History and Secrets: SUPERGIRL’s “Livewire”

(Author’s note: The episode that aired last night was actually episode 5; episode 4—“How Does She Do It?”—was pulled for the schedule out of consideration for victims of the attacks in Paris.)

In episode four of Supergirl (“Livewire”), it’s pretty clear that everybody’s got some kind of secret. Kara’s foster mom Eliza Danvers comes to visit for Thanksgiving (causing Alex all the anxiety ever), James and Lucy head off to some romantic getaway (spoiler alert: he seems bored and calls Kara mid-mini break), and Hank has more skeletons in his closet than a politician.

But what’s most interesting is where we see each character’s armor crack, where the past starts to leak through into the present, and the audience is treated to the shades of grey that so often comprise real life. This episode tackles the idea of expectations and how they are, or are not, met.

A radio host at Catco named  Leslie Willis  (Brit Morgan, who played  Alcide ’s cray cray girlfriend on True Blood) goes off about Supergirl, and Cat Grant has a fit:

“But going after a young girl, insulting her body, how she dresses, her sexuality…”

There’s a protective streak beginning to show, which I find fascinating. But Leslie gets ticked off at getting transferred off her show to do traffic copter duty. Long story short, there’s a horrendous storm, and when Supergirl is in the middle of saving the day, a bolt of lightning goes through her and into Leslie.

The next day at the hospital, Leslie’s hair has gone white, looking like she’s wearing the ghost of Doc Brown’s wig. Eventually, she wakes up out of her coma, with electric eyes and a worse attitude. Somehow, she ends up wandering down an alleyway (ummm…, was everyone in the hospital asleep?) and is delighted when she kills a random creeper. And Livewire is born.


Despite the Danvers family awkwardness (cringe-worthy and wine-filled…so, true to life.), Thanksgiving dinner happens, with Winn in attendance. He had been planning to glut himself on Thai food and an Orphan Black marathon, which is a pretty solid Turkey Day choice. But since he joined the dinner version of the Titanic, he ends up fleeing before even getting to eat. Alex lays into her mom about how she’s always made her feel like she’s not good enough. There’s a stark honesty to the insecurity and the exasperation that comes with never living up to someone else’s expectations. (This is later brilliantly echoed by Cat Grant, who lets so many walls down that I lost count. Deftly, subtly done, as well. Mad love to Calista Flockhart for breaking so gently.)

A flashback shows Kara talking Alex into going flying as kids, the hurricane of parental disapproval, and Hank Henshaw showing up to the Danvers’ house. Foster dad Jeremiah agrees to work for the DEO in exchange for the organization leaving Kara alone, and we later learn from Eliza that he died working for them.

After the horrific dinner, Kara is summoned to the office by Cat, whose technology has gone crazypants. The lights go out and, uttering a fabulous riff on a Dorothy Parker quote, Cat spit: “What fresh incompetence is this?” Then Livewire promptly tries to kill her. By now, you know the drill: Kara runs to get help at Cat’s insistence, and Supergirl shows up and saves the day.

Hank and the DEO show up (presumably posing as the FBI), and for someone who almost died, Cat is surprisingly acerbic: “Excuse me, Agent…Mulder, is it?” (Dear reader, I laughed. Out loud.) Cat’s determined to have the office open the next day, regardless of the fact that it’s kind of a mess. Kara reappears, and Cat immediately tells her she’s useless and tries to send her home. When Kara reveals that dinner was awful (no one got to eat, y’all), she also confesses that her parents died in a fire and her foster mom was visiting. There’s more than a flash of interest in Cat’s eyes, who explains that her mother is a raging nag of an ice queen, constantly makes her feel inadequate (my words, mind you). There was something so perfect about that scene. It got to the heart of Cat Grant, and she shed a layer of armor in a way that caught me off guard. There was a kindness to her we hadn’t yet seen. Of course, she mentions that she wants to speak with Supergirl…

Who later shows up on Cat’s roof. (Does anyone else harbor a suspicion that Cat has known Kara’s identity since their first rooftop powwow? Because it can be read that way. And she’s sly enough to pretend otherwise.) The two decide to team up, using Cat as bait, and while it is an unlikely pairing, it is also brilliant.

Meanwhile, Alex and Eliza have a touching moment at Kara’s apartment, where Eliza explains why she was always hard on her. And what could have been a textbook yawnfest of trite reconciliation turned out to be a sweet moment (due in no small part of Chyler Leigh’s graceful depth). Although Eliza’s parenting technique seems to be on par with Cat Grant’s maternal unit, there’s a definitely undercurrent of love there, which makes all the difference.

Back at the DEO, Hank gives Supergirl a trap to use on Livewire, which is basically a ghost trap from Ghostbusters. Kara charmingly points this out in a giddy manner, which no one else appreciated. (I did, girl. You do you.) Cat broadcasts on the radio, calling Livewire out to meet her where it all began (couldn’t they think of some clue that wasn’t clichéd?).

There are two things I love about that fight scene. One is that Cat is unflappable and ballsy. Leslie makes some ridiculous quip, and Cat fires back with, “Congratulations, you have the wit of a YouTube comment.” Again, I laughed out loud. But what else I liked was how Kara thought so well on her feet. The fight wasn’t going well, the trap was swatted away, and things were looking impossible. (Why was there no DEO backup?) Kara pulled up a water main, doused Leslie, and took care of business. She wasn’t flustered. She wasn’t panicked. No, Kara thought calmly and acted. That’s a far cry from the girl who tried to save a tanker and created an oil spill.

The next day, at Catco, a few more secrets are revealed. Winn—so earnest that it’s painful to watch—confesses to Kara that his Dad is in prison. So, that’s why he was so thankful to be included in dinner. But then James and Lucy swan in, interrupting, and although Kara and James share a moment, I’m unclear about what we’re supposed to take away from it. Lucy, despite the shared history, clearly can’t tell that James is tragically underwhelmed by their getaway. And, possibly, her. And James is making googly eyes at Kara’s back when she walks away. I don’t know what we’re meant to be rooting for, possibly because Lucy has yet to be fleshed out as a character. Everyone is pining for everyone else, but nothing’s happening. That needs to change.

The episode ends with Alex and Kara at the DEO on the best behavior. There’s no snark and no backtalk. Hank pays it little mind, despite the fact that neither of the girls are particularly subtle, and we learn that Alex and Kara are determined to find out the truth about Jeremiah’s death. I’m calling it right now: ten bucks says he’s not even dead.



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