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Recap: SUPERGIRL Throws a (Richard) Donner Party


Episode 201 “The Adventures of Supergirl”
Teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Jessica Queller
Story by Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg

Directed by Glen Winter


Donner Party, your Twitter table is waiting:


We begin where we left off, with the celebratory gathering in Kara’s apartment, where our intrepid Team Supergirl is toasting their success in defeating Non and the Death-Dealing Kryptonians (my new cover band name, btw).

When suddenly! Look! Up in the sky!

An expanded sequence with Kara (Melissa Benoist) and J’onn J’onzz (David Harewood) racing to stop the Kryptonian pod that’s hurtling through National City, flashing past tall buildings and knocking window washers off their platforms, giving the Martian Manhunter an opportunity to rescue people while Supergirl gets the pod, opens the pod bay doors, Hal…

and finds another Square Jaw from CW Central Casting (Chris Wood). Seriously, are there no ordinary looking people on this show?

But that mysterious mystery will have to wait for another episode, even though we circle back to it a little later in the hour. No, friends and fellow fans, we must now turn our attention to the much-hyped (and still better with John Williams’ music) space plane rescue sequence that thoroughly introduces the Man of Steel, the Big Blue Boy Scout, most affectionately known as Superman (Tyler Hoechlin), who joins his cousin in saving the Venture, a multi-billion-dollar space place that looks like someone updated John Byrne’s design from Man of Steel (no, not that one…):

From THE MAN OF STEEL #1 - John Byrne, Dick Giordano (July 1986)
From THE MAN OF STEEL #1 – John Byrne, Dick Giordano (July 1986)


Now, Lois Lane isn’t on this plane, but she does get name-checked later (and she’s Clark’s girlfriend and she knows his secret and it’s right in the middle of an adorable Kara/Clark moment).

After the daring space plane rescue, Supergirl brings her cousin to the DEO’s fancy new digs in Vancouver National City, just a block from Alex’s apartment, minus the bats that bit Kara… to see if he recognizes “The Man Who Fell to Earth” in the Kryptonian pod. Kal-El doesn’t know him, but Winn has been taking Kryptonian Rosetta Stone lessons over the summer and works to translate the pod’s telemetry.

Oh, and Winn (Jeremy Jordan) works at DEO now.

By the way, Alex (Chyler Leigh) ribs Kara about how good her cousin smells, but also notices a little eye dagger byplay between Clark and J’onn. What’s up with that? She’s gonna find out, you betcha.

Meanwhile, Clark and Kara pay a visit to Luthor Corp, where Lex’s adopted sister Lena (Katie McGrath) is now in the all-white executive suite trying to rebrand the company into a Force for Good™ after the devastation brought on by her brother, who’s now serving 32 consecutive life sentences in prison. She just wants to prove herself to be not like a typical Luthor, and hands over all data and material on a project called the piece that blew up on the Venture. Something called the “oscillator” — because overthruster was too much?

The data shows that the oscillator blew well past the point where it would have been an accident, and it happened to be positioned just below seat 23B on the Venture — the very seat Lena Luthor would have been in had she not skipped the flight. (And yes, that was very likely a Lost reference.) So instead of being the instigator of the explosion, Lena looks to have been the target.

And the mercenary handing out all the destruction? One John Corben (Frederick Schmidt). Yes, that John Corben. He’s got drones flying about the city in an attempt to peel Superman and Supergirl away from the helicopter carrying Lena Luthor, who hates to fly even though statistically speaking it’s still the safest way to travel … Yes, she did.

What's she got cooking in that brain of hers? (Diyah Pera/The CW)
What’s she got cooking in that brain of hers? (Diyah Pera/The CW)

So, is Lena Luthor really the target of a series of assassination attempts? Or is she just playing her cards really close to the vest? Neither Clark nor Kara can see anything when they X-ray vision the office, and she’s very cooperative with trying to figure out who might have sabotaged her space plane, and she seems really sincere in her desire to rehabilitate the family company…

… but she’s a Luthor. And since she’s a regular for the season, she’s got to be up to something. Right?

But what if she’s not? What if she’s legitimately trying to take the company in a new direction? What if she’s exactly what she seems?

In any event, it seems somebody’s got it out for her. Besides Corben’s #DroneClub (sorry, Orphan Black fans…), he’s got explosives built into the site where Lena is making her big speech to rename the company and announce the new Plan for Good. But Lena’s no wallflower, cupcake. When it comes down to brass tacks, while Superman is holding up a building and Kara is rebuilding the support column, she sees an opening and takes it — shooting Corben in the back while he’s holding Alex hostage against Kara.

It’s a clean shot, but Corben’s bleeding out. So this is his origin story, in addition to being am introduction for Superman. And even though it connects Metallo with Project Cadmus, that may not necessarily be a bad thing. Since Cadmus is going to be an ongoing evil shadow conspiracy company this season, it makes sense to have Metallo part of it. Plus, there’s Brenda Strong being Eeeeevillllll…

Expect “Operation Emerald” to come into play as part of that, too. The basis for Superman’s animosity toward the DEO, it’s the mission where Hank and Clark discovered kryptonite, and since Hank decided to keep it (just in case, you understand)… well, Clark has this thing about kryptonite. But since it’s being held in a government facility, we can be certain at least a piece of it will go missing to power Metallo.

Kara makes up her mind? (Bettina Strauss/The CW)
Kara makes up her mind? (Bettina Strauss/The CW)

Just as much as this episode delivers Superman, it also serves as a soft reboot for the show, setting up the departure of Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) after giving Kara career advice that is better than anything Dr. Phil could deliver. The dynamic between Cat and Kara (for that matter, Flockhart and Benoist) has always been a gem in Supergirl‘s crown, and it’s a shame that the production’s move to Vancouver means we get less of it. But the scenes we get in this episode provide an organic beginning to an in-show reason why we won’t see Cat as much — speculating now that it will have something to do with her son Adam.

And Kara, after getting that excellent career advice (and a ticking clock) from Cat, and some excellent “secret identity” advice from Clark, figures out that there are changes a-comin’ in her life, and some of that involves … not Jimmy Olsen.

The shippers are already taking to Twitter to decry the dissolution of Kara/James so quickly after an entire season of setup, but the two didn’t last in the comics, either. And if what we’re hearing about Olsen are true, and he’s to take on a superhero identity of his own (and this is the first really bad idea from this show), it’s better that the two remain friends.

Interesting that in the scenes where Kara has made up her mind that she and Jimmy should remain friends, and that she wants to pursue a career as a reporter at CatCo, her hair and wardrobe are just a little more “grown-up” in their presentation. Kara looks slightly more mature in those last few scenes, and it underscores the control she’s taking over her life.


Both of them are mild-mannered, y'know. (Diyah Pera/The CW)
Both of them are mild-mannered, y’know. (Diyah Pera/The CW)

Mature… yeah, Tyler Hoechlin’s age gets lampshaded right in the show, as does the DEO’s new facility. Officially now, Kryptonians age slower on Earth, which is why Superman looks so young even though he’s fourteen years older than Kara (Hoechlin is actually older than Benoist by only a year).

But if there were any doubts Hoechlin could deliver a solid Superman, they’re gone now. He has just the right balance of goofy klutz Clark and solid Man of Steel that Christopher Reeve used to set the standard by which every other Superman has been measured. Reeve would have felt right at home on this show, and it’s good to see his legacy and influence continue with Supergirl. DC Entertainment has finally let us have a Superman that’s actually… Superman.

And while we’re on the topic of legacy (Geoff Johns’ favorite subject these days), let’s take a look at some of the Richard Donner-helmed Superman Easter eggs, shall we?

  • reaching for the pod — Kara reaches for the Kryptonian pod exactly the same way Superman reaches for the runaway nuclear rocket in Superman
  • “Miss Tessmacher!!” — Calista Flockhart does Gene Hackman proud with that first shout, a solid and deliberately obvious callback to Superman
  • saving a plane — like they do, because every Kryptonian saves a plane. More than once.
  • the shirt-rip reveal — we already had it with Kara; now we get it with Clark, and it’s just right in its tone.
  • Lex Luthor’s earthquake — another shout out to the first Reeve movie
  • “Statistically, it’s the safest way to travel…” — in both Superman and Superman Returns, this is The Line that makes this episode nigh on perfect in its salute to the history
  • offer to fly to Italy for Italian — remember when Superman flew all around the world for his date with Lois in Superman II? How about when he flew to Italy and straightened the Tower of Pisa in Superman III? This line gave us a two-fer.

Random questions:

  • Where does Supergirl keep her cell phone?
  • Why couldn’t Blake Neely’s music for Superman have more echoes of Williams?
  • Where’s Superman’s spit-curl?


Next episode: Wonder Woman in disguise as the President of the United States.


Supergirl airs Monday nights at 8/7c on the CW.


Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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