SKY HIGH: SUPERGIRL S1X04 REVIEW – “LIVEWIRE”
Supergirl has got to be one of the most schizophrenic television series I have ever watched. Shades of my oft pitched theory of a show having two different writing staffs, one scripting the villain of the week and another writing the recurring persistent arc, definitely raises its head in spades when I watch this show. That theory has no basis in fact, by the way. But I do not know of any other way to explain how, for the second week in a row, I’ve been ready to give a Supergirl episode a 4.0 on our 10.0 scale about midway through the episode. And then there is an uptick that returns the episode to where every one of these have solidly landed, in the mediocre to above average range. I’ve gotten used to it at this point, though, so I did not experience as much of the emotional anguish that I have been going through over the course of the first three shows.
As has been the usual pattern, let’s get the negativity out of the way. First off, this week’s villain of the week, Livewire, played by True Blood’s Brit Morgan, was pretty much horrible. There were tons of implausible things with the character’s movements from scene-to-scene that jarred me out of any sense of suspension of disbelief. Versimilitude for this episode? Zilch. Nada. Zero. Just because you become electricity, you don’t understand it. Such as in the case of a radio show host who I doubt ever took anything more than a high-school Physics class. And if I ever got electrical powers? I think I would go for figuring out if I could do lightning bolts, maybe generate a persistent electrostatic field, maybe siphon electrical energy out of nearby power sources. Electrostatic shock by touch would be a no-brainer. But Livewire jumps from seeing her shock-touch power work directly to…converting her entire molecular structure into pure energy and leaping onto the local electrical grid via a street lamp. Da fugg??? When in combat with Supergirl, who by this point has had, let’s hypothesize, a couple of months of DEO combat training (given how she takes down the brute in the show’s opener), Livewire moves and fights like a seasoned combat veteran, transitioning back and forth from her non-corporeal, pure energy form to solid in mid-leap, mid-run, and while changing elevation in all sorts of crazy ways. It’s out-of-sync with how they have tried to portray combat in this world and is another example of doing something the easy way that grates against any notion of consistency that the show had built up. Main takeaway? It doesn’t sync up that Kara, who remembers her (very scientific) partial upbringing on Krypton and has done some planet hopping, needs the assistance of two non-science types and tons of learning time to figure out her powers, but Livewire, who should know little to nothing of electrical science above the average pedestrian, comes off with the power level she does moments after her accident. As she proceeds to take Kara apart like a seasoned heavyweight boxer, I let out a stream of WTF’s every 5 to 10 seconds.
The big macguffin this episode is a capacitor-based floor-trap that works similar to a Ghostbuster’s ecto-trap (kudos on scripting here for having Benoist say that point-on as I was thinking it). Kara is supposed to use this to trap Livewire. Theoretically, the cap will grab and store Livewire in her energy form and trap here there until the cap is set to dispense its energy. Nice. Except, just before Kara tries to spring it, Livewire transits through…a cap bank. Two of them, actually, attached to the telephone pole that she uses to transit a short distance and reposition herself while fighting Kara. Maybe that’s a little inside baseball, but, given the complete dispension with any concept of science in the show, it’s bothersome. Oh, and I don’t think a beam of concentrated heat, essentially a microwave, I guess, would physically intercept arcing electricity. Nor should it charge Livewire like a battery pack.
Am I being an overly pretentious uber-nerd? No. It wasn’t me who injected some need for scientific basis in the show. THEY DID IT THEMSELVES in episode 2, when they had Winn and Jimmy telling Kara about material strength and weight as she conducted her round of super-rescues with the desire to not destroy anything she touched. It is also in stark contrast to the neo-science that is so heavenly woven into The Flash. Would I prefer a scientific basis? Sure, but I don’t hand-cuff creative content to that because it is what I want. But I hold the show-runners to task on this because of their break from a pattern they tried to establish in the earlier episode. I will also admit, though, that I might not be so harsh on these issues if the role was acted better. Ms Morgan’s portrayal was rather pedestrian and did not hold my interest. A crude representation of a female Howard Stern, the role was pretty much useless and could have been played by anyone.
Yay!!! We’ve completed this week’s Supergirl trash disposal and can talk about the positives. This episode had some of the best dramatic scenes of the four to-date. The scenes with Momma Danvers (Helen Slater) and Alex (Chyler Leigh)…”You’ve always been my Supergirl” had me reaching for a box tissues. The Kara/Jimmy Olsen scenes were also great. The peek behind the curtain that we got to see of what makes Cat go was also well scripted and well-acted. And I love me some Dean Cain. I’m choosing to believe right now that Jeremiah Danvers is actually alive. Whether we get to see him in flashbacks and regardless of whether he shows up in real-time, getting to see Cain addresses one of my wants that I had walking away from the premiere. The character of Winn (white Cisco) continues to grow on me and the reveal in this episode was quietly well-played and serves to continue the fleshing out of him from a 2D paper model with a crush on Supergirl to a more well-rounded character piece.
Another positive this episode was the opening hand-to-hand sequence. Kara using her flight in every point-of-direction with spherical awareness is a brilliant thing to portray on the show. It’s a bit dubious that a being that clearly had the strength to break his restraints would just be escorted down the hall with a pair of catch-poles, but if I skip that startup, this scene was markedly better than past combat sequences. And it was a nice character moment to think that Kara would be at the DEO base helping out while workaholic Alex was back home waiting to meet their mother. The wire-work still had some hitchy moments in the rest of the episode, and Kara landing in her apartment on her return from the DEO base looked like my daughter jumping off of her step-stool.
As far as pacing for the overall series goes, it’s nice that we have veered away from the Kryptonians for a couple of episodes. They could easily have been overused, so it’s nice that they are keeping that djinn in the box and letting it humidify a bit.
With episode #4 I am in much the same place as I seem to always be with this show. There were elements of this that were absolute trash. Things that would have been fine in Lois & Clark, but are tone-deaf in the 21st century TV landscape. There are times I wish they would just drop the capes and make this a weekly drama. I think they would be better off if they did not have to negotiate the comic booky content. Or maybe I would have been ok if Season 1 of Supergirl were Smallville-like or ‘Flix Daredevil, and she put on the costume at the end. I think I am fine at this point admitting that this show has likely lost any chance of capturing the hearts and minds of the geek mainstream. I’m a statistical outlier, and I do not mind admitting when my view is likely out of kilter with the rest of mainstream geekdom. For me, this is the worst show that I still want to see every week. I kind of know what The Flash and Arrow are going to deliver from week-to-week. In fact, I have a pretty decent hypothesis on where they need to move the characters of those shows to by the end of this season. Supergirl, however, is an enigma. And maybe there is a certain sadism in going through the birthing pains of seeing this show trying to gain its footing. Am I hooked? That wouldn’t be my term. But I am mired in the spectacle, much like a Roman watching a gladiatorial battle, or Americans passing a car wreck. For whatever reason, I cannot get enough. And so I’ll keep posting these after each week’s episode, hoping each time that the result will be different. What do the textbooks define that kind of behavior as again?