Superman needs Lois Lane. It's built into the fabric of his narrative. He's an all-powerful, godlike creature and he needs something human to keep him tethered to this world and give him a little weakness the rest of us can empathise with. Human characters like the Flash and Green Arrow don't need characters like this. But Superman and Supergirl — they both need a human to remind us of their foibles.
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Reflecting back on season two thus far, it's clear that's what the show's been lacking. After deadlifting a space station last season, Supergirl has become a spectacularly competent heroine, so powerful she threatens to sideline heroes in any crossover, and often has to be kept out of the action on her own show to drive up the stakes. We've gotten good moments out of her heroism — that time she stopped a train like a Fleischer cartoon or the one where she halted an intergalactic freighter to save her sister — but most of this season has seen Kara removed from the rest of humanity. Hell, even her big "epic" romance was told entirely from the guy's point of view, with Kara's love and respect positioned as favours to be won. She has been too super, frankly, and has needed her Lois Lane back.
So when Calista Flockhart sauntered on screen this week, it was like everything in Supergirl just clicked back into place. The show was almost instantly at its best again, although it didn't hurt that Flockhart's Cat Grant was standing by Lynda Carter's President and started savaging Teri Hatcher's Evil Alien Mum Rhea's tiara like a '90s Aaron Spelling villainess. Suddenly all the little problems of this season were gone, or at least so muted it was hard to care about them.
While I know a lot of readers weren't crazy about Cat Grant and the publishing focus of season one, one has to admit that the energy of the show shifted dramatically once Cat came back into the picture this week. And one of the big reasons‚ besides the non-stop zingers, her epic war of words with Rhea, and her unabashed feminism — is that she grounds Supergirl in a way no other character has had the opportunity to.
Certainly the show's tried to give Kara a Lois Lane this season. James, Alex, Mon-El and even Maggie have donned the mantle of sounding board, and Lena Luthor has been as apt a witty damsel as any. But with each of these characters there's a lingering baggage. Kara's always holding back with those closest to her. And while she's still holding back from Cat (officially Cat has no idea she's Kara but unofficially she figured out James was Guardian without even looking up from her phone so she obviously knows), she can also be emotionally vulnerable in a way she doesn't exhibit with any other character, seen in a wonderful scene where she unloaded her feelings to the best mentor in the DC/CW-verse.
Besides Cat Grant's excellent return this week we also got just an A+ adventure yarn. Every character got a shining moment of badarsery, a lot of characters got paired up in new and amusing combinations, and the action. Never. Stopped.
While it might be easy to note that none of the characters had arcs set up in this episode that will conclude in a satisfying way in next week's finale, I'm kind of finding it hard to care, because I finally got a live-action Super-story featuring a legit alien invasion, team-ups with enemies, prolific laser use, and a multitude of Star Wars references. If every episode was this much fun it would be a helluva lot easier to forgive the character gaffs we had to suffer through this season.
- Thank you for being a friend, Cat Grant.
- Why did you live in a yurt, Cat Grant?
- You saw your future president/university peer adviser was an alien and thought it was the pot brownies, Cat Grant.
- Please don't die tragically next week, Cat Grant.
- The President is an alien.
- Rhea is really into 3D printing dress accoutrements.
- Lena's inevitable turn to villainy is being foreshadowed left and right.
- Lena's inevitable romantic relationship with Kara (and possibly Mon-El?) is also being foreshadowed left and right.
- Hank Henshaw is an adorable murder bot.
- Mon-El really is great when he's not being framed as the romantic lead.
- The war of Wonder Woman v Ally McBeal v Lois Lane v Mary Alice was really intense.
- Now I too long to don a tiara and hover, incandescently, over an entire city while my poorly dressed soldiers use those sticks from Stargate to ineffectually assault Alex Danvers.