Season One, Episode Four – “Livewire”
By Molly Jane Kremer. Last night’s Supergirl episode was originally intended to air on November 23rd (noticeable in its Turkey Day themes and festivities), but the possible narrative snags a skipped week could have incurred are all but invisible in the realization that “Livewire” is, undoubtedly, the best episode of the series so far. Everything that gives this show its bright outlook and beating heart is present here, with the added perk of insanely huge amounts of femme-positivity, and a well-rounded and viable antagonist in Brit Morgan’s Leslie/Livewire. As ever, stumbles were present along the way, but they were miniscule in comparison to the engaging whole. All told, it was an hour for the ages, and an exceptionally wonderful experience.
WHAT WORKED: “Livewire” was an hour-long A+ on the Bechdel Test. Every male character was incidental to the main plot, and seeing all of these powerful women interact with (and learn from) each other was incredibly gratifying. Themes of motherhood, sisterhood, and friendship intertwined as these ladies pushed each other to be better; and aside from Livewire (as expected of the baddie), the overwhelmingly positive depictions of female relationships were quietly glorious. And, in regards to Leslie’s on-air harassment of Supergirl, Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) prohibits it for exactly the right reasons: “… going after a young girl, insulting her body, how she dresses, her sexuality.”
And, of course, the episode completely removes the possibility of any tokenism by having the hero, the villain (and most everyone else with significant screentime) female. When the actions of a single female character aren’t the only female representation in something, it’s funny how much more depth and resonance she has—say nothing of the depth found in her story.
There’s a refreshing lack of jealousy between Kara and Lucy Lane over their shared object of affection, even with Lucy and Jimmy getting away from the city for the romantic holiday weekend that is… Thanksgiving (?!). Although Jucy (hey, it’s better than Limmy or Lames) is a relationship that—due assumedly to skipping their reconnection amid this episodic rescheduling—feels jarring in its sudden seriousness.
WHAT DIDN’T: It’s certainly cute to have 1984’s Supergirl playing this Supergirl’s mom, but Helen Slater is sadly not a great actress. We didn’t notice when we were squealing over her seconds-quick appearance in the pilot, but this episode spends enough time with her to reveal her stiltedly recited dialogue and wooden emoting. Thankfully, Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh provide enough support in Slater’s scenes that it doesn’t ruin the episode. Leigh personally saves an intense bonding scene between her and Slater with a heart-rending performance, despite the addition of an overly loud, overly terrible cover of “Take Me To Church”; which was possibly so distracting on purpose. Better to be wincing at the music than wincing at the acting, I guess… instead I was wincing at both.
Kara and Cat continue to have these on-the-nose conversations in Cat’s office where they discuss Supergirl and her actions and motivations. Cat’s too-insightful comments always serve as indirect (and inadvertent) advice to the superhero she’s discussing. It gives the show a Silver Age silliness—not that I dislike that sort of levity, mind you—but do they have to do this every week?? “I bet Supergirl feels terrible,” Kara says to Cat. At some point, sharp-witted Cat Grant would turn around and say “What are you even talking about? Why are we discussing a stranger’s feelings? Where’s my latte?”
“Chocolate Pecan pie is the best dessert in the galaxy. And as someone who’s been to twelve different planets, I mean that literally.” – Kara. Aw man, I want to do a dessert-crawl through the solar system with Supergirl…!
“Supergirl is changing the conversation of National City. People don’t want your brand of negativity anymore, Leslie, they want optimism, hope, positivity.” – The first of many great Cat Grant quotes this week. I’d like to think she’s talking about the DC Cinematic Universe too. But maybe I’m projecting. (But I totally think she is.)
“What fresh incompetence is this?” – Cat takes a Dorothy Parker quote and lovingly makes it her own.
“Aw, Leslie, you and I got through you not supporting Hillary in 2008. We can get through this.”– Cat, again.
“The only thing you have that I want is your skin. And there are so many ways to skin a—” “A cat, yes, congratulations, you have the wit of a YouTube comment.”– Cat, and this line was said almost directly after the previous one. It was a one-two punch that made me snort.
“You know enough about me to know that I need my three L’s: my latte hot, my lettuce wrap crisp, and my Lexapro, stat. And not necessarily in that order: chop, chop.” – Cat. Cat Grant. You’re my everything.
“Oh shut up, you mean girl!” – Kara. While I always dream of having the rapier wit of a Cat Grant, I know this sort of quip is more on my level.
BEST MOMENT: Supergirl vs Livewire, Round One. This scene satisfied in so many different ways. It gave Kara and Cat a chance to connect a little more on the same level, pushing a little past their strict boss/employee relationship, and allowed Brit Morgan some hefty scenery-chewing, and to fully express Livewire’s threat level (which is high, obv). The effects and fight choreography were top-notch (even while the early helicopter scene proved not all of Supergirl’s effects are so flawless), and the writing and direction highlighted the suspense and danger effortlessly.
EPISODE’S MVP: Calista Flockhart has consistently been a series highlight, but in “Livewire” she shone brighter than the red light of Rao. Cat Grant’s dialogue was excellent (did you see all them BEST LINE(s)?) and her interactions with everyone were entertaining and moving in equal measure. She’s beginning to reveal vulnerability and compassion beneath her in-charge, flinty façade. She seems to be transitioning more into a mentor/mother-figure for Kara without losing any of her delicious snark.
– I think Cat knows that Kara is Supergirl. Cat insists, multiple times, that Kara go “twenty floors down!” to get security when Livewire attacks, giving her just the opportunity to put on—what did Leslie call it, “that big old butch ‘S’ chestplate”?—and save the day.
– Leslie’s attacker looks like he got a fancy do-up before he went for his drunken sexual assault binge over by the hospital. If only all would-be rapists were identifiable by their poofy, overly-feathered hair… and if only we could all be human tasers…
– In National City, it’s all Perd Hapley, all the time! PNN! MSNBP!
– “Tomorrow is Black Friday and CatCo will be open!” says Cat. But… why? Do they have a store in their building’s lower levels, or is Cat just worried that they’ll miss coverage of this year’s Walmart stampedes?
– Both of the parent-Danvers are doctors! That’s just the cutest.
– Leslie Willis’ shock-jock radio show is called Alive and Wired… get it?? But honestly, the episode is (mostly) true to her origin on Superman: The Animated Series, and definitely true to her character. She’s the most interesting villain the show has done so far, and we better see tons more of her. Livewire feels like Supergirl’s equivalent of Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold on The Flash. (Who I love down to the icy depths of my heart.)
– Way to nip that freak-of-the-week thing in the bud, Supergirl. This episode gave us a full arc for our villain before she took her (hopefully temporary) exit into DEO custody, making her vital to the episode and the series in her relationships to both Cat and Supergirl.
– When kiddo-Kara takes her sister Alex for a nighttime flight away from their parents’ prying eyes, I got such an incredible Frozen vibe from their relationship. (But then who’d be their evil Prince Hans…?)
– Winn is funny and fun in this episode, and I’m really growing to like him now that he’s being written less like “creepy nice-guy friend who complains to everyone else how much he’s friend-zoned by you”.
– Cat calls Henshaw (who’s going by Monroe for an alias) Agent Mulder. Which got a legit laugh out of me, too. Oh Cat, you have that other part of my heart that isn’t already in Captain Cold’s chilly, pun-prone clutches.
– How does Kara’s hair get gorgeously wavy when she puts on the cape, then totally straightened when she changes back into office attire, then curled when she changes back? Does she use a curling iron on her hair at superspeed every time she changes into her costume?? (Actually I hope she does, because that would be amazing: truly using her powers for good.)