Television Tuesday :: The Flash meets Supergirl, or 45 minutes of televised sunshine

29 Mar

Drift partner was so excited about this I definitely had to let her write a post.  It sounds delightful, every minute.  (Also, hey friends, remember back when Brit Morgan was a mean drug addicted campy werewolf?  For that matter, remember when Mehcad Brooks was a handsome young man unfortunately tangled up with a maenad?)

So here’s the thing about Supergirl: it’s a CW show. It looks, acts, and is written like a CW show. It was co-created by the co-creators of the two headlining DC CW shows, Arrow and The Flash. The fact that it happens to air on CBS is more than a little perplexing.

But the two networks apparently decided to set aside their differences and allow Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) to come into Supergirl’s world, to hang out with Kara (Melissa Benoist) and the rest of the gang. There are plot reasons for this, but to try to explain them would involve explaining the entire second season of Flash and it’s really not important. Basically, Barry accidentally ran fast enough to cross dimensions, and now here we are.

It’s only March, but I suspect this episode will end up being one of my favorites of TV 2016, because it was just such a joy to experience. This was a gimmick that made sense for the plot of both shows and had actual effects on the plot and characters involved, not to mention was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Here are my top 5 favorite things about this episode, even though it was honestly all my favorite.

5. The romantic subplots and resolutions thereof.
It should go without saying that this is a) a superhero show and b) a CW show, so romantic drama abounds. Since the pilot, we’ve gotten hints that Kara has a huge crush on her friend James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), while another friend, Winn Schlott (Jeremy Jordan), nursed his own crush on her. I am pretty firmly on the James side of the fence, since I find Winn mildly insufferable at best and a Nice Guy at worst and James is a perfect gentleman. There was some silliness with James’ ex Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) wherein he tried to prioritize her and failed, ultimately leading to them breaking up a few episodes ago and Lucy insisting that James tell Kara how he feels. Meanwhile, Kara is incapable of subtlety and has been pining for literally the entire season, and it’s to the point that even her hardass boss Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) is nudging her towards telling him about her feelings. Near the end of the episode, Barry and Kara have a heart-to-heart about missed opportunities and the importance of taking chances while you can that is not only Barry’s advice for Kara, but his regret about not pursuing his love Iris West (Candice Patton) sooner. It’s sweet, and it’s even sweeter when the last few minutes of the episode feature James coming to Kara’s front door and Kara stammering out half an explanation before saying “I’ve always been better at doing” and just kissing him already. Then, of course, it got interrupted by aliens, as you do, but it still happened and I was thrilled.

Bonus: Winn has been hooking up with the other worst character, Siobhan Smythe (Italia Ricci), which was such a relief after they made me sit through an entire episode about his sad boner for Kara. Siobhan proceeded to go evil and reject him, but maybe now he will take his sad boner elsewhere, I hope.

4. The return of Livewire (Brit Morgan).
Leslie Willis, AKA Livewire, appeared in one of the first episodes of the season as a CatCo employee who was involved in a terrible electrical accident that turned her into, as Kara explains, “basically sentient electricity.” She blames her old boss Cat for this, and resolves to have her revenge in the messiest and most dramatic way possible. By the end of that episode, she’s locked up in supervillain prison and I expected she was a one-time villain. But in this crossover, new supervillain Siobhan AKA Silver Banshee broke her out of supervillain prison and asked her to collaborate, as it were. I really like Livewire, mostly because, much like on Flash, it seems like Supergirl villains are always having the best! time! ever! and it’s really fun to watch. I also know Brit Morgan from The Middleman, a short-lived show on which she played the protagonist’s long-suffering, environmentally passionate best friend. It’s always nice to see semi-obscure actresses I like playing hammy supervillains.

3. The fight sequences.
I’m not a choreographer, but I can imagine how difficult it would be to stage interesting fight sequences between a speedster, a character who flies, a character who shoots lighting, and a character who literally just stands there and screams. This could quickly devolve into silliness territory, but I think in this episode they mostly avoided that. Kara enlists Barry to help her because she thinks he’s fast enough to evade Livewire and Silver Banshee’s attacks, but in the middle of the first fight sequence they discover he’s just as vulnerable as she is. And then, amazingly, they retreat to figure out another plan. Superheroes have this terrible habit of being overwhelmed by Supervillain #2348973 and rather than retreating and regrouping, they try to stand their ground and usually crash and burn. (Both Barry and Kara have been guilty of this.) But Barry, who is more experienced than Kara, makes the call to book it out of there, leaving Livewire and Banshee with matching comedic confused expressions.

The second matchup is the climax of the episode, and they’ve learned from their mistakes. Barry has made special earplugs to block out Banshee’s scream, and he knows not to try to contain Livewire by trapping her with his speed, because that will charge her. So it’s Livewire vs. The Flash and Banshee vs. Supergirl, and it’s a great fight. Which actually leads me into…

2. This show understands what Supergirl (and Superman) are supposed to be, and the climax of that final fight proves it.
I hated Man of Steel. Odds are pretty good that I will hate Batman v Superman. This is not because, as the peanut gallery insists, I am not a “true fan” of the characters or I am “not smart enough” to grasp the depth and intricacies of the writing. It is because I, even though I have read a handful of Superman comics, understand there are certain things about his character you cannot change. Superman is kind, noble, and good-hearted. He will risk his life again and again to save people who need his help, and it’s not because he feels he’s better than us, it’s exactly the opposite. Superman feels that everyone, no matter what, deserves compassion and humane treatment, and he will stop at nothing to achieve the maximum level of safety with the minimum number of casualties. Supergirl is very similar, as she essentially acts as a younger, hipper version of her cousin. They are meant to be symbols of goodness, but they are also meant to be humble, kindhearted people.

Man of Steel laid on the Christ imagery pretty damn thick, which got old fast. This isn’t anything new – it’s been a motif in Superman comics again and again and it’s an easy comparison to make. However, the problem with how Man of Steel and apparently BvS treats this symbolism is how Superman reacts to it. In the comics, Superman doesn’t want to be a Christ figure; he balks at anything that elevates him above the rest of humanity, because to Superman, he is no better than the average person. MOS bathes him in heavenly light and shows him in a crucifixion pose at one point. The interesting thing is that this episode of Supergirl did something very similar with Kara: at the climax of the fight, Livewire is about to finish Kara off when she hears a news helicopter above them. “I hate helicopters!” she snarls, sending a bolt of lighting towards the chopper. Kara staggers to her feet and flies in front of the lighting, directly absorbing it in front of dozens of onlookers. And yes, she does the crucifixion pose too. But the show has gone out of its way to humanize her, to make it clear to the audience that she feels that every person is equally important. The crowd responds by cheering for her once Livewire is neutralized, chattering about how she was willing to sacrifice herself in order to save lives. Not only can I not imagine movie!Superman doing that, I don’t think it would even occur to him.

1. Barry and Kara are absolutely adorable best friends.
I’m a bit weary of manufactured conflict between superheroes. BvS was never going to endear itself to me, but even the upcoming Civil War fills me with dread, because superheroes aren’t supposed to fight each other. Even the annual Arrow-Flash crossover generally involves Barry and Oliver (Stephen Amell) mostly working together out of contrivances, and bickering about the best way to resolve a problem. Barry and Kara, on the other hand, take about five minutes to figure out how each others’ powers work and then immediately decide to be friends. It is impossibly endearing. (To prove his speed to the rest of Team Supergirl, Barry brings them all ice cream in the blink of an eye!)

Other fun highlights: Kara nonchalantly explaining that the spaceship in the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO) is hers, and Barry immediately asking for a picture with it; the two of them constantly being in awe of each others’ powers; their final scene together involving them having to race in a fairly contrived way, but they were so excited about it who cares; Barry offering Kara advice on how to regain the city’s trust after a terrible accident that left her reputation in shambles. Not to mention that Benoist and Gustin already knew each other from their time on Glee, though I don’t believe their characters had many scenes together. Still, you can tell they’re genuinely friends off set as well as on, and they have incredible chemistry. I’d hate to meet the person who could watch one of their scenes together and not be charmed.

Considering the near-unrelenting doom and gloom moods of superhero movies and shows lately, this crossover was just what everyone needed to remind us that sometimes, two superheroes would rather race each other than fight.

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