"Fight or Flight:" Revealing the Supergirl Formula

By J.J. Ulm

Image via CBS

Image via CBS

Three episodes in, Supergirl has fallen into a clear pattern: Kara overcomes some kind of personal crisis by fighting an ultimately forgettable villain-of-the-week. In this week’s episode, “Fight or Flight”, the personal crisis is whether she can stand on her own as a hero without her cousin Superman’s help, and said villain is a power-armored human called Reactron who has a grudge against her fellow Kryptonian.

This episode highlighted one of the few ways that Supergirl does work as a feminist story: It’s been touched on in previous episodes, but throughout “Fight or Flight”, Kara is fighting to wrest control of her own narrative, her own presentation of herself to the world, away from other people who want to control it. It’s a shame those people are other women.

While her sister Alex is still sore that Kara decided to become a superhero like her cousin, Stock Bitchy Successful Woman Cat Grant is skewing a short interview with National City’s new hero to suit her own catty message about Millennials who don’t behave the way she thinks they should. While Alex is warming to the idea of helping her sister out, Kara’s best allies are still her male friends, Sexy James Olsen and Friendzoned Boner Winn.

While she’s (spoilers) eventually able to defeat him, it’s a little sad that Reactron’s entire motivation in this episode is to fridge  Kara — he doesn’t care about her, he’s just trying to kill her to hurt Superman. Hopefully that’s not going to become a recurring thing, but if it isn’t, it feels like it could have been saved for an actual Superman villain, not someone who has always been associated more with Supergirl.

Image via CBS - as is the hashtag

Image via CBS - as is the hashtag

There’s almost a spark of hope at the end with the arrival of Lucy Lane, younger sister of Lois, who might have been the non-adversarial girlfriend Kara needed if she wasn’t immediately set up as a romantic rival. Is it really that much to ask that there be a female character in this show who isn’t in some way an antagonist?

Kara herself is a genuinely likable character, but Supergirl as a show has fallen into a routine at this point, and going forward the only real suspense is waiting to see if it grows out of it. Maybe if it does I’ll continue watching it.

A review of last week's episode by JJ