Supergirl: “Livewire” gives us a cool new villain and examines troubled mother-daughter relationships

So, this episode actually aired out of order, with CBS deciding to hold off on showing an episode that dealt with events they thought might be uncomfortably similar to events in the real world this past week. It looks like last week’s episode really did wrap up the who comparing Supergirl to Superman thing, which is encouraging, but this week’s focus on every character except Supergirl left our heroine a little sidelined in her own show.

I was a little concerned that the show’s tendency to race through story might cause “Livewire” to feel extremely out of place, but the only thing that really felt off was the revelation that James and Lucy are apparently very much back together now. This had already been telegraphed by Lucy showing up in National City to begin with, so it’s not surprising that she’s continuing to be a roadblock to any romance between James and Kara. Sadly, this is such a boring and totally expected development that my eyes about rolled out of my head when I saw it, and this isn’t helped by the fact that Lucy is little more than a pretty face so far. I can only hope that when we finally get to see the episode that “Livewire” replaced it gives Lucy more of a personality so we can understand what James sees in her.

Ultimately, though, this early interlude serves just to get James out of town for Thanksgiving, minimizing Kara’s boy troubles and making room for Eliza Danvers to come into town to spend the holiday with her daughters and for Kara to have a ton of bonding time with Cat Grant, who basically steals the whole episode. What few scenes Cat doesn’t steal are stolen by villain of the week Livewire (Brit Morgan), who is great to watch in spite of a pretty nonsensical origin story.

Livewire starts the episode as a contentious radio shock-jock, Leslie Willis, who has been mentored by Cat Grant but who oversteps when she decides to denigrate Supergirl on the air in an opening sequence that is one of the more naturalistic pieces of writing that we’ve seen on the show so far. Leslie’s dislike of Supergirl feels real and her insulting tirade against our superheroine is also sharply funny. I can see why Cat hired Leslie in the first place. Unfortunately for Leslie, Cat has very specific plans for Supergirl’s “brand,” and she won’t stand for being undermined by Leslie’s grudge.

When Leslie refuses to let Cat dictate her content, Cat simply busts Leslie down to covering traffic until her contract with CatCo runs out. It’s on her first day in the traffic ‘copter that Leslie gets struck by lightning-via-Supergirl, falls into a coma, and then wakes up with superpowers and an even bigger ax to grind against Supergirl and Cat Grant both. Mostly, though, this plotline functions as an exploration of Cat Grant’s character through examining her relationships with Livewire and Supergirl, and it works perfectly to make Cat much more well-rounded and relatable character. As a fan of Cat since episode one, I am thrilled to see her given so much new depth this week.

Meanwhile, Kara’s foster mother, Eliza Danvers has come to National City for Thanksgiving. Kara is excited to share the newest developments in her life with the woman who raised her through her teen years, but big sister Alex is certain that Eliza is not happy about the situation. Alex is right, of course, and Eliza can’t even make it through dinner before lighting into Alex for failing to sufficiently protect Kara. These sequences also give us our first flashbacks to Kara’s life when she first came to Earth, which is a nice change, but the Alex/Eliza stuff is really just completely overshadowed by the much more interesting interactions between Kara, Cat, and Leslie.

It doesn’t help that things between Alex and Eliza are mostly resolved by the end of the episode. I expect for a super hero show to have unbelievable things going on, but I expect that to be confined to the actual super hero portions of the show. The idea that ten years of mother-daughter strife can be fixed with a couple minutes of hugging it out on Thanksgiving just doesn’t feel true, which is too bad. It’s very important in a show like this that the more “out there” comic book elements are balanced by a naturalistic approach to its human drama. Rushing through these issues minimizes their emotional impact and makes them too unrealistic to counterbalance the absurdity of aliens and cyborgs and magical lightning powers. This has been a problem in the show since the pilot, and it’s worrisome that this is starting to feel like one of Supergirl’s defining characteristics. I’d hate to see it become the show’s downfall.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • Is the radio shock-jock character even a recognizable archetype in the modern age? While Leslie Willis isn’t alone in recent television history, I would seriously question whether or not a lot of young people would recognize the inside of a radio station anymore.
  • Winn’s dad is in prison, apparently. Since I’ve never read any of the comic books that this series is based on, I have no idea who any of these characters are, but I guess Winn’s dad probably is (or is going to be) some kind of supervillain. Frankly, I’ve felt for a while now that Winn himself gives off some faint future-supervillain vibes, so this isn’t terribly surprising.
  • Who on earth made the decision to use a cover of “Take Me to Church” for a mother-daughter bonding scene? This show is usually pretty obvious with its use of modern pop music, but this was bonkers. I haven’t seen a musical decision this baffling and bizarre since that time on Glee when Idina Menzel and Lea Michelle did a mother-daughter duet of “Poker Face.”
  • They really are moving right along with the “Hank Henshaw is a villain” storyline.
  • I still feel at times that including the DEO headquarters as a setting makes the whole show feel a little disjointed. Even when an episode is, like “Livewire” is, objectively not overstuffed with story, having those extra setting shifts can make it feel busier than it is.
  • Livewire herself felt a bit half-baked in this episode, but she’s definitely the most interesting villain-of-the-week we’ve seen so far. With her only being captured, not killed, I’m very hopeful that we’ll see her again in the future.
  • Speaking of villains, where is Astra? Even if they’re saving another showdown between her and Supergirl for a finale episode, it seems like we ought to get an update on her occasionally.
  • “You’ve always been my super girl” was the one like out of all the Eliza/Alex stuff that really worked for me. There might have been a tear or two.