Season One, Episode Seven – “Human for a Day”
By Molly Jane Kremer. Holy moly. Much of the goings-on in “Human for a Day” will probably be overshadowed by that reveal (and yes, we’ve got spoilers up in here, because why else would you be reading the recap of a TV show, you silly?), but the rest of the episode has some of the most heartfelt heroics you’ll see this side of a Captain America movie. (Or an episode of The Flash. Potayto, potahto.) Adding the great Martian Manhunter to the cast—or more precisely, letting us know he’s been onscreen all along—was merely the icing on this week’s particularly thrilling (and super-sweet) cake.
WHAT WORKED: Supergirl went ahead and put one of the Man of Steel’s newest powers — the Johns-ian “Super Flare” — to use, effectively depowering Supergirl after her enormous expulsion of power in last week’s “Red Faced”. It functioned well in showing Kara’s more human side (and made me realize that we haven’t seen or heard mention of Kryptonite in, like, four weeks. It can be done! Take that, Smallville.) People always complain that Superman and Supergirl are too powerful to the point of being uninteresting (sadly proving their ignorance of the point to Clark or Kara’s characters), and seeing Supergirl’s dogged determination to help people despite a distinct lack of being bulletproof is a great example—even to those haters—of why the character is a meaningful one, even in this cynical-ass era.
She had a few notable scenes, but we got a little less Cat than usual—cooped up with Winn as he fixes satellite connections can’t be fun—and her delectable wit was temporarily undercut by Kara’s fountain of well-meaning sincerity. There was still massive amounts of action throughout the episode (two action-oriented plots unfolding simultaneously will do that). Some sequences with Jemm were reminiscent (in a good way) of Aliens, and the entire episode managed to move along at a quick clip, without losing its heart.
WHAT DIDN’T: Jemm, though not typically a villain in his comic book appearances, was made into a very generic one for this episode. Other than his mind-control ability (bringing unsettling reminders of Jessica Jones to mind, although the power depicted was nowhere near as creepy here), this could have been any random alien bad guy. After two weeks of well-written, compelling baddies like Livewire and Red Tornado/T.O. Morrow, Supergirl needs to consider that ante upped.
And, yet again, we are further subjected to the fact that this version of Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli) is an all-too-easy facsimile of the xenophobic industrialist Lex Luthor. Lord gives the exact same reasoning to Kara that Luthor always does when defending his hatred of that other Kryptonian: that mere humans will become complacent by allowing an impervious alien to constantly rescue us. It’s an oft-tread path that would leave me desperate for another season-spanning villain… if only that villain weren’t Laura Benanti’s Astra.
“But don’t you think that people need a more positive message right now, hope instead of fear?” – Kara, to Maxwell Lord, in one of the episode’s more timely moments.
“No hero can save everyone, not even Superman. But a real hero never stops trying.” – Jimmy, being a little cheesy.
“Isn’t it also human to face our weaknesses and rise above them? Act like a superhero even if you aren’t one?” – Cat? Is… is that you??
“That was better than the time I stopped a holdup at a pizzeria and the owner gave me twelve pizzas.” – Kara. No. Nothing’s better than twelve pizzas. Nothing.
“The truth of this moment is that you don’t even need powers to be a hero.” – Jimmy. Constant squishy moments this week. I luvs dem.
BEST MOMENT: Kara’s climactic scene disarming a robber, with no superpowers and nary a punch thrown, packed a wallop of its own this week. Talking down the would-be looter with intelligence and understanding, Supergirl’s compassionate sincerity (after seeing her sadness and frustration in being so helpless in rescue efforts without her powers) shone through beautifully. The decision to edit it with cuts of Cat’s inspiring live message to the city worked well, even if the cheese factor might have gotten a tad palpable. Kara cares about people, and the positivity of someone just wanting to do good no matter the cost feels brave, and right now? It feels a little revolutionary. I’d like to see more of that on television.
EPISODE’S MVP: Hank Henshaw. Ok. So, all this time, here I was, grumpin’ on this dude Hank, thinking he was, well, the obvious baddie, when it turns out he’s really my boy J’onn J’onzz. I’ll be honest here: I was shrieking during his big reveal, from the moment it started (as our esteemed EiC can attest; he was freaking out next to me). David Harewood gives the entire heartfelt monologue such great, raw emotion, and even makes an apt mention of the fact that, as the last son of Mars, he is an immigrant, a refugee on the planet Earth. I love a good metaphor, especially one so relevant.
– Am I the only one to immediately think of She Who Is Truly Outrageous, and not the Son of Saturn, upon mentioning Jemm? Because that’s me, every time.
– So, aside from attacks by random villains both human and alien, National City also has to deal with massive earthquakes? But only when Supergirl can’t actually help? Well that’s just not very fair and also I’m glad I don’t live there.
– Waitasec, Lucy and Jimmy are moving in together? Only six episodes ago, Jimmy moved to the other side of the country to cement their break up. I think these two crazy kids might want to tap that brake pedal a teeeeensy bit.
– It’s fun to see extras’ reaction shots that are of little girls in awe instead of little boys. Most superhero fare features shot after shot of little boys gasping in wonder at the sky above, and the pendulum swinging in the other direction for once is lovely.
– “If only Supergirl were here to fly this dying man to the hospital! Or if someone could give him an x-ray!” Eesh. Next we’ll see Lord complain, “if only I had a heat ray machine right now…”
– “My dear niece, did you really think this was over?” Oh. *sigh* Aunt Astra’s back. Yeah, we kinda really hoped your storyline was over. (Or perhaps “abandoned”, for infinately more interesting, well-acted fare.)
– Wow, Winn, getting pissy at Kara for simply hugging Jimmy? Feeling a bit slut-shamey, I see. And just when I’d started to like him, he goes off into the realm of entitled, judgemental assface-dom. He totally deserves the multitude of mispronunciations that Cat throws his way.
– Having Hank Henshaw actually be J’onn J’onzz was the best, cleverest ploy Supergirl could have possibly played in introducing Martian Manhunter so stealthily. It made all us comic geeks think we already knew the score, and were just waiting for some metal to show underneath those glowing red eyes… when it was really some green cheekbones waiting to be revealed.
– And, now that we know Hank Henshsaw isn’t really Hank Henshaw at all, how long til the real Cyborg Superman shows up…? (Pretty stoked for that, actually.)
– And, now that Martian Manhunter is on a show, there’s actually a comic book character on Supergirl who stars in their own, currently-published comic! (Yes, DC, that was a major dig. I want another Supergirl ongoing comic and I want it now. And put Sterling Gates on that shit, he rocked the socks off it.)