Supergirl Recap: “Human For a Day”
"You never get sick. That's the best part about you." -Cat Grant
This week’s Supergirl was all about feeling helpless. Actually, it was about Kara feeling helpless while the normal, regular, puny humans around her felt pretty badass. Episode 7, “Human For a Day,” showed us that heroism has very little to do with superpowers or physical strength. After National City is rocked by an earthquake, a temporarily powerless Kara learns what really makes her a hero as the humans around her step up to the plate, each demonstrating heroism in their own ways. Meanwhile, Alex, Hank, and the rest of the DEO are trapped with Jemm, a truly outrageous escaped alien criminal (Yeah, I said it. You were thinking it; you know you were.), and Alex finally gets answers about her father.
**THIS IS A RECAP – SPOILERS ARE PART OF THE TERRITORY.**
S1, Episode 7 – The Basics
- After her fight with Red Tornado, Kara has completely drained her powers and needs to recharge in Earth’s sun for several days. Until then, she is as vulnerable to injury and illness as any human. This does not make her happy. Meanwhile, Alex is finding it more and more difficult to obey Hank knowing that he’s keeping so many secrets about her father.
- Kara arrives to work late at CatCo having caught a cold from a child on the bus. As Winn points out, Kara is late, sick, and took the bus. Being a human is hard you guys. He offers to look into the DEO files he has on Kryptonian physiology (because, you know, he has those now having hacked their system. NBD.) Cat Grant the germaphobe sends Kara home so as not to get sick herself, thereby causing the downfall of the entire US economy. Oh, Cat. I envy your self-esteem.
- At the DEO, Hank puts Alex in charge of cleaning out the holding cell of one of their most dangerous inmates—Jemm (Charles Halford), a Fort Rozz criminal with Kryptonian strength and mind control abilities who seems to know something about Hank that no one else does … This job, however, should be a walk in the park for Alex. That is, until …
- AN EARTHQUAKE HITS. As Kara and James take a walk (James on his way to look at an apartment—he and Lucy are moving in together. Meep!), and they talk about Kara’s power loss (a “solar flare” as Clark “the Big Nerd” Kent refers to it), the earthquake hits, and there’s immediate mayhem. Mayhem that Kara can do nothing about in her current condition. Without thinking, Kara tries to stop a cab that is running off the road because of the quake, and James pushes her out of the way—saving her from the cab, but the fall causes her to break her arm.
- Back at the DEO, Jemm gets loose in the commotion caused by the earthquake. This is not good. The DEO is on lockdown, and Alex couldn’t trust Hank any less at this point. Uh-oh.
- Um, why yes James, please do take your shirt off and make Kara a sling for her arm. That’s totally fine by me. Please only wear tank tops from now on. Kthxbye.
- Later at CatCo, Kara checks in with Alex and they each confirm that the other isn’t doing as well as she’s letting on. In a moment of magnanimity, Cat lets whoever wants to go home to check in with their families (and totally snaps pictures of the people who take her up on it, no doubt so she can make them feel bad about it later), then encourages her staff to get her network back up and broadcasting to give National City hope in the face of Maxwell Lord’s fearmongering and Supergirl hatred.
- Alex and Hank consult AI Alura, but Hank refuses to acknowledge that Kara is their only hope in the face of the Jemm threat (someone find The Misfits! It’s time for a battle of the bands!). Alex busts out some neural disruptors to block Jemm’s mind control powers … which Hank promptly distributes to other members of the team, ordering Alex to stay in the control room to protect the others. Pouty Alex is pouty.
- Winn figures out how to get the network back online, and Cat finally calls him … Witt! He has his own incorrect nickname! PROGRESS! HE’S MADE IT! Now that she knows he’s not totally incompetent, she asks him to set up a live feed from her office so she can get a message out to her audience. Meanwhile, Kara totally wants to confront Lord about his negative messaging and enlists Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, James Olsen, to help, since she can’t just Supergirl her way in this time.
- Hank and two DEO agents, all wearing neural disruptors, are out in the corridors looking for Jemm (OK, I can’t take the Son of Saturn’s name seriously. I just can’t! Like, are they out to destroy Synergy so that Jemm goes back to being Jerrica?) as Alex and the rest watch on the feed to the control room. Suddenly, they lose visuals and there’s mayhem that they can’t see. Suddenly, two of the agents are dead, and Hank has disappeared.
- James and Kara go to see Maxwell Lord, who’s set up relief stations for people affected by the earthquake which, you know, is actually really nice if it didn’t feel so much like branding and marketing. Of course, that’s exactly what he thinks of Cat Grant’s efforts with Supergirl. Kara questions Lord’s negative Supergirl messaging, to which Lord replies that the people of National City can’t continue to be dependent on such an unreliable hero. He also says that he’s not actually telling the people the real news—that he’s figured out that Supergirl must have lost her powers. What’s more, he knows that Superman only takes about two days to “recharge,” and Supergirl’s been away for longer. Meaning that she may never get them back.
- Alex, concerned about Hank’s disappearance, is about to go out to look for him when he returns—alone. Hank has a habit of coming back alone with the rest of his team ending up dead. He tells her that since there’s now only one neural disruptor, that she needs to stay in the control room and that she needs to trust him. Which is, of course, exactly what she doesn’t do.
- While Kara continues to confront Lord, a woman comes up to them screaming and asking them to come help her with her injured father. Max, who apparently “finished medical school in a year,” diagnoses him, but says there’s nothing they can do for him in the street without an x-ray machine. Kara tries in vain to use her x-ray vision, and is shattered to watch this man die in front of her without being able to save him.
- At the DEO, Alex convinces an agent named Donovan that Hank is worthy of her suspicion, asking him to join her without neural disruptors to go after Hank and figure out what’s going on.
- Winn finally tames the ancient A/V equipment Cat has and figures out how to get a live feed going from her office. “Witt’s” success inspires the angle of the message she wants to deliver. She wants to focus on Everyday Heroes—people who are normally mundane, but become heroic in a crisis. She wants to inspire the city.
- Kara is distraught over the man she couldn’t save, and she admits how helpless she feels to James, who lets her know that she pretty much just feels human. He tells her that no hero can save everyone, but that “a real hero never stops trying.” Just then, Kara sees a robbery going on, and despite not having her powers, she insists on trying to help.
- Alex and Donovan are out looking for Hank or Jemm, and they find their two dead colleagues—with working neural disruptors beside them. Hank was lying about Jemm having destroyed them! Alex puts one of them on, but Donovan doesn’t get his on before Jemm puts his mental whammy on him.
- Cat begins to give her prepared hopeful message … then drops the notes and actually speaks honestly. She encourages the city to rally, despite Supergirl’s absence; to remember that Supergirl’s spirit is still alive in the city, and they should all honor that. She does this as Kara, in her Supergirl costume (arm still injured), walks into the store robbery and faces off against the armed robber. She reminds him that bullets won’t hurt her (which, of course, they can now, but dude with a gun doesn’t need to know that), and that she knows that he doesn’t actually want to be this person. She tells him that she understands that he’s only doing what he needs to do for his family, but that she knows that he doesn’t actually want to be someone who hurts people. She talks him down, and he slowly hands over his gun. James, completely impressed and enthralled, takes a photo of the moment, capturing her true heroism.
- So, after Alex loses Donovan and finds Hank, she holds Hank at gunpoint, then gets him to handcuff himself to a railing, finally confronting him with the knowledge that he was the last person to see her father alive (oh, and he also lied about the neural disruptors, and he’s just being a big, fat liar). Of course, this might not have been the best time for Alex to do this, but okay. She decides to call Jemm out and take him on herself, which has Great Plan written all over it, doesn’t it?
- Back at CatCo, Kara is super-jazzed about having saved the day with her kindness and will, rather than with superpowers. She loves the photo James took of her. In a lovely moment, she asks him when he took his first photo, and he shows it to her—a photo of his father just before he went to fight in the Gulf War … and never came home. His father had given him his first camera, and James hasn’t put it down since. They hug just as Winn shows up to completely blow the moment out of proportion.
- Winn arrives to let Kara know that he learned that her powers can also return with a release of Kryptonian extreme adrenaline, but then gets so flustered about seeing Kara and James together that he can barely form sentences. Kara, for some reason, feels like she needs to explain herself to him? (What are they, twelve?) Winn then reminds her that James has a girlfriend, her powers will come back, and she will never have a normal life. Like, that might all be true, but WHAT THE FUCK BUSINESS IS IT OF YOURS, WINN?!
- An explosion at CatCo snaps the drama-havers into action, as there are people trapped on the upper floors who can’t get down. James thinks to get to the trapped people via the elevator shaft.
- At the DEO, Alex fights Jemm. She holds her own pretty well at first, even knocking the blue, shiny forehead stone out of his head. But eventually, Jemm flings her around like a rag doll. Suddenly, someone else comes out of nowhere and defeats Jemm. IT’S HANK!
- James might not be happy about it, but he gets into the CatCo elevator shaft and climbs up the ladder to the affected floors and starts helping people down to Cat’s floor. Once he gets everyone down, he’s about to come back down himself when an aftershock knocks him off the ladder and onto a frayed elevator cable. Eventually—IT SNAPS. Nothing like the love of your life plummeting to his death to set off that Kryptonian extreme adrenaline! Kara’s powers return full-force, and she swoops down to save James.
- Powers restored, Kara jets around saving others in need, feeling like herself again.
- Alex and Hank speak in private about what happened between them with Jemm. Hank reveals that he’s not Hank Henshaw. Hank Henshaw and Jeremiah Danvers went looking for an alien. Jeremiah knew that alien wasn’t dangerous, but Hank was being all Ahab about it, so Jeremiah sacrificed himself to save the alien. That alien is the dude we’ve come to know as Hank Henshaw—a shapeshifter named J’onn J’onzz. Those of you who’ve been saying this all along in the comments, feel free to give yourselves pats on the head from me. Hank Henshaw is actually Martian Manhunter. And he promised Alex’s father that he would protect her as if she were his own daughter, which is why he recruited her to the DEO, to keep her close.
- Kara may be on the outs with Winn, but Supergirl seems to have improved her relationship with Cat Grant. She flies to Cat’s window and, after Cat berates her for being gone so long, saying that the city needs consistency from its heroes, Supergirl says that this is why she’s glad Cat was on air. Cat was the one who was heroic and gave the city hope, and she even inspired Supergirl. Cat smiles, genuinely pleased by the compliment. And Cat Grant’s heart grew three sizes that day!
- So, things are going great for Supergirl! She flies happily through the air, enjoying the return of her powers, when all of a sudden something knocks her out of the sky. Oh … hey, Aunt Astra. You’re still here. I was wondering where the hell you went.
The Review Bit, Wherein I Express OPINIONS:
This is officially the episode where Supergirl Gets Real. With the revelation of Hank Henshaw as Martian Manhunter and the return of Astra, this episode gets the show firmly on a path toward the end of the season. Thank goodness the show got a full season order, huh?
I’m always a bigger fan of the human, character-driven moments on superhero shows than I am of the straight-up superheroics, and so this episode will always be one of my favorites precisely because Kara has to manage without her powers. I love that the episode had Kara hit rock-bottom emotionally only to find her heroism in spite of her lost powers. The one thing they never really delved into that James touched on was the hint of superiority in Kara when she complains about how helpless she feels. Sure, James tells her that the way she feels is human, but then she goes on and on as if having no powers is the worst thing in the world. Never mind that 1) she didn’t have “powers” on Krypton, and 2) just about everyone else in her life is a non-powered human who does just fine most days (see Alex Danvers’ badassery). I wish that Kara would’ve been forced to really look at that line of thinking a bit more and confront the fact that perhaps she thinks she’s better than “regular” people. That could prove interesting re: her relationship with Astra, who clearly thinks Kryptonians are better than humans.
“Human For a Day” featured some wonderful performances. Melissa Benoist in that scene between Kara and James at the bus stop made me feel like I was intruding on a couple of people I happened upon in the street, rather than watching a TV show. Benoist has been great throughout, but that scene in particular was one of her best, making me feel that Kara truly had nothing else to lose. Meanwhile, Mehcad Brooks stole the episode (and my heart) in his scene with Kara where he shows her the photo of his father. I said in last week’s House of El that James Olsen as presented on this show is a shining example of managing emotions, and this scene was another instance where we got to see that. He isn’t afraid to take down the facade of masculine cool in front of Kara, and Brooks skillfully allowed James to shatter in a brief, beautiful moment, only to be repaired by Kara’s friendship. It was an amazing scene. And lastly, David Harewood confessing his long-held secret broke my heart. After several episodes of watching Hank Henshaw be portrayed as a prickly curmudgeon, watching him instantly become a warm, loving father figure devastated by having had to cause his “daughter” pain was a welcome change.
I have to say, in an episode full of wonderful connections between characters (Kara and James, Supergirl and Cat, Alex and J’onn), the relationship that felt the most out of place was Kara and Winn. It seemed strange that Winn reacted as strongly as he did to Kara and James this time—as opposed to all the other times he’s seen them together. It seemed out of character for him to suddenly rub salt in Kara’s wound by telling her that she’ll never have a normal life (which also seems slightly creepy, because if she suddenly decided she wanted to date Winn, I bet he thinks they could have a “normal life”).
Lastly—I’m still waiting for a good villain. This show excels at relationships and at giving us the chance to watch heroes problem-solve. That’s all fun and whatnot, but what I’ve been missing, and what I was still missing in Jemm, is any sense of real danger. We’ve now been trained to expect that each villain that we come across will be defeated by the end of the episode, so there are no real stakes. And Astra’s been gone so long, I almost forgot she existed as a thing. And Maxwell Lord seems more like an annoyance than anything else. The show has yet to find its “Big Bad,” its Joker, Supergirl’s nemesis.
Now here’s the thing: In the comics, villains like Reactron and Brainiac had “nemesis status,” but Supergirl’s greatest enemy has always been … herself. Be it Bizzarogirl, or Power Girl, or “Fake Power Girl” (aka Galatea) on Justice League Unlimited, Supergirl’s most interesting battles have always been against versions of herself. Kara Zor-El/Danvers has been through a lot of dark shit and is carrying a lot of anger. It makes sense that she has the potential to be her own worst enemy. I think what the show needs now is to remember that and, rather than cramming in a new DC villain every week, put Kara in situations where she either metaphorically or literally has to fight against herself.
Still, Episode Seven of the season was a solid, engrossing hour of television. Supergirl continues to get better with every episode.
I’d love to hear what you thought of “Human For a Day” in the comments below!
Supergirl airs Mondays at 8PM ET/PT on CBS. And for more Supergirl fun, check out The House of El on Thursday, and subscribe to my podcast, Supergirl Radio!
(Images via Darren Michaels/Warner Bros. Entertainment)
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