‘Supergirl’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 1 Episode 4: ‘Livewire’
Welcome to Supergirl Guys, our new regular feature breaking down the highs and lows of CBS’s Supergirl TV show starring Melissa Benoist in the super smiling title role. Your travelling companions on this journey are Superman super-fan Chris Haley, and Flash recap veteran Dylan Todd.
This week, Kara and Cat go up against a shock jock who is actually shocking --- perhaps even as shocking as that pun --- and Supergirl gets a Thanksgving visit from her mom, Also Supergirl. 'Livewire' was directed by Kevin Tancharoen and written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Caitlin Parrish.
Dylan: So Chris, this week we got the introduction of radio shock jock-turned-energy-based metahuman, Livewire and we got formally introduced to Kara and Alex’s mom, OG Supergirl Helen Slater. Also, turkey. I’m curious to get your take on this episode because man, I thought it was just the weirdest thing. What did you think?
Chris: First off, I guess it’s worth mentioning that although it’s airing fourth, this is actually the show’s fifth episode. I’m not sure exactly what happens on the fourth episode, but apparently it was something that would have felt disrespectful to air so soon after the tragedy in Paris.
I mention this for two reasons: 1) We’ve clearly missed out on some development in the James/Lucy relationship we left off on last week and 2) I don’t want people to be confused when they go back to re-read all of the Supergirl Guys installments when the show comes out on DVD. Because people are definitely going to do that.
Okay, so the episode itself; I really enjoyed it. I actually got so caught up in the episode at one point that I realized I’d been forgetting to take notes or keep up with the Super Tally, and I think that’s a good sign. I definitely still had some questions and problems, but overall, I guess I’m just really into this show. I think I can guess, but let me ask you why it felt weird to you?
Dylan: It just felt really uneven. Lots of stuff crammed in with no real rhyme or reason. The pacing was super-logy, with weird (boring) lulls where people talked about (yuck) feelings. Plus, a lot of time devoted to a bizarre and unnecessary flashback, which means that relationships that were important to the plot were shortchanged and rushed. I’m glad you liked it, though!
(That seems so backhanded, but I am really glad you liked it.)
Chris: Haha, yeah, I definitely get where you’re coming from and agree, but I think the stuff I like is overpowering the stuff I don’t and I’m just thankful for that. Because it’s the Thanksgiving episode. This show is also just such a wonderful change of pace from Arrow, which often makes me physically angry.
Dylan: I could debate this with you, because I think Arrow is such a weirdly enjoyable show, but let’s get into the meat of the episode.
Chris: FWIW, I don’t hate Arrow, it just frustrates me. But yes, moving on!
Dylan: Early on, we’re introduced to Leslie Willis (no relation), an honest-to-Zod shock jock in this, the year 2015. The most shocking thing she says is that Supergirl is kind of boring and then some sub-Kevin Smith stuff about the Supergirl’s sex life.
I’m not sure how this is supposed to be especially shocking, but apparently Cat thinks it’s egregious enough to punish Leslie --- one of her most famous disc jockeys --- by making her do traffic reports. Which… okay. I’m fairly sure that radio stations don’t work like that anymore, but sure. Whatever. This results in her getting zap-zap powers from a lightning bolt that passes through Kara when she’s trying to save the traffic copter from crashing. I’ve only seen a few appearances of Livewire; was this characterization pretty close to how she’s portrayed elsewhere?
Chris: Yeah, for the most part it’s basically the same kind of deal she has going elsewhere, only here it’s against Supergirl instead of Superman, and you know, Cat Grant isn’t involved in the comics or Superman: The Animated Series. Back in the '90s, she seemed like a really current (get it?) kind of new villain, but you’re totally right that a “shock jock” in 2015 just seems so odd. I mean, the show is about flying aliens, so whatever, but who the hell listens to the radio anymore?! I guess she could have been talk show host or a famous YouTuber or something.
Also, I know they only have so much time to devote to the villain’s story, but it irked me how she goes from, “I’m stumbling around in an alley and have no idea what’s going” to “I am the god of electricity and I know exactly how my powers work to do all kinds of zapping around!” I prefer them just hurrying up and getting to the good stuff over dragging it out forever, but man, that was fast.
All of that said though, I liked her as Livewire and thought it was a fun, new challenge for Kara.
Dylan: Yeah, though stuff like that is probably why I felt like it was a really uneven episode. We’re supposed to feel something for Cat and Leslie’s relationship, we’re supposed to feel something for Eliza’s relationship with her daughters, we’re supposed to care about Winn, who is a drip. If they’d spent as much time developing Livewire as they do having the multiple heart-to-heart talks this episode, I’d feel a lot better about the whole thing.
It was easily the soapiest episode yet, with some of these conversations working better than others. I thought the Cat/Kara scene, while a little overdone, was decent. I’m still not convinced that making Cat a “real person” is the best angle for her, but if she’s going to stick around in as visible a position as she’s been, especially in this episode, it’s inevitable. What did you think about Cat this episode?
Chris: I liked it! She’s clearly the most famous person on this show and they seem to have every intention of getting the most out of her, and it’d be silly to just keep her so one-dimensional and just be the mean boss. I definitely thought that scene between she and Kara in her office was a stand out “acting” moment for the show, and I don’t mean that in a snarky way at all.
Dylan: Snark is bad, Chris.
Let’s talk about Eliza. I just, I didn’t get her at all. Her blowup at dinner was so out of left field and just bizarre. Part of it is the writing. They need Eliza to be mad at Alex so they can make up at the end, and also need her to, for whatever reason, withhold her prior knowledge of the DEO until the very end of the episode. And Helen Slater doesn’t help things with her stilted delivery and barely-there emoting. I IMDB-ed her afterward and saw that she’s been keeping busy on soap operas and ABC Family shows, and that sort of explains it: Eliza acts like somebody from a whole other show that wandered on set by accident. Am I crazy here?
Chris: Oh man, I’m glad you said this, because I was worried it was just me. You could not be more right. Though I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Helen Slater because:
As relatable as holiday induced family tensions are, nothing anyone was mad about made sense.
Dylan: Yeah. I mean, I know the feeling of having a parent disappointed in you --- I write, on the internet, about television shows starring people wearing capes and pajamas --- but I feel like the writers put her there solely to get to the “shocking revelation!” that Dean Cain/Big Poppa Danvers used to work for the DEO back in olden times and I’m just not sold on that being the best way to work that information in there.
Chris: Let me ask you this: As a parent, which one of your children is your favorite and which one do you treat terribly? I mean, TV says that’s how you have to do it, so give us the dirt. Also, what do you do when you have more than two? TV never covers that when they talk about playing favorites.
Dylan: I’m gonna plead the Fifth here and instead distract you by saying that this week did sort of confirm our shared suspicion that Hank Henshaw’s not a bad guy, if only because he’s being presented as a Very Bad Mystery Guy. I’ve heard from a few people that they think he might turn out to be Martian Manhunter, and I am very into this idea. Except wouldn’t he be the Martian Alien-Hunter in this case?
Chris: Aw, that’s just semantics. He can hunt men, women, aliens, whatev. I like the idea that he might be MM, but I’m a little doubtful that’s what they’re actually going to do with him. I definitely think him being a “bad guy” is not what’s happening here though, so I guess we’ll see.
To jump back to the parent talk for just a second, what did you think of the… I guess, “meta-social commentary” in these two quotes:
- “I can’t even imagine what she’s going to do to me for you coming out... as Supergirl.”
- “Okay, I’ve figured it out. Mom’s furious with you for coming out, but she’s pretending that she isn’t.”
This would seem perfectly normal in the X-Men, where powers and mutant struggles are constantly used as stand-ins for real life groups that are persecuted, but it caught me by surprise in a DC property. Combine that with the “shock jock sex talk” and this felt it was maybe trying to subtly be the sexuality episode?
Dylan: I almost wish it was actual commentary instead of meta-commentary? We have yet to meet any sort of gay character in the series, so it was weird to hear that language co-opted in a superhero context. With the exception of Kara all but squeezing James’ muscles whenever she talks to him and Winn looking wistfully at the radio when Leslie was talking about, “Who could even unlock the Chastity Belt of Steel?” it’s been a shockingly sexless show. Which is fine for a show pitched at an all-ages/family audience at 8pm on Mondays on the biggest mainstream TV network in the country, but I’m not sure why they’d even skirt the issue if you’re not going to really bring it up.
Chris: I thought you were going to say the “beigest” network, and I was like, “Oh wow, that’s a great burn on CBS”.
Dylan: That too. But speaking of sexy-type stuff, there was also some boy stuff in this episode, with Winn still making those mopey eyes at Kara as if being nice to a woman is a good substitute for being interesting, and more of James and Lucy’s (decaying?) relationship while Kara makes googly eyes at him. I keep hoping they’re going to do something to make Winn an interesting choice, but apparently his defining feature is “just doggedly persistent.” What did you think about the love stuff in here?
Chris: I’d be fine if this show was completely sexless and just focused on Supergirl kicking butt and having adventures. And eating donuts. And having an interesting supporting cast surrounding her. And fun music montages. And pizza. What were we talking about? Oh yeah, I like that this show is something kids and adults and adults with kids can all watch and nothing ever has to get… uncomfortable. Grown ups and immature man-children can go watch something else if they need a show that’s “sexy”.
So, to the point you were actually asking about, I think that little bit of background we got about Winn with his dad being in jail is how they're going to try to work towards Winn being interesting. Also, I’m guessing his dad is going to be Toyman.
Dylan: Oh yeah, that little knowledge drop was 100% setup for a future episode. I’m trying to think of who would be old enough to be Winn’s dad who’s remotely tied to a Superman iteration to do a little bit of stunt-casting.
Chris: It’s this guy. He was on some show called Revenge which I’ve never seen, but I assume you are a fan of, because that’s how these things seem to be going lately.
Dylan: I’ve seen some Revenge, and Henry Czerny is a good call. I’m sort of bummed it won’t be John Shea, who played Lex Luthor on Lois & Clark, because I love to hate dumb stunt casting.
Chris: I know you do, buddy. I bet they’re just saving John Shea for a bigger role.
Dylan: He’ll voice Streaky the Super-Cat. It’s decided.
Chris: Also! I take back what I said earlier about thinking Hank isn’t going to be Martian Manhunter. I just realized some things and I am now firmly convinced that’s exactly who he is going to be.
I will present my case!
- Red eyes
- Name with double consonant (Hank Henshaw, instead of John Jones)
- Hasn’t aged
- Very interested in aliens
- Said he used to have a family, but they’re obviously gone and he’s sad about it
- Work detection powers (aka telepathy)
- Wasn’t afraid to try to fight Alura
Dylan: I’m convinced as well! Also, like four of the things on that list also apply to me, so maybe I’m also a Martian?! Did I just blow my own mind?! (SPOILERS: I totally did!)
Oh, and I just wanted to add that Cat’s speech after her heart grows three sizes, that whole thing about “noise and snark,” hit a little too close to home. Those are two of my favorite things!
Chris: This show is calling you out. I like the idea that Supergirl is inspiring even people like Cat to be less cynical. Even if it’s clear that she’s going to go forth into that light of positivity kicking and screaming. This is exactly what I want from something about “Super_____”, and since it doesn’t look like Zach Snyder is likely to give me that any time soon, this show is the best.
Quote me, WB/CBS! “This show is the best!” - Chris Haley, ComicsAlliance.com
Speaking of Superman, I thought the helicopter rescue was a nice nod to Superman: The Movie, even if that CGI-copter was hilariously bad.
Dylan: And here’s my quote: “I hope next week’s episode makes more sense!” – Dylan Todd, ComicsAlliance.com
Super Tally: Superman --- 3