Supergirl’s seventh episode (“Human for a Day”) unpacks the idea of identity, of who a person is at their core. Kara, after fighting Red Tornado, is temporarily drained of her powers. She is, for all intents and purposes, human. Which means she promptly catches a cold on the way to work. No, seriously. Kara has the audacity to sneeze in the same building as Cat Grant, who then sends her home for the day. (Will this work for me? *achoo*)
Kara runs smack into Jimmy (because of COURSE), who spills that he’s getting a place with Lucy. Because all he has is tact, guys. For half a second, he looks sheepish, so at least he’s not totally oblivious! But I don’t think that makes it better. He tries to advise her on what it’s like to be human and how the city will totally be fine without Supergirl for a day.
Half a second later, there’s an earthquake. Jimmy saves Kara who suddenly doesn’t have the reflexes of a half-drunk llama, but her arm is injured in the process. (Nice plot device to get Mehcad Brooks to take off his shirt, writers. It made a lovely sling. Bless.)
Concurrently, at the DEO, we meet a supervillain named Jemm (no, there weren’t any Holograms and there were no Misfits either…kind of like that abomination released over the summer). He has psychic powers—or he does, when he’s not stuck in a special cage. But guess what? It’s time for his cell’s monthly cleaning. (Anyone going to take bets on how badly that thing smelled?) Jemm (played by Charles Halford, who was Chas on Constantine) is straight-up evil, threatening Hank: “I will grind your loved ones to dust.” Sadly, Hank replies: “There are none left to grind.” Small detail, big ouch.
Jemm’s cage cracks open when the earthquake hits, and the DEO base is sealed. Hank pulls out a few neural inhibitors (which protect against Jemm’s mind-control powers) and says that he, and a couple of random agents, are going to go after Jemm. He leaves Alex behind, because he trusts her. While it’s clear she trusts him about as far as one might chuck a whale onehanded, Alex doesn’t put up much of a fight.
Back at Catco, Winn works his tech magic and gets roped into setting up equipment for a live broadcast (he eventually gets everything set up, despite Cat calling him Wick. Repeatedly. This character tick is not my favorite). Cat wants to counteract Maxwell Lord’s negativity being splashed all over the news, bashing Supergirl. Kara, however, decides to go confront Lord herself, because reasoning with megalomaniacs always goes so well.
At one of the disaster relief sites (uh, that was established mad fast), Jimmy is taking pictures, which allows Kara to (kindly, but firmly) lay into Lord about his treatment of Supergirl. He ends up stating that he knows, from studying Superman, that the reason she’s not around is that she lost her powers. (Is this flaw common knowledge? Seems like that might be problematic and an easy advantage to villains.)
Meanwhile at the DEO, the two agents that went with Hank were killed by Jemm. Alex and Donovan (who we saw last episode, briefly, when they were testing Red Tornado; he’s played by Luke Macfarlane) are going to go after Jemm themselves, but Hank reappears bearing bad news: Jemm read the mind of the head of security and the neural inhibitors were broken in the scuffle. Hank insists on going lone wolf after Jewel Head. As soon as he leaves, Alex takes 3 seconds to convince Donovan not to trust Hank, and they agree to go after Jemm.
The real heart of the episode, for me, comes when Kara is confronted with her inability to save someone. A man is dying in the street, bleeding internally. Without her x-ray vision, nothing can be done in time to save him, despite the fact that Maxwell Lord apparently went to medical school (seriously: what?). She experiences what everyone does: helplessness. Powerless. A willingness to do, but an inability to accomplish. It’s a raw, aching scene between her and Jimmy.
It is punctuated beautifully by what happens next: she stops a robbery, dressed as Supergirl, by talking the robber down. This is powerfully intercut with Cat Grant’s Supergirl pep talk broadcast. She sagely advises, “Act like a superhero, even if we aren’t one.” Which is precisely what Kara does. In previous instances, she has tried to reason with villains to no avail. But this would-be convenience-store robber isn’t superhuman. He’s just a man. Being the bravest version of herself, Kara knowingly puts herself in harm’s way and discovers that she doesn’t need to fly to be a hero. Much like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, she had the power all along. And Jimmy takes a gorgeous photo of the moment the gun gets handed over.
Back at the DEO, things go poorly: Alex and Donovan find the neural inhibitors (not destroyed!), but before Donovan can get his own, Jemm takes control of his mind. Alex gets away, and Hank pulls her into a room. Finally, she confronts him about her father (which I get, but also, could she have picked worse timing? NO.) and makes him handcuff himself to a pipe. After that, she calls Jemm and says that she’ll open the doors for him (the head of security whose brain he scanned didn’t know how to get out?).
Exuberant at Catco, Kara is gushing to Jimmy about saving the day. He opens up about why he started taking photographs, and it’s a pretty touching scene: “When you take a picture of someone, it’s permanent. And you’ve captured the truth of them in that moment…and that, you can keep forever. And the truth of this moment is that you don’t even need powers to be a hero.” They hug, and Winn walks in, and immediately makes a face like he’s swallowed a pickled egg whole. He discovered, in the DEO files (for a top secret agency, they really have the worst security), that Kara needs a mega rush of adrenaline to retrigger her powers. He then flees the room in a jealous huff. Kara catches up with him in the hall and says that he misread the hug. Winn chastised her, before going all green eye’d, mean monster: “The superhero never gets the…guy.” Charming, right? He’s the worst, guys (sorry Jeremy Jordan; you, personally, are still adorable). Of course, Winn’s jealous fit is interrupted by an explosion a few floors up.
In a somewhat ridiculous scene, Jimmy has to climb up an elevator shaft to open doors, so that the trapped employees can climb down. There’s a tremor, and he’s thrown onto the cables, which take about 5 seconds to break, causing Kara to regain her powers and save the day. She then proceeds to fly around the city saving people, including a bus full of children. At least there was no snake in a tree, this time.
Cut to the DEO, and Alex goes after Jemm with everything that she’s got. Guns. Flashbombs. Everything short of the kitchen sink and flying monkeys, but it is (predictably) not enough. She is saved by Hank just in the nick of time: “I told you, Alex—I’m not the enemy.” Later, he and Alex speak privately, and Hank confesses that he’s an alien refugee. The real Hank Henshaw went on a mission to kill him, but Jeremiah (Alex’s dad) interfered and ended up losing his life in the process. The alien refugee/shapeshifter promised Jeremiah he would look after Alex, and that is how he came to be masquerading as Hank. J’onn J’onzz is the last son of Mars, which is why Jemm’s earlier line cut so deeply.
Back at Catco, Kara tries to make nice with Winn (am I the only one who thinks he was being a jealous, cotton-headed ninny muggings? Because ugh. Ain’t nobody got time for that.). Winn, however, is having none of it and basically calls Kara a terrible person. He’s disappointed in her. When he leaves, Kara and Jimmy share an extended, conflicted, almost guilty look down the hallway. Just make out already, guys.
A few moments later, Kara appears outside Cat’s office terrace as Supergirl—and thanks her for the broadcast. Cat initially lectures her on responsibility and the importance of showing up, but Kara deflects this scolding beautifully, reminding Cat that she, too, is a hero—and that she was exactly what the city needed in a time of crisis.
Flying off for a leisurely jaunt, Kara gets knocked out of the sky by two Kryptonians (will she ever hear anyone coming?)—and her aunt Astra. I’m not going to lie: I love the old-school feel to the ending of the last episode and this one. Astra quips, “My dear niece, did you really think this was over?” It sets up anticipation for the next show, like the old superhero shows used to do. Plus, Laura Benenati is delightfully evil and perfectly fierce in this role, and I love it.