With the recent, tragic terrorist attacks in Paris still fresh in everyone’s minds, CBS rightly decided to postpone Supergirl’s 4th episode – an episode set around a series of bombings in Supergirl’s adopted city, National City – and jump ahead to the 5th, Thanksgiving-themed episode, “Livewire.” Of the four episodes aired by CBS thus far, “Livewire” just might be the weakest and most disappointing, featuring a one-dimensional, one-and-done villain-of-the-week, tossed in and tossed out in a matter of minutes, minus any real physical or personal stakes for Supergirl/Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) or anyone else in her orbit, and a forced, contrived, ultimately unconvincing family conflict between Kara’s older sister, Alex (Chyler Leigh), their mother, Eliza (Helen Slater, the first and so far last big-screen Supergirl), with Kara stuck firmly in the middle, both as obstacle and mediator.
The fifth episode quickly introduces the once and future Livewire, Leslie Willis (Brit Morgan), a shock jock with an unexplained contempt and/or hatred for all things Supergirl. Supergirl calls her out as a “mean girl” during their second (and last) confrontation, signaling Supergirl’s (the series, not the character’s) constant need to spell out themes and ideas via expository dialogue, a problem unfortunately typical of Greg Berlanti’s other superheroes, Arrow and the Flash. But before Leslie’s on-air attacks negatively impact Supergirl’s reputation, Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), the CEO of CatCo Media, calls Leslie into her office for a sit-down. It doesn’t go well. Newly protective of Supergirl, less because of any personal affinity or desire to see Supergirl succeed and more because she sees a popular Supergirl as a financial boon to her media empire, Cat demotes a defiant, insubordinate Leslie to traffic chopper duties.
One lightning storm and a Supergirl save later and Leslie has become Livewire (a name she gives herself, by the way). As Hank Henshaw (David Harewood), the DEO chief explains later, Kara’s DNA, lightning, and the skin-to-skin contact between Supergirl and Leslie led to the creation of Livewire. As supervillain origin stories go, it’s on the weak side. at least the Flash has a meta-human creating particle accelerator accident (season 1) and alternate universe supervillains (season 2) to explain away the sudden glut of supervillains. Still, we can give Supergirl’s writers a one-time pass, but hopefully it doesn’t become a trend. After all, the pilot set up an entire space prison’s worth of super-powered aliens for Supergirl to take down over the season. There’s little, if any, reason to step away from super-powered aliens to lazily conceived, poorly executed human supervillains, at least for the remainder of the first season.
While Supergirl/Kara has to contend on-and-off with Livewire, she also has to contend with the arrival of her foster mother, Eliza, and the strained relationship between Eliza and Alex. Supergirl/Kara suggests Alex out herself as a DEO agent to her mother, while Alex seems to think Eliza, in passive-aggressive mode, is none too happy Kara decided to become an active superhero (with all the personal risks that involves). Unfortunately, the interactions between Alex and Eliza and Eliza and Kara are easily among the most poorly written of the series. Not even a late revelation about the fate of Alex’s father, Jeremy (Dean Cain, seen via flashbacks) can save, let alone elevate, the family drama between the poorly, underwritten, unconvincing mess it is. It may be a sign that Berlanti and Andrew Kriesberg have stretched themselves too thin across too many, simultaneous series or it could be a one-off speed bump. Time will tell, of course.
Meanwhile, the introduction of Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan Tatum) back into James “Don’t Call Me Jimmy” Olsen’s (Mehcad Brooks) life has all but put Supergirl/Kara’s romantic relationship with Olsen on the back burner. It’s fine to leave it there for the next few episodes, but the will they or won’t they dynamic has gotten old really fast. In stark contrast, The Flash’s season 1 handled a similar relationship issue much more deftly and gracefully. Maybe Berlanti and Kriesberg can go back and rewatch those episodes for pointers on how best to handle the Supergirl/Kara-Olsen relationship going forward (rather than going backward). They could also handle Winn’s (Jeremy Jordon) unrequited crush on Kara better as well. At this point, his constant pining for Kara makes him look borderline pathetic, a not particularly positive trait in a Team Supergirl character.