“Bizarro” is the culmination of a seemingly minor, tucked-into-the-final-few-seconds story arc that began three episodes ago in “Blood Bonds.” Devised by the villainous Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli), who hasn’t liked the titular heroine of Supergirl since the pilot, the Greg Berlanti version of Bizarro Girl (or Bizarro Supergirl, to be more precise) was created with the almost lifeless body of a coma patient (Hope Lauren). Why? To hate, find and kill Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist). Oh yeah, and to serve Lord without question. (She even says, “Yes my lord,” in response to his queries. Wordplay!) As exciting as the villain’s appearance on television was, however, notable story elements tucked away into the show’s background emerge with a vengeance.
Considering the character’s ties to some of the more bizarre story lines in DC Comics history, it’s no wonder comic-book fans and regular Supergirl viewers were ready for Bizarro Girl’s appearance. The footage previewed in early commercials and clips online revealed a promising take on the character. Sure, the showrunners had tampered with her origins quite a bit, but considering her varied history in the comics, the change of medium and the story already setup by Supergirl, these were all fine. All that seemed to matter was that Bizarro Girl looked the part — even down to the smallest details of her white, cracked face — for a head-to-head confrontation with Supergirl in “Bizarro.”
The Kryptonian and her human-hybrid counterpart fight three times over the course of the first episode. Each time, Benoist and Lauren’s characters reveal and realize more about themselves and each other in ways neither side could have ever predicted. For example, Bizarro Girl’s second attack occurred during Kara’s date with her boss’s (Calista Flockhart) estranged son, Adam (Blake Jenner). Aside from ruining a perfectly good evening, the ambush wouldn’t seem like anything too out of place for Supergirl, but then it hit her. How would Bizarro Girl know Kara Danvers is Supergirl… unless Lord already knew her secret identity?
While Kara and her adopted sister, Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) acknowledged the fact that their secret was out, Bizarro Girl took things a step further and kidnapped James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks). With her Lord-given knowledge about Kara’s life outside of flying around National City, Lauren’s character has become more and more confused about her mission to destroy Supergirl. If the supposed superheroine is so bad, then why does she do so many great things? And why do so many people care for her as they do? These questions fueled her taking Olsen — a damoiseau in distress of sorts — away to a power plant to bait Supergirl into a final battle, but considering Bizarro Girl’s limited cognitive ability, she actually wanted answers.
The episode’s treatment of the Bizarro Girl character and her back-and-forth with Supergirl, physically and otherwise, do justice to her comic-book origins. More importantly, however, the dichotomy between the two fits within the growing canon Supergirl is establishing in the DC Comics television universe. Yet after several episodes’ worth of buildup, “Bizarro” acts like it wants to dump the villain quickly so that the series can move on to bigger and better things. Like a microcosm of the first half of the season’s focus on Kara’s aunt, Astra (Laura Benanti) as the chief villain, Bizzaro Girl’s arc contained a lot of lead time but quantitatively less in terms of delivery. More than anything, it seems wasteful.
What isn’t wasteful is how “Bizarro” contributes to an ongoing trend that Supergirl inherently promised its viewers from the get-go: strong female characters who retain much of the show’s focus. Such a scenario doesn’t necessarily require the denigration of male characters, per se, though it does require vigilance on the part of the writers, producers and performers. The distant (and immediate) history of film and television is rife with male, mostly white figures who occupy center stage at the expense of their female and minority counterparts. Sometimes stories necessitate these positions, but that can’t always be an excuse — especially for a show with “girl” in its title.
Hence why Kara, Kara’s boss Cat Grant and her sister Alex are three of the most significant characters in Supergirl. Kara’s prominence is obvious, as her heroic alter ego’s nickname (as bestowed by Grant in the pilot) adorns the series’ title card. Neither Cat nor Alex share this titular luxury, but they do hold their own quite well in this world. After all, the former is the head of the media conglomerate based in National City who worked her way to the very top, and the latter is second in command at the Department of Extranormal Operations. (Henshaw serves as DEO director, but let’s be honest — he co-leads with Alex.)
Not to mention the fact that, despite the occasional romantic interludes and supporting character developments, Supergirl blows the Bechdel-Wallace test out of the water. Not one episode hasn’t had at least one scene in which two female characters discussed topics other than men with each other. In fact, scenes like these are the norm. Kara’s repeated attempts at romance with characters like Adam, James and Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan) crop up more often now that the show has had some time to lay out its ground rules, but they still feel so out of place. They’re minor moments that don’t always work, and while their improvement is welcome, it’s good to know they weren’t Berlanti’s primary concern at the start.