Things like the appearance of J’onn J’onzz (the Martian Manhunter) and the upcoming crossover with The Flash have, along with the show’s own merits, insured Supergirl‘s rightful place among television’s most-compelling primetime dramas. Yet the Greg Berlanti-produced series has been hampered at times by other elements, one of the most prominent being the way in which directors tend to shoot its action beats. They often frame and pace them in an awkward, disconnected manner — leaving viewers hopeful that an expected Berlanti-esque dramatic beat is on the horizon. That’s possibly why Lexi Alexander was brought on to direct “Truth, Justice and the American Way.”
For starters, per Alexander’s interview with HitFix, Berlanti has a mandate that “he doesn’t want to be a company that doesn’t include women and people of color.” It’s a nice sentiment on paper. It’s even better to see a powerful person in the industry putting his words into action, especially because only two of the nine directors responsible for the previous 13 episodes were women.
Then again, Alexander’s gender isn’t the chief reason why her hiring was a good thing. As her work on “Truth, Justice and the American Way” demonstrates, the former professional fighter and stuntwoman’s expertise on all things action proves that she’s a directorial force to be reckoned with. As she has demonstrated with films like the Oscar-nominated short Johnny Flynton, festival darling Green Street Hooligans, and the insatiably violent Punisher: War Zone, Alexander knows how to do action better than most.
Consider a brief comparison between two fight scenes, one from “For the Girl Who Has Everything” and the second from Alexander’s episode on Monday. The former was directed by Dermott Downs, a Berlanti regular whose directing and cinematography credits include Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, as well as Gotham, CSI: Cyber, and The Tomorrow People. Most of Downs’ work revolves around dramas on The CW and occasional one-offs on similar shows airing on other networks. His direction is good, but when it comes to action, Downs tends to cram too much into his frame and keep the camera running for much longer than audiences expect, as when Astra (Laura Benanti) faces off with J’onzz (David Harewood) for a few beats in “For the Girl Who Has Everything.”