Women and their emotions, eh? That could be the takeaway from Supergirl Episode 6, as the show moves on from its wrong-way-round double-bill, but Red Faced sees the show move forwards in more ways than one.
The villain of the week? A red-faced android called Red Tornado, which Supergirl is called to put through its paces for the US military. When she gets a bit carried away, though, she sends the robot into emergency mode. That prompts a new contender for the worst line in the show so far: “You’ve unleashed an unstoppable killing machine!”
But if writers Michael Grassi and Rachel Shukert (also behind the middling Episode 3) haven’t quite got over the series’ chronic case of Bad Dialogitis, this hour sees them bring a welcome depth to Kara. After puzzling all-too-obviously over how women manage to juggle their many roles in everyday life, Supergirl now finds herself struggling to deal with her anger. It turns out that she has a lot of it building up inside her – something that becomes apparent when she rains down a torrent of retorts upon her boss, Cat.
Cat does the sensible thing and takes her for drinks. Lots of them. It’s yet another example of Calista Flockhart’s cruel businesswoman being given a chance to show more sides to her than the snarky one we first saw – and that very act of putting on a front becomes a central part of Supergirl’s challenge. Like everyone, she has rage she needs to let out at some point. The problem is that, unlike men, women are conditioned to be polite in the workplace – and everywhere else, for that matter. (The same problem applies for black men, too, notes James, in one of the show’s most subtle and mature moments to date.) The other problem is that Kara’s workplace includes saving the day from evil villains – and when you’re rescuing children from cars, it’s not the optimum time to start snarling.
Our unstoppable killing machine offers a neat – if unsubtle – contrast: it finds its strength from being emotionless, preying on Supergirl’s humanity as a weakness. Equally inhuman is General Lane, Lucy’s dad, who, we discover, doesn’t exactly approve of James Olson, who acts like he’s special just because he hangs around with special people. It’s great to see the show opening up criticism to a man who is otherwise presented as perfect, thanks to Kara’s rose-tinted crush – and even better to see Lucy develop as a result of the situation, moving from what might have been a one-note romantic rival into a supporting character with potential to become an important part of the show’s ensemble.
It’s these details, more than the mildly underwhelming Red Tornado action sequences, that give Red Faced its punch – and, while a cliffhanger involving Hank and Winn reminds us that we’re still within TV cliche territory, Supergirl’s discussion of anger, no matter how on-the-nose, is a rare treat in the comic book genre. Superman, on the big screen in particular, has always struggled to be more than a bland icon, with morals as unimpeachable as his skin. But Supergirl, partly thanks to Melissa Benoist’s performance and partly thanks to the fact that this is a serial format, introduces the idea of fallibility with commendable enthusiasm, if not always high quality dialogue. Anger, if dealt with correctly, Supergirl teaches its young, possible female, audience, can be a useful weapon in itself – emotion isn’t a weakness, but a strength. As Benoist brings an impressive range of angry, sad and frustrated faces to her usual array of smiling expressions, you suspect Superman – not to mention men, in general – could learn a thing or two.
Supergirl is on Sky 1 every Thursday at 8pm. Don’t have Sky? You can watch Supergirl online (live and on-demand) through NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription. The VOD service also includes The Walking Dead, The Flash and American Horror Story: Hotel.
Additional notes (contains spoilers)
– While James uses a punching bad to relieve his stress, we love that Kara uses a car.
– “Find the anger behind the anger,” says Cat during their drinking session. Ok, maybe that’s the contender for worst line of the series so far.
– Kara’s rage, we soon discover, lies with her constant frustration of having to be normal – yet not being able to have a truly normal life. Ever since her parents abandoned her, it simply wasn’t possible for this alien on a foreign planet. Boyfriend, family and work? All of them will always been unobtainable, to some extent. (Note how the Man of Steel rarely seems to express these anxieties.)
– Maxwell Lord keeps hitting on Alex throughout this episode. As creepy as he is, we can’t tell whether we like the idea of that couple or not.
– Why, that robot’s not sentient at all! It’s hardly a surprise, given the plethora of tech geniuses around in National City, from Winn to Maxwell. But the culprit is a surprise: Morrow, a former military tech guy who wants revenge on General Lane. The solution? A Kryptonian hologram, of course! After luring him in, Alex – and yes, note once more that Supergirl’s nicely-balanced ensemble means that it takes more than Kara to bring down its villains – takes out Morrow, disabling a psychic link between him and the machine.
– And then, of course, it does become sentient after all. Enter Kara’s Rage Face, as she channels all of that anger into one hell of a heat vision stare. You go girl.
– At the same time, it’s great to see Cat use her own rage to stand up to her disapproving mum.
– The ending of the episode continues to explore the back-story involving Supergirl’s dad (Dean Cain). It turns out, thanks to Winn’s convenient h4cking skillz, that Hank was the last man to see her father alive, after they went on a mission to South America, only for Hank to return. The file? It’s redacted, so who knows what happened? Either way, we can’t wait for Dean Cain.
– The most interesting reveal, though, is in the very final shot, as Kara drops a glass in Cat’s office – only to cut her self on the glass and… start bleeding. Is this weakness because she used up her powers with her Rage Face?