Alex that the DAE poses is all but pushed aside here and they don’t both questioning any of Henshaw’s motivations based on recent knowledge. Now, Maxwell Lord is apparently a villain too. Or barring that, someone who has alternative plans for the city that aren’t necessarily in everyone’s best interests. For a show just gaining its sea legs yet another addition to Kara’s rotation of foes is overloading things. Maxwell Lord being a villain could easily be a story for two or three but instead the show is rushing it in early to make his character more entertaining to watch. Henshaw’s ulterior motives tie in to Astra’s master plan at least, so if Lord’s desire to rule the city as a different kind of savior as opposed to Supergirl’s particular brand of heroism is also connected somehow that makes it almost worthwhile to be introducing the thread so early in the season. But if not, or if the reveal is executed poorly, than it is yet another spoke in the story wheel that is causing major issues. As it stands, Supergirl is a bit of a mess and whatever vision the writers’ have is getting lost in an overloaded early run of episodes.