SUPERGIRL: Kara Fights Her Doppelgänger in “Bizarro”
The thing that sets CBS’s Supergirl apart from the glut of superhero adventures on television at the moment is the writing.
Now, by writing, I don’t necessarily mean the dialogue—which can be as eye-rolling, groan-inducing, or on the nose as anything that you’d hear in Starling City or on the SHIELD hellicarrier—I mean the plotting. By the time the logo comes up at the beginning of every episode, we know exactly where our characters are, what the storylines are, and what’s at stake in the episode to come. That narrative surety is why Supergirl makes sense on a network like CBS, where formula is king. Supergirl is essentially a superhero procedural, and I’m giving the show high praise with that label.
So, by the time that red shield flies at the screen in this week’s episode, “Bizarro,” we know that the Supergirl doppelganger seen last week tearing up National City is a Maxwell Lord creation, trained Clockwork Orange-style to hate Supergirl, and we also know that Kara has a date with Adam Foster, son of her boss, Cat Grant. We can guess that those two stories will collide, and they do, as Kara finds it ever more difficult to make time for Adam as the impostor Supergirl continues to ravage the city.
In the comics, Bizarro Supergirl is from an entire planet of creatures that see good as bad and light as dark, and speak in inverted sentences. That works well enough on the page, but it could have gotten old pretty fast coming from the mouth of an actor, so thankfully, the Bizarro on the TV series (either as played by Melissa Benoist in the first half of the episode, or by Hope Lauren in the back half) is more guttural, seething out words like “Baaaaaad” and “Haaaaate” through gritted teeth. Supergirl’s Bizarro is given an origin story straight of our Frankenstein. Rather than animating dead flesh, Lord has created Bizarro by using some of Kara’s genetics to bring a coma patient to life (actually, in a ghoulish touch, this is the sixth coma patient to undergo Lord’s genetic monkeying).
As for Adam, he’s a likable sort of guy, as played by Benoist’s real-life husband and former Glee co-star Blake Jenner, and his presence manages to bring Jimmy and Winn together in mutual jealousy. But overall, Adam himself seems far less important than he did last week. In that episode, Adam was integral to our understanding of who Cat is as a person. Here, he only feels like a tool to further complicate the geometry of the Kara-Winn-Jimmy-Lucy love story. Benoist and Jenner have true chemistry on-screen (not always true for married couples, so this bodes well for them staying together a long time and breeding an army of charming, gorgeous babies), but both the inception of, and the resolution of their romance feels forced.
What Adam’s presence does best is shake up Jimmy Olsen’s confident veneer. It’s important for us to see another side of ultra-cool Jimmy. And ultimately that vulnerability leads to Jimmy confessing his love for Kara to Bizarro, and to himself. Though the kidnapped love interest trope is always overused on these shows, putting Jimmy in peril in this situation allows him to admit to himself for the first time the depth of his feeling for Kara. “I love her,” he tells Bizarro, “because of who she is.” He’s trying to distract her, but he means it, and it’s an important step forward for the character, and for the relationship between Jimmy and Kara—which is really the only believable romantic option the show is offering us right now (sorry, Winn/Kara shippers).
But of course, Supergirl shows up and fights her double to a virtual draw (Hillary Clinton knows how she feels this morning!), and Alex, in turn, shows up to save Kara—again.
Kara may fly and have super strength, but her real superpower, the show continually reminds us, is empathy. That makes Maxwell Lord, a man who only thinks of himself and his own fears and desires, a natural foil for her. At the end of the episode, Lord’s poor, monstrous creation is returned to her coma, as Kara holds her hand. “Maxwell Lord made her to be just like me,” she says, “and she was.”
As for Maxwell Lord himself, Alex spends the episode wanting to arrest him, being told that she can’t arrest him, and then finally just putting a bag over his head and extraordinary renditioning his butt into one of the DEO’s fancy glass super- villain tubes. This is a dangerous move for Alex, as Hank reminds her, which in turn is a little hypocritical, as Alex reminds him, coming from a man who just a week ago risked an entire operation for revenge. But capturing Lord gives the show one of its favorite tools: a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency villain. Each week, Lord becomes more sinister, and more compelling.
And so, our superhero procedural wraps up with a hint of what’s to come next week, as Kara flies home to discover the remnants of some sort of newly-hatched pod, dripping with green slime. We’re not sure what was birthed from the pod yet, but we can assume it’s the squid creature that jumps on Kara as the episode ends, and we can only hope it’s more threatening, and convincing, than the CGI squid creature that chased Han Solo in The Force Awakens.
Supergirl, Season One Episode 12, “Bizarro”: A-