Supergirl S:01 E:08

Episode Title: “Hostile Takeover”

Original Airdate: 12-14-2015

Hackery and deception. Supergirl tackles two deceptive sub-plots in this episode; the first, a corporate hack into CatCo releases a load of damning information about Cat Grant as a conniving lawyer decides to remove her as CEO, and the return of Kara’s Aunt Astra provides the young heroine with new information about her mother that makes her, and us, question everything we’ve thought to this point. Of all the episodes in the show’s run thus far, “Hostile Takeover” deals with the sense of abandonment for Kara (Melissa Benoist) with as emotional a wallop as we’ve seen thus far. It also drops several bombshells; the most pressing of which is one of the show’s core cast discovering Kara’s secret identity.

Mideason cliffhanger episodes often feel too forced or coercive to really work as well as they should; often, writers cobble together some massive threat or contrivance to have audiences hanging on over the break, typically the kind that involve mortal peril or world-ending cataclysm, and in retrospect they usually are among the emptier instalments of a series when viewed as a whole later on. Not so “Hostile Takeover”, which pits Kara against not only the suit-wearing insidiousness of corporate espionage, but against her own family – in the form of Astra (Laura Benanti), her Aunt from Krypton, and Astra’s brutal husband Non.

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The tangent that works best in this episode deals with Cat Grant’s secrets being exposed in an email leak to the Daily Planet, a move which highlights Cat’s vulnerabilities and – in the space of a single episode – humanizes her moreso than any and all preceding stories. Grant’s arc in the show has gone from screeching proto-feminist icon to a rounded, effectively flawed character that provides Kara with a maternal focus in place of both her actual mother (deceased) and adopted one (Helen Slater ain’t a regular, you know). It’s this element to the show I’m surprised at, and finding more satisfying as a subplot than any of the DEO/Hank Henshaw sidebars the writers throw at us; Calista Flockhart’s performance still lingers in that annoying high-pitched range of characters of pretence, but on balance she’s better here than in the opening episode, at least.

The hack comes courtesy of one of CatCo’s legal representatives looking to oust Cat and take control of the company, so Kara, Jimmy (Mehcad Brooks), Winn Jeremy Jordan) and kinda-sorta Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) engage in a bit of their own espionage, digging up dirt on the dirty lawyer in order to salvage Cat’s reputation. In doing this, they uncover a genuinely moving secret from Cat’s past, no doubt a storyline they’l develop down the track given its prominence in the episode. The revelation gives the writers time to build on Cat and Kara’s relationship, one of the more emotive aspects of the show overall. The episode also finally pokes a needle into the balloon of the “love triangle” between Winn, Jimmy and Kara: Jimmy finally figures out that Winn is holding a candle for Kara, and prompts him to at least take a chance and act on it. This plot remains unresolved at the end of the episode – no doubt we’ll have to wait until the season finale before anything comes of this.

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The secondary plot involves Kara’s Aunt Astra returning to National City to convince her niece to “join her side”, as it were, and throughout the episode hints and tidbits of Kara’s past – and the past of both Astra and Kara’s mother Alura – are revealed, providing us with a bit of a flip on the old “Kara’s mother is the saint and Astra’s the evil criminal” motif. Obviously, Astra’s motivations for her actions need more revealing, and “Hostile Takeover” doesn’t give us the coup de grace in that regard (gotta save something for the return episode, I guess), but it provides Kara some added incentive to get down and dirty with Astra in a terrific city-battle sequence aping Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel significantly. As Astra hints that Kara’s mother isn’t the sainted hero she’s been painted as all this time, it unhinges Kara somewhat and draw out of her more anger (which we glimpsed in a week or two ago in “Red Faced”) and no doubt bring us extra dramatic fodder in episodes to come.

A sidebar to Astra’s return is the arrival of Non, portrayed by Chris Vance. In the episode’s thrilling-yet-clumsy climax, Non and a group of Fort Roz escapees attack the offices of Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli) only to be attacked themselves by Henshaw, Alex and the DEO, and it’s here Vance gets to chew the scenery as one of the more menacing Kryptonians we’ve seen to-date – Michael Shannon included. Vance just looks mean, and it’s a piece of casting I hope pays off in the future, as I can’t wait to see him go toe-to-toe with Kara in battle. The reason for attacking Lord’s offices is never explained, and neither is Lord’s preparedness – he just strides around the corner as if he’s been expecting this for weeks – and the action beats in this sequence are creative but handled with the obvious limits of a television budget. Effects range from excellent (Kryptonian heat-vision still looks awesome) to average (white-haired chick’s green poison breath) and the tension of the scene is mitigated due to the small-scale design of its location. Henshaw’s sucker-punch moment against one of Non’s henchmen is sweet, though.

I really liked “Hostile Takeover”, mainly because it provided the show a chance to cut loose with another action sequence that worked (the city fight between Astra and Kara) and one that kinda didn’t (the Lord HQ attack by Non and his lackeys), although not for lack of trying. The reveal of Kara’s identity to another of the show’s major players (I mean, soon the whole of National City will know Kara is Supergirl, the way things are going – which makes me think that the second Kara find out the secret Alex is hiding about Henshaw’s true identity, this show is going to go nova!) is nicely handled although it feels like it comes out of nowhere (like I said earlier, often a mid-season cliffhanger works in a sudden change in the status quo that, in hindsight, doesn’t quite ring true to the show thus far), and the mystery surrounding Astra’s assertions that Alura wasn’t as good as she pretended to be provokes echoes of Krypton’s tragic intransigence to Jor El’s claims of its impending destruction.

In all, it’s a solid episode, a nice little comic-booky cliffhanger, and one in which the questions set up need to be answered with conviction and coherence (and not fobbed off with convenience) in the return episode. Confusing plotting in the latter half notwithstanding, this is one of the better mid-season build-ups in recent memory.

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