Episode 1.04 “Livewire”
Before I talk about this week’s Supergirl episode, first a digression. As you may have heard by now, this episode, “Livewire,” is not the one that was originally supposed to air. The episode that was supposed to air—“How Does She Do it?” involving Supergirl foiling a bomb plot around National City—was pushed back due to last weekend’s tragic events in Paris. It will, judging by previews, air next week.
Moved up or not, this episode fits just fine. Given the progression of the show, the general arc most television takes towards the holidays and the all too rare thing of it being November and not already talking about Christmas, a Thanksgiving episode makes perfect sense to me.
Said Thanksgiving involves both the arrival of Kara and Alex’s mother Eliza (Helen Slater) for the holiday as well as Supergirl getting slammed on air by acid=tongued CatCo shock jack Leslie Willis (Brit Morgan) with language that I was honestly surprised CBS allowed on air (at one point, Leslie wonders who will “puncture” Supergirl’s “chasity belt of steel.”).
Her words immediately get Leslie into trouble with Cat, who points out that she named Supergirl and wants to do everything she can to tie the hero to CatCo, something Leslie has put in jeopardy. Furthermore, “the people want optimism and positivity” and Leslie just doesn’t fit. Since she’s still under contract, Cat can’t fire her but instead she demotes her to traffic reporting just as a major storm is brewing.
Said storm results in lightning striking Leslie’s helicopter, forcing an out and about Alex and Kara to clear the street and take to the skies respectively. Supergirl gets the pilot out safely but as she grabs Leslie’s hand, she gets struck by lightning which courses through her and into Leslie.
Leslie winds up in a coma which really brings the hyper-confident Cat down. Then when Willis discovers she can manipulate electricity and breaks out of the hospital to get revenge, it messes Cat up even more. Couple that with Alex and Eliza butting heads because the latter constantly criticizes the former while praising Kara and you have one emotional episode that still deals in some fight scenes.
I’ve not seen Slater’s turn as the Maid of Might in the 1984 Supergirl film (which is, by all accounts, not that great and very weird) but she works well here. In particular, her big emotional moment with Alex—despite being undercut by a strangely upbeat cover of Hozier’s “Take Me To Church”—is a stunner.
Speaking of big emotional moments, episode writers Caitlin Parrish and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (he of Afterlife with Archie fame) use the appearance of Livewire to flesh out Cat Grant a lot. Not only is she visibly distraught at Leslie being in a coma, she also gives a great monologue to Kara about how her mother’s tough love pushed her to where she is but also left her deeply insecure. Calista Flockhart sells it wonderfully and I hope this is followed up on in future episodes along with the big reveal about Jeremiah Danvers (Dean Cain) that Eliza reveals at the end.
Director Kevin Tanchaoren (creator of the Mortal Kombat: Legacy webseries and a veteran of The Flash and Agents of SHIELD) balances all this heart with some well-staged action. The opening scene cutting between Alex freaking out about Eliza’s arrival and Kara throwing down with an alien prisoner at the DEO is a lot of fun. And Tanchaoren uses the nature of Livewire’s powers and Morgan’s vampy performance—which is fun but no Lori Petty—to stage some cool fights involving lights going out and lightning whips.
So even though this was pushed up a week, this was the right episode to push up. It gives needed character depth to Alex and Cat as well as help set the story for the rest of the season in motion. Hopefully, the show keeps this momentum up as it goes along and doesn’t fall into the CBS trap of wheel-spinning that seems to affect all their shows. Though if every episode is like this, I doubt that’ll be the case.