14 December 2015

Supergirl S1E7 "Human For a Day" review

Most television shows have a structure to set each episode around and for good reasons. It grounds the characters into set roles and allows a casual viewer to continue to watch the show even if they miss the occasional episode. It also can easily make a show repetitive and feel like no progression is being made to the overarching plot. This was something that Supergirl had already started to fall victim to, but luckily the latest episode brings an alternative take on the shows established formula. It shakes up the structure of an episode by introducing a scenario that allows the characters take the spotlight rather than the effects and villains. Sure, the idea's introduced may be overly used, especially in Superhero stories, but it's well executed and the benefits for the show are obvious.

The episode opens with the continuation of the reveal from the end of the previous episode, Supergirl has lost her powers. It's later revealed that this loss of power was due to her using a large amount of energy, referred to as a 'solar flare', fighting Red Tornado. This interestingly brings in a relatively new power from the comics, only introduced to Superman in the last couple of years. It's put a new spin on the character that allows him to show a more vulnerable/human side and this episode sets out to do something similar with Kara.

With no sign of her powers re-appearing, an earthquake causes a major disaster creating huge problems for the city and for the DEO. People are dying, buildings are crumbling and Aliens are loose from the DEO prison. This of course happens at the worst possible time for Kara who finds herself powerless to help. These events all lead to a sense of tension that increases as the episode continues.

We see key moments for Kara that show what pain this causes her, which avoid being played out in a clichéd way, making these scenes have real impact and does a good job at portraying these characters in desperate situations. It's a chance to show the fragile side of Kara but also use the old 'still a hero without the powers' cliché. The theme itself a bit overused in this episode with it affecting Winn and Cat's scenes as well,  and can be quite heavy handed in it's execution but its used well for the majority of the episode, suiting the earnest charm of the show. It establishes Kara's heroic and human sides with Melissa Benoist giving a great performance that really sell the emotion of the situations. The fact that Kara is unsure if her Superpowers will return at all tries to add to the tension but seeing as we're not even at the halfway point for this series yet there was little doubt on if they would return, but rather when.

This plot allows it to change the pace from the standard episode. We only briefly see the usual work scene but thankfully there's no fawning over Jimmy at a distance, no lessons from Henshaw and no discussions with Alex on who can be trusted. Instead actual progress is made in these storylines instead of it unnecessarily prolonging the mysteries and relationships. While it's great that the plot can finally start moving forward, a more evenly spaced reveal would have made the episodes earlier in the series feel more cohesive.

The other half of the episode is focused on the DEO resulting in Henshaw and Alex getting some time to show some character for once, even if it is slightly wasted. They have to battle against a mind reading and mind controlling alien which has the possibility for some imaginative story and action scenes. While the action in these scenes is adequate, instead the episode decides to focus on Alex's distrust of Henshaw rather than this threat, which is disappointing but works better for the series as a whole. This all culminates in the reveal that the show has been teasing since the first episode. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that it's a big surprise and one that could have some very serious impacts for the rest of the series. It fits in well with the tone of the show and could totally change some of the character dynamics. I just hope it can expand on the opportunities that it creates.

While it won't convert anyone who hasn't enjoyed the show so far, this episode was another indication at the recent rise in quality. The plot and characters are becoming more connected, making it feel more natural and more involving to watch. It finally stopped dragging its feet and gave the plot a much needed boost, while at the same time created an interesting scenario that allows for a closer examination of its characters. It still has a consistent level of cheese that could put some people off and can be as subtle as a truck when it comes to the ideas it's trying to show, but its confident handling of Supergirl's character along with its fun tone, make it worth sticking with.

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