Tony curses the mid-season break.
The certainties on which we base our lives, and the people we let them make us, is, if anything, the theme of Episode 8 of Supergirl, though after a few episodes of tackling heavy societal issues, this one is rather more action-orientated. Kara faces parallel threats: one in her Supergirl lifestyle that hits her where she lives, her adoration of her mother, her certainty about who she is and what she believes; and the other to her boss, Cat Grant, who becomes prey to the petty, invasive tactic of public humiliation through an eager, muck-raking media, and the effects it can have, particularly on strong women that patriarchal men think are getting too ‘uppity.’
Say what you like about it, Supergirl is certainly evolving beyond the ‘villain of the week’ territory with which it flirted in its first few episodes while setting up its premises.
The end of Episode 7 saw Kara’s Aunt Astra back in town and determined to get the Girl of Steel to see what she thinks of as reason about the shady project she’s got going on. In Episode 8, we learn more of the Kryptonian family ties between the two, and of the complexity of their family relations. Far from being the paragon of virtue Kara believes she was, her mother, Astra claims, was not above using the girl to lure her own sister into custody, when all Innocent Aunt Astra was trying to do was make people see sense about the impending destruction of the planet. There’s real, intriguing development here of themes we’ve seen mentioned before – the idea that Astra’s just an activist, trying to make people aware of the danger they’re in, trying, essentially to save the world, first Krypton, now Earth. It’s an interesting conceit, and it almost convinces. Then we meet Astra’s other half, and we’re less convinced. He has a rather more ‘take no prisoners’ approach to his business, which we perhaps lazily assume means he’s not your common-or-garden environmental saviour.
Kara, hearing her Aunt’s protestations about her mother, storms to the AI version of Alura and demands the truth – only some of which it’s been programmed to tell her, but yes, it confirms, Alura used her to put Astra in prison, casting at least enough doubt on the way Kara has been viewing the universe to send Supergirl into a turmoil.
Fortunately then, there’s some patriarchal malarkey going on at the office for her to throw herself into. A hack and smear campaign, no less, by someone who wants to take Cat Grant down by revealing the contents of her emails. We could get a megaphone if the Hilary Clinton parallel’s not quite clear enough for you at this point, but it’s an interesting notion that email hacking, phone tapping and the like are pretty much ‘the cost of doing business’ in the modern world, and that newspapers (even newspapers where Superman’s on the payroll – it’s the Planet that prints the contents of Cat’s outbox…wait, does that make it a Catbox?) will routinely print the trivia they can find through such scurrilous means, as though it’s OK. Clearly it isn’t, and among the names she calls Lois Lane and the actors she’s asked out on dates are details of a son that Cat gave up while she was building the CatCo empire, but who she still supports. Rather than drag him through the squalor of media headlines, Cat is willing to step down as head of the company, because despite superficial appearances to the contrary, she’s shown herself throughout the first eight episodes to be a decent human being. Fortunately of course, she has on her staff the likes of expert system-wrangler Wyn and, though she doesn’t know it, an assistant with super-hearing, and between them, with help from the ever-intrepid James ‘Is he the elder brother of Mary-Kate and Ashley?’ Olsen, they’re able to give her enough evidence to trap the lying, backstabbing sexist scumball (white, old, male, entitled as all-get-out. Go figure.) who wanted to use the invasion of her privacy to force her out.
So – score one for Kara and the super-friends on the work front. The ‘Is Aunt Astra A Psychopath Or A Super-Hippy?’ front looks less rosy, as it turns out she’s been incarcerated as a decoy to allow her husband and his goons to run terminal riot at Maxwell Lord’s headquarters, for reasons that as yet we’re unsure of. Mayhem commences, and Supergirl disappears for its mid-season break mid-brawl (now that’s how to leave them wanting more), but not before one final game-changer is laid before us.
Y’know how Perry White never figured out that Clark Kent was really Superman because, y’know, glasses?
Yyyyeah – again, white, male, old, entitled, and clearly a bit on the freakin’ dim side. Cat Grant? Hip, groovy, modern, female, had to build every rung on the ladder before she stood on it. Knows how to put two and two together. Supergirl when it returns from its break is going to be a whole different ball game. Kind of a ‘My boss knows I’m a superhero, how is she going to shout at me now?’ ball game that’s going to glue eyeballs to TV screens.
In its first eight episodes, Supergirl has taken time to set out its stall as something different to both the interminable darkness of Gotham and the villain of the weekness (ahem) of The Flash. Something unashamedly modern and distinctly female, drawing strength from being able to address the world in a very different way. It’s managed to dance along the line of Kara coming across as too sweet (which was always a potential chasm into which it could have fallen), while making her interesting enough for a modern audience to invest in. It’s taken on issues of concern to modern girls and women, and while its solutions have often been less than ‘burn the place to the ground’ revolutionary, they have always been practical in terms of negotiating a pathway through the patriarchy and all of its charming double standards. Now it builds to a proper adventure crisis-point, on the other side of which, everything in Kara’s life is likely to be different in one way or another. Get your capes ready for Supergirl’s return, super-friends – things are about to get bumpy.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk