*Spoilers for all of season one*
Supergirl is back on our screens, so why not look back and reminisce on the top 5 episodes of season one.
Binging can be oh so satisfying. I ought to know, having spent the last week catching up on the adventures of Supergirl, in order to be ready for the season two premiere. Supergirl is a delightful, frothy, and fun show with a perfect ratio between emotions and action. It is a superhero drama in bright primary colours, filled with likeable characters, and engaging relationships. Moreover the show displays a wonderfully unapologetic feminist edge. However much I love Lois Lane and all her sharp quips in her many incarnations, it is refreshing to see ‘the girl in a superhero story’ not as a beloved side-kick or as the main person to be saved, but as the saviour at the centre being nothing less than super. Supergirl surrounds their loveable female protagonist with plenty more awesome women including the badass media empress Cat Grant, the equal parts strong and vulnerable big sister Alex Danvers, and another great Lane, first name Lucy. As a lover of the Superman-universe and as a person of the female persuasion, Supergirl‘s freshman season made for some wholly satisfying binge-viewing.
Ranking is hard and far too often instantly regrettable, so I took the easy way out by displaying my list of the top five Supergirl season one episodes in chronological order.
- 1×07 Human for a day (aka Hank’s confession)
This episode includes crucial developments for many of the central relationships on the show, thus its inclusion on this list. Supergirl is an action-filled superhero series but more so, it is a story about family and friendship.
Kara Danvers differs markedly from Clark Kent by having lived some of her formative years as a Kryptonian on Krypton. She is not only an alien by birth and DNA but also by nurture as much as by nature. In this episode Kara experiences the vulnerability of the human form with a temporary loss of her powers. It is her love for her friends that has her reclaiming her super abilities. The human relationships Kara keeps not only help her relate to humanity but also demand and improve her alien superness.
Elsewhere in the same episode, the DEO is in lockdown, creating an awesomely tense atmosphere bolstered by the mistrust Alex holds towards director Hank Henshaw, following earlier revelations on who her father was with at the time of his death. It all culminates with Hank’s emotional confession to Alex that he is in fact the Martian J’onn J’onzz.
The scene marks the beginning of an involving surrogate father-daughter relationship between Alex and J’onn. Their continued connection often providing heartfelt highlights throughout the season.
- 1×13 For the girl who has everything (aka Kara on ‘Krypton’ and Astra’s death)
Another emotional trip through the wringer awaits, when Kara is endangered by a plant-like substance called Black Mercy. The living organism has latched onto Kara’s heart sending her mind into a constructed dream world, built upon her heart’s desires. She finds herself back on Krypton, surrounded by her Kryptonian family, rapidly forgetting her human connections back on earth. This time around it is Alex who must save Kara.
I love this episode for centring on the sibling relationship between Alex and Kara and highlighting its emotional significance to the show. In order to tense things up further and put some delicious conflict within the solid sister relationship, Alex must make the harrowing choice of saving J’onn by killing Kara’s Kryptonian kin, Aunt Astra – the only other person who knew and loved Kara’s mother as she did.
With J’onn taking the blame, Alex is left to stew in her own guilt for a couple of episodes, creating a wonderful build-up of emotion.
- 1×15 Solitude (aka Alex comes clean about Astra’s true fate)
And so it is in episode 15 we are gifted a highly satisfying conclusion to the ‘Alex-killing-Astra’-storyline, alongside a trip to the iconic Fortress of Solitude as well as a worthy villain finishing it all off with some wayfaring nuclear warheads. It’s all-round good stuff.
It is a testament to the writers of this show, that they refuse to be trapped by obvious conflicts in their weekly attempts to provide drama. Rather than having Kara turn her anger towards Alex at the revelation that she was behind the death of Astra, she reacts with a hug.
Rather than the feared implosion of family ties, Alex’ late confession strengthens the small but badass family unit of Kara, Alex and J’onn. It is a beautifully acted, heart-wrenching moment packed with well-earned character development and emotional pay-off. Alex and Kara are sisters, and sisters you would forgive pretty much any transgression.
- 1×16 Falling (aka the one with the red kryptonite)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that one must have at least one red kryptonite story in a Superman-universe show, and much merriment shall be had. The merriment will however not be without heart-breaking consequences.
Soft-spoken and bubbly Kara becomes ruthlessly forthright, devious, and arrogant under the influence of red kryptonite. This is not the Kara we know, but the crux of the problem lies with the grains of truth that permeate each painful statement from Supergirl’s mouth during her hours under the influence. However fun it is to watch Kara let loose, it is equally terrifying to see the sweet-natured girl overcome by her worst traits and most hidden dark thoughts.
Brilliantly, the red kryptonite ties back to the season’s ongoing villain, the authority-thwarting devious millionaire tech-extraordinaire Maxwell Lord.
- 1×20 Better Angels (aka the Finale)
Finales should be the culmination of a season-long build-up. At this point we have come to know and hopefully care about the characters. The threat has never been so looming and real but that is okay because we know resolution and peace is just around the corner…we just don’t know at what cost it will come.
In Supergirl’s season one finale everything she stands for as a hero is at stake. The hope embedded in the House of El symbol must save the day. The unconditional and stubborn reverence towards all human life, which Supergirl embodies is tested to its limit. Should she follow the pragmatist Maxwell Lord and sacrifice a portion of innocent lives to save the majority, or will she stand by her superhuman morals and abilities to rise above pragmatism and save everyone?
Supergirl is a rare kind of hero in this TV day and age, where the morally compromised hero usually reigns supreme. Supergirl is alien and therefore not bound by the murky reality of human existence. She can be better, and needs to be so, in order to remain as that indisputable symbol of hope, we mere humans need as inspiration.
What Supergirl truly is, why she matters in National City, and who Kara becomes as she pulls on that red cape is wonderfully played out in the finale. A perfect end to the show’s season-long establishment of Kara Danvers coming into her own as Supergirl.
- 1×06 Red faced (aka Kara has a hard time controlling her strength and anger),
- 1×11 Strange Visitor from another Planet (aka say hello to the White Martian, J’onn J’onzz worst nightmare),
- 1×18 World’s Finest (aka that smile-inducing grotesquely charming Flash crossover)