Monday, December 7, 2015

Supergirl Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 7 - Human For A Day

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


Left powerless by her encounter with The Red Tornado, Kara must rely on her inner strength and the legend of Supergirl to save the day when an earthquake strikes National City. At the same time, Alex's mistrust of Hank Henshaw reaches its breaking point when the earthquake traps them in the DEO offices with a psychic alien escapee.


Superman: The Movie (Kara's reaction to being unable to save an injured man mirror Clark's reaction to being unable to save Pa Kent as he has a heart attack), The Superman comics of Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr. particularly Superman #39 (several story elements, described in Super Trivia), the sci-fi comics of Gardner Fox (mention is made of The Faceless Hunters), the New Krypton storyline (established Jemm as an enemy of the Kryptonians and leader of The Faceless Hunters) and various classic Superman comics centering around the idea of Superman temporarily losing his powers and coping with human illness.


For an underground base, the DEO HQ doesn't seem to have been built to handle earthquakes very well.

While it is an uncharacteristically nice gesture on Cat Grant's part, a news organization sending employees home in the middle of a natural disaster in nonsensical.

Alex really does not do a good job of hiding her disdain for Henshaw once Kara leaves for work.


Any who doubted Melissa' Benoist's suitability for the role of Supergirl need only watch her during the scene confronting the robber to see that she was perfectly cast.

That goes double for Mehcad Brooks as James Olsen. And it goes without saying that the best moments of the episode (excluding the scene with Supergirl and the robbers) are those which involve Kara and James playing off each other.

The final scene though, in which Hank Henshaw is revealed as J'onn J'onzz, makes the season for David Harewood.  And suddenly so much about his performance before now makes so much more sense!


The editing and interplay of Cat Grant's speech and Supergirl confronting the robber is excellent.

The build up to the reveal of Martain Manhunter was well-written and props to the show runners for keeping this a secret for so long.  No television show this year has surprised me so well as this episode did with that revelation.

Super Trivia

This episode greatly resembles the recent comic Superman #39  Several issues earlier, writer Geoff Johns and artist John Romita Jr. introduced the idea that Superman could be left temporarily powerless after particularly stressful battles and the use of his new "solar flare" power, where all the solar energy in his body is unleashed in one explosive attack.  This mirrors what seems to have happened to Kara in this episode. Indeed, James Olsen says that Superman calls this ability "the solar flare", in reference to the original comic.

Superman #39 is specifically referenced, as the plot of this comic centered upon a powerless Superman attempting to live a day as a normal human and eventually donning his costume to talk-down an armed gunman as Supergirl does here.

The character of Jemm is based on a DC Comics character named Jemm, Son of Saturn.

Originally designed as a cousin of The Martian Manhunter, Jemm's 12-issue mini-series was meant to explore the Martian culture and a civil war between the war-like white Martians and the more thoughtful green Martians. Jemm was changed into a Saturnian and his skin changed from green to red after his creators discovered that The Martian Manhunter would be returning to comics shortly. Later, writer John Ostrander explained away the similar appearances and powers of Martians and Saturians in a story where it was revealed that the Saturians were a clone race created by the white Martian race as slaves.

The Jemm in the comics is a heroic figure, who risked his life to bring peace to both the white and red Saturians. He was briefly brainwashed by Lex Luthor into acting as a counter to The Martian Manhunter in the pages of Grant Morrison's JLA. Jemm also showed up during the New Krypton storyline, fighting against the Kryptonians after they moved one of Jupiter's moons without considering the effects on other life forms in the solar system.

Jemm's powers in the comics include strength and durability on par with a Kryptonian. He has limited shape-shifting powers which allow him to stretch any part of his body. He can fly and survive in the vacuum of space. His main power, however, is his telepathy, which allows him to both read and control minds. He can also fire blasts of psychic energy through the organic gem in his forehead.

The Jemm of the DCTVU is a villain, while seeming to have most of the same powers as his comic-book counterpart. He is telepathic and fires psychic energy blasts and the hologram of Alura says he is dangerous enough physically that only Kara should try and fight him. He claims to have conquered twelve planets.

Jemm makes reference to being leader of The Faceless Hunters.  This is an alien race that appeared on three separate occasions - all in sci-fi stories written by Gardner Fox. They later appeared during the New Krypton storyline as soldiers under the command of Jemm.

The end of the episode reveals that Hank Henshaw is, in fact J'onn J'onzz aka The Martian Manhunter.  First appearing in Detective Comics #225, J'onn was pulled to Earth from Mars by an Earth scientist's experimental teleportation device. The encounter with the alien caused the scientist to have a heart-attack, stranding J'onn on Earth with no way home. J'onn used his shape-shifting abilities to take on the identity of John Jones and he decided to use his powers to fight crime and keep the peace on Earth, as he waited for Earth technology to develop to the point where he could return home. Operating in secret at first, he eventually revealed himself to the world and became a founding member of The Justice League of America.

Later retellings of J'onn's origins revealed that J'onn was displaced in time as well as space and that the Martian civilization had died off thousands of years earlier, leaving J'onn - like Superman - as the sole survivor of a dead world.

While this episode has yet to reveal how J'onn came to Earth, his noble intentions and desire to work incognito match his original origins.  Thus far, the only power he's revealed to have is shape-shifting. We can guess from how he was able to snap Jemm's neck, however, that he probably has the super-strength of his comic-book counterpart.


Winn still has the Kryptonian bio-analytics from Alex's DEO files. He later uses this to run a differential analysis on the rates at which Kara might metabolize solar radiation. He then puts forth the theory that Kara's powers might be jump-started by a sudden surge of adrenaline.

Jemm's cell has neural shielding, which prevents him from using his psychic powers on anyone outside the cell.

Superman calls the release of heat vision that drains his powers for a few days "the solar flare".

The DEO has neural disruptors - portable versions of the neural shields used to block Jemm's powers when he is in his cell.

Maxwell Lord postulates that Supergirl blew put her photovolatic capabilities, effectively making her a dead battery.

The injured man Maxwell Lord is called in to save has a tension pneumothorax - a progressive build-up of pressure, usually caused by laceration of the lung. There is also a venous bleed, which causes the man to exsanguinate into his own chest. This causes him to bleed out, go into shock and die.

Dialogue Triumphs

Jemm: I will grind your loved ones to dust!
(Henshaw looks off, as if looking at something far away.)
Dir. Henshaw: There are none left to grind.

Kara: Don't you think that people need a more positive message right now? Hope instead of fear? I just think that if Supergirl could be here today, right now, she would be.
Maxwell: (laughs) Why? Because Cat Grant says so?She might as well be Supergirl's PR flack, slapping that S on everything just to make money.
Kara: What are you doing?
Maxwell: I want everyone to know who's helping them in their time of need - a human being. Supergirl lulls us into complacency. She fools us into thinking she'll save us and renders us incapable of saving ourselves. Like heroin. Or The Welfare State.
Kara: That's cynical.
Maxwell: That's realistic.

Kara: These past few weeks have been the best of my life. I was helping people the way that I've always wanted. Do you know what that's like? To just have that ripped away?
James: Can't say that I do. But I do know that you're the same girl as you were before. Losing your powers does not change that.
Kara: It's changed everything! I - I - feel, I feel so helpless!
James: What you're feeling is human!
Kara: And what if Maxwell Lord is right? What if mine never come back? Now what kind of hero does that make me without them? I- I - I couldn't even save one man!
James: No hero can save everyone. Not even Superman. But a real hero never stops trying.

(Supergirl walks into a convenience store that is being robbed)
Supergirl: (holding a hand up) I wouldn't do that if I were you!  That's not going to work on me.
Robber: (pointing his gun at Supergirl) Stay back! Don't come any closer.
Supergirl: You don't want to hurt these people...
(Cut to Cat Grant, at her desk. She's wearing glasses and reading a prepared statement.)
Cat: People of National City - this is Cat Grant coming to you from Catco Plaza. We've just, minutes ago, restarted our broadcasting capabilities...
(Cat sighs dramatically, takes off her glasses and puts the the statement aside.)
Cat: Look. We're all suffering through a major disaster. Now, you could react to this crisis by being petty and divisive or preying on other people's fears. And after all, it is human to be selfish. But isn't it also human to face our weaknesses and rise above them? Act like a superhero even if you aren't one?
(Cut back to Supergirl and the robbers. Her hand is shaking nervously.)
Supergirl: I know you're scared. We all are. You want to save yourself. Your family. But don't you see that we are all in this together?
(Cut back to Cat)
Cat: It's true. Supergirl has not been located yet. But her spirit stays with us. Her insistence on seeing the best that is in people - a call for us to heed our better angels.
(Cut back to Supergirl and the robbers)
Supergirl: There's about a dozen ways that I could stop you right now. But I don't think I have to.
(Cut back to Cat)
Cat: Supergirl has faith in us.
(Cut back to Supergirl and the robbers)
Supergirl: Because this is not you. It isn't any of you!
(Cut back to Cat)
Cat: So let's have a little faith in her. Supergirl will return when we need her most.  Until then, we need to help each other.
(Cut back to Supergirl and the robbers)
Supergirl: I believe that we are better than this.
(Cut back to Cat)
Cat: Call us. Share your stories of herosim. Let's show the world what we're really made of. And no... we can't do what Supergirl does, but-
(Cut back to Supergirl and the robbers)
Supergirl: We choose who we want to be.
(Cut back to Cat)
Cat: We must choose to do what we can.
(Cut back to Supergirl and the robbers)
Supergirl: And I know you're going to choose to be a better man.
(Supergirl holds her hand out.  The robber slowly takes his finger off the trigger as James Olsen raises his camera and takes a picture as Supergirl smiles softly at the robber.)

James: When you take a picture of someone, it's permanent. And you've captured the truth of them in that moment. And that you can keep forever. And (clears throat) the truth of this moment...(James holds up the picture of Kara and the robber) is that you don't even need powers to be a hero.

Dir. Henshaw: You're wondering how I got out of a pair of locked handcuffs?
Alex: (nodding) For starters.
Dir. Henshaw: There's only one other living person who knows the truth. You sure you want to hear this?
(Alex just stares at him)
Dir. Henshaw:
You can't share this with anyone. Not even Kara. Can you do that?
Alex: You're the one who taught me to keep secrets from her.
Dir. Henshaw: I am not Hank Henshaw. He died the same night as your father. The DEO had been pursuing an alien for months. Not one of the Fort Rozz prisoners but... an innocent one. Stranded on this planet. With the help of your father, the DEO tracked the alien to a remote location in Peru. Henshaw led the squadron sent to terminate him.
Alex: My father would never have been part of a mission like that.
Dir. Henshaw: You're right. Jeremiah Danvers was a good man. He realized the alien they were hunting wasn't a threat. He was a refugee, like your sister. The sole survivor of a lost world. Your father tried to stop the mission, but Henshaw... was obsessed. He'd finally trapped the alien he'd been hunting for so long. So Jeremiah made the ultimate sacrifice. He gave his life to save that alien. (pause) Your father died a hero.
Alex: That alien...Is that you?
(Dir. Henshaw nods)
But how... are you him?
Dir. Henshaw: I am a shape-shifter. When Hank Henshaw died, I assumed his identity to reform the DEO. But I also made your father a promise - that I would take care of his daughter. I recruited you so that I would honor that promise and protect you as if you were my own child.
Alex: If you're not Hank Henshaw, then who are you?
(Henshaw's eyes begin to glow red as he turns away from Alex)
Dir. Henshaw:
I am the sole survivor of my planet.  The last son of Mars.
(Henshaw turns around to face Alex, shifting into a green-skinned man with a bald head in a strange alien uniform)
J'onn J'onzz: My name... is J'onn J'onzz.

Supergirl: I heard your amazing broadcast today. Thank you.
Cat: Well, thank you for the complement. Now where the hell were you?! How could you up and leave in the middle of the worst disaster in decades?
Supergirl: I didn't mean to scare you -
Cat: Oh no. No, you didn't scare ME. But regular people, they're starting to depend on you. It's easy for them to feel abandoned. You have to understand that most people out there spend most of their lives feeling isolated and alone. And when a tragedy strikes, they look to their heroes not only for rescue but for solace. And consistency.
Supergirl: That's why I'm glad they have you. You gave them hope today. I know that you inspired them. Because you inspired me.

Dialogue Disasters

The entire exchange between Winn and Kara after Winn walks in on her and James hugging.  The good news is that after seven episodes they've finally developed a personality for Winn beyond comic relief techie. The bad news is that personality is that of a whiny "nice guy".


The hologram of Alura is seen for the first time since 102. She reassures Kara that her power loss is likely temporary and she'll be back to normal after she absorbs enough yellow solar energy.

It is noted - by both Alex, James and Maxwell Lord - that Superman has lost his powers temporarily as well, but never for longer than 48 hours at a time.

Lucy and James are moving in together.

Superman calls the heat-vision blast that drains his cells for a few day The Solar Flare.

Maxwell Lord is a medical doctor, having gone through medical school in one year.

The daughter of the man Maxwell Lord tries to save says she once saw Supergirl carry a man to the hospital on the news. This could be a reference to 102, where Supergirl airlifted an amublacnce that was stuck in traffic.

The first picture James ever took was of his father, who bought him his first camera as a gift before leaving for The Gulf War. He died overseas. Kara says James looks like him.

It is revealed that Hank Henshaw is not actually Hank Henshaw but an alien named J'onn J'onzz - a Martian shape-shifter, who took on Henshaw's identity after Jeremiah Danvers sacrificed himself to save J'onn from an Ahab-esque Henshaw. J'onn promised Danvers that he would look after his daughter, which is why he recruited Alex into the DEO.

General Astra, Commander Gor and Lieutenant Mur are seen for the first time since 102,

The Fridge Factor

The circumstances of the dying man's condition coupled with Maxwell Lord's words only serve to make Kara feel more powerless than ever. It's all so contrived one wonders if Lord somehow set this up as a way to taunt Kara, having figured out she's Supergirl - what with the dying man's daughter wishing Supergirl could fly him to the hospital and Lord saying there's nothing they can do with out an x-ray machine.

On that note, it's horrible on SO many levels that Kara is made to feel guilty over Winn's bratty response to her and James having a tender moment and is all but begging for his friendship at the end of the episode.

The Bottom Line

The strongest episode of the series to date. Granting that there's a lot of contrivances to push the idea of Kara suddenly feeling powerless when she'd been living a normal life until a few weeks ago, Kara and James having most of the episode together makes up for a lot. And as utterly cheesy as the hunt for Jemm is with Alex acting increasingly deranged due to her sudden mistrust for Henshaw, the revelation that we've got the freaking Martian Manhunter as a regular member of the cast makes up for a lot. Cat Grant is no longer grating and actually comes off as kind of awesome in this episode. The only real problem is that it seems like we're supposed to sympathize with Winn's unrequited crush on Kara when he comes off as a creepy stalker rather than a befuddled geek. But then I think about the sequence with the robbers where Kara gets three men to surrender by appealing to their better nature and I think to myself "This is a pretty damn good show that gets what heroism is about."

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