Supergirl: 5.01 Event Horizon
Supergirl is back and I’m not sure how I feel about this show at the moment. I want to like it so much but unfortunately, this first episode back suffers with some of the series' worst bad habits.
An exciting opening scene of Supergirl actually saving a bus full of school kids gets brought to an abrupt stop when it turns out to be a simulation Lena is running to take out her frustrations with Kara. We know it’s a simulation because Lena now has an AI computer assistant (who totally won’t turn evil, I’m sure) and proceeds to explain everything she’s dong to her. At its sloppiest, this show over explains when it should be showing us stuff and while there is an arguments for a campy comic book tone of monologue, it just comes across as lazy writing here. Plus the tease of action is so quickly undercut with exposition it brings the pace crashing to a crawl.
Everyone else is shown to be doing okay, Brainy and Nia have a burgeoning romance, Alex and Kelly are firmly in a relationship, J’onn is doing his detective thing and Kara is about to be given a Pulitzer. That last bit, in a show about a flying woman from outer space, is the most unrealistic thing this show has ever asked me to believe. She’s winning, it seems, for her article that got President Bruce Boxleitner impeached. I feel like this show never really addresses the fact that Kara got and maintained her job thanks to a lot of favouritism. We’re reminded in this episode that Kara’s billionaire BFF bought CatCo basically so Kara would have somewhere to work and Jimmy (her ex-boyfriend and cousin’s bestie) allowed her to moonlight as a super hero whenever it suited her. Kara has had it pretty easy.
The big shake up to Kara’s cushy working life – and everyone in general – comes when newcomer Andrea Rojas (played by Julie Gonzalo) buys CatCo and turns up unannounced. Andrea also owns a company that has developed contact lenses that interface with your phone/computer like a next gen Google Glass. This also happens to be the company Kelly works for and Andrea; it seems she is an old University Frenimy of Lena’s, so everything is connected! Her motivation for buying CatCo seems shady and Lena has offered her a “big scoop” aka the unmasking of Supergirl.
The introduction of Andrea could be good for the show, as it adds some new workplace tension that has been missing for a while. Literally everyone around Kara knows she’s Supergirl and she really did just do what she felt like at CatCo. To have a new boss as antagonist and reintroduce the complicated work/superhero-life balance could be good for the show and the characters. Unfortunately, it gets introduced in a fairly clunky way; Andrea wants to turn CatCo into a clicks focused online Bussfeedy news platform. None of our guys are up for that, so Andrea informs them they are all bound into a new three year contract and if they break it they’ll be sued for breaking contacts and she’ll blacklist them from ever working in journalism again.
I appreciate the tension they’re looking to create here but it’s just too far of a stretch. A company take over doesn’t initiate new, legally binding contracts in this way and a tech company CEO who buys a news website on a whim doesn’t have the clout to blacklist established, award winning journalists. Jimbo is best friends with Lois & Clark for goodness sake and Perry White sure won’t pay any attention to anyone who tells him who he should\shouldn’t hire. This whole setup, while ultimately creating story tension, is stupid. Anyway, Jimmy quits and decides to follow his own path or something.
There is a truly cringy moment, when Andrea tells the CatCo team she’s bringing in a hotshot journalist from The Times. When she says this, Kara pipes up excitedly “The Times of London?”. You’re a Pulitzer winning journalist, Kara, you don’t need to state the obvious like an over eager intern in every meeting you’re art of. This awkward exposition line would have felt more appropriate coming form Nia, perhaps. The guy from The Times is hot but in a dick by the way… but I’m sure he’ll turn out not to be a dick really.
The episode suffers so heavily from over explaining while asking us to take illogical moments like this on faith. An earlier scene in a museum, for example, while fun lacks any logic; Superman has apparently given the ship that brought him to earth to this museum (why not a Superman museum Metropolis?) The ship is just sat on a waist high plinth (not suspended high in the air like you might have with an actual aviation exhibit and no security, nothing to protect it from being touched, vandalised or – as happens – stolen). This ship is right at the start of the museum too, not at the end like a show piece.
The museum guide (and unexpected but fun cameo from Kate Micucci) just wants the kids she’s showing round to walk past this phenomenon and go look at some other stuff, even getting annoyed when one kid wonders over to look at it. There is so little logic in this sequence, they don’t even attempt to replicate a real world environments and it just rips any realism from the moment. The real kicker being, the ship was stolen because it can be turned into a bomb – Superman would not give his ship to a low security museum in an area with multiple super-villains without deactivating all the tech. My frustration at the show went through the roof with this scene, even if Supergirl did fight a dinosaur.
I do have to mention the new costume, of course. As with so much of Supergirl it leaves me conflicted. I’m all in favour of Kara switching up her outfit and its been a long time without any change; unfortunately this one isn’t very interesting. I enjoy costumes that hark back to the traditional (or at least most familiar) and I honestly think the Supergirl costume is the best costume design in the entire Arrowverse, surpassing The Flash, Arrow and everything else on offer (okay, John Constantine is pretty much on the money but that’s easy). Kara’s costume to date has been classic, with modern twists and was skillfully non-sexualised. It looked and felt practical.
The new costume is in principle a nice change but its over designed, has all the clunky, unnecessary frills of the Arrowverse Supeman as well as simply looking cheaper – these shows can’t afford to create a fully moulded body suit costume - the moment you see a crease in the fabric you’re reminded this is a TV show with a TV show budget. The previous suit, with its two-piece cut, managed to cheat a little and avoided several of these design flaws and moved better. I like Kara getting trousers and a new look but the costume is mostly over designed. I think what I’d really like is Kara to have a nano-suit that changes depending on her needs, give her a wardrobe of five or six that she changes into depending on the situation. Then people will develop favourites and certain costumes will elicit a different reaction from the audience for set pieces.
The emotional culmination of the story comes when Kara confronts Lena moments before she awards her with her Pulitzer (Lena is planning to expose Kara at the ceremony) and tells her everything. This is a genuinely great scene and Melissa Benoist hasn’t been this good in a scene for quite a while. You really do feel the regret at not telling her best friend. This revelation leads to Lena, of course, not outing Kara at the ceremony but we still do get a tease at the end of the episode that Lena hasn’t forgiven Kara and wants to get revenge. The whole show is putting a lot of emphasis on Lena not wanting to hurt Kara physically and I suspect we’ll get a rather limp turns bad but not really bad and her AI gets out of control and goes too far so she turns all good and finds redemption arc for Lena on the way. I’ve never liked the idea of Lena going Full Luthor; it's the most uninteresting and unimaginative story idea and even if we’re given a soft version of that, it's not really a plotline I can get behind.
There is a nice gag when the assembled heroes of the show line up to fight the baddie and Alex asks how they all manage to get changed so quickly. The scene is fun but a little awkward in that Jimmy/Guardian is there and really doesn’t do anything. Showrunners, enough already, let it go, stop trying to make Jimmy happen. We also discover at the very end that the shapeshifting baddie this week is in fact J’onn’s unknown brother and he's working for a mysterious power.
A very underwhelming opening episode for the new series. Vut I will give it the benefit of the doubt as a lot of what it was doing was bringing us up to speed and re-setting the playing board – just please stop having characters telling us what’s going on and show us, please. I’m reminded about how good the first half of last season was and with a new workplace antagonist for Kara and Crisis on Infinite Earths on the horizon, Supergirl may still lurch back to its former potential.