SUPERGIRL: EXPLODING TRUMP TOON HEADS ONE SEASON AT A TIME. SEASON TWO REVIEW, PART ONE

The Adventures of Supergirl:

Airdate: 10 October, 2016

Written By: Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Jessica Queller
Directed By: Glen Winter

Superman finally appears and, despite the shoulder pad cape, Tyler Hoechlin proves to be the best actor essaying the man of steel role since Christopher Reeve. As Clark Kent, Hoechlin surpasses Reeve and keeps it mild mannered as opposed to tripping over his shoe strings. No one could mistake Reeve’s Kent as having sex appeal, but Hoechlin perfects the 21st century GQ geek so naturally that even Cat Grant is reaching for a new shade of lipstick. The scene where he is introduced to the DEO gets right what alludes Zach Snyder. Hoechlin’s portrayal has been rightly acclaimed, but to date, CW has not acted on calls to give him his own series and probably won’t for fear it will compete with Henry Cavill’s execrable big screen endeavors.

Still, this is Supergirl and even Hoechlin can’t outshine Benoist. “The Adventures of Supergirl” is a very good start to a sophomore season that sees numerous changes, most of which are for the betterment of the series.

After Cat offers Kara the “keys to the kingdom” through a promotion of her choosing, Kara opts for a reporter position, which casts her in the light of The Daily Planet’s Clark Kent. It’s a disappointing and imitative narrative solution. Still, it’s a small quibble. Better is Winn finally getting to prove his mettle by landing a job at the DEO, where his skills are better suited.

After Superman arrives, there’s entertaining relational angles; Winn’s hero worship, and Henshaw’s considerable tensions with the man from Krypton.

This is also the episode which brings in another strange visitor; Mon-El  (Chris Wood), Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath), and her wretch of a mother: Lillian Luthor (Brenda Strong).  Being mostly on ice after crash landing, Mon-El isn’t a factor yet, although Supergirl gets in a good reference joke comparing him to David Bowie’s character from The Man Who Fell To Earth.

The Jimmy Olsen/Kara Danvers romance gets holstered before it even began, which paves the way for Supergirl’s first big romance. To be continued, of course.

Lena, being a Luthor, is under suspicion, but she’s actually a target, as Superman and Kara discover. As Lena, McGrath is a marvelously shaded addition to the series and a needed one. She teeters on following the family tradition of super villainy (she doesn’t hesitate to shoot down a potential assassin) and hopefully the writers will avoid that and keep her an imperfect ally to Kara.

Luther mommy dearest Lillian also shows up near the finale and we’ll see why, with Lex, the proverbial apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

The Last Children of Krypton:

Air Date: 17 October, 2016

Written By: Robert Rovner & Caitlin Parrish

Directed By: Glen Winter

This is the second part of the teaming with Superman and it surpasses its predecessor, making it one of the best episodes to date.

It opens with old fashioned small-time Super heroics with Hoechlin delivering a gratifying line to a crook who opts to throw a punch after attempting to shoot the man of steel: “If the bullets don’t work, why the punching? I’ve never understood that.”

The dialogue between the cousins from Krypton flawlessly nails the spirit of golden age comics:”Does this ever get old?” Supergirl asks Superman. “If it does, I’ll let you know.” We enjoy them being super almost as much as they do.

Henshaw, still harboring a Superman grudge, naturally tries to rain on the parade. “When you two are done showboating…”  Alex chastises the Martian: “You said you’d try to get along with Superman” and an eavesdropping Winn adds in an amusingly geeky Yoda imitation: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Meanwhile, Lillian is busy channeling Peter Cushing, creating dual monsters named Metallo (Frederick Schmidt and Rich Ting). Cat introduces Kara to her new boss; Snapper Carr (the underrated character actor Ian Gomez) who makes a colorfully grumpy addition (he will keep Kara in her place).  “Ponytail,” he calls her. “Oh, you jerky…guy.” This is the precursor to Cat’s departure here. Although complaints were lodged about this change, it’s needed. Cat discovered Supergirl, inspired Kara, and donned the matronly position. Now it’s time for Supergirl to fly out of the nest. Lena will be an edgier (and ultimately more interesting) replacement to Cat.

The Kryptonite-charged cyborg Metallo (Schmidt) proves to be a daunting advisory and the producers pay visual homage to the famous Crisis comic when he bests Kara. His victory is temporary because this is an episode about team-ups: Superman and Supergirl; Superman and Martian Manhunter (we knew that animosity wasn’t going to last): Martian Manhunter and Supergirl; Alex and Winn (we need more of them together); Alex and Supergirl; Winn and Superman. Winn cries.

Welcome To Earth:

Air Date: 24 October, 2016

Written By: Jessica Queller and Derek Simon

Directed By: Rachel Talalay

Now out of the nest with Mama Cat and Superman both gone, Supergirl takes on plenty of issues. This is the episode that inspired thousands of exploding Trump Toon heads and sent them crawling back to their basement and trailer parks, crying constipated tears of slush.

The offensive bullet points come fast and furious: Henshaw, Supergirl, and Alex engage in dialogue about the demonization of “them” (illegal aliens. Mr. Rod Serling is smiling down from that Twilight Zone in the sky); National City welcomes Madame President Olivia Marsdin (Lynda Carter channeling Clinton) who actually remembers what the Statue of Liberty is about and is “better than the other guy;” the closet door is opened for the same-sex relationship between Alex and Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima); and Jimmy Olsen-you know the African-American guy-is now the CEO of Catco.

There’s a villain of the week too in Scorcher (Nadine Crocker), but that’s only half-baked. More interesting is the interplay between Snapper and Jimmy and Kara;  the developments of the Daxamite Mon-El and Lena Luthor; and the finale into of M’gann M’orzz: The Last Daughter of Mars (Sharon Leal).

Survivors: 

Air Date: 31 October, 2016

Written By:  Paula Yoo and Eric Carrasco
Directed BY: James Marshall

This had an interesting premise with the villain Roulette (Dichen Lachman) running an underground fight club for aliens, but it’s short-shifted in what should have been the main story by again trying to cram in spotlights on all the supporting characters (something Star Trek was often guilty of). Despite rushed writing, the secondary narratives are all of interest: Gomez continues to add color to a character that could be reduced to cliche; In trusting M’gann; Henshaw is abducted and drafted into the fight club. Winn trains Mon-El; Maggie and Alex are slowly but surely stepping out and into…

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SUPERGIRL: EXPLODING TRUMP TOON HEADS ONE SEASON AT A TIME. SEASON ONE REVIEW, PART THREE

Intro, with parts 1 &2 are here:

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/01/supergirl-the-hippest-damned-superhero-show-on-television/

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/12/supergirl-exploding-trump-toon-heads-one-season-at-a-time-season-one-review-part-one/

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/19/supergirl-exploding-trump-toon-heads-one-season-at-a-time-season-one-review-part-two/

Truth, Justice And The American Way

Airdate: 22 Feb, 2016

Witten By: Yahlin Chang and Caitlin Parrish
Directed By: Lexi Alexander

With Astra dead by the hand of Alex, Kara joins Non for a Kryptonian funeral in the sky. Vance, as Non, does good work balancing grief with controlled menace. At Catco, Kara has a rival in new assistant Siobhan (Italia Ricci) and a villain of the week: the Master Jailer (Jeff Branson) who is executing escapees from Fort Rozz. Something akin to a vigilante Iron Man, the Master Jailer is a generic one-shot (Iron Man himself rarely had memorable villains).

Even short of a superior antagonist, “Truth, Justice, And The American Way” does a good job balancing the various plot points this time. Not too much time is spent on Kara’s growing resentment of Henshaw (for wrongly believing that he impaled Aunt Astra), Cat’s poignant revelation of a past mistake, the rivalry of Siobhan, Olsen’s conflicts over Lucy and Kara, and what to do with the imprisoned Max.

It is Olsen who motivates Kara and the DEO towards an ethical choice in the latter.  Mehcad Brooks shines in the scene and is more convincing as Supergirl’s pal than he is doing the lovestruck routine. Ricci and guest actor Todd Sherry (as alien professor Luzano) add salsa to the mix.

Benoist takes something of a side burner here, but the episode is well-paced.

Solitude

Airdate: 29February, 2016

Written By: Rachel Shukert, Anna Musky-Goldwyn, and James DeWille

Directed By: Dermott Downs

Enlisting”Smallville” Supergirl Laura Vandervoort as computer intelligence nemesis: Indigo was a smart casting move. Vandervoort’s interpretation of the Supergirl role having been quite different, she slips into her villainous blue x-man-like virus skin with iced charisma. Better yet, Indigo is in cahoots with an aroused Non, who is briefly allowed to grit his teeth. However, even he can’t compete with Vondervoort; Supergirl’s best baddie since Livewire. Vandevoort impresses enough that one resists accepting her inevitable defeat.

At Catco, Siobhan continues competing with Kara. She disses Winn when he tries to greet her: “I’m sorry, I have difficulty making conversation with men under six-feet tall.” Hoping to deliver a package with a potential “scoop,” Siobhan defends delivering it to Cat unopened: “I just spent the last 90 minutes in the mail room letting a glorified postal work stare at my chest so that I could be the one to give this to Cat. I’ll take the credit.”

On the domestic front, Lucy Lane and James Olsen appear to be kaput (finally), while Winn and Siobhan, having moved past her initial contempt, promise to be the series’ first interesting potential romance; both having deviant daddies, which of course can make for refreshing off-kilter bonding.

Winn also gets to flash techie talent in assisting good Supergirl against bad blue Supergirl, which may come in handy for a Toyman Jr. resume. Jordan has appealing eccentricity and needs to breath more as he does here.

With the truth of Astra’s fate finally revealed, the episode ends in a scene emotionally well-acted by Benoist, Leigh, and Harewood.

Falling

Air Date: 14 March, 2016

Written By: Robert Rovner & Jessica Queller
Directed By: Larry Teng

With the exception of Superman II, the Kent/Superman character has proven to be consistently better suited to television. Even the 1978 Superman with its episodic quality, plays more like strung-together TV segments (which is not a bad thing). Superman III and IV, along with the Zack Snyder movies are dung heap. Slightly better, but woefully uneven and dour is Superman Returns. However, the first two seasons of “Lois and Clark” are 90s bliss. The first actual Superman feature, Superman and the Mole Men was intended as a precursor to the series, “The Adventures of Superman” and feels like television. It’s also often forgotten that in the first noir season of the George Reeves series, Superman was darker than Batman.

Even with its traditional Superhero gone bad theme, “Falling” restores that darkness in the series’ best episode to date. Unlike the Snyder films, it retains a sense of entertainment and narrative coherence. Poisoned by red kryptonite, Supergirl loses her puppy demeanor and goes full pit-bull mode. Benoist is more than up to the challenge and napalms naysayers. There’s a small nod to one of the few decent vignettes from Superman III when Supergirl demolishes a tavern with a pile of peanuts. In this episode, she almost expunges memories of Christopher Reeve.

As iconic as Reeve was in the role of Kal-el, his Kent bordered on caricature and he really only had four good hours as Superman. Dean Cain was a fine Kent; albeit one stuck in a Superman costume. George Reeves’ Kent is the proverbial yardstick to measure all by; almost more steel than his alter-ego, which was quite good and paternal (something no other actor attempted in that role), but he only had one great season (his first), one very good season (2) and a final good, but uneven one (6). Tyler Hoechlin (from Season 2 of ‘Supergirl’) nails both characters with a balance unequaled by his predecessors. His Kent is sexy geeky, as opposed to cartoonish. Unfortunately, he is competing with the godawful Henry Cavill and it’s likely Hoechlin will be consigned to an occasional appearance in this series.

As distinctive as all the above have been respectively, it’s a supergirl who soars highest as a strange visit from another planet. In the space of one season, Benoist’ dual characters have done something none of the boys have managed; she’ve evolved and proves she was born to play this role. Here, she employs a range that takes comic book character acting to new heights. Supergirl begins by doing her usual suburban hero beat, but after being exposed to and poisoned by synthetic Red K, Kara becomes brassy, sassy, and competitive at work. She gets rid of potential usurper Siobhan (which unfortunately looks to end an interesting relationship with Winn), takes the boys dancing and then turns against everyone. That climaxes with nearly splattering Cat and leveling the city until Maxwell Lord (who created the poison to stop Non) creates an antidote for the DEO (oddly, Lord seems more creative and effective dealing with alien threats than the organization whose job it is to do so). Although Lord hasn’t lived up to full-blown antagonist potential, he’s an interesting minor character.

Henshaw again self-sacrifices, although why he needs to is questionable. Still, Harewood’s characterization is superbly colored (and has been throughout the series). Now, with the plot turn, he adds new potential that begins with a friend’s xenophobia. Along with Leigh and Benoist, Harewood is indispensable.

Exorcized, Kara is devastated and Benoist knocks it out of the park with a performance that has run the gamut within an hour.

For complexities beyond the simplemindedness of Trump and his toons, along with opening the xenophobia can of worms, “Falling” earns a “you ain’t grabbin’ shit award.

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SUPERGIRL: EXPLODING TRUMP TOON HEADS ONE SEASON AT A TIME. SEASON ONE REVIEW, PART TWO

Part one is here:

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/12/supergirl-exploding-trump-toon-heads-one-season-at-a-time-season-one-review-part-one/

and…

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/01/supergirl-the-hippest-damned-superhero-show-on-television/

Hostile Takeover

Airdate: 14 December, 2015

Written by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Caitlin Parrish
Directed by: Karen Gaviola

There are parallel potential hostile takeovers, but the second is akin to a sketch of something that will be colored in later.

The first and more prominent attempt at a coup involves a walking personification of white male privilege attempting to oust Cat from her own company.

Winn, Olsen, Kara, and Lucy Lane join forces to protect Cat from her potential usurper and there’s a bit of cold-war type of counterinsurgency that’s bubblegum fun. Olsen has a shining 007-like moment when sabotaging by Mr. White Male Privilege. Almost caught, our intrepid CATCO photo journalist slithers his way out of that scenario with all the charm of a GQ Sneaky Snake.

Meanwhile, Aunt Astra (Laura Benanti) and hubby Non (Chris Vance) attempt to hack Earth and there’s some gladiatorial combat in the sky afoot, but as DEO Green Beret Alex (take that John Wayne) observes; Kara’s not up to par. The emerald training session, where Alex proves to be an artisan in combative encounters, renders the Kryptonian tug-of-war as comparatively tame. Of course, the key ingredient is Chyler Leigh as Alex.

However, this episode ultimately belongs to Benoist and Flockhart in their respective roles, which enjoy edifying development here. Family secrets from both ladies are revealed and those revelations inspire them towards shared intimacy that’s heroic. This climaxes in the big reveal, which takes place after the threatening crisis has been subverted. Benoist excels with such hushed vulnerability that the scene is her best since “Human for a day.”

For exposing the morally bankrupt Trump Toon mindset of winning and the hypocrisy of white male privilege, “Hostile Takeover” earns …

Blood Bonds

Airdate: 4 January, 2016

Written By:Ted Sullivan and Derek Simon
Directed By: Steve Shill

“Blood Bonds” picks up where “Hostile Takeover” left off; in a rousing battle between Kara and Non. However, this outing becomes narratively cluttered and although enjoyable, the direction is off-kilter in kinetic pacing to accommodate multifarious bullet points.

There’s an additional misstep in the writing when it segues into handicapping Astra with sentimentality. Bennati is too commanding a presence in the role(s) to be potentially diminished. Likewise, Maxwell Lord is proving to be an underwhelming adversary when he holds back after capturing Olsen in a bit of photo espionage.

Olsen and Winn are two characters who thus far are lacking the level of complex development on a par with Kara, Cat, Alex, and Henshaw. Here, the interplay between Olsen and Winn refreshingly moves past Supergirl pals, but it’s still filler.

There’s also disappointment in the back-peddling of Cat’s discovery from the previous episode. The secret identity troupe can wear thin and it’s hardly conceivable that the smartest person at CATCO is so quickly convinced that she erred while Olsen and Winn are in the know. That aside, Cat’s relating to Kara and the big discovery is whimsically prismatic and there’s fun to be had in seeing Cat humbled. Henshaw’s aiding the ruse works wonderfully even if we’re not convinced it was necessary. Taking a cue from the “Adventures of Superman,” it’s a kick to see Supergirl and Kara side-by-side.

As with the source material, J’onn J’onzz aka Martian Manhunter is proving to be the enigmatic green “illegal” with a heart of fiery gold. Harewood is drawing out the character in a gradually compelling way and although his divulging to Kara comes sooner than expected, it’s also welcome.

The strength of this episode is the fleshing out of Kara’s authentic need for life at CATCO. Benoist adds considerably to the outsider quality of her character, especially when things go south. Per the norm, Benoist nails it; continuing to add versatility and meaty dimension to a pulp hero.

For guts in tackling status quo biases across the board, “Blood Bonds” earns one exploding Trump Toon head.

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SUPERGIRL: EXPLODING TRUMP TOON HEADS ONE SEASON AT A TIME. SEASON ONE REVIEW, PART ONE

Pilot:

Airdate: 26 Oct,2015

Written by: Greg Berlanti, Ali Adler, and Andrew Kreisberg.

Directed by: Glen Winter.

Starring: Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers AKA Supergirl

Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant
Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers
Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen
David Harewood as Hank Henshaw
Jeremy Jordan as Winn Schott

This is one of the best pilots for any comic-based series, which is remarkable given that the origin is necessarily similar to that of Superman. Over the last few years, the Krypton saga has been taken to levels of extended banality (i.e. Man of Steel), so it’s refreshing that the writing team of Supergirl shoots through it like quicksilver and gets us to the heart of the matter : Supergirl herself. Immediately, the series establishes its brightness. Kara jumps for joy from the couch, embracing her super-ness after saving sis Alex from a potential plane disaster. Supergirl’s pilot was so pluckily modern and amusingly entertaining that sexist fanboys immediately took to social media to show us their heads exploding. Of course that reaction is so predictable as to be yawn-inducing since the genre base is often hyper-right-wing male-driven, which of course means xenophobic, homophobic, and misogynistic, Oh My! Since Supergirl is contrary to all that, that means the recent news of being renewed for a fourth season is going to inspire still more exploding heads. Bring out the cheesy popcorn.

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/01/supergirl-the-hippest-damned-superhero-show-on-television/

Benoist’ enthusiasm for the role and show is contagious and although the cast is uniformly excellent, she’s the constant, even when the show’s writing occasionally slips (as it inevitably will in any series). She has strength in her innocence as both Kara and Supergirl and we can readily identify with both personalities. With her bun-haired nerdy demeanor, Kara lets her golden locks flow so fancifully as Supergirl that we completely buy her peers’ cluelessness. Benoist balances hero with mild-mannered alter-ego better than anyone in the man of steel role and that includes the late, much-missed Christopher Reeve. Her nerd qualities don’t come to the surface by walking into a wall, but merely by being a twenty-something who hasn’t figured life out. What she does know is that she loves being more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, even if she is initially out of her element, hugs too hard, and screws up more than she succeeds. Being a super girl is better than pizza and this lady loves pizza (and supergirl cake!) Unlike her famous cousin, Kara has no yearning to be human. What, are you crazy? She can fly and can’t wait to try out her powers. “Are you sure you’re bullet-proof?” “Hope so.” “I can do a car chase,” she says with voguish aplomb. On the other had, she tries on-line dating and it’s a friggin disaster. To heck with this jerk, time to go save some people. She’s excited about her secret and can’t wait to share it with National City CATCO co-workers, including future Toyman antagonist Winn ( the scene of ousting herself to him is pure adrenalin charm). Naturally, protective Alex chides Kara for loose lips and later in the season Supergirl herself will slip again on TV.

Benoist as Kara personifies the best qualities of millennials, who predictably are rendered a perennial demographic target of Trump Toons. It’s not that she means to provoke the barrel-bottom dwellers, but she’s having too much fun being a heroine to tiptoe through the tulips of their incessant hangups. For her unintentional exclamation point, she’ll even trump a villain who underestimates her because she’s a girl.

James Olsen is another co-worker that Kara bonds with. Brooks is so tight-shirt sexy self-assured as the African-American Supergirl pal that he should be able to help keep Milk of Magnesia in business with the series’ white-robed haters as long as he’s on the air.

Alex, being the crackerjack ninja that she is, gives Kara’s super-moniker serious competition, especially in her fight scenes and when it comes to heavy-duty pop emoting, Leigh, being the pro that she is, hooks us from the premiere on. She’s as essential to the series as Benoist. Alex will upgrade from kicking chauvinistic ass in season one to mantling David Cronenberg and napalming homophobe heads in season 2. Leigh and Benoist are the series’ yardsticks for gauging one’s broadness. If the idea of 21st century National City Valkyries clog your bowels, then you’re probably a Trump Toon and should stick to Hack Snyder fantasies.

CATCO CEO Cat Grant steals almost ever scene she’s in, as we would expect the former Ally McBeal to do. When she gives the reason for naming Supergirl, she does it with such style and conviction that we take her side over an objecting Kara and our own reservations. Cat’s the perfect inspirational model for coffee girls, superheroes, and us. She’s only a fixture in the first season and some have lamented her departure. Yet, she can be likened to a short, but sweet visit; knowing when to exit and knowing it will benefit the show to do so.

At this point Harewood as Henshaw appears to have a mixmaster up his ass and doesn’t know it, but… (stay tuned)

Jordan as Winn is one screwed-up sweetie and invites us to sympathize with him as the perennial Charlie Brown type (a quality that Kara occasionally shares). We hope against hope that he’s not going to turn. However, if comic lore is being followed here… (stay tuned)

The series establishes its cooler-than-peanutbutter-world of aliens in the premiere. Despite reservations, Henshaw recruits Kara to work with himself and Alex at the DEO (DEPARTMENT OF EXTRANORMAL OPERATIONS. How cool is that?). After an episode chock-full of hand-wringing over delivering cold latte and a couple of failed costume attempts, Kara is literally up to her x-ray peepers in dodging glowing alien tomahawks and ends her debut up, up and away.

For a girl superhero who likes being a superhero, two-African American leads, two women who can kick bad GUY ass, an empowered businesswoman, and Winn who thinks it’s cool that Kara’s gay (even though she’s not), “Pilot” earns an exploding Trump Toon Head.

Stronger Together

Airdate: 2 November, 2015

Credits same as pilot.

Kara is still adjusting to public superdom and per Cat’s advice, Supergirl backs up a tad from trying to be the quintessential hero. Her earnestness comes to full-flower when she saves a big snake stuck in a tree after being told it was cat. Even with her super-resistance, she hates touching the icky thing. Of course, being the trooper and animal pal that she is, she saves it anyway. Benoist invites us to keep it positive with her and we do. Of course there’s a couple of monkey wrenches: a bug-like alien who does gross things with his mouth and Kara’s badass Kryptonian Aunt Astra (Laura Bennati) fresh out of the Kryptonian prison Fort Razz (and gearing up for invasion).

After a humble butt-whipping, Kara is learning the ropes, gets taught by a mere mortal, and ready or not, prepares for the big interview.

For female empowerment (of course), having smart girls who refuse to be reduced to male receptacles (WHAT?!? WHAT?!? WHAT?!?), feminine wit, Peta-like BS, and girls doin’ good GUY things, “Stronger Together” earns an exploding Trump Toon head.

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