Sometimes, for whatever reason, writers on a series seem to get an idea that really should have had a build up but it doesn’t happen. That’s the case with this week’s Supergirl, “Red Faced.” A recurring theme of the episode is Supergirl/Kara having some serious anger issues that have come out of nowhere. Some hints of it would have made this work a lot better, but up until now, the only negativity we’ve seen from Kara has been her not being happy about the James Olsen/Lucy Lane relationship.
Case in point- the show opens with Kara out for a fly, telling Alex she finds it relaxing. She hears a road rage incident with her super-hearing, and flies down, stopping two cars just before they hit a group of kids crossing the street. One of the aggressive drivers starts yelling at her, and she responds with a bit more force than was needed. In the day of cell phone video, this instantly goes viral, letting Maxwell Lord smirk that maybe she needs a body cam like many police are presently being fitted with. Henshaw is also less than thrilled about Supergirl’s actions, and tells her she needs to get better control of herself.
In yet another scene at the only place to eat in National City, James gets some unwelcome news from Lucy- her father is in town. General Sam Lane doesn’t like much of anyone who isn’t blood kin of his. That goes for Superman, Supergirl, and James. Kara also stops by and finds out that James invited Lucy to game night, a ritual Kara, James, and Winn have been doing for a while that we’ve never heard of before.
It’s the invasion of the horrible parents this week, as Cat gets a visit from her mother. Cat’s mother makes Cat look demure and kind. She’s a figure in the literary world, and is utterly cold if not indifferent to family. She won’t even make time to see her grandson, and apparently sent him a savings bond for his birthday. What ten year old wouldn’t love that? Mommy Dearest there hasn’t read Cat’s piece on Supergirl, doesn’t like that name, and prefers male heroes and doctors.
This week’s majorly bad idea comes from Alex, who usually knows better. She and Kara gang up on poor Winn to sweet talk him into hacking the DEO to get more information on their father, Jeremiah. Winn, wisely, initially refuses, but is eventually talked into it, furthering the cliche of “I work on computers so I can get into any system anywhere.”
Sam Lane isn’t in town to visit. He’s here to get Supergirl to test out his new toy, the android Red Tornado (more on him later). Lane doesn’t ask, he demands, and comes armed with an Executive Order from the President, served by Lucy. Lane finds time to work in a few digs about Superman and Supergirl while he’s at it.
Cat’s mom abruptly cancels their dinner. She got a better offer from Toni Morrison, and implies the gathering will be too smart for Cat, who she keeps calling Kitty. She’s a demeaning, annoying, horrible person who I really hope doesn’t come back. Cat then turns and takes all this out on Kara, snapping at her about her work and “throwing herself” at James.
Game night goes as badly as Winn predicted when he heard Lucy was coming. Of course, he helps by damn near telling Lucy Kara’s secret. It’s a tense scene which highlights how well James and Lucy know each other, making Kara even more uncomfortable. Lucy doesn’t help by talking about how unimpressed she was by meeting Supergirl.
Out at the test ground, Supergirl arrives to fight Red Tornado. Lane and Henshaw bicker. Lane apparently believes that the DEO is utterly unnecessary, and that his Military Intelligence and Special Forces could do the DEO’s job better. Red is escorted by his inventor, Thomas Morrow, a recurring villain in the comics. The fight goes badly. Supergirl rips Red Tornado’s arm off, and then the robot flies off, ignoring commands. Again, Supergirl loses her temper, pounding on Red before he flies off. Lane blames Supergirl for Red Tornado being on the loose, fires Morrow, and wants the robot destroyed.
Back at work, Cat snaps at Kara more, and Kara finally snaps back. She does a mini-tirade, ending in, “Why are you so mean?” and then slaps a hand over her mouth, stunned at what she said. Cat gives her an enigmatic look, and then commands her to, “forward the phones, we’re going.” They end up having drinks while Cat counsels Kara about keeping her temper in check, although she does admit she’s in a bad mood herself because of her mother. Cat also says there’s something else bothering Kara, and she needs to figure out what that is.
It seems to be the day for mixing annoying people and drinking, as Sam, Lucy, and James go out to dinner. Sam tells James he’s not special and that he’s not good enough for Lucy. When Red Tornado shows up to attack (all back in one piece), I think James is relieved. Supergirl comes to the rescue, but Red does a new trick, creating a tornado and turning it loose on the city. In the comics, he directly controls winds, not sets them up to take off on their own.
Alex brings the severed Red Tornado arm to Maxwell Lord. They spar about whether or not someone was really trying to kill him (the How Does She Do It? episode) before she asks for his help finding Red. Lord is mildly interested in the arm, but says he’s too busy. I think the scene was more or less just to show there’s a growing interest between those two characters. Later, he calls Alex back and invites her for what looked like a romantic dinner. Somehow, from glancing at the arm, Lord has figured out that Morrow is controlling Red Tornado. He suggests looking for Frankenstein, not the Monster.
There’s a very amusing scene of James and Kara getting out their aggressions. He has a heavy bag set up. She has a hanging car. Where that came from, I have no idea. It looks like it’s in perfect shape, not an old junker or something. Anyway, they both rant about their problems as they wale away. Kara suddenly has a physical and mental breakthrough when she realizes she’s upset about not being able to have a “normal” life.
A plan is hatched. Alex will track down Morrow while Supergirl fights Red Tornado. Supergirl has a lot more trouble than she should from this robot, and Morrow fights really really well for a lab rat. Eventually, Morrow is killed in the Struggle For The Gun fight cliche, and Supergirl pushes her heat vision to new levels to make Reddy explode.
For wrap up scenes we get a variety: Lucy quits her job, maybe finally seeing her dad the same way everyone else does, as an overbearing ass. Winn, sparing us the scene of tense typing, simply reports the results of his hack- Jeremiah vanished on a mission going after an alien in South America while with Henshaw. Henshaw vanished for a month, then turned up with no memory, which is something I’ll comment on below. And Cat finally tells her mother off, defending Kara, and saying her mother can take her broom back to the airport. Cat, still a bit emotional, breaks a glass, which leads to a big surprise for Kara.
What I liked: It was great getting to see a live action Red Tornado. Henshaw and Cat both stood up for Kara, in very different ways, and that was something I liked, and I get Kara did, too. They again show Cat as having wisdom that is actually useful and believable.
What I didn’t: This was a cliche heavy episode. Sam Lane and Mother Grant were both caricatures or stereotypes at best, Winn’s hacking ability is another cliche (I wonder if he, Arrow’s Felicity and Flash’s Cisco all went to hacking school together). I don’t really buy Morrow being able to fight well enough to give Alex a run for her money. And I really feel the issues Kara is having with her temper came out of nowhere. Cat’s advice that women need to keep their rage bottled up at work seems a bit odd coming from such a powerful figure.
I’ll give this one a low 3 out of 5. It wasn’t their best effort.
For those who care, Red Tornado in the comics was an android created by Thomas Oscar Morrow (T O Morrow, get it?) to infiltrate the Justice Society. The Tornado rebelled and then became a hero, later joining the Justice League during the Satellite Headquarters era. Tornado was on the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, and then had a much bigger role in the sadly short lived Young Justice show.
Now, a theory. What if Henshaw isn’t Henshaw at all? Maybe Henshaw died on the mission that Jeremiah Danvers vanished during. What the DEO got back wasn’t Danvers, but the alien they were looking for, shapeshifted. Whether he is aware he’s impersonating Henshaw or not could go either way. Or maybe Henshaw was never real and has been an alien all along. As for who/what he could be, my money is still on J’Onn, or at least a Martian, but there are several shape-shifting races, as well as individuals, in the DCU.