The thrills keep on coming with this week’s Supergirl. And while last night’s episode may not have landed the philosophical hits of last week, it was in no way short of high points. I’d even go so far as to say that, from a structural standpoint, tonight’s episode was stronger. What it lacked in asking the “bigger questions,” it more than made up for in pacing and action. It’s exactly the change needed after the more happenstance progression of Kara’s human-for-a-day adventure.
Given how last week ended, it’s little surprise that we start “Hostile Takeover” right in the middle of the action with Kara escaping Astra and her goons. Watching our heroine throw herself off a rooftop may seem a bit extreme, but I’m sure we all have a relative or two we might consider escaping the same way. In so much as it counts for most of tonight’s fight choreography, the Astra plot line is a bit lacking. Her airborne battle with Kara comes off a bit underwhelming, mostly because the physics (or imaginary physics) of flying never seem to make for great movement. It’s also strange to watch Kara literally battle her mother, and while double casting Laura Benanti as Alura and Astra certainly works towards hyping up dramatic tension, one can’t help but notice the unfortunate undertones more common to Greek myths than superhero shows.
The fighting notably improves during the group battle between Astra’s soldiers and the DEO. I have to say that revealing himself to Alex really seems to have loosened Hank up, and with that he seems to have gained a level in fighting badass as well. There’s also a stunt cameo from Jessie Graff (my very favorite American Ninja Warrior) as an Astra goon set on beating up Alex. Still, none of the truly impressive moves fall on the shoulders of our two prizefighters.
While underwhelming fight choreography should never be the hallmark of a superhero show, I’m tempted to let it slide, because where Kara and Astra’s physical battle may have been a bit lacking, their emotional journey certainly reaches new, much more complicated heights. We’ve had good reason for a while now to suspect Astra and Kara’s relationship was once close, but tonight’s confirmation makes it all the more heartbreaking. Not only is Kara forced to confront her mother’s less than forthright tactics, but in having the opportunity to learn more about Astra’s motivations we’re all asked to question weather or not her villainy is quite so black and white. It seems the Astra that the show has built up as a galactic scourge is less like an aspiring General Zod and a bit more like an overzealous Al Gore. The impression we’ve been given of her many crimes and the bodies left in her wake may ultimately boil down to some controversial government activism and one very regrettable interaction with a guard. Time will tell if Astra is manipulating Kara’s soft spot for her, but for tonight’s episode it certainly seems to have revealed a strange, less than fully straightforward morality at work in Kryptonian society.
While the return to a more action-driven plot is certainly appreciated, it’s Kara’s day job that once again provides us with the more insightful and nuanced story. An e-mail hack finding out all kinds of ridiculous personal details about Cat Grant’s life feels like a good set up for comedy, especially as Cat herself appears relatively unaffected. I mean, if the most embarrassing thing leaked about you is that Idris Elba once shot you down, well, welcome to the club, Cat. I’m pretty sure there are support groups on Tumblr. In the face of possible board interference, Cat puts her most trusted, competent people on the case. Okay so she puts Kara, James, and Winn on the case. So trusted yes, maybe not the most competent to be investigating cybercrime. It also begs the question, who is doing James’ job while he plays super sleuth all day? I’ll accept that Kara and Winn might not be missed, but James is a department head—people are going to be looking for him.
It all takes a rather sudden turn with the revelation that Cat is making wire transfers to a much younger man. Adam Foster (that’s the younger man you see) turns out to, in fact, be Cat’s son and not a younger lover as James and Winn, but not Kara, definitely not Kara, assume. Protecting him is enough to make Cat consider stepping down. Luckily it doesn’t come to that. After a bit of 21st century Scooby-Dooing in which Winn proves himself super competent at both cybercrime and corporate espionage, it’s revealed that we’re in fact dealing with a regular old corporate power play.
It may not seem like a lot; there is only ever one suspect in Kara’s investigation and beyond Adam, Cat’s e-mails are pretty tame. There aren’t even any Sony quality complaints about mediocre Adam Sandler films. But from Cat’s position,Kara definitely looks like a hero. I’d like to think it’s a simple thought like that that gets the incisive Grant wheels turning. It’s here Supergirl chose to make a pretty bold move tonight. Instead of continuing to give Cat easy opportunities to overlook Kara, tonight’s episode lets her see her assistant clearly for the first time. And unsurprisingly, when someone really looks at you, it’s easy to see past a pair of glasses and recognize Supergirl. Yep, Cat Grant figured out Kara’s alter ego in only eight episodes. Congratulations Cat, it took Lois years to figure out the same formula with Clark. The score is now Cat one, Lois zero. Unless you count that time Lois went out with Idris Elba.
Katherine Siegel is a Chicago-based freelance writer and director and a regular contributor to Paste. You can find out more by checking out her website, or follow her on Twitter.