Supergirl finds its balance with “Fight or Flight”

This was my favorite episode of Supergirl yet, and it’s the first episode of the show so far that feels truly cohesive. Though it did slip into too-cheesy territory a couple of times, “Fight or Flight” worked really well thematically and finally brought all the show’s parts into a mostly comfortable balance. It’s the first time so far that I’ve felt like Kara’s regular life, her superhero alter ego’s trials, and the DEO belong in the same universe.

The first order of business in this episode is Supergirl’s interview with Cat Grant, which doesn’t go well and has Supergirl flying off in the middle of it after getting flustered and outing herself as Superman’s cousin. Cat then goes on to write her profile of Supergirl as more of a think piece on millennials. On the one hand, I think we’re all more than tired of the ubiquitous anti-millenial screeds disguising themselves as serious thought these days. On the other hand, Supergirl didn’t give Cat much to work with.

Kara, on the other hand, is much more capable of handling her tempestuous boss and gives a pretty impassioned speech defending Supergirl. I like that Kara’s transformation into Supergirl doesn’t make her flawless, and I really appreciate the way the show is portraying her different strengths and weaknesses in different situations. It’s interesting to see the way the show is exploring Kara’s dual identities. Unlike many superheros, Kara is in many ways more confident in her regular life, and it’s putting on her suit that turns her awkward and uncertain. As Supergirl she’s tongue-tied, but as Kara she’s totally willing to stand up to someone as fearsome as Cat Grant.

Speaking of Cat Grant, it was nice to see her loosen up a little this week and break out of stock character tropes. If she’s not going to be a villain, it’s good for her to be humanized some, and we get a good amount of that here. I love that, though Cat is very particular about her coffee and the environment in her office and thinks nothing of being verbally abusive about lack of perfection in these areas, she’s not threatened by criticism. This is something that we’ve seen in previous episodes as well, but it stood out to me this week, particularly when Kara disagreed with Cat’s portrayal of Supergirl in her magazine article. While I wouldn’t say Cat was encouraging to Kara in this scene, she also seemed to listen to her and take her seriously rather than simply dismissing her criticisms out of hand.

All that said, I can’t tell exactly what the show wants the relationship between Cat and Kara to be. For all her antagonistic qualities, I feel like Cat would be a great mentor. Otherwise, I worry that she’ll end up being too one note to be really interesting. With so many other things going on in the show, it’s important that each part avoid being boring. Calista Flockhart and Melissa Benoist work well together, and I’d hate to see the show squander a potentially great dynamic by adhering to closely to stereotypes.

The bad guy of the week this time around turns out to be an old foe of Superman, one who he hasn’t been able to defeat: Reactron. There’s a great moment when Kara mocks the villain’s name only to find out that James Olsen is the one who thought it us, and this might be my favorite Kara moment of the episode. She’s had such a huge crush on James, who is a little older and ridiculously handsome and just kind of generally dreamy, and the show has managed to capture perfectly that moment when someone finds out that the object of their affections isn’t a total paragon of wonderfulness, but is in fact a regular person who sometimes has ridiculous ideas just like anybody else.

In her conflict with Reactron—who wants to kill Supergirl to hurt Superman after finding out about their familial relationship—Kara is also trying very hard to differentiate herself from her cousin and build up her own reputation independently of any expectations based on her relationship to Superman. For both personal and PR reasons, it’s important that Kara manages to figure out, as she says, “what Supergirl means.”

The good news is that, by the end of this episode, both she and the audience have a much better idea of that. Even better news would be if this episode marks the end of Superman’s looming presence over this show. While I think it’s good for the show to address the issue, I think that focusing too much on Supergirl’s struggle to escape from under Superman’s shadow does more to invite comparisons than to dismiss them. I loved this episode, and I even loved the cheesy IM conversation between Kara and Superman. In fact, that is a great place to end this exploration of these themes for now. Clark’s sweet words of encouragement to Kara ought to act like closure for this subject and allow her (and the show) to move on to bigger and better things.

Stray thoughts on the episode:

  • I would 100% watch Keeping Up with the Kryptonians.
  • NO ONE on this show can keep a secret. They are literally all the worst at this. Every one of them.
  • Maxwell Lord is basically what I think would happen if Pharma Bro and Tony Stark had a baby.
  • I am so happy that Perd Hapley is the newscaster in National City.
  • Winn is really adorable, but he needs a personality trait or two besides “devoted to Kara.” So far, the show hasn’t made him into a total Nice Guy™, but there’s really no telling how long that can last if they don’t give the poor guy something else to do.
  • Alex and Kara seemed more like real sisters in this episode than they have before. The final scene with them hanging out is my favorite thing that’s happened in this show ever. Hopefully this is the beginning of a long term trend away from the somewhat canned-sounding platitudes that have been far too characteristic of their relationship before now.

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