Editor’s note: This series of recaps of episodes for “Supergirl” will contain spoilers, especially as the season goes, and may be written to an audience that’s watching the series. Expect a full-season review once the first season concludes.
‘Fight or Flight’ focuses on Kara’s need to find her own way
Of course Kara has a day job. Don’t all superheroes have a day job? But then again, maybe that’s the problem: She doesn’t want to be like all the other superheroes, especially one particularly famous cousin of hers.
“Fight or Flight,” the third episode of “Supergirl,” focuses heavily on Kara’s transition into superherodom and, more specifically, just who she wants to be as National City’s superhero. Spoiler: It tends to vary between going solo like Superman and actually remembering that she has friends who want to help her protect the city from all the lunatics with nuclear-powered, laser-firing armored bio-suits.
All throughout “Fight,” Kara’s (Melissa Benoist) need to find her own way is evident. Whether it’s not asking Clark Kent for help or continuously battling her boss, Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), over her portrayal of Supergirl through the media, Kara seems to be at odds with just about everyone around her. It doesn’t take long for that tension to take a back seat, however, as Kara finds herself face to face with a villain from Superman’s past.
The third episode continues right where the second one left: Supergirl has agreed to let Cat interview her. It doesn’t reveal a lot about either party until Cat flusters Kara with her sharp questioning, resulting in her telling the publishing mogul that Superman is her cousin, a fact not yet known to the general public. The juicy tidbit explodes across media, leaving Kara in a bit of a predicament with sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) and Hank Henshaw (David Harewood), who both see anyone learning anything more than necessary about Kara as potentially dangerous.
Gears switch swiftly this episode, though, as another plot thread from previous episodes, Kara’s infatuation with James “Jimmy” Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), takes off in earnest. For the most part, especially early on, it borders on silly (her laugh at one of James’ non-jokes is cringe-worthy), but there’s a strange level of adorableness behind it, especially framing it between one sister teasing another. (It doesn’t hurt that Benoist basically can do no wrong in this role.)
But before we can think “Is something going to happen between these two?” we’re introduced to our next villain, though one without an extraterrestrial background: Reactron, a human who has quite the vendetta against Superman and a super-powered bio-suit capable of using nuclear fission to create weaponized energy beams. His tactic is simple enough: He wants to harm Superman for a perceived slight (which we learn about later), so he’ll take it out on Supergirl. (This needs to be said: Reactron, despite the stupid name, is a far more interesting villain than any of the Kryptonians so far. Take that for what you will.)
Hence is the major thread throughout “Fight or Flight”: Reactron has clashed multiple times with Superman, with neither man coming out on top, which is enough to say the villain is not someone to take lightly. Kara, in her desperate desire to come out of Superman’s shadow, ignores advice from friends, James in particular, and attempts to take out the armored-suit menace. The majority of the rest of the episode chronicles Kara’s evolving relationship with Superman and her human friends and how they all are going to interact with one another, all while attempting to prevent Reactron from going nuclear. Consider it growing pains.
Speaking of relationships, several are highlighted throughout the episode. The more interesting one, on merits, revolves on the simmering rivalry between James and Winn (Jeremy Jordan), Kara’s work friend who clearly wants to be more than that. It’s not quite a full-on battle for our hero’s heart, but the tension is palpable. The episode clearly makes a point to try to endear us to Winn: He’s basically the best friend/boyfriend all wrapped in one that Kara just can’t see yet. Combine that with a tone-deaf James this time around (for someone who wanted to make it on his own without Superman’s help, that he can’t seem to understand that Kara would want the same is upsetting), and you have a recipe for Edward/Jacob feud.
The less interesting relationship, at least so far, is thrown at us right at the episode’s end: One Lucy Lane, younger sister to the famous Lois Lane, comes onto the scene and reveals, to Kara’s heartbreak, that she and James were once a couple and that she may be open to rekindling that romance. It’s quite the scintillating surprise, but not enough was revealed to make it of too much importance. Surely that will change in future episodes, though. (Life lesson: Don’t eavesdrop.)
More character development takes place, as well, with a focus on Cat and Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli), the former of whom shows that she, too, can be a normal enough person with her own fears and neurotic tendencies. She’s likable because everyone knows someone like her, and it’s hard to dislike someone who works so hard for what they want. Lord, on the other hand, is simply arrogant. His first real introduction to the audience has him firing an employee, being kidnapped by Reactron and giving Superman all the credit when it’s Supergirl who found him. It’s not clear what role this character will play (he and Cat do seem to have history together, though), but if this continues, he won’t become a fan favorite anytime soon.
In the end, “Fight or Flight” succeeds in further tethering us to our hero and her posse. With the exception of James, most main characters underwent interesting and believable growth and gained valuable backstory. Even the villain was intriguing, what with a personal vendetta against the Man of Steel. The prominent question of why Kara doesn’t rely more on Clark Kent is more or less satisfactorily answered, though it was nice to see him come to the rescue. All of this critical personal interaction should be enough to remind Kara the importance of family and friends. Because, as Clark IM’d Kara, what else are they for, if not to help?
Four “Who needs Superman anyways?” stars out of five.