Monday, February 22, 2016

Supergirl: Human For A Day Review


What a difference an episode makes!  Human For a Day might be the best Supergirl episode yet, especially after the disappointing Red Faced.  I normally find these 'crisis' episodes to be almost laughable (perhaps the fact that all I can picture is a strange version of the Charlton Heston/Ava Gardner film Earthquake, which my mother insists was remade as San Andreas).  However, a combination of a solid story with pitch-perfect performances from the regular and guest cast elevated Human For A Day into an absolutely top-notch episode that lifted Supergirl to greater heights.

Kara Danvers aka Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) is flabbergasted to see that she is bleeding.  In short, she is now without superpowers.  This is a result of using all that energy against Red Tomato, and this happens to Kryptonians on Earth whenever they face an especially powerful foe.  James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), friend to Superman, tells Kara that the Man of Steel calls it the 'solar flare'.  Even though Kara is assured that her powers should return in a few days, she is also fully aware that it has been more than the necessary time for them to have done so. 

The loss of her powers could not have come at an absolutely worse time, as National City is struck by a massive earthquake, one that causes Kara to break her arm (something she has never experienced, along with the cold that sends her home sick for the first time since she started at CatCo).  The earthquake would be the perfect time for Supergirl to sweep in and help, but she is still recovering and in no position to help.  Furthermore, her not-quite-nemesis Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli), who is busy handing out water and supplies while insisting to whoever can still see and hear him that things are as worse as they can get, is fully aware that Supergirl is in no condition to help.  Not that he is waiting around for her or the government to help (suggesting to my mind that Maxwell Lord is a Republican, but that's just speculation).  I think Lord even refers to Supergirl as a 'heroine for the welfare state' (or heroin for the welfare state, a counter to the opium of the masses that religion is suppose to be in Marxist ideology). 

Meanwhile, back at CatCo, Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) wants the power returned, like RIGHT NOW.  For that, she needs Witt...or Wick...or that guy who seems to know a lot about technology.  That would be "Winn" (Jeremy Jordan), the IT guy.  He manages, despite his nervousness at both the situation and the general terror Cat is, to manage to get a live feed from her office to broadcast a counter-message to Maxwell Lord's barrage of negativity.  Cat offers a message of hope, one telling the citizens of National City that Supergirl WILL return, but that they themselves are capable of doing superhuman deeds if they join together.

Kara is devastated after not being able to save someone.  However, James tells her that "no hero can save everyone...but a real hero never stops trying".  That would apply to a heroine too.  Despite herself, Kara dons the Supergirl outfit to stop a robbery in progress.  If the gunman fires, the bullets will not bounce off her, but she is willing to take that risk and hopes no one calls her bluff.  Hiding her broken arm, she attempts to talk the gunman out of doing his crime, and after a few tense moments, manages to do so.  James has been snapping photos of this, and they manage to make it back to CatCo to print them.

In the midst of this crisis, Winn FINALLY stands up for himself and makes it clear he isn't going to be eating his heart out while Kara continues pursuing James.  Winn is visibly upset when he catches them hugging, but still tells them that Supergirl can get her powers back by a Kryptonian version of an adrenaline rush.  She gets that when they attempt to save people trapped above them, and James begins to fall in the elevator shaft.  With her powers and confidence restored, Supergirl sweeps into National City, leaving a very flustered Maxwell to watch.

All that would be enough, but we get a subplot with Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), still suspicious of her boss, Hank Henshaw (David Harewood).  The earthquake knocked out power at the DEO temporarily, but enough to allow Jemm (Charles Halford), a powerful alien able to control minds, to escape.  His efforts to release the other prisoners makes up the bulk of that subplot, and we end with the revelation that Hank Henshaw is really J'onn J'onzz, better known as The Martian Manhunter, who took on Henshaw's appearance after Alex's father sacrificed himself to save him from the real Henshaw, who was bent on killing him.

It is really very strange that the subplot of Alex and Henshaw is almost an afterthought given just how much material there was with Kara and her own struggles. The revelation of The Martian Manhunter would be enough to make any episode stand out.  However, for me, Human For A Day was really about Kara and her realization that she does have powers, even when she doesn't have superpowers.  The whole episode isn't just about how Kara has no superpowers and is 'human for a day', but that she in a sense has been granted her wish to be like everyone else and is 'human for a day'.  She finds that her identity as Supergirl cannot be stripped from her identity as Kara.  She is both Kara and Supergirl, and she should embrace that, even if it means certain sacrifices.

Oh, Melissa Benoist.  I think we all can say you are the absolutely BEST actress to play this Supergirl.  Girls rightly will look up to your interpretation, because you not only make the Girl of Steel into a strong character, but you also make Kara a wonderful person: bright, optimistic, and in her own way, as strong as a Kryptonian.  You embody in Supergirl the truth of what James said: heroes (or heroines) aren't made because of their powers, but out of their ability to keep trying.

We also got a great performance out of Flockhart, who has surprisingly managed to balance the humor of Cat with a more serious persona lurking beneath the bitchy exterior.  Her dismissive nature towards Winn (whom she genuinely cannot remember his name) is deadpan comedy as she keeps getting his name wrong.  However, her speech about how we can be heroes...if just for one day (RIP, David Bowie) gives Cat more depth than we guessed she was capable of way back in the pilot.  Jordan too was great as Winn, covering the humor his character has with genuine anger and hurt at how too often he is tossed aside for the hunkier Olsen.  I was proud to see him stand up for himself. 

We got great performance out of Facinelli, who provided the yang to Kara and Cat's yin.  He didn't come across as evil, but in his own way rational and even angry at how people look to outsiders for strength and comfort when they should be looking at themselves (or perhaps, at him).  Even the mostly wishy-washy Brooks/Olsen had a strong moment when he rallies Kara.

All this in the midst of the Martian Manhunter revelation and the hunt in the DEO?  The dual speeches of Cat and Supergirl about hope and not giving in to despair were not just wonderful in their own right, but well-edited to make a cohesive whole.

I enjoyed Human For A Day.  It felt epic and grand and intimate too.  All the elements balanced together, and even the reintroduction of Supergirl's evil Aunt Astra did not diminish the entire thing.  Everything just worked well, and Human For A Day shows what can happen when we allow the Girl of Steel to rise.   


Next Episode: Hostile Takeover

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