A review of tonight's “Supergirl” coming up just as soon as I have breakfast with Ruth Bader Ginsburg…
Second episodes of new shows are tough, particularly when the first episode of a show was pirated and put online months before its debut. You want to welcome in new people who may still be joining the series in progress, so you have to replicate things that already worked in the pilot, but you can't stagnate too much or risk annoying the people who liked the premiere. “Stronger Together” gets that balance right, while still trying to figure out how to get its many moving pieces to work together.
Though the Berlanti superhero shows vary in tone, one thing all so far have in common is that their hero never has to operate alone. The Flash always has Cisco in his ear, Green Arrow has a small army of sidekicks, and Supergirl has two wholly separate (for now, anyway) sets of assistants, with Jimmy and Winn helping with the public superheroing, while Alex and the gang at the DEO are her support staff for private battles with Fort Rozz escapees.
It's a lot to juggle, even if the only member of the supporting cast who doesn't already know Kara's secret identity is Cat Grant, and I wonder if this set-up will start to feel redundant in time, especially since she can also turn to the hologram of her mother for advice when all else fails. “Stronger Together,” though is so much about Kara accepting other's help – and recognizing that this is perhaps the biggest thing distinguishing her from her famous cousin – that it worked to have her toggling back and forth between civilian and military superheroics, and getting all sides used to dealing with one another.
I'm also glad the show didn't waste any time on having Kara find out Astra is running the show for the Fort Rozz escapees, nor try to gin up some melodrama where she mistakes her aunt for her mother. A daughter would know the difference, even if she didn't even X-ray vision. We get down to it right away, both sides know what the other one is about, and Astra's discovery of Kryptonite (more on that below) puts her larger plan on simmer, which gives the show more time to show Kara getting better at this superheroing thing. There was going to have to be a delay at some point, given that the series couldn't give us the big confrontation before its first month is out, but it's more satisfying to not have the show dragging out Kara's moment of discovery about her aunt.
All in all, a very promising second episode, and one that covered so much ground, we might as well go straight to the bullet points from here:
* The original pilot didn't use Superman's name at all, and the final version mentioned it once. Either that was an editorial decision, or DC relaxed whatever restrictions existed there, because this episode went 180 degrees to a point where people were namechecking Superman, Clark Kent, and Lois Lane seemingly every 90 seconds or so. That's the better way to go, in that going out of their way to avoid the name was a distraction. Hopefully in time, Kara becomes established enough that the show doesn't need to constantly invoke Superman, if only because it will become distracting again when he doesn't show up to help fight these alien invaders, one of whom is part of his extended family.
* Following on that, there was some confusion last week about whether Astra was meant to be Superman's mother. No. Quick Krypton family tree lesson: Superman's father Jor-El is brother's with Kara's father Zor-El. His mother is Lara, her mother is Allura, and Astra is her aunt, but not his.
* Jimmy's explanation for how both Superman and Supergirl can have secret identities despite not wearing masks is more or less in line with this classic '80s story where one of Lex Luthor's computers flat-out tells him that Clark Kent is Superman, and Luthor refuses to believe it. At a certain point, Cat either has to get into the loop or Kara has to lose the job, because it's not one where it's so easy to cover for her frequent absences. But Kara setting up the first interview on her own terms – being stronger in front of Cat than she can be in her day job – was a nice touch.
* Hank Henshaw has glowing red eyes, and he has suffered a major tragedy with his family in the past. This suggests they've already set up aspects of his origin from the comics. Hmm…
* Kara had never heard of Kryptonite before the DEO used it on her last week, and Astra is stunned to learn that such a thing exists. So either this version of Superman has never come across it, or has without it becoming well-publicized.
* Peter Facinelli makes his first appearance (on TV news) as Maxwell Lord, who first rose to prominence as the benefactor of the more humor-oriented '80s Justice League titles written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis. I suspect we will not be seeing “Supergirl” takes on Maxwell Lord sidekicks/nemeses like G'Nort, L'Ron and Manga Khan.
* In the comics, Hellgrammite is a solo, Earth-born supervillain. Here, he's just one of an entire alien race of Hellgrammites. The “Supergirl” producers say they have access to lots of DC villains for this series, and it appears that having them all be aliens is this show's version of every “Flash” villain being created by the particle accelerator explosion.
As with the other current super-shows, I'll check back in from time to time, but as for “Stronger Together,” what did everybody else think?