Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) soars into action Monday nights at 8pm/7pm CT. Photo from CBS.

Supergirl Ep#5 Review – Livewire

Note: This review is for Supergirl Episode #5 “Livewire”. Episode #4 “How Does She Do It?” was supposed to air first, but was shown out of order due to the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13th, 2015. CBS decided to reverse the episodes because the subject matter of episode #4 included terrorist bombings in National City.  

Eliza Danvers (Helen Slater) comes to visit for Thanksgiving. Photo by CBS.

Eliza Danvers (Helen Slater) comes to visit for Thanksgiving. Photo by CBS.

Thanksgiving is coming and it’ll soon be time to meet up with family and friends to watch the parades, eat copious amounts of food and root for my favorite team. There will be plump turkeys, fluffy mashed potatoes and rich pumpkin pie.  As I think about all the things I love about this holiday, there are also those elements that detract from the fun. Namely, those pesky family members that grate my nerves or I have never been able to get along with. I figure that every year I haven’t started a food fight with one of my completely frustrating uncles or aunts means it is a successful gathering.

This week “Supergirl” explored those complicated family issues that arise during the holidays. Even though the focus is usually on our favorite heroine, I felt that this was Alex’s episode to develop as a character. The show opens as Alex (Chyler Leigh) is frantically urging Kara (Melissa Benoist) to get back to the apartment before their mother Eliza Danvers (Helen Slater) arrives for a holiday visit. Kara was at the DEO headquarters wrangling an alien behemoth that escaped capture and returns just in time. It’s obvious that these two women have very different expectations for this visit: Alex expects that Eliza will blame her for Kara’s new alter ego and Kara expects her foster mother to openly accept her actions.

The Danvers family and Winn celebrate Thanksgiving. Photo by CBS.

The Danvers family and Winn celebrate Thanksgiving. Photo by CBS.

Alex has been a strong, confident female character in this series who seems unexplainably scared for Kara to explore her super abilities. This curious behavior is finally explained. Alone in the apartment, Eliza expresses her disappointment in Alex’s inability to keep her sister’s powers hidden. Alex does her best to keep her emotions in check and Chyler Leigh shows her remarkable acting skills throughout these exchanges. Alex’s quiet fuming at the Thanksgiving dinner table was incredible. Eliza eventually pushes Alex too far and Alex admits to her mother that she is protecting her sister but as an agent of the DEO. Eliza is incredulous and Alex storms out.

The exchanges between mother and daughter are powerful. Even if you don’t have a superhero foster sister in your family, most of us can relate to the sometimes curious and inexplicable reactions we get from our own mothers. Mother-child relationships are a challenge especially when the child becomes an adult. It’s a tough transition for many parents and the source of great conflict. The story finally unfolds and we discover that the protective behavior is due in part to a long held family secret: Jeremiah Danvers (Dean Cain) traded his research and scientific work with Superman to Hank Henshaw (David Harewood) in exchange for Kara’s ability to remain with their family. The DEO wanted to drag Kara off as a fancy lab rat and the Danvers had to fight to give her a childhood.

The other side to the intense pressure on Alex to keep her sister’s abilities hidden stems from Eliza’s personal fears as a mother. Eliza knew that Alex was being raised in a loving, safe, familiar environment but that Kara had no such advantages. Even as Kara adapted to her life on Earth and flourished, Eliza was unable to mentally transition from a place of deep sympathy for the little girl she took in to a place of acceptance for the woman she raised. The deepest fear most mothers possess is that of meeting a tragic end and leaving their child behind to fend for themselves. I imagine that Kara personified that fear every time Eliza looked at her even if just subconsciously.

Livelier takes over Cat Grant's office (Calista Flockhart). Photo by CBS.

Livelier takes over Cat Grant’s office (Calista Flockhart). Photo by CBS.

If mother-daughter issues weren’t enough, the writers also explored what women are willing to give and give up in the name of success. The introduction of Leslie Willis (Brit Morgan) is cutting and confrontational. She has a radio show that is part of the CatCo conglomerate and her opinion of Supergirl is less than complementary. In fact, Leslie berates our heroine for her choice in clothing, her personality and goes so far as to comment on Supergirl’s figure and sexual identification. Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) calls Leslie out for these distasteful remarks, but Leslie counters that Cat has been nothing but encouraging of her previous vitriolic declarations. Cat decides that Leslie has gone too far and demotes her to traffic reporting in the company helicopter.

Leslie Willis transitions into Livewire after lightning strikes Supergirl and is transferred into Leslie’s body. The character develops the ability to convert into a pure energy form and she can transport herself through the electric grid. Livewire then spends the rest of the episode trying to kill both Cat and Supergirl. The DEO has a trap a la Ghostbusters that might be able to capture Livewire in her pure energy form. This trap doesn’t work but Supergirl finally short circuits her with a blast of water.


Livewire/Leslie Willis (Brit Morgan). Photo: Darren Michaels/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. © 2015 WBEI. All rights reserved.

Livewire/Leslie Willis (Brit Morgan). Photo: Darren Michaels/Warner Bros.

Livewire’s behaviors force Cat Grant to consider her own past actions. Cat mentored Leslie and encouraged her to pursue a career in radio. As her boss, Cat rewarded Leslie’s bad behaviors and modeled such habits in her own career. When Livewire becomes a threat to Cat and Supergirl, Cat takes responsibility for her role in Leslie’s lacking moral compass. There is a noticable change in Cat’s personality in this episode from a cut-throat ice queen to a socially aware and more measured woman.

So how do women define success? Is it a certain title? A specific salary? And how do you achieve that success? More often than not, we as a culture define success in strictly male terms. I was pleased to watch the interplay between Cat and Livewire as they wrestled with the issue. Leslie mocked, ridiculed and picked on people for the entertainment of others. Cat remarks that she doesn’t “back down from a fight.” She is aloof and distant from those around her. Cat does not encourage her employees and is quick to use threats to get desired results. If these characters were male, I probably would have accepted their behavior and felt their actions were normal.  But watching these traits in women feels . . . wrong. It is incongruous to our nature. Women would not choose to conduct business in this manner nor would we define success by titles or salaries or even office square footage.

Cat tries to appeal to Livewire’s human side when their final confrontation occurs. It doesn’t work, but it marks a shift in Cat’s character. Her approach to the people around her is more considerate. She changes the paper’s usual Monday gossip section into a special about the community charities and the volunteers who worked over the Thanksgiving holiday. Cat also expresses a desire to learn more about Kara. As an audience member, I cheered that Cat finally seemed like a real person and not a two dimensional character.

Kara and Winn dance at the CatCo party in Episode #3. Photo by CBS.

Kara and Winn dance at the CatCo party in Episode #3. Photo by CBS.

Can we talk about the Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan) now? I don’t know about you, but I like to cheer for the underdog. After this episode I am firmly rooting for a Kara/Winn relationship in the future. James (Mehcad Brooks) spent the holiday in wine country with his old flame Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan Tatum). Yet, while away with his girlfriend, he called Kara to check in with her. It is like the man cannot decide what he wants. While James keeps his options open, Winn reveals to Kara that his father is in prison and, despite the turbulent family dinner at her place, it was nice to be included in a normal family gathering. After that revelation I defy you to root for anything but #TeamWinn.

What will next week hold for us? Well, since this was really supposed to be episode #5, next week may feel a little disjointed. We’ll be stepping backwards in the story line and will see Kara save National City from a series of bombings. She’ll also be trying to keep track of Cat Grant’s son Carter Grant (Levi Miller). James and Lucy will play prominently as they’ve yet to officially get back together and Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli) makes another appearance. We will have to wait a couple weeks to answer the questions that this episode left open. Specifically, what really happened to Jeremiah Danvers? The story of his death in a plane crash seems sketchy at best. Why has Hank Henshaw never revealed to Alex that he worked with her father? And why is Winn’s father in jail? I guess we will just have to settle for learning more about Lucy Lane and why she’s followed James to National City.

James and Lucy Lane: are they back together? Photo by CBS.

James and Lucy Lane: are they back together? Photo by CBS.


Watch on CBS Monday nights at 8:00/7:00c

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