In this episode of Supergirl, “Livewire,” a radio “shock jock” gets hit by lightning and becomes a shocking villain; Thanksgiving with the Danvers becomes a booze-soaked emotional minefield; and Kara (and Supergirl) bond with Cat Grant, who turns out to have a heart buried somewhere far, far beneath the many layers of soft focus filters and couture.
And most mysteriously of all, it turns out the DEO has been keeping a shocking secret from the Danvers girls.
Due to the tragic events in Paris, CBS pulled the episode that was originally slated to air, swapping episode four for episode five. Surprisingly, not much ground is lost by jumping ahead one episode.
The most development seems to be in the James and Lucy relationship, but luckily they’re mostly off-screen all episode, making it easy to jump right into this Thanksgiving outing.
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Turkey and Character Development
Supergirl is still going through some growing pains as a show, but what the show gets right, it really knocks out of the park. While the show allows itself to have fun, it’s also invested in having real, emotional stakes.
The relationship between the Danvers sisters grounded the show in the pilot and continues to fuel the series with strong emotional beats even in the midst of fighting a mean girl made of lighting. Keeping a balance between character development and camp isn’t always easy, but it’s something the freshmen series has thus far excelled at doing.
In this episode, we learn more about Cat Grant, turning her from a walking quip machine into a more realistic and well-rounded character. And Eliza Danvers’ presence gives Alex a different flavor to play other than competent agent and protective sister, bringing out the boozy and resentful side we’ve only seen flashes of previously.
It’s great to see the show trust Chyler Leigh with big, emotional material, especially as the series is just getting underway and Alex isn’t the lead. All the scenes between the Danvers women are great in “Livewire,” showcasing a strange, strained and ultimately loving relationship, which explains a lot of about how Kara and Alex turned out.
With Jimmy sidelined in off-screensville and Winn basically just making puppy eyes in a corner, this episode is all about the women of Supergirl. The interpersonal conflicts, the family relationships and even the fight scenes are all female-driven here.
This is the kind of feminism I’d love to see more of on the show, as opposed to clunky “girl power” speeches. It’s great that a show centered around a female superhero also has so many powerful and interesting female characters waiting in the wings, and I can’t wait to see more of Alex, Cat Grant and even Eliza Danvers in the future.
An Awkward Family Thanksgiving
Alex Danvers is freaking out because her mom Eliza is coming to town and Eliza is way harder on Alex than she is on Kara. For her part, Kara does seem to take advantage of the situation to score the best pie in the galaxy, chocolate pecan, from her foster mom.
Kara knows things are about to get crazy strained between her mom and sister, and is pre-preemptively trying to defuse the tension. But you can’t defuse the tension around Thanksgiving; that turkey comes pre-stuffed with family resentment and secrets. Just add a few glasses of wine and soon everyone is crying into their cranberry sauce.
Kara invites Winn over when she finds out he doesn’t have any other plans and hopes that having an innocent bystander will stop the family carnage. It won’t, of course, because Alex is deep into her cups by the time Kara is eye-frying the turkey.
Alex wants to know why her mom is so much harder on her than her super sister. “Oh, hey, that’s my phone! What a coincidence! I must away!” Kara says and then literally flies out of the room to avoid the Danvers family drama.
In flashback-land, Helen Slater and Dean Cain sit out on the porch looking up at the stars and talking about how weird it is that they can never escape a career decision they made over 20 years ago. “Once super, always super,” they sigh, as Kara and Alex take to the skies and do donuts above National City.
When the girls come back, their parents are furious and then suddenly send them up to their room in terror. Outside is the DEO, led by none other than Hank Henshaw himself. Dean Cain bravely offers himself up in his super daughter’s place and Hank Henshaw is like, “Okay, but only if you give me Teri Hatcher’s phone number,” and everything is very awkward.
In the present, Eliza Danvers tells Alex that she pushes her more than her sister because she cares. There are a lot of tears and feelings and it’s all very well played by both actresses. The family stuff is really spot-on in this episode.
Having found out that Alex is now a DEO agent, Mama Danvers finally decides it’s time to spill her own secret. She tells the girls about Dean Cain’s involvement in the DEO and about how she suspects his death was related to his work at the organization. Then she tells them the name of the man he had been working for: Hank Henshaw.
As the episode ends, Alex and Kara stare at Hank in the least chill way possible. Their stealth skills are really lacking. They declare, loudly and only feet away from him, that they’re going to find out what’s really going on at the DEO.
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The main villain of the episode is Livewire, aka Leslie Willis, a radio DJ employed by Catco. Cat Grant is furious with her after listening to a catty segment of her show where she talks smack about Supergirl, criticizing everything from her outfit to her sexuality. When Leslie doesn’t back down from being a human US Weekly comments section, Cat reassigns her onto the traffic beat to serve out the remainder of her contract.
Unfortunately, before Leslie could be the meanest, snarkiest traffic reporter National City had ever seen, her helicopter is struck by lightning. Supergirl tries to save her, but the lightning channels its way through Supergirl and into Leslie, turning her hair gray and giving her the power to control electricity.
The Livewire effects are actually pretty impressive, as Leslie jumps from street lamps to Cat’s bank of monitors to elevator controls. Kara happens to be at Catco trying to help Cat with her tech problems when Leslie attacks, which makes an appearance from Supergirl very convenient. While Cat continually tries to reason with Leslie, she doesn’t want to hear anything from her former employer unless it’s the sound of her old boss becoming a pancake in a falling elevator.
“Agent … Mulder, is it?” Cat Grant asks Henshaw, confirming that she might not be great with people, but she has excellent taste in genre television. While the DEO pokes around the scene of the crime, Kara and Cat Grant finally get some quality time to bond. Cat learns that Kara’s parents died when she was 13 “in a fire” and that things are tense between her sister and foster mother.
Cat in turn opens up to explain that her mother was always extremely hard on her, that nothing she did was ever good enough. It’s part of the reason why she avoids Thanksgiving with her family and all of the reason that she’s so hard on everyone she knows. It explains why her stories on Supergirl are so tough: she just wants the city’s newest heroine to live up to her full potential.
Cat puts in a call to Supergirl and they plan a super awesome lady team-up against Livewire. Cat calls Livewire out, while Supergirl faces off with her when she shows up. Things aren’t going so well for Supergirl, and Livewire begins to wonder if she has enough juice to stop the Kryptonian’s heart. It’s at this moment that Supergirl thinks fast and sprays her with the water from a burst water pipe she grabs from underground.
Hank Henshaw is excited that the DEO has their first non-alien bad guy in storage, while Cat Grant has a change of heart about some of the useless celebrity stories they’ve been printing. Instead, she’s going to print stories about people who spent their Thanksgivings helping the less fortunate.
She also has a change of heart about Kara, realizing there’s a lot she doesn’t know about her trusty assistant. “Who me? Oh, there’s nothing to know here!” Kara says, eyes darting like she’s trying not to draw attention to herself during a drug deal. Kara really, really needs to work on her stealth.
Elsewhere Around National City…
— The many boring love triangles of Supergirl are thankfully only minor blips on the radar this time. James goes on vacation to wine country with Lucy but still takes time out to call Kara and wish her a happy Thanksgiving. Kara feels many warm and fuzzy feelings then remembers that James is with Lucy and feels her heart shrivel up. Poor Kara.
— Meanwhile, Winn is sitting in a corner, writing Mr. and Mrs. Kara Danvers on all his notebooks and dreaming of their spring wedding. Kara finally seems to realize that Winn might have a crush on her when he kisses her on the cheek. “Awwww, crap,” the dawning horror on her face seems to say.
— It turns out the reason Winn didn’t have Thanksgiving plans is because his father is in jail for being a very bad man. Interesting! I wonder if we’ll find out more about Winn’s bad dad in future episodes.
— “You have the wit of a YouTube comment,” Cat tells Leslie. Cat Grant is seriously the queen of sick burns.
What did you think of “Livewire”? Did you like learning more about Cat Grant? Do you hope Livewire will be back? What’s Hank Henshaw up to? Sound off in the comments!
Supergirl airs Mondays at 8pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)