[WARNING: This is a review of Supergirl Season 1, Episode 7. There will be SPOILERS]
After a week spent fighting a supervillain (sort of, but not really) torn from the pages of DC Comics, and leaving its heroine without her powers, Supergirl returns to show what a National City without its superpowered protector will resort to. But it's the CBS series' latest reveal about a core cast member - pulled from the world of DC's Justice League - that will have fans talking.
In "Human For a Day", written by Michael Grassi and Rachel Shukert, Kara (Melissa Benoist) is taking longer than her cousin to recharge her Kryptonian batteries, leaving her as vulnerable to injury, and illness, as an everyday human. It's poor timing on her part, as an earthquake strikes National City, leaving her powerless to solve the problems now spread across the city - including the DEO, where her sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) must deal with an escaped alien menace. Thankfully, Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) and Hank Henshaw (David Harewood) are around to save the day.
EVery comic book superhero has had to learned what life is like without their powers, whether it be in the comics, on TV, or on the big screen. The Supergirl writers turned to a newer twist on Superman to supply their own excuse, with Kara's "solar flare" power - unleashed on the Red Tornado - having emptied her Kryptonian cells of all solar energy.
Why does that make her vulnerable to bullets or broken bones? Who knows. But whatever the reason, it offers another opportunity to show an 'S'-blessed hero in a different light. Having established Kara Zor-El as more knowledgeable, and angrier than her famous cousin already, "Human For a Day" plants Kara inches away from a dying man, with absolutely no way of helping. The moment in the show is carried off just as well thanks to James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), making an all-too-human plea for Kara to accept that not everyone can be saved.
Although Kara regains her powers by the episode's close, her time without them has planted plenty of seeds for the future (should the writers wish to reap them). The most important and most promising being Kara's warmth, and, admittedly old-fashioned (read: potentially corny) belief that people are inherently good.
Can't We All Just Get Along?
That works toward the emotional climax of the episode, when Kara has to bluff her way through foiling an armed robbery. The idea of her convincing the gunman to turn over his weapon sends a powerful message that is more than welcome in today's crowded world of dark, dour crimefighters... even if her implied stance that thieves and criminals are just scared people who don't know any better may not hold much water for some audiences.
But the meatiest part of that plea comes from Cat Grant instead, delivering something far more palatable: a plea for common sense, patience, and optimism. Those words offer a condensed idea of what matters to the series as a whole, so even if the action, melodramatic romance or tone can stray from time to time, it's a relief to see that the showrunners still know where their bread is buttered. Benoist's earnest optimism and hope for the best can be infectious, so the more Supergirl plays to those strengths, the better.
As feel-good as the episode may be, it's Alex Danvers' subplot which carries the most impact with DC Comics fans. After learning that Hank Henshaw and her father went missing on a DEO mission which was covered up, Alex doubles down on her suspicions, holding her superior officer at gunpoint. But if the glowing eyes and quiet brooding had fans thinking that Henshaw was almost too obvious a villain, they were right on the money.
Some may have predicted that a heroic turn was in store, and Henshaw's reveal as the last surviving Martian J'onn J'onzz was much, much more than expected. It remains to be seen just how closely the show will stick to the Justice League legend's classic origins, but a hat tip is deserved for all involved, having not just kept the secret quiet, but actually paying off the suspense - and then some.
If the showrunners' claims that the coming episodes of Supergirl will amount to "a Martian Manhunter series" on its own, then DC Comics fans on the fence about Supergirl have another reason to re-invest. And in a larger sense, the writers just bought themselves a whole lot more trust on the part of their audience, giving the clear impression that they really do have a larger plan in place to make the first network superhero series a bona fide hit.
Supergirl returns Monday @8pm with "Hostile Takeover". Watch a preview of the episode below: