“Fight or Flight” – aired 11/9/2015 – ***** stars
Written by Michael Grassi & Rachel Shukert
Directed by Dermott Downs
*Spoilers are contained within*
In the first five minutes of”Fight or Flight”, the third episode of CBS’s Supergirl, we are reminded of the timelessness of “truth, justice, and the american way” and of just how special having a superhero from Krypton could be. There’s a special quality which has continued to permeate through each week on Supergirl, which hasn’t fully been embraced since the 1978 film by Richard Donner. Maybe Superman: The Animated Series too. We’ve all strongly supported CBS’s Supergirl and for myself, a Superman enthusiast, having a heroic Kryptonian back on screen is always welcome. We know it’s Supergirl’s story, and despite her cousin’s presence, at the end of each episode it’s her victories and losses that we take to heart. Echoing a comment we made early on, three episodes in and Supergirl soars!
“Fight or Flight” picks up immediately where “Stronger Together” left off. Kara/Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) overhears Cat’s (Calista Flockheart) ultimatum to James (Mehcad Brooks). She tells him that if he can’t secure her an interview with Supergirl, she’ll have to fire him and let him return to Metropolis. Kara, as we know has a “thing” for James and agrees to do the interview in a way that similarly echoes the first interview Lois Lane has with Superman in Superman: The Animated Series. Whether or not this is intentional, writers Michael Grassi and Rachel Shukert have done an amazing job at peppering “Fight or Flight” with plenty of nods to the expansive mythos of DC’s Super family. It’s never over the top and always subtle; just so much that fans of the comics/cartoons/films will not be able to contain their smiles.
“This is my story.” Supergirl sternly tells Cat while also revealing that she’s cousins with the Man of Steel. It’s one of Supergirl’s next biggest mistakes as she soon takes flack from her faux pais as everyone from the D.E.O. reminds her of the danger of allowing the world to know of her relationship with Superman. She blames he slip up on the “super interviewing villain” Cat Grant and as the story spreads like wildfire, she soon comes face to face with this week’s villain – Reactron (Chris Browning)! The villain of the week formula has somewhat been broken after “Stronger Together” gave us the first contact between Aunt Astra (Laura Benanti) and Supergirl, along with a fight of theatrical proportions. Instead of using Reactron as a Fort Rozz escapee or giving him abilities that lean towards meta, he’s actually presented in a surprisingly humane and organic way. It’s revealed that Ben Krull blames Superman for the death of his wife during an almost Chernobyl like incident. She died, he lived, but now needs a special suit to wear to keep him alive due to the heavy radiation exposure. The way writers Michael Grassi and Rachel Shukert use Reactron works significantly well because he never feels like a “villain of the week” despite being, well, a villain of the week. He ties into the overall themes of the episode and also presents a situation that is, as the title suggests, fight or flight.
I had noticed that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is the consulting producer for Supergirl and it was easily the most exciting moment I had paying attention to the opening credits. Sacasa is a well known name within the playwriting and comic book community. He wrote the revised book for Spider-Man, Turn Off The Dark, along with issues of the comic series, and is also the Chief Creative Officer at one of our favorites, Archie Comics. The point is, he gets the comic books. Supergirl has a strong team working on it and ensuring she’s handled in the best way possible. “Fight or Flight” is the perfect episode as we not only have her dilemma expressed in an honest and relatable way, but we also get a beautifully structured episode. Several current shows, much like FOX’s Gotham, suffered from an uneven first season that despite several terrific episodes, always felt unbalanced. Supergirl has only been getting better and, pun intended, we are growing “Stronger Together” with Supergirl!
We get another reminder of the “millennial” concepts and themes during “Fight or Flight” and it’s presented in a solid way. We’ve mentioned before, and in conversation with Nancy of OnWednesdays, of how Kara is presented. It’s an idea that’s been debated before and now I’m starting to see of just how much this works for a show like Supergirl. The idea of Kara being not just a young woman, but a young person in a big city, just trying to make it should resonate with anyone watching who falls in the same age category. The presentation of Kara is one of the strongest aspects of Supergirl and much of it is due to the fact that Melissa Benoist is just so likeable. She’s inhabited the role of Kara in the same way that Grant Gustin has made Barry Allen/The Flash his own. When we have scenes that have Kara speaking of her victories, her losses and of her need to prove herself outside the shadow of her cousin, it doesn’t feel heavy handed. This also is a great way to manage what CBS is trying to accomplish with Supergirl. It’s hard to find a reason for Supergirl to work without it feeling like you’re just doing the female version of Superman or a complete feminist propaganda piece. Supergirl is neither and everything the show stands for should be recognized and appreciated universally because, at the end of the day, we are all in this together.
“Fight or Flight” is further evidence that Kara/Supergirl is not one of the HBO’s Girls or someone on Comedy Central’s Broad City. The Girl of Steel reflects ideas that are approached on both of those shows, but never quite falls into an idea of what I’d like to call zeitgeist culture. Supergirl is universal and timeless. She fights with James after he calls in Superman to save her during a fight with Reactron, contemplates the dilemma of her story with sister Alex (Chyler Leigh), and after saving the day yet again, just wants to make sure that Alex doesn’t watch Homeland until she gets back from being Super. “Fight or Flight” has all the makings of a great comic book story and a great episode of television.
- Melissa Benoist appeared on Homeland season one.
Supergirl has done an amazing job each week at not only being an entertaining series based off of a DC Comics character, but also presenting audiences with a show to be excited for, cheer about, and feel for. “Fight or Flight” concludes with Kara meeting Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) and overhearing of her past relationship with James. The music, tone, and acting perfectly capture each beat of the scene and ensure viewers will return for next week’s episode, “How Does She Do It?”
I very much like Supergirl. It’s become must television for me in just the same way that I make sure never to miss an episode of The CW’s Arrow. I truly love everything that is being done with Supergirl and now, more than ever, cannot wait to own the upcoming DC Collectibles statue of Melissa Benoist as Supergirl!
Supergirl airs 8 PM ET, Monday nights on CBS. Check your local listings.