Supergirl: 1.08 Blood Bonds
Supergirl is back!
Crashing back to our screens after a mini break, here’s a little recap of the first part of this energetic new series before my full review of Blood Bonds.
For anyone who missed the first few episodes of this show, Kara Danvers is a young, socially awkward yet upbeat woman living in National City. Here she is the put upon PA to media empire mogul Cat Grant – the most powerful non-Kryptonian in the city. Kara is, of course, from the doomed planet Krypton we all know so well but after being knocked off course, reached earth after her technically younger cousin, Kal-El. Kara’s decision to live a simple life rather than whizz about in primary colours like her cuz, gets thrown into chaos after she saves a crashing plane from hitting the city.
This is followed up with a series of Kryptonian criminals escaping the space prison Fourt Rozz and running amok (including her dead mother's evil twin sister, Astra). So Supergirl is born (named by Cat, complete with satisfactory pro-feminist reasons for using and owning the term girl) and adventure ensues. Along for the ride are Kara’s adopted sister Alex, who works with Hank Henshaw for a secret alien catching government taskforce, Jimmy Olson – here a six foot two, cool, athletic, sexy love interest for Kara – and Winn, a nerdy co-worker with the hots for Kara… you know, a bit like Jimmy Olson in the comics.
In the pre-season break episode, it was revealed that Hank was in fact Martian Manhunter all along (which is pretty awesome!) and Maxwell Lord - sort of Tony Stark meets Lex Luthor – reveals himself to have some shady plans in motion. This all leads up to Astra's evil husband Non, bursting into Lord’s Tech facility and Supergirl turning up for a showdown. TO BE CONTINUED…
…THE STORY CONTINUES. That all brings us to Blood Bonds, which picks up right where Hostile Takeover left off.
I have to be honest, for me this is an okay conclusion to an okay cliffhanger. Hostile Takeover was a really strong, fun story that ended excitingly enough but I find Astra and Non one of the least interesting aspects of this otherwise great show. Chris Vance is so very un-engaging that I find it near impossible to find him even vaguely intimidating. Laura Benanti is far more dynamic and this episode, in a lot of ways, capitalises on that, with flashbacks that showcase some of Astra and (Kara's mum) Alura’s relationship.
Over all this is a great show that I’m really enjoying and it’s starting to find it's feet. It’s also slipping into it's own lazy, easy tropes too. The melodrama side of things can really bring proceedings crashing to a halt, especially since so much of the show is breezy and fun; it has a tendency to flip flop a little.
There is a nice side story this week with Cat figuring out that Kara is Supergirl. It’s a nice as it helps imbue Cat with some investigative, journalistic intelligence and I’m enjoyed how surprisingly well-rounded Cat Grant is proving to be. With the pilot episode’s Devil Wears Prada set up I expected Cat to be a very two dimensional, almost background character but actually she’s proved far more integral than I expected and her motivations for championing Supergirl show more depth and compassion than Perry White ever had.
The story trips along and concludes without much really happening. Hank/Manhunter shape-shifts into Supergirl to fool Cat and keep Kara's identity in tact so the status quo doesn’t really shift. The episode does provide us with a greater understanding of Astra and Alura’s relationship but it's not very satisfying, Alura was awesome and Astra is bad but not as bad as she seems. They’re basically both good people but with different ideologies that drove them apart.
As always Benist is impeccable. A show and character like this relies so heavily on its lead and her ability to be everything Supergirl needs to be while also being relatable is pitch perfect.
I still find one of my biggest sticking points with this show is Sexy-Jimmy. This Jimmy isn’t just not a nerd, he’s crazy hot and sexy. Like, crazy hot and sexy. If Mehcad Brooks put on a blue costume, red cape and a spit curl and called himself Superman, I’d buy it! What I find so strange about the choice to have Sexy-Jimmy is that they created Winn, a new for the show character who is basically… Jimmy-Jimmy? Most of the time I just go with the flow of the narrative and enjoy Brooks’ charming if slightly sappy performance and the dynamic between him and Kara but every so often I remember that he’s Jimmy Olson and just think “Dude, seriously?’
Clark sort of kind of not really has a cameo in this episode, sending Kara a nice little text message reminding her that blood bonds (Ahhhhh). This is cool and I get that the show is teasing, hinting and alluding to Supes but there are moments when you can’t help think, Kal, mate, your cousin is fighting a gang of Kryptonian supervillains, couldn’t you just pop over and snap a few necks, help her out? The danger of a show like this is; Superman exists. It’s like wondering why Thor didn’t take out the Punisher or Scarlet Witch didn't deal with Killgrave. We know why but it can be tricky to reconcile narratively sometimes.
And why is Clark texting anyway, he could zoom to National City, speak to Kara face to face and zoom back in the time it would take Lois Lane to go to the bathroom. Or super-hearing? What about super-hearing? He could probably just speak wherever he was and she’d hear him right…?
Considering this was a returning episode after a short break (I don’t know how US audiences cope with all these season breaks!) it was a little flat and not one of the shows best so far. Perhaps that comes down to the feeling that the season arc storyline is just a little underwhelming. Still, I’m loving Supergirl as a show and I’ll forgive a few first season stumbles while it finds its rhythm.