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Last week I raved about the fun and freewheeling tone of the Season 2 premiere of Supergirl, highlighted by a special guest appearance from the Man of Steel himself, Superman. It was such a fun soiree that you couldn’t imagine that it would ever end—the party guest even decided to stick around a bit longer, thereby ensuring that the good times will continue to roll. This week’s episode, “The Last Children of Krypton,” proves, however, that all good times never last. To extend the metaphor further, this second Supergirl episode feels more like the depressing morning-after hangover period where you reflect morosely about your life choices.
Part of what makes this episode so unsatisfying is that the proverbial life of the party is leaving. “The Last Children of Krypton” serves as a going-away bash of sorts for Cat Grant, who explains that she’s leaving National City in order to pursue new challenges. (Of course, the prosaic explanation is that Calista Flockheart is voluntarily taking a reduced role in the series.) The justifications Cat gives for her sudden exodus are barely credible: given her strong ties to National City as a preeminent media figure, it seems wildly out of character for her to throw it all away on a barely-defined whim. You can hardly blame the Supergirl writers for trying to make the best of a bad situation: after all, Cat was such a prodigious presence that her loss creates a vacuum that the series will have a hard time filling.
One of the ways that Supergirl will presumably fill its Cat-sized void is with the introduction of Snapper Carr, as portrayed by Ian Gomez of Cougar Town fame. As opposed to the jive-talking hipster of DC Comics fame, this Snapper is a crabby, old-school journalist who doesn’t cotton to these kids today, Kara in particular. For old-school TV fans, the dynamic between Kara and Snapper is reminiscent of the one on The Mary Tyler Moore Show between the sunny title character and the cantankerous Lou Grant. Unfortunately, the Supergirl writers aren’t able to introduce anything fresh to this dusty old dynamic. Inserting a one-note patriarchal figure like Snapper seems like an odd choice for a show explicitly built around strong female characters. It’s particularly disappointing to see Kara stuck in the default “trying to prove herself mode” that she’d seemingly outgrown by the end of Season 1. Perhaps it is for the best that Cat’s role in the series will be decreased, if for no other reason that it’ll take away the emotional crutch of having Kara/Supergirl rely on a salty pep talk every time she faces an emotional crossroads.
In short, the farewell scenes are disappointingly sappy for someone with Cat’s bite. This critique also extends to the major drama (and not the good kind) created when Kara idly announces to Alex that she’s considering moving to Metropolis in order to be closer to her cousin. Not only does this motivation makes no sense, it runs counter to Supergirl’s mission statement (as both a character and as a show) to stay independent of Superman. This isn’t to say that Superman shouldn’t continue to play a subtle role in the series, even if it’s to recreate classic DC Comics covers. While Kara ultimately elects to stay in National City, the wishy-washy motivations assigned to the character do her no favors. After the hard-fought literal and metaphorical battle she fought to establish herself as her own hero in Season 1, it’s strange that the Supergirl showrunners would even flirt with the idea of having her renounce those hard-earned gains.
One of the key themes of the episode is Kara embracing, rather than fearing, the change around her. The episode frames these changes as ones that are necessary and ultimately for the greater good, but it’s important to realize that change isn’t always inherently good. Even if it’s necessary and ultimately allows for greater growth, change can be painful and it can sometimes force us to regress before we can grow. It remains to be seen how Supergirl will regenerate itself around the loss (or at least reduced presence) of Cat Grant, but hopefully they’ll take its cue from her and remember that life is one big party.