In this episode of Supergirl, “Human for a Day,” Kara is thrust into a catastrophe without the one thing she’s always relied on: her powers. Instead, she has to learn to trust herself and those around her to do good. And we finally learn the long-held secret of Hank Henshaw, and oh man is it a big one for anyone familiar with DC Comics!
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The Plot is Moving Faster Than a Speeding Bullet Supergirl is certainly not pulling any punches or holding anything back. We’re not even halfway through the season and already the show has revealed Hank Henshaw’s big secret. Perhaps that’s something we should have all been prepared for after the pilot blew through Kara’s introduction to the world of super heroics fairly quickly.
Supergirl isn’t interested in the slow boiling arc, which is further proven by the fact that it looks like Kara will be facing down with her aunt in the winter finale. On a different show, Aunt Astra might have been the big bad saved for the finale and Hank Henshaw’s questionable identity would have been revealed late in the season. On Supergirl, the show is blowing through these storylines faster than a speeding bullet.
The breakneck pacing is working for the series so far, even if all the flash and speedy plot mechanics sometimes mean giving a short shift to character development. This episode is perhaps one of the best in the series so far, centering not on the super heroics of Supergirl, but rather on the innate goodness of Kara herself and the way she brings out the hero in all of those around her.
The show is not afraid to go to some very earnest and emotional places, something it shares in common with The Flash (not surprising since they have the same creators), but it is even more pronounced in this DC property. This can sometimes make the show feel hokey, but in its best moments, like this episode, it taps into something beautiful and inspirational in our need to believe in heroes. And isn’t that the reason we love superhero stories so much anyway?
Superman, Superman, Superman!
The episode opens up with Kara getting body scans at the DEO to explain why it is she lost her powers. It turns out this just happens sometimes when super people exert themselves too much. It’s even happened to Superman from time to time, which is why everyone in this episode (including Maxwell Lord) knows that Supergirl is depowered and yet no one is really freaking out about it that much.
This show has a very complicated relationship with Superman, in that it either mentions him way too much or acts like he’s Lord Voldemort and merely saying his name will curse you. With this episode, the pendulum swings far over into the “way too much” territory. They drop Superman’s name in this show the way I would name drop if I knew Beyonce. If I knew Beyonce, I would literally start every sentence with the phrase, “Well, my friend Beyonce…” Unfortunately, the show is taking this tack with Superman, who is perhaps not quite as magical as Beyonce.
I get it. Superman is out there saving the world. Everyone has heard of Superman. Jimmy knows Superman. Superman once lost his powers. Superman’s hair is insured for $10,000 and he does car commercials in Japan. One time, Superman met John Stamos on a plane and he said Superman was pretty. We all get it. Superman is totally fetch.
At this point, the show has established that Superman exists and that the show exists in the same universe as the big guy. It’s time to back away from mentioning him in every episode. If I did a drinking game and took a shot every time they mentioned Superman in this first run of episodes, I would be dead. This is Kara’s story; let’s keep it that way.
Lost Powers and Natural Disasters
Anyway, Kara immediately catches a cold and is banished from Cat’s office before she can give everyone her germy disease. Outside, she bumps into Jimmy and tells him she’s feeling useless without her powers, but the city will have to go without Supergirl for a little while. Cue natural disaster!
An earthquake causes all kinds of devastation, and Kara’s depowered status means she can’t help as Supergirl. She hurts her arm and Jimmy gallantly whips off his shirt to make her a sling. I would love it if every episode thought of an equally lame way to get Jimmy to strip for us. “Jimmy, the whole city will blow up unless you give us your shirt for plot reasons! Don’t question it; just take it off!”
Back inside CatCo, Kara is furious after hearing Maxwell Lord trash-talk Supergirl on television. She and Jimmy go down to where Maxwell Lord is handing out supplies, while a terrified Winn helps Cat set up a live TV broadcast so she can eventually give the whole city the pep talk it needs.
At the disaster site, Maxwell tells the duo that he doesn’t think Supergirl’s powers are coming back anyway since Superman usually recovers within 48 hours. Then he rambles on about people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and superhero welfare or whatever it is Maxwell Lord thinks passes for rich dude inspirational speeches.
A woman comes running up asking for help for her father. He’s bleeding out and she needs Supergirl to take him to the hospital, or at least use X-ray vision to see where the internal bleeding is.
Unfortunately, no matter how awkwardly Kara squints at this guy, he’s pretty much toast. I would love it if later in the series, we find out that Maxwell Lord always knew Kara was Supergirl because she is so painfully obvious about it at all times. Everyone in town probably knows she’s Supergirl at this point and they’re just too embarrassed to tell her they know.
Kara is really down in the dumps about how that guy bled out in front of her. It’s been a real day! Jimmy gives her a pep talk about how you don’t need powers to be a hero, and Kara takes it to heart when she sees some guys holding up a store. Even though she doesn’t have powers and her one arm isn’t really working, she puts on her Supergirl costume and goes in to save the day.
In a great scene cutting back and forth between Cat Grant and Supergirl, the two both make a call for the city, and the robbers, to listen to their better natures. It’s definitely one of the best scenes the show has done, with the quick cuts and the heartfelt score helping the emotion come through. It’s easy to get swept up in the earnestness with which the show believes in our better angels.
Perhaps the second best scene occurs at the end of the episode, as Cat Grant tells Supergirl that the city needs her, and Supergirl commends Cat on how she inspired everyone. The relationship between Cat and Supergirl (and, by proxy, Kara) is one of the best and most nuanced relationships on the show, and I’m always glad to see more of them interacting in whatever form.
Kara gets her powers back in order to save Jimmy from falling down an elevator shaft and then zooms out into the city to give hope and save a bunch of people.
My favorite part of this is that as Jimmy plummets to his death, Kara takes the time to change into her Supergirl outfit before saving him. Clothes over bros!
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The subplot of the episode, which is very strong if mildly undercooked, deals with an alien named Jemm, who has mind-control abilities, that the DEO is holding. The alien basically doesn’t matter because this whole storyline is really about Alex dealing with her trust issues with Hank.
After Hank mysteriously survives another unlivable attack, Alex has basically had enough of his nonsense. She chains him to a pipe and runs out to face the evil alien alone. (Do you think Jemm is truly outrageous? Truly, truly, truly outrageous?)
Before Jemm can kill her, not even bothering to use his mind-control abilities, Hank steps in to save the day and snap his neck. I’m almost glad the show didn’t spend much time on Jemm because after Marvel’s Jessica Jones series on Netflix, pretty much anything the show would do with a mind-controlling villain was going to look like weak sauce in comparison.
Alex finally confronts Hank and wants to know the truth, which Hank asks her not to share with Kara for no apparent reason that is explained at all. “Here is this secret that has nothing to do with Kara and might actually be helpful for her to know. Please don’t tell her.”
It turns out that the real Hank Henshaw is totally dead; he died at the same time as Alex’s father while they were tracking down an alien. The real Hank Henshaw was a total jerk who wanted to kill a friendly alien who was a refugee on Earth, the last of his people like Kara. Dean Cain died protecting this alien, and he in turn promised to always protect his daughter.
That alien was the last son of Mars, the alien known as J’onn J’onzz, or probably more well known to DC Comics readers as Martian Manhunter.
Martian Manhunter is on this show! What a time to be alive! It’s a little surprising given that Hank Henshaw is also the name of a comic book character and one who eventually becomes a villain. So that’s actually a pretty masterful misdirect for comic readers who smugly thought they knew what was up with Hank “red eyes, nothing to see here” Henshaw. It’ll be interesting to see what they do with the character now that his big secret has been revealed.
Is the Love Triangle Still a Thing?
Unfortunately, yes. Therefore, I’m going to be tracking the (hopeful) death of this ridiculous romance storyline in this section every episode until the show mercifully takes this love triangle out back and shoots it.
In this episode, Jimmy and Kara have a lot of great talks and meaningful moments, including Jimmy taking an amazing photograph of Supergirl in action. I believe this is the first Jimmy Olsen photograph we’ve seen him take on the show!
He also tells her the origin of his love affair with photography, which goes back to his father who died in the service. It’s all great character stuff for Jimmy Olsen, which is why it’s so sad that it gets wrapped up in the absolute funk that is this stupid love triangle.
Winn sees Kara and Jimmy hugging and flips out on Kara, for no reason that I can figure out. Does Kara realize that Winn is carrying a torch for her? I thought she was oblivious, but in this episode, she’s apologizing for hugging some random stud like that’s something a good friend would be upset about. So does she know he has feelings or doesn’t she? I don’t care, but I feel like they should at least establish that much.
Winn tells her that the super heroine never gets the guy, which is way harsh. What is the purpose of Winn exactly? Out of all of the characters, he is the least developed and the most tied to this stupid romance plotline. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
I want the show to give me a reason to care about Winn as a character, but all he ever does is sigh after Kara and look surly. If they want us to ever get invested, they’re really going to need to develop him outside of this romance storyline. Thus far, his character has been the biggest victim of the element of Supergirl that is least working. Poor Winn.
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What did you think of the episode? What was your favorite moment? Sound off in the comments!
Supergirl airs Mondays at 8pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV