Thursday, September 21, 2017

Generic Superhero Training Episode: "Stronger Together" Continues The Slow Start Of Supergirl.

The Good: Good character development, Generally decent serialized elements, Improved dialogue
The Bad: Very obvious plot progression, Lame special effects, Very few significant acting moments
The Basics: Supergirl progresses in an obvious direction for "Stronger Together."

One of the difficult aspects of flooding the market with superhero-themed television shows and films is that it is hard to keep the genre fresh when introducing new material. Supergirl got off to a particularly rough start in that regard. After the success of The Flash (season 1 reviewed here!), Supergirl had big shoes to fill and the formula for The Flash was essentially replicated in the first season of Supergirl. The Flash was instantly preoccupied with tracking down metahumans in the nascent superhero's home city, Central City, while he was slowly menaced by the Reverse Flash. Supergirl was established with a virtually identical plot; as Kara Zor-El trains to become Supergirl, she and the DEO hunt down a bevy of aliens from Fort Rozz, while Kara's aunt Astra menaces National City. The sense that Supergirl is largely derivative is nailed home in the show's second episode, "Stronger Together."

"Stronger Together" follows on the heels of "Pilot" (reviewed here!) and is an unfortunately generic episode that shows the logical progression of the super hero training and introduces the first season's serialized villains properly. While Maxwell Lord is only barely introduced in "Stronger Together," Astra is given a decent story priority as the episode's secondary antagonist.

A week after revealing herself to National City, Kara is tested by Hank Henshaw and the DEO to explore the extent of her super powers. Winn Schott calls Supergirl to help put out a fire at the National City port. Before a tanker filled with oil can explode, Kara manages to move the ship, but it cracks open and she inadvertently causes an environmental disaster. Maxwell Lord speaks out against Supergirl, which is echoed by Cat Grant at CatCo Worldwide Media. Grant orders her staff to get an interview with Supergirl by the end of the week. That night, Plastino Chemicals is attacked by an alien and when Supergirl investigates with the DEO team in the morning, she recognizes a spine left behind as belonging to a Helgremite.

Before Henshaw will allow Kara into the field on the DEO mission to capture the Helgremite, Alex trains with Supergirl in a Kryptonite-lined chamber. On the advice of Grant, Kara restarts her superhero activities small, with Schott and Olsen's help. Kara's aunt, in the meantime, enlists the Helgremite to her team. The DEO figures out that the Helgremite, a chlorine-based alien, is stealing and consuming government-confiscated DDT in order to survive. The DEO lays a trap and the Helgremite appears, taking Alex prisoner in the process. Supergirl, having recognized that she is stronger as part of a team, spearheads the DEO effort to rescue Alex from Astra.

The derivative fashion of "Stronger Together" is reinforced by Winn Schott's presence in the episode and the pairing of Schott and Olsen together as the behind-the-scenes Team Supergirl. Schott is essentially the Cisco Ramon of Supergirl and he is written with the same voice as Ramon. "Stronger Together" mixes the training sequences from the DEO with the buddy team scenes with Schott and Olsen tasking Supergirl on minor heroic missions. Those who fell in love with the first season of The Flash will instantly recognize the sequences in "Stronger Together" as familiar ones from earlier DC Television works.

Kara's arc in "Stronger Together" is sadly obvious and familiar and pairing her, alternately, with Hank Henshaw and Cat Grant mirrors Barry Allen being paired with Dr. Wells and Joe West. Supergirl's insistence on making both of Kara's employers antagonistic is played out as instantly boring. Cat Grant is generically bitchy, but in "Stronger Together" the writers are already softening her as she gives Kara good advice for Supergirl to use. But Hank Henshaw is a terrible leader for the DEO in "Stronger Together" and the source of his hostility against Kara is not made clear in the second episode. As a result, his crotchety nature is more frustrating to watch and baffling to believe than it is intriguing characterization.

Melissa Benoist's physical performance in "Stronger Together" is noteworthy. Benoist plays sore incredibly when, after training for the first time, she limps and changes her physical bearing to be appropriately stiff. Benoist and Chyler Leigh give decent physical performances even if "Stronger Together" does not afford any of the actors the chance for any big emotional moments to play.

The special effects in "Stronger Together" are markedly erratic. The Helgremite's movement is very obviously computer generated and has no realistic sense of physics to it. Despite that, the final fight between Astra and Supergirl is well-executed.

Ultimately, "Stronger Together" is hampered by being exactly what viewers of any super-hero show would expect it to be, as opposed to a fresh or interesting take on the heroic arc.

For other works with Melissa Benoist, please visit my reviews of:
Supergirl - Season 2
"Duet" - The Flash
"Invasion!" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Invasion!" - Arrow
"Invasion!" - The Flash


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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