Saturday, September 23, 2017

All The Worst Conceits Undermine Supergirl's "Fight Or Flight."

The Good: Peter Facinelli is fine as Max Lord
The Bad: Derivative, Lame villain, Boring romantic triangle conceits, Underwhelming performances, Poor writing for dialogue, Straddles the superhero and romantic dramedy niches with the worst conceits of both, Editing and technical details
The Basics: "Fight Or Flight" continues the perilous beginning of Supergirl with a horribly generic Villain Of The Week story that fails to land.

As I go through the first season of Supergirl for the episode by episode reviews, this is the third time I'm watching the season. As a result, when I come upon an episode with a thoroughly unmemorable adversary, it truly says something; if the villain is so indistinct that they leave no real impression by the third viewing, it's tough not to call the episode a lemon. Such is the case with "Fight Or Flight." While "Fight Or Flight" seeks to set Supergirl apart from Superman in their shared universe, the appearance of Superman villain Reactron is completely overshadowed by the proper introduction of Maxwell Lord (who was a leader in the Justice League International and then truly broke out through his climactic arc in Wonder Woman) to Supergirl.

While Maxwell Lord made his Supergirl debut in the background of "Stronger Together" (reviewed here!), "Fight Or Flight" is the proper introduction of Lord. While fans of his arc in the comic books will figure out the logical reason for using Lord in the long term, his beginning on Supergirl is subtle enough. Maxwell Lord is the secondary antagonist in "Fight Or Flight," but he is the most significant addition to Supergirl in the episode. "Fight Or Flight" picks up immediately after "Stronger Together."

Opening with Cat Grant interviewing Supergirl, the next morning Kara and Alex have breakfast together when they run into James Olsen. Alex accuses Kara of flirting with Olsen, which Kara denies. At work, Kara is told that Grant will be writing an expose on Supergirl after outing her as Superman's cousin. Learning that Supergirl is related to Superman gets the attention of the horrible scarred and burned Ben Krull. Krull creates a pile-up to draw out Supergirl, covered in powerful armor. Supergirl fights Krull to a stand-still and Kara is put off when the DEO refuses to deal with the armored human that The Daily Planet dubbed Reactron.

At Lord Technologies, Maxwell Lord is overseeing the final testing on a levitating train he intends to develop as a gift for National City when Reactron beaks in. Lord is abducted by Reactron and Krull wants Lord's help in saving his life. At CatCo, Kara is forced to read Grant's scathing critique of Supergirl and Grant posits that when she runs into a real problem, she will call Superman for help. Based on a tip from Olsen, Supergirl flies off to the junkyard Krull has holed up in to try to rescue Lord and strop Krull. Reactron, however, manages to easily defeat Supergirl and Superman rescues her. With the help of Winn Schott and Alex's equipment at the DEO, Supergirl seeks out a rematch with Reactron when he appears at Cat Grant's party.

Reactron is a half-baked evil rip-off of Iron Man. Regardless of how inexperienced Supergirl is, Reactron is not a compelling villain at all. In the annals of generic villain of the week, Reactron would make the top of the list were he not so utterly forgettable. Ben Krull was working at a nuclear power plant when Superman failed to save his wife's life, leading him to a vendetta against Superman.

Sadly, "Fight Or Flight" finishes establishing the tropes of Supergirl that were used in The Flash. Winn Schott sets up a home base for Supergirl in an unused office at CatCo Worldwide Media, essentially giving her a S.T.A.R. Labs-style command center. Schott continues to be an unfortunately cheap rewrite of Cisco Ramon in "Fight Or Flight." Schott, through no fault of Jeremy Jordan, lacks the spark of charisma and any unique defining traits that Ramon on The Flash has. Schott is written to be the efficient tactician that Supergirl needs to be tasked to troubles, but he does not have any real quirks that make him original or even interesting in "Fight Or Flight."

"Fight Or Flight" is packed with forced drama surrounding Kara Danvers and James Olsen. The episode makes an abrupt transition between the two from Danvers having a starry-eyed crush on Olsen to having a forced conflict between them when Olsen calls in Superman for help. "Fight Or Flight" establishes Supergirl as an action-adventure version of the romantic comedy (or drama) formula as Kara is given a pretty obvious romantic choice between James Olsen (whom she has a preference for) and Winn Schott (who is very clearly smitten with her). The fact that by the third episode, Supergirl is swamped with potential romantic suitors undermines the themes of solo female empowerment that could have been at the core of Supergirl had the show and the characters of Kara Danvers and Cat Grant been written better.

But instead of being cleverly written, "Fight Or Flight" features the beginning of a love triangle and the most ridiculous bullet-proof dress ever conceived (it's backless and shows off shoulders and neck, pretty much undermining the value of such a garment).

Far more significant in "Fight Or Flight" is the introduction of Max Lord and the developing professional relationship between Alex Danvers and Hank Henshaw. Henshaw begins to soften his stance on Supergirl being public and he recognizes that Alex's loyalties to her are somewhat divided. Lord is presented in "Fight Or Flight" as a professional antagonist to Cat Grant, the tech genius to her media genius. Neither of them is particularly well-developed in "Fight Or Flight."

Ultimately, "Fight Or Flight" is a mess. From a truly baffling edit (Supergirl attacks Reactron in the air, but somehow manages a few frames later to be under him as he smashes her into the ground?!) to a true lack of understanding of the physical realities of what Supergirl is doing in the episode, "Fight Or Flight" is one of the worst episodes of the series. Supergirl vaporizes lead with her heat vision, which is a neat-looking effect, but would have been damaging, if not lethal to people standing near by and breathing, like Winn Schott. Similarly, the solution to the episode looks cool, but would leave James Olsen either cancer-ridden, sterile, or flat-out dead (to preserve the effect, Kara's hand is left partially-open).

Unfortunately, "Fight Or Flight" is not an episode that falls apart in the details; the broad strokes are off as well and were it not for Peter Facinelli's ability to credibly land the technobabble he is given to establish Max Lord, the episode would be thoroughly unwatchable.

For other works with Chyler Leigh, please visit my reviews of:
Supergirl - Season 2
"Pilot" - Supergirl
Not Another Teen Movie


For other television and movie reviews, please visit my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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