[Review] - DCTV: Supergirl, Season 1 Episode 5, "How Does She Do It?"

Courtesy of Warner Television Productions
It is time to make hard decisions. Not just this moment, but soon. See, as deep winter approaches and the year turns, we'll shortly have Legends of Tomorrow and Agent Carter season 2, the sophomore season of Better Call Saul, eventually a new season of Game of Thrones, and who knows what else might appear that tickles the fancy - I'm considering doing reviews for The Expanse - as well as the shows I already cover. And if doing reviews on this site has taught me anything, it is no use wasting time and energy on bad TV. It's one thing if it is only 13 episodes; that I can irk through. But suffering two full American seasons of Agents of SHIELD has turned me off reviewing 23 episodes seasons of a show I don't like entirely.

And this is where Supergirl might be doomed to suffer my apathy. Because, five episodes in, and it is becoming quite clear that this just isn't a good show. If just isn't. It is written like a teen drama from fifteen years ago - a teen drama from fifteen years ago that was cancelled. Melissa Benoist is grand in the title role, but like Matt Ryan in Constantine, she's trapped in a show that isn't rising to her level. Week to week, I find myself increasingly disinterested or even angered by the stupidity of the program, the horridness of the writing, and the utter lack of interest in creating a unique identity for a character that deserves a hell of a lot better than this. I like Supergirl. I just don't like Supergirl that much.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers whose most impressive attribute are their legs.

Others are noticing this too. I haven't been able to find anywhere what the episode order for the series from CBS was originally, but after five weeks, the show has hemorrhaged 50% of their viewership. now, CBS is a network notorious for not cancelling things, and for spinning them off with wild abandon. But those are old people shows. And Supergirl was meant to bring in the Big Bang demo. and it isn't. Now, the series is still planning for early episodes in the new year, looking to cast a teenage Kal-El - which, nice job carving out your own identity if you're just going back to Superboy - and I suspect that means they've got at least a 13 episode order. If tier ratings keep dropping, I'd be shocked is season one gets extended beyond that. Now, if CBS ordered a full 23 out of the gate, that means they're saddled with an increasingly heavy millstone around their necks on Monday nights.

This episode, which was switched with Livewire due to the Paris bombings, seemed like it was ripped out of a shit teen drama from the edge of the millennium. At multiple points, but most notably the horrible scene in which Jimmy Olsen sits in a cafe/Guilding Light set while pop music plays behind the scene, I thought I had accidentally started watching a Dawson's Creek or Everwood rerun. Or, shudder to think, Smallville. Yes, it has come to this. In only five episodes, Supergirl has established itself as being no better than Smallville. In fact, it falls into all the same traps as Smallville. Extreme melodrama, a weird avoidance fetish with Superman, contrived narratives. It's all here. If it hadn't been for the fact that I only just now was reminded that Smallville had its own version of Supergirl, I'd say this series was attempting to give us the Smallville Supergirl we never had (but did, apparently. Over multiple seasons? That can't be right...)

This episode revealed that Maxwell Lord is the Lex Luthor of the series, despite the fact that just because a hero has an S on their chest does not mean they need a villain with an L in the name. But on this show, that is exactly what it means. Now, ten years ago, Maxwell Lord was a big deal in DC comics because Wonder Woman twisted his neck around 180 degrees. He was such a big deal that Jay Baruchel was going to play him in George Miller's Justice League: Immortal film as the chief antagonist. Since then, though, his importance has dwindled to the point where he doesn't even exist in the New 52. Because he isn't much of a character. Hell, his role as a villain was just a twist they added in so Wonder Woman could twist his neck. But considering that Supergirl seems like a show from 2005 maybe it shouldn't be that surprising that they've lifted him out of obscurity and made him a bargain basement Luthor clone.

This despite the fact that Lord has never been a scientist - usually, he's a politician or government agent. He was an liaison with the League in his most substantial appearances. But this show cannot divest itself of the idea that every aspect of Kara's life must be a carbon copy of Clark Kent's. So now she has a Luthor, an Olsen, and a Lane in her life. She has to grow up on a midwestern farm, has to wear fake glasses, has to work in a newspaper, despite her having no stated reason for doing so - she neither inspires to the level of social influencer that one might think from her Devil Wears Prada employment situation, not does she do it to have the inside track on crimes, which was Clark's reasoning, as she wasn't Supergirl when she took the job. No, she works at a newspaper because Clark Kent did, and the writers couldn't be bothered to come up with a story that informed on the character they were actually writing (can I also take this moment to point out the bizarre way that literally everyone on this show has heard of both Lois Lane and Clark Kent, and idolizes them). Also, she's a personal assistant to a bitchy boss a la Devil Wears Prada because that's what young female characters do for work in films and TV. Like how all young men are somehow architects. It's a demeaning form of gender stereotyping that is also known as lazy cliche.

This episode - an episode written in, shot and aired in 2015 - actually featured a female character asking another female character how to "have it all." Hell, this is an episode - again, in 2015 - entitled How Does She Do It? Now, on the surface, that is a question about how Kara balances being Supergirl with being Kara. Which is a metaphor for balancing work and personal lives. And the show chose to elaborate on this, despite the already inherent metaphor, by focusing the question on Cat Grant, media mogul and working mother. They straight up asked this question of this character, like it were somehow 1993 and she were removing the shoulder pads from her blazer at the end of the day. If they had used the phrase "career woman" it wouldn't have shocked me. I have no right to get especially worked up over this, as this level of sexist stupidity is exactly the "logic" used in the argument against having a female US president. But this - and again, I keep having to back to this well, but it's infuriatingly true - is meant to be a feminist series. At the very least, it's meant to be a paradigm of gender equality. And despite that, it feels like every week was written by Draper, Campbell and Sterling over on Mad Men, by flipping through a pamphlet on the tenets of second wave feminism and using each bullet point as the thesis of each episode.

You want a feminist message? You have Supergirl question her ability to be Supergirl after she gets curb stomped by some fourteen foot robot, whom she still managed to stop from setting fire to an orphanage. You don't have her moon over a boy for thirty five minutes, and wonder if she can "have it all." I just... this show... LESLIE! HELP!



Fuck, Supergirl. Be better than this.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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