Wow. This is a big episode of Supergirl! This show has been churning through storylines so fast, and yet I still wasn’t prepared for all the places the winter finale goes. We get more backstory on Aunt Astra, making her more than just a mustache-twirling bad guy and giving her and the alien villain squad some much-needed depth. Plus, someone else finds out Kara’s secret!
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Faster Than a Speeding Plotline Considering how quickly the show has revealed secrets and hidden identities, I’m not all that surprised to see that only eight episodes in and pretty much everyone has found out about Supergirl’s not-so-secret identity.
The powers-that-be on this show know their way around this terrain; this isn’t their first time at the superheroic rodeo. So I really hope that this lighting-fast pacing is the showrunners learning from the mistakes of the past and getting all the setup out of the way quickly.
Instead of taking seasons for all the closest people to Kara to learn her secret, it’s taken eight episodes. Instead of dragging out Hank’s secret and misdirecting us to think he’s a bad guy, the show smartly revealed their bait and switch early. This show isn’t holding anything back in these opening episodes, and that propulsive momentum has mostly been to the show’s favor, though sometimes it can move the character beats along too quickly.
But what really sets Supergirl apart and makes it so infinitely watchable is how the show is not afraid to be earnest and heartfelt. The character moments are really where this show shines, and there are plenty on display in this episode. As the series rolls on, it just keeps adding more and more layers to Kara, dealing with her anger, her belief in people and her loss, often all in one episode and sometimes all in one scene.
People sometimes accuse Superman of being boring, just a giant boy scout with a ton of powers. But I think it would be hard to accuse Supergirl of being a static character who is uninteresting to watch. In just the short amount of episodes we’ve had with the character so far, she’s grown into someone who seems all too human, with flaws and quirks, even though she’s not human at all.
Shading in her backstory and giving Aunt Astra a real emotional pull is a brilliant move and works to make the audience even more invested in her battle with Kara. Their relationship is fascinating and much more interesting than if she had just popped up as the evil aunt. The fact that she has perhaps a good reason for her evil plan adds an interesting shade of gray into the proceedings, and I can’t wait to see where the show takes that relationship dynamic next when it returns from the winter hiatus on January 4.
The first part of Supergirl‘s first season hasn’t been perfect, but oh boy has it been fun to watch!
A CatCo Oh No
Outside of Kara’s job as a superhero dealing with her crazy family, she still has a lot on her plate at CatCo in this episode. Like any good celebrity in today’s culture, Cat Grant has been hacked and all of her personal and professional e-mails are being leaked online. This is definitely not good for Cat, but it’s definitely good for the audience, as we learn some amazing tidbits about Cat.
Perhaps my favorite is that she has three personal shoppers and she once asked out Idris Elba. Cat Grant is basically living my fantasy life. If I ever got even a bit of clout, the first thing I would do would be to leverage it for a date with Idris Elba. This makes me like Cat so much more than I thought possible.
The board at CatCo, however, is less than happy. Cat puts “Kira” and her merry band of suitors in charge of going through all of Cat’s e-mails in order to see if there’s anything truly damaging that the Daily Planet might discover. This mostly means Winn, Jimmy and Kara have to spend a lot of time together revealing amazing details about Cat’s life (Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical!) and pretending like the audience is at all invested in this stupid love triangle. I still don’t care!
Cat meets with her board of directors, including a saucy chairman named Armstrong, who is a little bent out of shape that she called him the walking embodiment of white male privilege. This show is so shamelessly on-the-nose about its feminism, but this is definitely a case where it works amazingly well for the story.
As Armstrong huffs his mediocre white man butt out of the office, Kara overhears him talking to the rest of the board and telling them their plan is going off without a hitch. Really, bro? You couldn’t even wait until you were on a different floor to discuss your dastardly plan? Cat is dealing with such amateurs.
They need to figure out a way to bring this plot to justice, and so it’s off to go get legal advice from Lucy Lane. Lucy Lane has been such a nonentity on this show thus far, so it’s actually nice to see her do something useful and plot-focused for a change. Lucy informs them that they need some real, solid proof before going after Armstrong, or accusing him could backfire on Cat in a major way.
So the three stage an Ocean’s Eleven (Kara’s Duo?) caper to put a device in Armstrong’s computer so Winn can read the files. Of course, Winn sends Jimmy in because of angry love triangle reasons, and of course James pulls it off because he’s sexy and smooth like James Bond. I feel like that plan backfires on Winn because now James just looks like more of a boss.
Combing through e-mails, they find that Cat has been wiring money to a 24-year-old named Adam Foster, who turns out to be her first child. Cat got into a custody battle with his father but kind of gave up halfway through. She was busy building her empire and didn’t really have time to raise a child. Leaving Adam was her biggest regret, and she decides she’ll step down from CatCo rather than drag him into the media spotlight.
But, of course, that isn’t necessary because Kara’s dream team of love interests has saved the day. Cat gets to confront Armstrong and send him off to jail, and then takes a victory drink on her balcony.
There, she chats with Kara about how weird it is that she said she overheard Armstrong even though he was a million miles of office space away. She also puts together a bunch of the “Kara is Supergirl” puzzle pieces. For her part, Kara basically just stands there like a deer in the headlights stuttering. Smooth cover!
Of course, the best part is when Cat asks Kara to take off her glasses, as if it is simply impossible to visualize what a person might look like without their glasses on. When Kara does take them off, Cat is like, “Oh snap, suddenly you look just like Supergirl! You looked nothing like her seconds ago, but with the glasses off I totally see it! High five!” Kara runs away in a panic and Cat Grant pats herself on the back, knowing Supergirl is totally her coffee minion.
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In the other big story of the episode, Aunt Astra is back and that means trouble for Supergirl. We learn pretty early in the episode that Astra actually does care about her niece, probably more than Kara realizes. However, that’s not going to stop her from carrying out her evil plan, whatever that entails.
Alex realizes that Kara is holding back when they’re sparring, and Kara flashes back to a time when she and her aunt used to be very close. She called her with their super secret round alien discs and Astra showed up to say hello even though she was on the run. Unfortunately, this was all a ploy by Kara’s mother to capture Astra and send her into the Phantom Zone. Family reunions must be so awkward at the House of El.
These flashback scenes are great and really lend this story a more grounded emotional weight than “evil alien wants to destroy Earth.” It also works to complicated Kara’s mother Allura, who might have known that there was something that could have been done for Krypton and did nothing to help. This, in turn, further complicates Kara’s memories of her mother, who she’s always seen as entirely good and pure.
Anytime this show can add shading to the characters is a good thing, especially when the topics at hand, like aliens, can be hard to connect with emotionally. Astra wasn’t just an evil criminal; she was trying to reverse the ecological damage to her planet and save everyone. Her methods weren’t great, but the fact that her mission might have been good really adds shading to her character. She really did care about Kara and probably does still love her niece, which makes her a much more compelling character to track as the season progresses.
The fights between Kara and Astra and the aliens and the DEO are pretty amazing visually on a TV show budget. Whatever money CBS is giving this show, they’re making the most of it in their fight scenes. Astra is determined not to see another planet die when there’s something she can do about it, but her methods, as usual, are pretty dire.
And for some reason this involves Maxwell Lord? I hope when the show comes back from break, it explains how exactly Lord fits into this whole thing.
Alex and Hank, now the bestest of besties, figure out that Astra threw that fight with Supergirl. “You’re too late now! Bwahaha!” Astra laughs evilly then just kind of goes back to napping.
Astra’s plan, in which she has an emotional heart-to-heart with her niece and then just naps while all the chaos unfolds, is the kind of plan every lazy evil alien overlord dreams of hatching. Good for you, girl. You get that beauty rest.
As the show zooms out towards its holiday hiatus, Supergirl flies towards Astra’s powerful husband. Who will win? What other plans does Astra have up her sleeve? Who knew Astra was so concerned with global warming? Can Astra single-handedly save the polar bears? We’ll have to wait until January to find out, but I for one can’t wait until Supergirl is back on my screen.
Is the Love Triangle Still a Thing?
This is the section of the recap where I chart the ups and downs of the least interesting part of Supergirl: the romance storylines. Perhaps someday the show will wise up and either ditch this tired element of the show or at least make it more compelling. Today, unfortunately, is not that day.
So yes, the love triangle is still a thing. In this episode, Kara and Jimmy both notice that Winn has been acting weird since he saw them hug.
“Which is, like, totes weird, right? Because we’re just friends and you’re with Lucy? Unless my prayers have come true and Lucy just spontaneously combusted and you need someone to dry your tears? No? Right! Then we’re just friends!” Kara is so painfully obvious in all aspects of her life. The thirst is real.
Speaking of the thirst, Jimmy tells Winn that he knows Winn has a bad case of Kara fever. Winn tries to deny it and then just kind of gives in and admits his feelings.
Poor Winn, once again and as always, continues to be the biggest victim of this love square. Because pining is basically his only characteristic so far, I do not at all care about Winn like I do about the other characters. When the show comes back from break, they’re really going to need to give me literally any reason to care about this character. Any reason at all would do.
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What did you think of the winter finale? Are you excited to have the show back in a few weeks? What do you think Astra is up to? Are you happy Cat knows the secret? Sound off in the comments!
Supergirl returns Monday, January 4 at 8pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)