“How Does She Do It?” would have been a better episode if it wasn’t aired out of order (transposed with last week’s “Livewire”), but as it is it feels redundant. This isn’t helped by its heavy focus on a couple of ideas that are just plain boring: the “friend zone” and the question of whether or not women ever can “have it all.” The good news, I suppose, is that Supergirl does manage to do a couple of somewhat fresh things with such utterly pedestrian material. The bad news, of course, is that it’s still utterly pedestrian material.
I like that the show uses the phrase “friend zone” almost ironically, but I hate the it uses the phrase at all. I also hate how determined the episode is to force Kara to be Super Adult about things, no matter how gratifying it is to see a woman on screen setting boundaries in an assertive fashion. If Kara is capable of dealing with both James and Lucy so firmly and kindly (like a grown up), why hasn’t she been able to communicate her feelings to James? James and Lucy’s getting back together this episode is also a little spoiled by having already seen last week’s episode, where James spends all his time (while on vacation with Lucy!) pining after Kara.
While Kara is mooning over James and turning her adorkableness up to eleven, she has admirers of her own. First is Winn, who is a little more tolerable this episode than he has been in the past, though still slightly creepy. Next is Cat Grant’s son, Carter, who has a very cute crush on Supergirl and who Kara is a very inept babysitter for. Finally, there’s Maxwell Lord, who is apparently so totally obsessed with Supergirl that he’s willing to blow up his own things in order to test her abilities.
This last is the major plot of the episode in lieu of the normal bad guy of the week, which is a nice change. Essentially, Lord wants to put Supergirl through her paces to get a better feel for what her true skill set is, which also allows the viewers the same opportunity. What we get, then, is a show chock full of Supergirl doing all different kinds of things, and what we learn is that she’s still working on figuring out the best ways to help people. She has a pretty impressive range of abilities to work with, and in this episode we see her trot out all of them in order to deal with the challenges Lord has set for her. We see again that Supergirl is still learning her own limits, and she’s not entirely successful in the end; she saves a train full of people, but she has to watch as a man that has been manipulated by Lord kills himself practically in front of her.
This ties in neatly with the exploration of “having it all” through Kara’s overall experiences in the episode. She’s trying to be Supergirl and a DEO agent of sorts and Cat Grant’s assistant, and this episode also sees her taking on the additional responsibility of watching Carter. It’s obviously too much for any one person to do, even with super powers, which might have been a rather boring message of the episode, but the show doesn’t stop with just the demonstration of this fact. Instead, the writers have tried to wrap things up much more explicitly and heavy-handedly by giving Cat Grant a speech about it. Unfortunately, the words Cat has to say don’t make a lot of sense, especially coming out of the mouth of a character who is so obviously an extraordinary (and extraordinarily privileged) woman. It’s yet another example of this show being so self-consciously feminist that it circles back around to being, well, not sexist, but incoherent and unhelpful.
The most interesting part of this episode to me was the comparison between Kara/Supergirl and Maxwell Lord. He talks about wanting to help people, but he doesn’t trust any of the existing systems (government, etc.) that do help people. Kara, on the other hand, is also someone who professes to want to help people, but where Lord seems mostly dedicated to interrogating and criticizing the things and people he doesn’t trust—and putting people in danger in order to do so—Kara is actually out there doing the work of trying to help people.
Supergirl is an imperfect hero, but she’s constantly trying to do her best. She may not always be able to save everyone, and she doesn’t have the right answer to every problem, but she’s all in for doing the work and learning and growing and improving her methods. This might be the most progressive message the show has delivered so far, and it’s one that seems almost unintentional in an episode that is ostensibly (and obnoxiously) exploring other far less interesting ideas.
- Carter Grant is a decidedly odd child.
- Seeing how James and Lucy get back together made me like Lucy a lot more and James a lot less—especially when I think of how shady he acts in the chronologically next episode that we saw last week.
- There were more seeds of Hank Henshaw being evil this week.
- Still no Astra, though she is at least mentioned.
- I hate the scene with Alex and Lord. Seriously gross.
- If the writers would quit putting nonsensical “feminist” tirades in Cat Grant’s mouth, I think she’d be my favorite character.