If the Thanksgiving-themed Supergirl episode Livewire confused you, believe me, it wasn't just you. Blame ISIS.
When I caught up to this episode, I was a bit lost by some of the dialogue, especially since the DVR had another episode listed (How Does She Do It?), and Livewire did not match the story synopsis at all. Furthermore, one of the characters discussed another character that, if we went by what we'd seen before, we hadn't met yet. The reason for this confusion is simple: Livewire was substituted for How Does She Do It? after ISIS launched the Paris attacks. Supergirl producers felt the plot of How Does She Do It? was too similar to the attacks to air so close to them, so a switch was made with How Does She Do It? airing later. This in a certain way is understandable: Doctor Who did something similar with Robot of Sherwood, when a quick shot of someone's head getting cut off was itself cut after ISIS video of another of their beheadings was released.
Supergirl's decision to air another episode in place of How Does She Do It? I think was a bad one. Continuity is so important on this show, and while Livewire doesn't wreck it, it does have the effect of making things slightly confusing. I think it might have been better just to air a repeat or not aired anything at all, but the decision was theirs. As for Livewire itself, we're still stuck in the 'freak-of-the-week' mode, but with some new character development and a mystery that will make things more interesting.
Kara Danvers aka Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) and her sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) are facing perhaps their greatest challenge ever: Thanksgiving with their mother, Eliza (guest star and original Supergirl Helen Slater). Alex is very worried that she will get blamed for Kara's identity being revealed, while Kara just worries. Kara also invites her platonic friend Winn (Jeremy Jordan) to join them for Thanksgiving dinner after learning he is going to be alone. She would have invited the hunky James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), but he's going with his former ex Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan Tatum). So much for that idea.
Kara's good spirits are also tested by shock-jock Leslie Willis (Brit Morgan), a former protégé of Kara's boss Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) who is openly hostile to the 'adorkable' Supergirl. Unbeknown to Kara, Cat has gone to Leslie and made it specifically clear she is not to criticize Supergirl on-air. When Leslie refuses, Cat immediately demotes her to a helicopter traffic reporter until she learns her lesson.
As it happens, on her first flight Leslie's helicopter gets trapped in a thunderstorm. Supergirl saves the pilot first and then goes for Leslie, but a thunderbolt strikes her as she is pulling Leslie, causing electricity to run through her body. Leslie is in a coma, but when she awakes, she discovers she has new powers, powers she will use to enact a terrible revenge.
Thanksgiving dinner is like all Thanksgiving dinners: a disaster. The Danvers fight over both Supergirl and Alex's work with the DEO, which Eliza was unaware of. For better or worse, Kara gets called away to work by Cat, who finds her Internet all down. It's down because Leslie, now calling herself Livewire, is attacking. Attempting to kill Cat, Supergirl manages to intervene. She even gets help from Hank Henshaw (David Harewood), DEO head masquerading as an FBI agent. Supergirl and Cat join forces to draw Livewire out and capture her, which they do though not without a struggle.
Back now at home, Alex and Eliza reconcile and Eliza makes a shocking revelation: their father Jeremiah (guest star Dean Cain, one of our most recent Supermen from Lois & Clark) took Kara's place when DEO agents came to their home. The agent seeking Kara? A certain Hank Henshaw. Now the girls want to know what is going on....
What more me made Livewire a good, almost great episode is Flockhart of all things. In the past episodes, Cat Grant has veered towards to if not actually become a cartoonish character, the bitch whose sole purpose is to look down on all. However, Livewire clearly gave us a whole new Cat. She was still outwardly mean and dismissive, but we saw that she does have a heart, and a soft one at that (and a wounded one too).
First, we see it in her lecture to Leslie that she does see Supergirl perhaps as a champion for women's equality, someone able, like her, to stand on equal terms with the boys. She does not want her disparaged (or at least not let anyone else do the disparaging). Second, we see it when she reluctantly goes to visit her former protégé in the hospital. Out of Kara's earshot, Cat whispers words of encouragement, urging Leslie to come out of her coma. Third and most important, we see it in her long scenes pre-and-post Livewire attack. Cat expresses a loneliness, what with Carter with his father and her mother mercifully out of the way. When she learns that Kara's parents died in a fire (well, technically true but...), we see Cat has actual genuine concern over this.
I find it incredible and wonderful that Livewire took the time to soften Cat Grant into someone actually human, her brusque manner a shield to guard herself against all. It's clear her "Devil Wears Prada" persona is a bit of an act (I say bit because she still is somewhat unpleasant), but that she can be toned down.
I am glad that Slater and to a lesser degree Cain are allowed to be part of the Supergirl mythos rather than just clever in-jokes to cameo on the show. We forget that we are seeing the original Supergirl and one of the recent Superman actors. Instead, we see the characters, and Slater in particular does a wonderful job as the flawed mother. Her scene with Leigh as Eliza and Alex reconcile, with Eliza telling her natural daughter that to her, she was her 'supergirl' is so moving and wonderful and well-acted by both. Cain had a smaller role as we saw him only in flashbacks, but he was the strong father both girls needed.
Speaking of flashbacks, the scenes with the younger Alex and Kara were equally wonderful, giving us insight into the love & sibling rivalry both girls had. We got a real family dynamic that works so well.
With regards to the other performers, Jordan's take on Winn makes one wonder why Kara would make googly-eyes at James when Winn is obviously perfect for her. He is wonderful and funny and genuinely in love with Kara (not Supergirl), yet here she is, almost painfully oblivious to it. In this bizarre love triangle, I'm firmly on #TeamWinn. Morgan is having the time of her life vamping it up as Livewire, one of those deliciously evil characters.
Which is why I register mild disappointment that she was defeated so quickly. I would have liked it if she had been defeated, but managed to escape. It all seemed to rush so quickly, and I for one am getting tired of seeing pretty much the same thing: villain pops up, Supergirl fights him/her, gets knocked down, has rematch and wins.
The fact episodes were switched did make one or two things confusing, particularly when Cat talks about 'Carter' (who we will find is her son). Given we have yet to technically be introduced to Carter, it's hard to understand. We can fill in things, but it still is a bit puzzling.
I'm knocking a point off merely because of the somewhat repetitive nature of the threats Supergirl has been facing. However, with a new mystery coming at us and an especially impressive turn by Flockhart, Livewire continues to make Supergirl great television.
Next Episode: How Does She Do It?