SUMMARY: Lucy Lane’s father visits and is a dick to everyone. Max continues to hit on Alex. Supergirl learns to vent her anger by killing a robot.
SUPERMAN COUNT: 11
Syd: Welcome to week 6 of Tales from the Krypton: Supergirl vs. Red Tornado. So, Margaret, I guess you could say that Supergirl was really seeing red.
Syd: I’m sorry.
Margaret: The main plot of this episode seemed completely pointless. The whole Red Tornado thing was completely and utterly useless. What was the point of that entire thing?
Syd: You’ve got to get your fight scenes somewhere.
Margaret: Which are still not well choreographed. So let’s get into the story.
Syd: In the opening scene, we learn that this show should never, ever, ever try to be topical. Supergirl stops an angry driver and frightens children on a slow news day, so the news asks Maxwell Lord for a comment. Lord makes reference to police brutality and says, “We should put a body camera on Supergirl.” You know what, writers? Real people were killed. This isn’t a cute cultural touchstone.
Margaret: This shouldn’t be the topical thing to show you’re in touch with current events. The quip makes it feel flippant.
Syd: They might as well say, “You know who could use a Supergirl? Planned Parenthood! Am I right?”
Margaret: I just threw up a little in my mouth.
Syd: That line caught me by surprise.
Margaret: Then we are introduced to General Lane. As soon as he’s mentioned, you know he’s going to be a jerk because he doesn’t like James. They took the tropes of both the disapproving father and the angry military guy who doesn’t like the superhero and they just dialed them up to eleven. There is nothing redeemable about this person throughout the entire episode.
Syd: Between him and Cat’s mother, this episode just hates parents. It’s weird considering how often this show has Kara talking about her birth mother or Alex wanting to find her dead father, that the parents who are actually alive in the present are awful.
Margaret: The worst! And they did the same thing with Alex and her mother. Whenever they show parents, there is strife. Alex and Kara’s Foster mother did work to be a better mother to a certain extent, but that whole family dynamic is still so weird to me.
Syd: Just last episode, Kara again pointedly refused to call Eliza her mother.
Margaret: No one seems to have a healthy relationship with a living parent.
Syd: Kara has her AI hologram mother.
Margaret: That isn’t alive and I hope it never returns.
Syd: So back to Cat’s horrible mother.
Margaret: I want to talk about the scene where they introduce Cat’s mother, because I am so sick of this show shoving the fact that Supergirl has to be different because she’s a girl superhero down my throat. I know they’re trying to make the mother despicable and Cat more relatable, but her line: “Call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer a male doctor” made me think that they are trying to have Colleen Donaghy from 30 Rock, but not for laughs. I want to have a nuanced discussion on how being a woman in society is different from being a man, but this show doesn’t seem interested in that.
Syd: They don’t even discuss Cat’s mom’s comments because they know they don’t have to. It’s like a comedian coming out and saying, “Is anyone here from [name of this city]?” as a way to get easy approval without actually saying anything. It was the same thing when Supergirl made the comment, “It’s always men who are crazy behind the wheel.” Who is this line for? Anyone who thinks women are bad drivers isn’t watching this show, especially after five straight episodes of feminist talking points.
Margaret: It bugs me that this is the way they have decided to take the feminism in this show as opposed to doing subtler things. Master of None – the new Neflix Aziz Ansari show – does this well by showing both the overt and subtle sexism prevalent in society today. Supergirl only seems interested in showing you the sexism everyone already knows is bad. There’s no new ground to be made here.
Syd: It’s not even necessarily bad that they aren’t being subtle. The talks between Cat and Kara where Cat explains something about the world to Kara are worthwhile and are usually important to get out in a clear and blatant way, but they have so many points along the way that are just obvious things that everyone already agrees on, when the important things to talk about are the ones people might not be aware of.
Margaret: I like the mentorship between Cat and Kara. It so easily could have turned into something that was catty. Instead it seems like Cat, while still a bitchy person, is really taking Kara under her wing. While I don’t like the lead-up, I like the result. Half of the time I spend rolling my eyes so we can get to the teachable moment.
Syd: Now I am obligated to nerd out because in the next scene they introduce Red Tornado and Dr. Morrow. So viewers who have only read Supergirl comics and not Justice League or Young Justice and who thus would be unfamiliar with Red Tornado would not know Dr. Morrow’s first name because this show refuses to say it. By the time we got halfway through the episode and they still hadn’t said it, I knew that they wouldn’t be referring to him as “Tom Morrow” or “T.O. Morrow,” but I figured in one of the last scenes, they would have someone call him “Thomas” just so viewers might get the joke, but they didn’t. This is a recurring thing in comics adaptations where creators are ashamed of characters who have cartoonish names, and we as a society really should be past this point. Given some real life people’s names, the names aren’t even that unusual and they really aren’t as outlandish as the things they left in the story. Absolutely nobody is going to say, “I no longer buy this story about the robot who creates whirlwinds because his creator’s name is too silly!”
Margaret: Also, did they just slip in the fact that right now the President is a woman? There’s a bit where Lucy Lane comes in and says, “We have an Executive Order forcing you to comply.” And her father’s reply is, “It’s been signed by the President. You can take it up with HER if you like.” So they just said that the President in this universe is a girl. I can’t tell if I like or dislike that.
Syd: I’m pretty neutral on it. It’s like when they used to show it was the future in movies by having a black President, only now that we have one they can’t do that any more, so they have to move on to a woman President. Maybe in another year they won’t be able to do that any more.
Margaret: I’m totally fine with them having the President be a woman, but it feels like they were trying to make a statement. They had the full-on underline and exclamation point on the word “HER!” I don’t want female president just to be clever because this is a SuperGIRL show.
Syd: Isn’t that the way they do everything on this show? It’s the same thing they did with Sabretooth in the Thanksgiving episode.
Syd: Then we got to Game Night with Jimmy and Lucy on one team and Win and Kara on the other. This was the closest this episode had to a scene I like. Even though it was ridiculous that all of the clues in their off-brand Taboo pertained specifically to Lucy and Jimmy’s relationship, I like that they’re showing them working well together and knowing each other well. It made their relationship feel more real and less like a plot contrivance and that added weight to the ending where Lucy stands up to her father and quits her job for him. It’s going to be rough when they inevitably split up so that Jimmy and Kara can be together, the way the series clearly wants them to be.
Margaret: Lucy can’t actually be that smart, though, because she didn’t figure out Kara’s secret identity when Win says, “Your cousin,” trying to get Kara to guess Superman. He tries to cover for it and then a second later, she says, “Speaking of Superman, I just met his cousin.”
Syd: I buy that as plausible. That happens all the time in real life when you think something is obvious but someone totally doesn’t pick up on it. We’ve all been through moments when you think someone should get the hint, should make the connection, and she doesn’t – that happens even to smart people. What is ridiculous is how Win gives away Supergirl’s secret identity in every episode. Supergirl will have to kill him at some point, right?
Margaret: Speaking of Win, they tried to make him useful at the beginning of the episode by having him look into the D.E.O. about Alex’s father. I thought they were actually going to show him doing something. But no, he was still just the creepy guy in the background.
Syd: Well, he was useful. He did find information. At least, he found details, but the important points were things they already knew – that Jeremiah was working for Henshaw and their plane crashed and only Henshaw survived.
Margaret: But they didn’t know that Henshaw was missing for a long time either.
Syd: But they already distrusted Henshaw. And Henshaw was walking around the D.E.O. with his cyborg eyes glowing in full view of everyone.
Margaret: Nobody stopped and said, “Did you just see that?”
Syd: I think they all know he’s an evil cyborg, but nobody talks about it. Like if your boss has a bad toupee or he’s an evil cyborg, you just don’t mention it.
Margaret: Not if you want that promotion.
Syd: So in the next scene, Supergirl is fighting the robot as a practice exercise and she’s told she’s won, but she’s still angry, so she keeps hitting the robot, causing it to fly away and disappear. It was not only contrived, they oversold Supergirl’s anger to the point that Supergirl came off not as someone who has a lot on her mind to work out but someone who has severe emotional problems. She physically couldn’t stop herself from hitting someone – that’s scary.
Margaret: Not to mention that it seems weird to me that everyone is afraid when they lose the machine that it will immediately go into the city and kill people. Why is the robot’s emergency response to hide and then start killing people?
Syd: Why would you program a robot with an Uncontrollable Killing Machine setting at all? We find out later that it was secretly created to kill Kryptonians, so if it has two targets at most, why would its default setting be to destroy cities?
Margaret: It makes absolutely no sense. We should have seen it fly off to Metropolis or something. It should have thought, ”I should go find the other one,” instead of, “Huh. This one hurt me. There’s a city here. Let’s just kill some people.”
Syd: Well, robots have to let off some steam.
Margaret: They have anger issues as well. This entire episode is about anger issues.
Syd: So Red Tornado lost a hand and Alex takes the hand to Maxwell Lord, whom I should just call Lex Luthor from now on.
Margaret: At least call him Max Luthor.
Syd: And Lexwell does a little Sherlock Holmes routine – this character is just everyone but Maxwell Lord.
Margaret: He’s Tony Stark and Sherlock Holmes and House.
Syd: Sherlock and House are the same character. So it’s official, he’s Sherlex.
Margaret: Plus they keep pushing the Alex/Maxwell Lord relationship.
Syd: You mean Lex/Lex?
Margaret: I love it. When they do the L² relationship, it really freaks me out. It is so creepy.
Syd: She is totally not into it.
Margaret: Except they’re trying to kind of show that maybe she sort of feels something for him because she reveals that her father died on the job and then said, “I don’t know why I just told you that.” But it doesn’t seem like they have any chemistry together.
Syd: They absolutely do not. I don’t buy that she likes him because every scene they have together is completely lifeless. And you can’t ignore that only he is pushing for them to get closer.
Margaret: Bad idea. And then he says, “I won’t help you… Okay, I’ll help you a little, just so we can have a faux dinner set up so I can drink wine in front of you.” Which is exactly what happened.
Syd: The next scene was the one between Cat and Kara where we find out that the music department knows a third female pop star – Stevie Nicks. I am narrowing down when specifically these people were teenagers.
Margaret: I actually didn’t hate this song. This one actually seemed to fit. But I’ve stopped listening to the music in the background.
Syd: Then James and Lucy and the General have dinner together and they are attacked by a killer robot. The General, who knows the robot doesn’t respond to vocal commands, starts barking orders at it. Does he usually shout at household appliances when they malfunction? “Toaster, this toast was supposed to be medium brown! Drop and give me forty!”
Margaret: I could actually see that happening. He doesn’t seem like somebody who realizes when things are inanimate objects. He expects everything to listen to his orders. Standing there and yelling at the robot was about as effective as you would think it would be as a tactic.
Syd: “Washing machine, you are FUBAR!”
Margaret: “Stop going off tilt!”
Syd: So Red Tornado has two hands again. How did he get the other hand?
Margaret: Does he regrow hands now?
Syd: Or does he make new hands?
Margaret: That would be fantastic!
Syd: But then he would have to make a new hand with only one hand! Why don’t they show that scene?
Margaret: Could you imagine the applications for that technology, if they had a robot who could recreate itself? That would be great! Think of the scientific awesome! And they don’t even talk about it – he just has a hand again.
Syd: And then he creates a tornado.
Margaret: And Supergirl flies in the opposite direction as the tornado is blowing.
Syd: Spin-Around-It physics.
Margaret: That makes the tornado go away, which the Flash already did in his pilot. At least that wasn’t the crux of the episode with people talking about the science of it. She just did it and I’m fine with that. What’s interesting to me is that this shows that Supergirl is smarter than the Flash, because she just looks at the tornado and knows exactly what to do instead of Barry, who needed four scientists to tell him how to defeat a tornado.
Syd: Then after Supergirl saves Lucy and the General’s lives, the General is still questioning Supergirl’s loyalty. I get that he’s an asshole, but this just makes no sense. It would make some sense if he said, “You let him get away! You don’t know what you’re doing! You’re incompetent!” but he says, “Whose side are you on?” And she’s obviously on the wrong side if she let him live.
Margaret: It seems like the General is on the wrong side, because all he’s talking about is saving innocent lives and that’s what she did.
Syd: But, like, people hating aliens is like racism and racism is bad right?
Margaret: It just makes no sense. I mean, both racism and this show.
Syd: Kryptonian Lives Matter!
Margaret: I’m going to flip something.
Syd: Then Supergirl and Jimmy have their anger therapy where they say what they’re angry about and then they punch something.
Margaret: That’s not really good therapy.
Syd: No, it isn’t good therapy, but it’s good drama.
Margaret: I did like that what she was angry about wasn’t actually James. It’s the fact that she’s incredibly repressed and still in mourning for her planet.
Syd: It’s not just about mourning. It’s more personal than that. It’s not that she lost those people, it’s that she lost her conception of what a normal life is. She feels like she can never be normal on Earth. Of course her rage over being denied normality isn’t something we’ve seen before this episode and it kind of contradicts what we were shown in the pilot – that she wants to be who she is instead of some imposed idea of “normal.” They also don’t deal with this in any meaningful way in this episode. I’m neither for nor against taking the character in this direction, but if it’s just for this episode, it feels unearned.
Margaret: I like it. They did deal with her anger, albeit in a cheesy way. In the end, when she was so angry and they had all the flashbacks to her spaceship leaving Krypton, they were trying to show her thinking about how angry she was at not having a normal life. That called back to her line, “My normal life ended when I got on that spaceship.” Maybe it didn’t hit all the right emotional notes I was looking for, but I really liked the breakdown she had. Through most of the series, nothing seems to faze Kara. She’s always been the optimistic person who’s always pushing down emotions. She’s always showed herself as a pleasant person who gets along with everyone and is always optimistic and goes through life with a positive attitude. This was the first time where she showed anything along the lines of being upset with what happened to her.
Syd: I object to the idea that she was repressed before. We’ve never seen her hold anything back before. We’ve seen her get flustered with Cat and we’ve seen her pine for Jimmy; we just haven’t seen her angry. There’s kind of a standard assumption when there’s someone who is cheerful and optimistic that she’s secretly a boiling cauldron of rage underneath, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Instead of doing an episode about her losing control, her character development could have come from her showing someone how she learned control. Not every nice person is a ticking time bomb. Some of them are just nice.
Margaret: I just thought it was an interesting point that I do hope they bring up again, because you can be a very pleasant, optimistic, positive person who is still repressing a shit ton of anger. I feel like you can have it both ways to a certain extent. You could be positive about everything 80% of the time and then realize that something’s bothering you because most of the time you are seeing things very positively and then you have this come through every once in awhile and she has to realize how to deal with it because she’s such a positive person. That I could find an interesting character point where she has to figure out how to deal with negativity. She has been channeling it through anger and hopefully she’ll figure out that’s not the best way to go about it.
Syd: Moving on, Sam Lane doesn’t know Tommy is controlling Red Tornado? How is it possible not to know that? He was there for the tests. Did he not notice Morrow putting on Cerebro?
Margaret: At the start of the episode, they were all in the tent together and he wasn’t wearing the headset.
Syd: So it’s automated some of the time? That would have been useful in the climactic battle scene where Supergirl was fighting Red Tornado while Alex was fighting Tommy. He sure put up a good fight. Does he have martial arts training?
Margaret: I don’t know. Why was that a fight?
Syd: Oh yeah! Why did that come to a hand-to-hand confrontation when Alex had a gun? At the beginning of the fight, she said to him, “You don’t have to throw your life away,” so I thought maybe she was going to reason with him, but she ended up killing him anyway. Why didn’t she shoot him before the fight? Maybe she was afraid that she couldn’t kill him, because she’d seen enough James Bond movies to know that T.O. Morrow Never Dies.
Margaret: But at the end, she had that horrified look when she shot him. For just a moment, she looked shocked, so I thought that was going to be something they discussed at some point because they’d never shown her kill anybody. She killed the alien, right?
Syd: Yes, she killed Hellgramite.
Margaret: Maybe to her that’s not the same as killing a person.
Syd: That is way more fucked up. If she thinks that killing an alien doesn’t count, that’s something they should fucking talk about. And it’s kind of scary if she can make that disconnect even when the alien looks just like a human.
Margaret: Well, she doesn’t show any remorse over killing an alien. I don’t remember seeing a horrified look over that. But it looked like she was upset over killing Morrow. But then they never bring it up again, so maybe it’s fine to her.
Syd: Speaking of “What Measure is a Non-Human?” after Tommy died, the robot became sentient and I couldn’t stop laughing. After all of the failed comedy on this show, this was the funniest thing they’ve done. Even while they had that emotional moment of Supergirl working through her anger issues by robot incineration, I couldn’t get over Red Tornado spontaneously gaining sentience.
Margaret: And why is that her first idea of what had happened? Because when the robot kept going, at first I thought it was automated or maybe Morrow’s consciousness went into it, but no, it’s just sentient.
Syd: They definitely want us to think that the robot is sentient and Kara does not care. She just kills the hell out of this newly sentient lifeform.
Margaret: She doesn’t try to talk to him. She doesn’t say, “Oh, if it’s sentient, maybe it will stand down.”
Syd: I thought she might try to reason with it at least.
Margaret: I was thinking that maybe if it’s sentient it’s because Morrow had that neural link. Maybe Morrow somehow transferred into the thing and they’ll talk and then she’ll disable it and it will come back later. But no. She just straight-up murders it. I understand that it was supposed to be a very emotional moment for her, but she just killed a sentient being.
Syd: Not only does she have no remorse, but nobody calls her out on it.
Margaret: It’s never brought up. And she doesn’t just kill it. She evaporates it.
Syd: This was the most brutal killing we have seen on this show, and it was for a being that was killed for what it did when someone else was controlling its body. It was pretty hardcore.
GRADING THE EPISODE
Margaret: I’m at C.
Syd: I have to go with C+. This was one of the most entertaining episodes, so I want to give it a B-, but B means “good,” and it’s definitely not that.
Margaret: It seems to be, if not getting on solid footing, at least narrowing it down. They’re getting to what they want to be and I don’t know if it will be something I enjoy, but they’re getting there.