The first half of Supergirl‘s premiere season has had its ups and downs to be sure. While it was a bumpy and heavy-handed start, the last four episodes were solid hours of entertaining television. While they are not without their faults, they were vast improvements over the first five episodes.
So ahead of tonight’s brand new episode, let’s talk about what is finally working and what still isn’t. Spoilers ahead!
If we are honest with ourselves, what needed the most work was the portrayal of women, especially the portrayal of Cat Grant. Seeing as this show’s main characters are mostly female, this was quite problematic. More than anything, Cat was the character who was truly disappointing. She had the most potential to be a positive portrayal of a strong and powerful woman. She was not. However, more than any other character, Cat has grown the most.
Cat is still very much a work in progress. For as far as I think she has come, she has at least that far to go. She has, much like the show itself, been unevenly written, as if the writers and producers can’t quite decide if they want her to be a Miranda Priestly or surrogate mother/big sister to Kara/Supergirl. They tried, and failed, to show her as a strong and intelligent feminist businesswoman in those early episodes. Instead, she was bitchy, catty, and downright mean to just about everyone with whom she comes in contact. She really was the antithesis of how feminism should be portrayed.
However, in Livewire we were given a glimpse of character development, and reasoning behind why Cat is such a bitch. But mommy issues can only take a character so far. In these last four episodes, they went further. They showed she has compassion for others, and can even give some good role model type advice to Kara. While I still don’t completely love Cat, she’s slowly earning a place as a redeeming character worth liking.
In Red Faced, in a wonderfully drunken stupor that was a nice nod to Cat’s alcoholism in the comics, Cat actually gives Kara useful advice and begins to actually earn that whole role model job. After being dismissed by her mother, Cat takes her anger out on Kara, who in turn screams back at Cat. Instead of losing her mind or firing Kara, Cat calmly tells her to forward all their calls, because they are going out. They head to the bar for a heart to heart.
During that heart to heart, Cat lays out the problem with being a woman in the workplace. Men are allowed to be angry and have emotions. Women are not, and if they do show anger or extreme emotion, it is considered professional suicide. She advises that Kara find the reason behind her anger so she can deal with it. Kara does just that since she can’t just attend a kickboxing class to work it out, she and James have their own fight club in an abandoned garage, where James takes his anger (at General Lane) out on a punching bag and Kara uses a car to work through her anger. Once again, explaining something every woman knows, Kara tells James that while girls are taught to smile and keep all of their emotions on the inside, boys are allowed to be angry. But after beating the crap out of a car, seriously she destroyed it, Kara realizes that Cat was right. Kara’s not really angry with Cat, she’s angry that any chance she had at a normal life ended when she left Krypton.
I want to point out that one of the things that this show has always portrayed well is anger. Very few female characters are allowed to be angry on screen. They can talk about how they were angry in the past or how something might make them angry, but they are never quite allowed to show that anger or experience it to its fullest. All of the women in this show get to not only acknowledge their anger, but we are allowed to watch them experience it and work through it in a healthy way. And that is a good thing for all.
In my opinion, the biggest corner turned for Cat was during Hostile Takeover. Cat’s personal emails have been leaked and are being reported on everywhere. Cat tells Kara to find the source of the leak. Together with James and Winn, Kara uncovers a plot where the Chairman of the Board of CatCo is attempting to use Cat’s personal emails to get her to step down so he can take over the company.
Before the Boys of Justice find proof of the plan, Cat decides to step down. You see, she has an older son that she hasn’t seen in years and rather than have him the center of a media frenzy, Cat will give up her company and her dreams. In other words, she is sacrificing herself to protect her son. With that decision, Cat becomes a person who is likable. She isn’t just some bitchy boss, she is a complex character who has a full range of emotions, even if we haven’t seen them yet. She still has quite a ways to go, but she is finally on the right path to becoming the feminist role model that the producers think she should have been from the beginning.
In her own way, Cat has even begun to do what is best for Kara. Whether or not it actually is what was best is a bit irrelevant. Cat thinks what she is doing is best for Kara/Supergirl. And that is what is important here. After figuring out that Kara is Supergirl at the end of Hostile Takeover, Cat spends the majority of Blood Bonds trying to prove it regardless of how much Kara denies it. In Cat’s head, every minute Kara wastes as her assistant is a minute that someone is not getting saved. So for the greater good of National City, Cat insists that Kara prove she isn’t Supergirl or she is fired. For Cat, this is just as much a selfless act as her willingness to give up her company because she knows how much easier Kara makes her life.
Eventually, Kara does, with the help of J’onn J’onzz, a.k.a. the Martian Manhunter, a.k.a Hank Henshaw, prove to Cat that she isn’t Supergirl. (Side note: Now that Kara knows Hank is J’onn J’onzz, I am super excited to see his relationship with Kara develop.) When faced with both Supergirl and Kara, Cat is convinced that they don’t even look that much alike. So Kara’s identity remains a secret from Cat, for now anyway. Crisis averted.
One of the things that Greg Berlanti and friends do so well is portray family dynamics, whether they be blood or found family. Supergirl is no different, but the early portrayals of these relationships felt forced, well a lot of things early on felt forced, like the dialogue. Now these characters seem to be comfortable, not only in their skin but with each other. I believe that these characters have genuine concern and emotion for each other and that we are seeing the beginning of that found family that is the core of both Arrow and The Flash.
Is Supergirl a perfect show? No. It is entertaining. And, I believe, it is finally on the path portraying women, their emotions, and their relationships properly. The only way to tell is to tune in tonight and see for yourself. ‘Til next time…