THIS REVIEW AND SUMMARY INCLUDES EPISODE 3 SPOILERS
When spiteful media boss Cat Grant writes a magazine profile of Supergirl, she fires off a familiar array of salvos against young people. Millennials, she charges, are earnest and feckless, irresponsible and arrogant.
These are the beloved themes of bitter columnists, writ specifically for the woman of steel.
"Fight or Flight" was the best so far in CBS' primetime hit series. It attended to the problem of power and naivete, of choice and responsibility. The first episode soared through backstory and stage-setting. The second took the time to introduce Supergirl's support network. In the third, we got a chance to deal with the emotional puzzle of being Supergirl. And it was great.
Supergirl is motivated to stand on her own two feet, to prove that she is as worthy as her older cousin Superman. But when she tangles with nuclear-powered villain Reactron, things begin to unravel. In a junkyard fight, Supergirl comes off worse against Reactron. At the moment it looks like she might be destroyed, Superman comes to the rescue.
This hurts. Cat Grant's article had made the supercilious point that Millennials are forever calling their parents whenever they find themselves in trouble (as if this were something unknown to previous generations.) For the superhero of National City to be bailed out by her cousin seems to prove the point that she is unready to stand alone as a hero, or even as an adult.
Our deepest rage is reserved for our critics who, deep down, we suspect might be telling the truth. Supergirl is naive and idealistic. Prior to the showdown with Reactron, she'd hoped to reason with him. Her compassion might be a problem!
Supergirl is enraged to learn that her potential love interest James Olsen had been the one to call in the Metropolis cavalry. She is in no mood to forgive this betrayal, even if it likely saved her life.
This might be fairly routine stuff, were it not for a situation that takes place soon after. Man-pal and office confederate Winn Schott saves Supergirl alter-ego Kara from being fired. Kara thanks him for "saving my life." As Kara, she is happy to accept reasonable help from a friend. As Supergirl, she is dismayed to have her actual life saved by a family member.
It all works itself out as the episode draws to a close, and as Supergirl takes care of Reactron. He is a lesson in misplaced rage, having survived a nuclear disaster in which Superman saved millions of lives but not, alas, the villain's wife.
There's a lovely scene at the end where Supergirl and Superman share some cute text messages. She thanks him for his help and he pays her some genuine compliments. She can learn how to be gracious, but she's not going to want to have to do it again.
Supergirl's writers are starting to find their legs, with regards to her being a strong woman character. Jokes and observations are beginning to assert themselves. When Cat Grant interviews Supergirl and asks her an asinine question about starting a family, Supergirl makes the point that man superheroes don't have to face such enquiries. This is the sort of thing many women in power are obliged to deal with.
When Supergirl saves industrialist douchebag Maxwell Lord, he erroneously gives the credit to Superman. It's certain that Lord will feature prominently in future episodes. He's the sort of fellow who believes himself to be the man of the hour.
There were also some funny lines from other characters. The Department of Extra-Normal Operations' chief Hank Henshaw is worried about Supergirl's blabbermouth tendencies, another manifestation of her naivety. She's giving interviews to the media, so when, he asks, will there be a reality show, perhaps called "Keeping Up With The Kryptonians"?
Supergirl lives in the shadow of Superman, just as most of us live in the shadow of our own expectations, and those of others. She's taking a beating from people who refuse to take her seriously, who view her as a facsimile of something that has gone before. The writers of this show are letting us know, she's going to be nobody's spin-off.