Monday, November 16, 2015

Supergirl Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 4 - Livewire

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here


It's almost Thanksgiving and Kara and Alex's mother is in town to celebrate. But the usual tensions that flare up around the holidays may be even greater this year, as Alex frets that their mother doesn't approve of her Kara's new life as Supergirl and blames Alex for not protecting her little sister. On top of everything else, an accident turns one of CatCo's most volatile employees into an electricity-manipulating super-villain with a grudge against both Cat Grant and Supergirl.


Superman: The Animated Series (The character of Livewire and her origins), Superman: The Movie (the sequence of young Alex and Kara flying) and the DC Comic series The Weird (mention of the alien species Zarolatts).


The drama between Alex and her mother seems forced. Granting that families are illogical even at the best of times,the reasons Eliza Danvers gives for blaming Alex for what Kara is doing don't ring true.


For the first time, we get some inkling of Cat Grant being more than just the dragon lady who makes both of Kara's lives difficult. Calista Flockhart plays Cat as someone who is so used to hiding behind a mask that she can't deal with honesty. The scene in which Cat unloads on Kara about her own mother issues has done more to humanize Cat than anything in the series so far and Flockhart plays it well. There's also some subtle hints of Cat's heroism from the comics, as Cat offers to play decoy as Kara runs for help.

Brit Morgan nails the part of Livewire, capturing the attitude and snark of the character with ease.


The special effects for Livewire's powers are very effective, particularly the teleportation.

Super Trivia

This was originally meant to be Episode 105 and was scheduled to air three days before Thanksgiving 2015. However, a series of violent terrorist bombings on November 13, 2015 caused the original episode 104 to be held back a week, due to the plot involving a similar series of attacks.

Leslie Willis a.k.a. Livewire was originally created as a villain for Superman: The Animated Series. An acid-tongue shock-jock of the Howard Stern school, Leslie Willis had little respect for authority and no respect for Superman, cynically believing that nobody could possibly be that good without an ulterior motive. Leslie acquired electricity-manipulation powers after being struck by lightning at an outdoor concert she had organized, which Superman tried to shut down due to the threat of severe weather. Blaming Superman for the accident (which left her with bleach-white skin and electric blue hair that stood on end), Leslie dubbed herself Livewire and embarked on a campaign to kill Superman and anyone else who got in her way.

The DCTVU version of Livewire is virtually unchanged from her original inspiration, save that she was in a traffic helicopter rather than at a concert when she gained her powers.  She has the same powers to travel through electrical wiring, virtually teleporting at the speed of light. She can manfiest her image on television screens and computer monitors and become intangible. She can also shape energy into constructs, creating whips and fetters of lightning.

The DCTVU version of Livewire seems to be somewhat more powerful than the cartoon and comic-book versions in one regard - she is apparently able to control pure energy rather than just electric energy. To that end, she is able to absorb Supergirl's heat vision with no ill effects.

Leslie Willis raises several questions regarding Supergirl's sex life on her radio show, chiefly how unlikely it is that alien sex organs would calibrate (as it were) with those of a human. The difficulties of Earthling/Kryptonian sex have been joked about in a number of stories, movies and comics (including this one by Stjepan Sejic) and been discussed in more scholarly terms by writer Larry Niven in his article Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex. While focused on the issues with Lois Lane and Clark Kent consummating their relationship, it does mention Supergirl as a possible surrogate mother for any potential children in the event that Lois could not safely deliver a half-Kryptonian child.

Using heat vision to cook (as Kara does with the turkey here) is a trick both Superman and Supergirl have used in the comics.

It is revealed in this episode that Cat Grant has a son named Carter. In the comics, Cat Grant's son was named Adam.

Director Henshaw suggest that a trap the DEO used to contain Zarolatts may be altered to hold Livewire. The Zarolatts are an alien race in the DC Comics universe, first introduced in the comic The Weird. Created by writer Jim Starlin and artist Bernie Wrightson, the comic centered upon a nameless Zarolatt - dubbed The Weird by Ted Kord - who assumed a corporal form and sought the help of Earth's heroes to free his people from another alien race that used them as an energy source.

Kara calls Cat "the queen of all media." This may be a nod to radio host Howard Stern, who dubbed himself "The King of All Media" and served as a partial inspiration for the personality of Livewire.

Kara compares the energy trap the DEO modifies to catch Livewire to the ghost traps from Ghostbusters.

As in the cartoon, Livewire's biggest weakness is that she "shorts-out" when she touches water.


Henshaw says that Leslie Willis became Livewire due to normal electrostatic discharge intensified as it passed through Kara's Kryptonian DNA, picking up unknown properties, as the lightning traveled through Kara and into her.

Zarolatts are an inter-dimensional race of aliens consisting of pure sentient energy.

The trap for Livewire is a portable industrial capacitor.  Opened underneath Livewire, it should draw in the electricity running through her, temporarily breaking her down on an atomic level.

Dialogue Triumphs

(Kara has just beaten down a beastly alien prisoner attempting escape)
Kara: He was tough!
Dir. Henshaw: She.
Kara: Oh.

Leslie Willis:  It's Thanksgiving week which means it is time for my annual list of things I am not grateful for. And this year's list is only one item - Supergirl!
(Cut to Kara, Alex and Eliza listening to the broadcast. Eliza looks shocked. Kara just rolls her eyes.)
Leslie Willis: The blue-and-red abscessed tooth in the otherwise gleaming smile that is National City! How much do I despise, I mean loathe her 'look at me, I'm adorkable!"thing? And that hideous, like rejected from The Olympics figure skating outfit she wears?
(Cut to Winn, at work, looking annoyed as his costume design skills are torn apart.)
Leslie Willis: I mean, a skirt and tights? Puh-lease. Seems like overkill, especially since no one is trying to get in there. And who would that be?
(Cut to James, looking disturbed as he's trying to work on a layout.)
Leslie Willis: You know, who is hombre enough to puncture the Chastity Belt of Steel? Or is what's required a softer touch? I mean, she does kind of give off a Sapphic vibe with that big-ol' butch S-chest plate. I mean, how would it even work with an alien? I mean, is everything the same "down there"?
(Cut to Cat Grant, eating sushi in her office, looking increasingly disgusted as Leslie speaks)
Leslie Willis: Are we talking tentacles? Maybe it's time for a break? Or a makeover!

Cat Grant: Supergirl is changing the conversation of National City. People don't want your brand of negativity anymore, Leslie. They want optimism, hope, positivity.
Leslie Willis: You're a hypocrite, Cat!
Cat Grant: And you're finished, Leslie.
Leslie Willis: I have two years left on my contract. You are too proud and you are too cheap to buy me out.
Cat Grant: That's true. However, I'm not firing you. I'm transferring you to traffic chopper. You'll be National City's highest paid traffic reporter.
Leslie Willis: You do this, you will regret it!
Cat Grant: Rush hour starts at 4:30. If you're not on the Cat Copter when it goes up, you'll be hearing from my lawyer. (gasps in mock surprise) Oh, and you'd better take some Dramamine. Looks like it's going to be a bumpy ride.
(Leslie Willis just glares at Cat as the thunder rolls outside.)

Cat Grant: (to a comatose Leslie Willis, after Kara leaves the room) Get up off your ass, Willis. You and I both know you're tougher than a bolt of lightning.

Supergirl: You don't have to do this! Let me help you!
Livewire: Good as is.

Cat: Well, mothers and daughters, it's... hard.
Kara: Yours must be so proud of you.
Cat: (chuckle) Well, if she is it's on some subterranean level. In her mind, I have never lived up to my potential.
Kara: You're the queen of all media!
Cat: Yes. An accomplishment that never mattered to her. Oh, don't get me wrong. I am entirely grateful. Everything I am, everything I have is because of her constant... pushing, let's call it? She was never satisfied with me and so I've never been satisfied with myself. Which is why I keep pushing too. Myself and all the people I care about.
Kara: (in realization) Pushing Supergirl...
Cat: I should have pushed Leslie. The more awful she was, the more I rewarded her. Leslie turning into Livewire - that started a long time ago. It's my fault. I turned her into a monster...

Cat: Just give me your terms.
Livewire: The only thing you have that I want is your skin. And there are so many ways to skin a-
Cat:  - a cat, yes. Congratulations. You have the wit of a YouTube comment.

Dialogue Disasters

Livewire: Your 15 minutes are up, you boring... weak....
Supergirl: Oh, shut up, you mean girl!


Kara refers to Alex taking down The Hellgramite in 102.

Kara's favorite dessert is chocolate pecan pie. She swears it is the best dessert in the galaxy.

Kara has been to 12 different planets.

Leslie refers to Cat Grant's article on Supergirl from 103.

Cat Grant has a fear of germs.

Eliza Danvers is a bio-engineer - the same field as Alex.

Alex went to Stanford.

It is revealed that Cat's son is named Carter.

The DEO pose as FBI agents when working with the public.

Director Henshaw uses the alias Agent Munroe when leading field operations.

It is confirmed that Jerimiah Danvers is dead and that he was, like Alex, a DEO Agent. He joined the DEO and gave them all of his research on Superman in exchange for Kara's freedom.

Winn reveals that his father is in prison.

The Fridge Factor

Cat Grant's justification for demoting Leslie Willis is based around Leslie attacking Supergirl's sexuality (or lack thereof) and how she dresses. Apparently Cat is fine with generalizations about millennials (re: her article on Supergirl in the last episode) but not reverse slut-shaming.

Livewire discovers her powers dealing with that most cliche of threats - the random rapist who just happens to be hanging around some dark alley.

The Bottom Line

It's a fairly typical episode in that the best bits are those in which the show tries to be a superhero show and doesn't focus on Kara's forced family drama. It's a fairly untypical episode, however, in that the bits involving Cat Grant aren't the worst moments of the show and Cat comes off as a real person rather than a stock stereotype for the first time. The attempts to parallel Eliza Danvers' treatment of her daughters and Cat's "pushing" the people she cares about doesn't quite work but Livewire is handled so well you can forgive it.

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