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SUPERGIRL Review (S1E4): 'Livewire"

★★★★☆ (4/5)

Due to the horrific events in Paris, CBS decided to switch episodes of 'Supergirl' because the original involved Kara stopping a terrorist threat. Instead, they skipped to their Thanksgiving episode featuring a new homegrown villain and plenty of mommy issues. It was another emotional but exciting chapter of Supergirl's growth and those around her. 

'Livewire' demonstrates without apology that 'Supergirl' has a different viewpoint than the other DC Comics shows on the air. It's told through the female perspective and the characters that surround Kara, for the most part, are women that helped shape her and continue to test her. The protective big sister, the overbearing boss, the evil twin aunt and in this episode her foster mother Eliza (1984's 'Supergirl' Helen Slater) and trolling loudmouth radio host Leslie Willis (Brit Morgan).

If that sounds like a turn-off then I'd remind you that DCTV is filled with plenty of emotional family dialogues of their own. Ollie Queen on 'Arrow' had his own daddy issues and there's been plenty of male bonding with John Diggle and his heartfelt advice he usually ignores. Barry Allen on 'The Flash' was founded on the premise he grew up and became a forensic scientist solely to help solve his mom's murder and help get his dad released from jail after being wrongly accused of killing her. Then there's his foster father in Joe West who also provides him plenty of guidance and security. So the emotional issues on 'Supergirl' are not uncommon or some feminist plot to flood primetime with feelings and stuff. 

The great thing about these shows, all produced by Greg Berlanti, is that they're about more than just the villain-of-the-week. They're about the personal growth and character development of these heroes that help define them beyond their super powers. The challenge for 'Supergirl' or 'Superman' for that matter is to make them interesting and create calamities in their lives that can't be solved with a punch or laser eye blast. 

For Kara Danvers, being able to come out and use the powers she's kept under wraps for years has been freeing and liberating. Her enthusiasm for justice is infectious but the contrasting life of her public identity as Kara, assistant to media mogul Cat Grant, is so unassuming that she's unrecognizable to her own boss as Supergirl. 

This week however, Cat suddenly started to see Kara as a fellow human being. She is actually sympathetic to Kara after she reveals her real parents died in a fire as a child and was raised by foster parents. She suddenly becomes interested in Kara's like. Cat begins to open up about her own upbringing even admitting she knows she's hard on her and the staff because her mom was hard on her. Her mom's tough love was a blessing and a curse, but it helped push herself to where she is now. 

This theme about difficult relationships is also part of Kara's sister Alex and her mom, Eliza. Alex has always felt she wasn't good enough in her mom's eyes, but the alien child that was dropped on their doorstep got all the positive reinforcement. Eliza has a sense of tough love of her own too telling Alex she just wanted her to strive to be better than her. The most moving statement was when she finally told Alex, "You've always been my Supergirl."

The only bad part, and I hate myself for saying this, is that Slater doesn't convey the necessary wealth of emotion in that scene. The performance is pretty flat and could have been more impactful. Yet, the show did find a way to exorcise these issues in a more nuanced way than it has in previous episodes. More showing than telling. 

With all that Thanksgiving angst going on, there was a great villain born in Willis. Under Cat's media umbrella, Willis used her radio gig to disparage Supergirl from her outfit, her alien "otherness," her lady parts, and "adorkable" personality. Willis was already a monster troll before being struck by lightning through Supergirl's body that gave her the power to manipulate and become electricity. 

Willis was hellbent on taking revenge on Cat for demoting her. Livewire, as she called herself, was a powerful counter to Kara's "niceness." It really was the battle of opposites. Not sure how Livewires was as formidable as she was considering Supergirl was stronger, but it didn't matter, Morgan played her with seathing cattiness that made for a fun confrontation. The special effects were impressive as she whipped around an electric whip and traveled through electrical outlets. 

Dean Cain as Kara's foster dad, Jeremiah Danvers, makes a cameo long enough to see a younger Hank Henshaw knock on the door looking for the alien they were harboring. They strike a deal where Jeremiah works for the DEO because of his Superman knowledge and Kara can stay with them. Eliza tells the girls at one point she thinks the DEO is lying about the death of Jeremiah putting Henshaw square in the crosshair of the Danvers sisters. 

You can tell with 'Livewire' the writing is finding a groove, a better balance of outright declarations of love, trust, and support and there's more action in that department. There's still some awkward moments but 'Supergirl' is shaking off the rookie jitters and embracing their feminist spirit with the same tenacity the boys on CW have embraced their sensitive side. 'Supergirl' continues to soar with adventure and heart.  

Here's a look at the next episode "Red Faced" featuring the live-action debut of Red Tornado on Monday, November 30.

Personal and professional stress get the better of Kara when she goes too far during a training exercise against Red Tornado, a military cyborg commissioned by Lucy Lane’s father, General Sam Lane. Also, Cat’s tough exterior is shaken by a visit from her judgmental mother, Katherine, and Alex enlists Winn to look into her father’s mysterious death.


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