Episode Title: For The Girl Who Has Everything
Original Airdate: 2-8-2015
For DC fans, there are comic stories, and then there are iconic comic stories. In 1985, DC published an Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons story entitled “For The Man Who Has Everything”, which – spoilers – had Superman being mind-controlled by a parasitic entity which made him comatose but fantasising about all his greatest dreams coming true. The crux of the story was that it was a plan by Mongul, one of Superman’s powerful arch-nemesis, to remove the Man of Steel from one of his plans, a plan thwarted by Batman and Wonder Woman. If you’re counting the top five Superman stories in comics of all time, this Annual issue of Superman would rank as a top 3 contender, easily.
For fledgeling series Supergirl, barely half-way through its début season, to take this idea and morph it into the series’ own ongoing mythology is both compelling and hugely risky. The original Superman story remains iconic for a reason, and it was always a dangerous prospect that a network television show would be able to pull off an echo of Moore’s incredibly moving story with a similar degree of finesse. So has it? Has Supergirl earned itself a place in the DC pantheon by actually succeeding in appropriating this legendary story, or has it succumbed to the also-rans of fanboy baiting and half-assed lip-service to a once-great idea?
Hell yes. Finally, after 12 episodes of stumbling between average and legitimately good episodes, Supergirl comes of age. Breaking the shackles of restraint, “For The Girl Who Has Everything” nails the emotional gut-punch of this story, flexes its considerable strength as an ensemble show, and shatters expectation. After Kara is rendered powerless from the effects of a mysterious symbiotic organism known as the Black Mercy, which simulates its hosts every fantasy brought to life, Hank Henshaw and Alex Danvers realise it might be a way for Kara’s Kryptonian family to strike at Earth, since large solar flares are making satellite communication impossible, hiding Non’s plans with Astra from discovery. The Black Mercy, if removed, will kill Kara, so the DEO rigs a way for Alex to “join” Kara’s fantasy to convince her it isn’t real, and to bring her back to the real world.
The episode is, as has been the series’ mantra since the start, briskly paced, and yet lacks no less import than a feature length film in generating audience empathy for Kara’s fate. Non’s plan to set in motion something known as “Myriad”, a MacGuffin I expect to see drawn out over the rest of the season, brings Astra back into frame, as well as her established conflict between her husband’s plans and her affection for her niece. Not only that, but the entire supporting cast are firing on all cylinders here, as for much of the episode Supergirl is rendered helpless, trapped inside her own mind. Everyone has a moment to shine; Cat Grant’s brusque nature returns with a vengeance, Jimmy and Winn provide moral support, Alex faces off against Astra, Astra faces off against Hank Henshaw’s J’onn J’onzz persona, Maxwell Lord weasels his way into Henshaw’s “good” graces, and Non gets his ass handed to him by Kara following her freedom from the Mercy’s clutches. Exposition is handled with breakneck speed, and the death of one major – repeat, major – player in the show so far is actually quite a shock.
One of the things Supergirl has struggled to reconcile well over the journey to-date has been Kara’s Kryptonian connection, typically borne by Aunt Astra but more recently as an avatar of Alura, in holographic form, in the DEO headquarters. The flashbacks and sojourns to Kyrpton, for Kara to reflect on her heritage or gain some understanding of her lineage, never really seems to work for me, and I can’t put my finger on why. Krypton as a race has never been that compelling to me, for it represents the vestiges of a dead world that, in all honesty, doesn’t really bear investigating too much. But Supergirl’s constant callbacks to it, and how the history of that planet has a direct correlation to our own, is something I’m gradually warming to these days. Seeing Kara’s family reunite, even in hallucinatory form, in this episode was heartbreaking because we knew Kara would feel the anguish of losing them again when she “woke up”. It was a payoff alluded to in conversations between Alex and Hank, and it unfolded exactly as I had hoped.
Seeing Hank launch into combat against Astra in his Martian form was a fist-pump moment for me; hell, much of the character’s movements since his reveal have been euphoric moments of DC history, given it’s his first live-action appearance in any medium, and the way the writers have handled him has been with dignity and quiet grace. Troublingly, however, J’onn seems to have his ass handed to him in tonight’s episode, a worrying power incongruity that makes it an easy “out” for writers caught in trying to make him fallible, or at least questionably reliable. I was under the impression that J’onn’s super strength was at a similar power level to Superman’s, making him the equal to Astra at the very least, but she seemed more than capable of taking him down here. Then, Kara takes it up to Non as she releases her pent-up fury, and he brushes it off like it’s a simple kick in the shins. Of all the remaining problems with Supergirl as a show, it’s the iffy depiction of various character’s power levels that grates like a stone in your shoe.
“For The Girl Who Has Everything” is the best episode of the show to-date – and I know, I’m saying that almost weekly these days, but from its initial birth-pangs to its post-Christmas break, everything kinda wobbled precariously, as if the show was five minutes from imploding in on itself. Thankfully, the episodes we’ve had post-New Years have been incrementally improving, and this episode seems a capstone of perfection for Supergirl’s heritage exploits. There are still further subplots and story arcs to explore, and watching Kara absolutely smash Non’s ass in anger was cathartic – I’ve long wanted to see Supergirl cut loose, and she does here – but even as a stand-alone episode within the greater season itself, the episode is a true high point.