[WARNING: This is a review of Supergirl Season 1, Episode 5(?). There will be SPOILERS]
After getting off to a smooth, if somewhat formulaic start in its first few weeks, a sudden rescheduling of Supergirl delivered an episode that seemed to cast off superhero excitement for holiday-themed family drama. It was a tough step off the path that seemed to be forming, but thankfully, the episode originally planned to keep the momentum going did just that - while possibly pulling back the curtain on this season's - this show's? - 'big bad.'
In "How Does She Do It?", written by Yahlin Chang and Ted Sullivan, Kara (Melissa Benoist) is forced to balance the duties of a superhero with her work life, suddenly charged with taking care of her boss Cat Grant's son, Carter (Levi Miller). If things weren't bad enough, a mad bomber sets his sights on several targets around National City as a new high speed train makes its debut voyage.
A Bomb's The Thing
With the third episode of the season ending on an incredibly positive note, with Kara having taken down an enemy her cousin Superman never could, and earning words of encouragement from him directly, "How Does She Do It?" keeps the pace as well as fans would have hoped. There's never a slow day in National City, and one bomb sets off a string of attacks meant to - apparently - hit billionaire industrialist Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli) where it hurts.
Knowing that a superhero 'monster of the week' formula is what CBS, the showrunners, and a network audience not already watching Arrow or The Flash, the bomb plot more than succeeds in its task. It's clear almost from the start of the episode that there is more to the story than meets the eye, and while the actual conclusion is arrived at almost too quickly, a 'bomb on a train' adventure supplies the tension and action as well as it ever does.
Thankfully, that main plot is supported by the cast elsewhere: most notably, when a second bomb planted at the National City airport saw Hank Henshaw's (David Harewood) glowing eyes and apparent super strength revealed. Previously, his red pupils seemed an isolated moment meant to keep viewers wondering as the larger story progressed, but this twist makes it seem that his own origins will actually be explored sooner rather than later.
Obviously, the romantic tension between James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) and Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) is undercut by the fact that viewers already saw their relationship rekindled, but quite honestly, audiences didn't need to actually know that they were bound to end up together to know it's where things were headed. The actual scenes that carry James and Lucy to that point are convincing, even if the arrival at said point steps a little too far outside of Supergirl's old-fashioned tone for its own good, and square into 'cheesy chick flick' territory.
Surprisingly, it's Kara who is given the best role to play in the proceedings (if there is one truly entertaining side of the drama). True to the idea of wearing multiple hats at one time, the writers succeed in making these disparate plots all revolve around Kara, having to balance the challenges of seeming like 'just a friend' to James, while actually being a friend. It's nothing new for romantic drama on hour-long TV shows, but does include one particularly insightful moment confirming the writers are capable of executing the formula.
Unfortunately, Winn (Jeremy Jordan) is once again limited to playing the lovesick friend suffering in silence. That subplot has come to something of a head in the episode meant to follow, but isn't any easier to take in a show that pursues happiness or fulfilment everywhere else.
The New Villain Reveals Himself?
Last, but not least, the question of exactly why Maxwell Lord was introduced before disappearing completely has been answered. And anyone wondering if Supergirl would receive a sinister/philanthropic (depending on how you look at it) magnate intent on testing her abilities and uncovering her secret identity can rest east. Apparently, that kind of thing comes with the cape.
It's too soon to tell if the obvious parallels to Lex Luthor are a sign of what's to come, or if the writers will prove to be just as self-aware about those expectations from fans. On the bright side, Lord's machinations behind the scenes were chilling enough without his villainous monologue.
It didn't go too far into Lex Luthor territory (or Malcolm Merlyn, or Eobard Thawne for you CW fans), but we're happy we got a week off from the temptation... a week ago.
Supergirl returns Monday @8pm with "Red Faced". Watch a preview of the episode below: