Thanksgiving’s a bit early this year, or at least on Supergirl it is. Because of the tragic Paris attacks, CBS decided to switch out “How Does She Do It?,” an episode about a series of bombings in National City, with tonight’s Thanksgiving-themed episode “Livewire.” Thankfully, the switch doesn’t seem to have hurt the season’s flow, and it was definitely easy to follow along with everything in the episode. In fact, “Livewire” is definitely one of the strongest episodes of the season so far because it focuses on what Greg Berlanti shows do oh so well: family.
This is our first glimpse at Kara and Alex’s relationship with their mother, Eliza Danvers, Ph.D. (Helen Slater). From the outset, we know there’s going to be some tension because Alex is freaking out about her mother’s impending arrival for Thanksgiving as she’s worried Eliza will blame her for letting Kara out herself to the world. At first, it seems as though Alex’s worries are unfounded because when Eliza arrives, she sees Kara in her uniform and tells her she’s been doing a great a job.
Once Eliza gets settled, Kara heads to work. When she arrives, she notices Cat’s having a meeting with Leslie Willis, an incendiary radio host who isn’t Supergirl’s biggest fan. Using her super-hearing, Kara overhears Cat instructing Leslie to stop going on anti-Supergirl tirades that insult her body and sexuality. Keeping with the theme of this episode, Cat and Leslie’s dynamic is resembles a mother and her terrible, rebellious daughter. Leslie refuses, so Cat demotes her to traffic reporting from the Cat-Copter. How is it different from a normal helicopter? No idea, and, honestly, I don’t care.
As Alex and Kara pick up takeout dinner, Alex continues to stress about their mother’s presence. Kara tells her she should be honest about what she does for a living — i.e. working for the DEO and protecting Kara — but it would be illegal for Alex to do so. This is actually one of the best scenes in the episode because there’s very little expository dialogue and it’s all about fleshing out the sisters’ amazing dynamic. As they leave the restaurant, they see Leslie’s copter get struck by lightning, so Kara flies off to help. While helping Leslie out of the helicopter, Supergirl gets struck by lightning, which passes through her and shocks Leslie. The lightning strike leaves Leslie in a coma and with a new makeover that could easily pass for iZombie cosplay.
It turns out Alex was right that her mother was angry and was just waiting for Kara to not be around before making it known. The tension from this first fight spills into Thanksgiving dinner later, which also includes Winn, who Kara has invited after finding out about his depressing holiday plans (Thai food and marathoning Orphan Black). At dinner, Alex is chugging white wine like it’s her job and making snide comments at the end of the table. To break the tension, Kara suggests they all say what they’re thankful for. Kara shares, Alex passes, and Winn starts to speak, but Kara gets a call from James, who is spending Thanksgiving in Ojai with Lucy Lane, and rushes out the room.
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When Kara returns from her annoyingly cute conversation with James, she finds Alex telling her mother what she does for a living. And, Eliza isn’t happy for a number of reasons (the most important reason becomes known at the end of the episode). In this moment, she’s upset because Alex lied to her. Insulted and upset, Alex storms out. Kara tries to defend her sister but gets called into the office because Cat has an emergency. Yes, the great Cat Grant works on Thanksgiving. Are you surprised?
Meanwhile, Leslie stumbles out of the hospital and discovers her new powers. She can shoot electricity from her hands and can turn herself into energy and enter any electrical system. Naturally, she decides to become evil.
When Kara arrives at the office, she finds Cat stressing out that none of her electronics are working and that she’s missing a conference call with Beijing. No surprise here: Leslie, sorry, Livewire, a.k.a. Leslie Willis 2.0, is behind the malfunction. (ASIDE: This was not a good week for professional workspaces. An alien rampaged through the DEO headquarters at the top of the hour. END ASIDE). Livewire wreaks havoc in the empty CatCo office as she chases Cat, who tells Kara to get security, which gives her an easy opportunity to turn into Supergirl. She tries using her heat vision on Livewire, but Livewire just absorbs it. While Supergirl saves Cat from a plummeting elevator, Livewire escapes.
NEXT: The humanization of Cat Grant
In the aftermath of the attack, Hank Henshaw shows up to process the scene. Once that’s done, Cat sends Kara home because it’s thanksgiving. However, Kara isn’t eager to get home because of the drama with her sister and foster mother. Cat’s surprised to find out Kara has a foster mother. Thinking quickly on her feet, Kara says her parents died in a fire when she was 13. This revelation clearly touches Cat and leads her to open up about her stressful relationship with her demanding and never-satisfied mother.
One of the best parts of this episode was how it started developing Cat beyond just a heartless, one-liner slinging boss from hell. The moment she shares with Kara, combined with her telling then-comatose Leslie to fight because she knows Leslie’s stronger than any lightning bolt, does a fantastic job of humanizing the media overlord. Believing herself to be responsible for creating Livewire, Cat decides to reach out to Supergirl and offer herself up as bait to lure Livewire out. (ASIDE: Tying Cat’s development to this week’s villain also makes Livewire’s one-dimensionality less of a problem. END ASIDE).
At this moment, National City is going through a city-wide blackout, which provides Alex and Eliza necessary time to talk about their issues. As a fitting cover of Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” plays, Alex asks her mother why she was so hard on her. Eliza says she pushed her daughter because she wanted her to be better than her. Unfortunately, this touching heart-to-heart is interrupted by Hank, who calls Alex into the office to help him retrofit a device to capture Livewire.
Cat lures Livewire out by going on air and asking Livewire to meet her where “it all began” — Leslie’s old radio studio. Livewire shows up at the spot, and after failing to come up with clever and original threatening dialogue, she just starts trying to kill Cat. But, Supergirl shows up to save the day. Because this a TV show, the device Hank made for Supergirl to use on Livewire doesn’t work and Livewire comes very close to killing her. However, Kara thinks quickly on her feet and uses an underground water pipe to short circuit Livewire.
The next day at work, Kara shows up with leftovers for Winn, who missed the meal because of the family drama. Winn uses this as an opportunity to finish saying what he’s thankful for: Kara. (He also reveals that his father is a bad man who is in prison and that’s why he’s not a fan of holidays.) To Kara’s surprise, he kisses her on the cheek, but the moment ends really quickly because James and Lucy return from their trip. Man, Winn just can’t catch a break.
Cat’s encounter with Livewire caused a slight change of heart, and she decides to focus on the people who do good on Thanksgiving instead of on headline-grabbing celebrity gossip. She also tells Kara that she realized she doesn’t know much about her and that needs to change because Kara knows everything about her, including the three Ls: latte, lettuce wrap, Lexapro. So, we can assume that Kat will figure out Kara’s Supergirl fairly soonish, right?
Before leaving National City, Eliza drops a big bomb on her girls: She knows about the DEO and their deceased father, Jeremiah Danvers (Dean Cain) used to work for them. In a flashback to a time shortly after Kara’s arrival, we see Kara and Alex sneak out of the house to go for a night-time flight. Eliza and Jeremiah are very upset when they return because they were worried someone would see them and come to take Kara away from them. As they scold the girls, Hank Henshaw shows up at the house to take Kara away because Superman refuses to work with them, so they want to study her. Jeremiah agrees to work for the DEO and give them all his Superman research if Hank leaves Kara alone. Back in the present, Eliza reveals that she suspects Jeremiah died because of his work with the DEO. With this knowledge, Kara and Alex become suspicious of Hank, which is good because he’s clearly hiding some kind of secret behind those glowing red eyes.
(ASIDE: Does this reveal also explain why Superman kept his distance from Kara when she was younger? Did he know Jeremiah was working with the DEO and basically betrayed him? END ASIDE)