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Red Faced

After a two-episode swap – done to avoid negative connotations/bad timing with the Paris terrorist attacks – Supergirl is back to to its normal programming schedule, normal being both the operative word here and not coincidentally, the theme of episode 6, “Red Faced.” Supergirl/Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) finally has a breakthrough (not, of course, that we thought she needed one): She gets past the anger – “the anger behind the anger” as her boss, Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), puts – to face up to what’s been bothering her all episode long: Her presumed inability to have the “normal” life she once envisioned for herself and which she sees every time her permanent crush, James “Superman’s Pal” Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), engages in public displays of overt affection with his no-longer-ex-girlfriend, Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan Tatum). Apparently, a breakthrough is all Supergirl needs, at least for the foreseeable future, to get back on track and fulfill her self-appointed duties as National City’s Superman stand-in/analog/protector.

Before Supergirl gets to that admittedly cliched personal breakthrough, episode 6 puts her (and by extension viewers) through her paces, first finding her flying over National City, less because she wants to do the superhero thing and more because it’s good to get away from her mundane and super-mundane concerns. It’s only temporary, of course. Supergirl stops a road rage incident a split second before it leads to a significant loss of life, but it also results in Supergirl breaking the hand of one of the perpetrators, perfect fodder for Maxwell Lord’s (Peter Facinelli) ongoing anti-Supergirl campaign. That doesn’t stop Alex (Chyler Leigh), Supergirl’s adopted sister and DEO special agent, from requesting Lord’s assistance later in the episode when a prototype android, Red Tornado (Iddo Goldberg), goes predictably rogue seconds after field testing (a one-on-one fight with a forcibly volunteered Supergirl) goes just as predictably awry. Lord does step up, however, providing Alex with key information, suggesting he’s not an out-and-out villain yet, just another tech billionaire with misplaced priorities and a seemingly well justified anti-government stance.

Supergirl In-Action

The government, at least the government represented by General Sam Lane (Glenn Morshower), Lucy and Lois’ dad, doesn’t come off particularly well in episode 6. General Lane has nothing but disdain and mistrust for Supergirl, an extension of similar feelings toward her more famous cousin. He also has little respect for Olsen, a “glorified paparazzo” in his words (points for using the singular form of paparazzi correctly Supergirl writers) he sees as an obstacle or hindrance to Lucy’s career as a military lawyer. He calls out Olsen for being ordinary or rather being out-of-the-ordinary only because of his long-term friendship with Superman and now Supergirl. General Lane also bears some, if not all of the responsibility for Red Tornado. He’s both in charge of the program and it when it fails initially, he refuses to give Red Tornado’s creator a second chance, a surprisingly ill-thought out decision given the billion dollar investment involved. Of course, real-world logic doesn’t always (or often) apply where superheroes are involved, but it also shouldn’t be too much to ask from Supergirl’s writers once in a while (i.e., every week).

There’s little logic too in Kara’s relationship with Cat. When Kara’s anger gets the better of her after another Cat putdown, Cat doesn’t fire or demote Kara, but instead takes her under her wing and into a nearby bar where they share a few drinks and Cat, the paragon of feminism on the show, lectures Kara on unfair gender privilege (white men can show anger professionally, women in general can’t). That might be true in the abstract, but Supergirl’s writers want it both ways: They depict Cat as a self-involved narcissist and diva, getting her way through sheer force of will, not to mention perfectly timed temper tantrums and threats for noncompliance, but also expect and/or want viewers to see Cat as some kind of exemplar of professionalism and success. Trying to have it both ways doesn’t work, at least not in Cat’s current self-absorbed incarnation. There’s plenty of time, of course, to elevate Cat beyond caricature and mouthpiece into a genuine, fully rounded character (the sooner, the better, though).

"Red Faced" -- Personal and professional stress get the better of Kara when she goes too far during a training exercise against Red Tornado, a military cyborg commissioned by Lucy Lane's father, General Sam Lane, on SUPERGIRL, Monday, Nov. 30 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured left to right: Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Chyler Leigh, Melissa Benoist, Glenn Morshower and David Harewood Photo: Darren Michaels/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Unfortunately, a pattern seems to be emerging when it comes to the super-villain of the week and Supergirl. Red Tornado – a longtime comic book character roughly analogous to Marvel’s Vision – appears all of three times in the episode, all of them briefly, first during the combat exercise/field test, a second time when he attacks General Lane in public, and a third, last time when he’s trapped into battling a Supergirl who’s learned to channel her anger (more or less) into defeating Red Tornado. From all appearances, it looks like Red Tornado is a one-and-done super-villain, a major disappointment for anyone even tangentially familiar with his comic-book counterpart. He never speaks and never shows even a shred of personality beyond his superpower (tornado creation). Then again, the Red Tornado we meet in episode 6 looks like more like cosplay slapped together by an over-eager first-timer than a billion-dollar, android menace, so maybe Red Tornado’s one-and-done status in the Supergirl universe is a net positive after all all.

Category: reviews, TV

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