Old Habits, Secrets, and New Faces: SUPERGIRL Goes Nuclear

Most of Supergirl’s third episode (Fight or Flight) centers around the issue of identity. For Kara, she’s learning how to tell her own story with a lot of outside influences. And the shadow of her famous cousin not only looms, but he steals the spotlight a time or two.

The opening scene on the roof, between Cat Grant and Supergirl, was stellar. It took jabs at sexism—Cat: “Any plans to start a family?” Supergirl: “Nobody ever asks my cousin these questions.” Oops. (It should be noted that this admission is not as bad a flub as James later letting it slip that Superman is Clark Kent in front of Winn. GUYS. Get it together. Soon, the mailman will know all of your secrets.) In this exchange, we see Kara start fighting for something important: herself. She is determined to be her own person, and this is where she starts to hold her own. And, much like life, it’s often the people closest to us who need to step back and let us fly.

Cat has this grand idea to dust off her writing credentials and write an exposé on Supergirl. When Kara (whose name I have to assume she’s purposefully pronouncing wrong, which…rude) balks at Ms. Grant picking up a pen again, Cat quips: “It’s like riding a bike or a severe childhood trauma: you never really get over it.” Truth. However, what Cat ends up writing is a somewhat scathing piece that the audience only gets to hear a few choice lines from, mostly taking digs at Millennials.

Thankfully, the Big Bad of this episode is not Cat’s pointed article: it’s Reactron. This is one of Superman’s enemies, who he blames for his wife dying in a near-nuclear-meltdown that Superman kept from happening. Reactron is part of the Superman/Supergirl universe, but I’m not going to lie: he looks like the lovechild of Iron Man and Bane.

Meanwhile, Winn (his puppy dog eyes bordering on cartoon hearts and names doodled in the margins of a notebook) has made a secret command center for himself, James, and Kara…in the least secret place: their office building. Sure, there’s a lock on the door, but I doubt Winn is the only person with a key. It’s not exactly a clever place from which to fight crime, but the scene that follows is one that made me sit up and take notice. James absolutely doesn’t want Kara to fight Reactron, but she’s not having any of it. Here, she takes a stand, demanding that she be seen for who she is, instead of who she’s related to: “I’m not Supergirl’s cousin. I’m Supergirl. And if I’m going to be defined, it’s going to be by my victories and my losses.”

Now, we also meet Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli). As his name implies, Lord has a bit of a God complex, but he’s an accomplished smarmy brainiac billionaire (or, honestly, a poor man’s Tony Stark. #sorrynotsorry). I think the audience is supposed to be torn between finding him charming and wanting to punch him in the face. But if that’s just me, so be it. (Mad props to Cat, btw, for later rebuking him, leaving him standing alone on the dance floor like a sad piece of cheese. She may be harsh and occasionally over the top, but she’s also secure, self-aware, and absolutely in charge. The complicated layers are what make me like her, despite the obvious moments where we’re not supposed to.)

Reactron crashes through the roof, looking for a scientist hostage to repair his suit that Supergirl damaged. Nobly, Maxwell volunteers himself instead of one of his employees, but there is some slick bit of calculation in everything he does/says. It’s curious.

When it comes to light that Reactron is at a certain junkyard, Kara insists on going to save Maxwell and reason with Reactron—something Superman never did, not knowing who he was or why the man went after him. James desperately tries to talk her out of it (there’s a spark between them), questioning what Kara plans to do if she can’t reason with Reactron: “Then I’ll punch him real hard until he falls down. That always seems to work.” It’s her earnest hope, though, that endeared her to me. Kara wants to see the good in people. She wants to believe not only they are worth saving, but that they can be saved. It’s admirable.

Unfortunately, it’s also ineffective, because Reactron kicks her butt, and she’s saved by Superman at the last minute (who James called in by pressing a secret button on his watch—is anyone else slightly concerned someone might steal the watch and lure Superman into a trap at some point?). Kara wakes up on her couch, ticked off and fired up. It was an extremely boneheaded move on James’s part, but it came from a good place. Still, she kicks him out of her apartment, leaving Alex to give her a sibling pep talk. And a dress for Cat’s gala that evening. What are sisters for? (Side-note: the gala is for the launch of Cat’s exposé, which went to press faster than a speeding bullet. Spoiler alert: production would never be that fast. Also, you can’t launch a magazine that’s already in production. Hello, Greg Berlanti: call me for fact-checking. And those boots. Still waiting on those boots.)


Kara shows up at the party and ends up dancing with Winn, who is dressed more like the stereotypical James Olsen than the actual James Olsen (who’s more Bond than bowtie—sorry, Eleven. Bowties are still cool. On you. Call me when I can borrow the TARDIS.) They dance, until James cuts in. He confesses that he’s leaned on the Man of Steel whenever he’s scared and he was worried for Kara. It is a touching moment that’s interrupted by Iron Man/Bane, looking for Supergirl. (Was there a reason he assumed she’d be at that party?)

Concurrently, Hank (Ol’ Red Eyes) finds Alex furiously trying to discover to help Kara defeat Reactron, and he begrudgingly agrees to help. Together, they figure out that Kara needs to remove the nuclear core from the suit, but encase it in lead, lest it blow up. She rips his figurative heart out, and he promptly…dies.

Back at the DEO, Hank concedes that he’ll help out with non-alien threats from now on, which showed a small crack in his armor. There’s a nice guy underneath all the cranky, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of that.

Alex encourages Kara to go see James, because he makes her light up and smile more than anything. So, Kara bounces into Catco, only to find James talking to Lucy Lane (all the love for Jenna Dewan Tatum, whom I adore—Step Up, Witches of East End. Please let her dance. I beg you.), and Kara’s face all but crumbles before she leaves the room. That doesn’t stop her from listening in, and we discover that Lucy and James are exes. And Kara takes it hard.

Which brings us to my least favorite plot point of the episode: Clark instant messages Kara. I know that the show is trying to skirt around having Superman/Clark directly in the show. And I did like what the exchange accomplished: he lifted her spirits and make certain that Kara knows he believes in her. But it might’ve been more believable to me, personally, if they had texted. But I did find it amusing that Clark would use an emoticon.

The episode ends with Kara and Alex squabbling over food and discussing Cat’s article, while a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” plays in the background. Alex insists that Cat’s article proves that businesswoman respects Supergirl. And instead of being told that indirectly, I’d like to see it. As a character, I expect more from Cat Grant, and I hope she delivers. There’s a lot of kickass feminist potential there—she blew off Maxwell Lord stunningly. I want to see it realized.


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