March 14, 2016

Thoughts on Supergirl 1x16 “Falling”

This episode hit most of the marks I was expecting it to hit and it did so very well!

It seemed like the writers really wanted to bring back some of their more successful ideas: we saw the senator lady return, many character dynamics shift back into focus for better or for worse, and there was a definite sense of status-quo shakeup here that gives me hope for the rest of the season!

Right off the bat, RedK Kara is the sexiest Kara holy crap!! I’ll echo what @webethemonsters said, “I’m asexual, but damn I had to stop and take a deep breath when Kara walked in the club” #same for me, honestly! And when she goes all RageQuit on everyone, man that was super satisfying… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I LOVED the beginning of this one! Seeing Supergirl interact with the people of National City was awesome and yes, it helped contrast with her darker self, but even more broadly it helped hit home the fact that she is the city’s hero, a hero of the people, and I really liked that! It’s kind of the same feeling I got while watching Amazing Spider-Man 2 wherein Peter actually seems to be connected with the people of New York and not above them. I thought they did a good job representing that here with Kara too! And plus that little girl was adorable! Indeed, many of the set-up scenes to establish Kara’s good-natured self were effective and I’m always happy to see Melissa Benoist be all adorkable and happy, so that was cool!

As for when Kara goes all Red Lantern sass, um HELL YES!! This Kara was great to see in action! Her nonchalance in stopping the one-off villain and then letting him go was refreshing, and Benoist really just nailed the bad girl attitude! Her getting Siobhan fired carried emotional weight for Siobhan’s character, a lot more than I was expecting, so that was nice; it provides good setup for her eventual turn to villainy. I also liked that this destroyed a potentially good relationship with one of Kara’s friends too, yet the episode doesn’t come out directly and address that, which I’d normally cite as a problem, but in this case it just reinforced how dangerous Kara is when she is not in check, even when not active as Supergirl.

Now, her as a more angry Supergirl, that’s what you’d expect, and they pulled it off relatively well. While her more sassy monologuing dipped into villainy a bit too much for me towards the middle, it was for the most part sound. I also liked this exchange between her and Cat before she throws her off the building:
Kara: “‘Supergirl is brave, kind, and strong.’ Isn’t that kind of a stock characterization? Very two-dimensional. Everyone knows real people have a dark side.”
Cat: “Yes, but you don’t get to be a real person. You’re a superhero. You get to represent all the goodness in the world.”
This is great! It hits a character theme that I wish they’d explore more, this idea that Supergirl is a celebrity and at once has little agency in the public’s eye: she is trapped, in a sense, in a kind of social obligation and thus rendered to an extent powerless. Now, that’s obviously the most extreme case of her relationship with the public, but it does raise the issue of how Supergirl’s operations and celebrity status might affect her personhood and agency. It also brings to light that dynamic that I love about Supergirl as a character overall, that she essentially needs to carve out her own identity when placed next to her cousin. This takes that one step further and suggests that she needs to do that while being held hostage by the public to remain a stereotype of superheroics. And it’s understandable how she might feel limited and fed up with that. Not justifying her follow-through of those emotions, but I did think that it was a good character insight and examination.

Kara’s actions towards Hank were certainly effective, but seemed to come a few episodes too late for me. These two characters hadn’t interacted as alien outcasts for a while, so to bring this theme back now was a bit of a left-fielder for me. The stuff between her and Alex was also good if a bit too on-the-nose. I’d’ve liked for that conversation to happen before Alex knew what was up with Kara, make that argument a two-sided affair where both had things to say to one another. Instead, we get Kara simply telling Alex things that they’ve already been through, their previous arguments and scenes establishing far better their sister dynamic than this. The scene does tie back into the loose theme of Kara feeling controlled by the various people and entities in her life when she hits Alex with the deduction that she killed Astra because she hated what Kara was, but it wasn’t a central part of the argument so it came off as kind of flat for me. Still, it did work okay, got the job done and all, and the emotions that Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh display here are fantastic!

Bringing Max Lord back into this seems to be a nervous tick that the writers have, and while it worked okay here as he was severely limited in his appearance, I admit I did groan when he appeared. The episode was strong already, I really didn’t mind not knowing who made the Red Kryptonite. Lord’s plan was bland, but at least they had the good sense to call it out this time, so that was fun. The problem with his character on the whole is I just don’t know what they’re trying to do with him. There’s a potential mutual respect enemy thing going on between he and Alex that is struggling to catch momentum and it’s kind of pitiful to watch, especially next to all these great character interactions that are working well already. I hope they give Lord more direction in the future.

And yes, that ending! J’onn is revealed and captured and this really makes me curious as to where the show’s gonna go from here! We might be seeing more of Lucy Lane considering that they said earlier in the show that if Hank were ever not in charge then control of the DEO would fall to General Lane (dammit), so maybe we’ll see that happen! The status quo is definitely shaken up and I’m looking forward to where they go from here! I hope to god that they don’t just push the reset button as they’re want to do; let this be a lasting thematic and emotional through-line that the characters must deal with for multiple episodes. Don’t Astra this shit! It’s important for the characters to breathe a bit and recover from this on screen! Kara needing to win back the people’s trust; having her deal with a lot of now out-in-the-open emotions with Alex and Hank; her and James’ relationship… again, this is all right here! So USE IT! Please!!!

Anyway, as an episode on its own, this one worked very well! Visually dazzling and emotionally driven this was, a nice opportunity for Benoist to stretch her acting legs a bit more (and yeah, show off her legs more too!) and I enjoyed it a lot! Let’s hope next week can follow through with a lot of the material this one set up!

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