So there Kara (Melissa Benoist) was, sitting behind a desk that looks like it was last used as a prop on Anchorman, costumed as Supergirl and ready to save the world with hopeful words of love and truth-to-yourself-ness. She was there to engage in a hare-brained scheme to talk a bunch of droned Earthlings out of doing the bidding of evil Kryptonians via news broadcast. Like you do.
It was all a little silly to see her sitting behind the desk like a 6 o'clock local news anchor but instead of throwing to the weather, she was pleading with people not to systematically destroy themselves. But by the grace of story continuance it worked and suddenly Myriad, the big evil plan of the first season, was thwarted in basically the span of a cold open of an episode. Such was the story of Supergirl's Season 1: what felt like the three seasons of narrative packed into 20 episodes. After her stint behind the desk, Kara did a couple stretches then went out to punch some evil-doers until they fell down.
Directing Supergirl in this live broadcasting debut was Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), the essential mentor of Season 1 that was missing during a Season 2 featuring mentors just coming out of the woodwork to tell Kara what to do. She took advice from J'onn (David Harewood), from Snapper (Ian Gomez), and even from Mon-El (Chris Wood) about what her life should be like but none of them approached the register nor the very specific profundity of Cat Grant. It was hard to see that without the Queen of All Media around to leave these boys in the dust. But Cat came back.
In an episode where ladies were fully in charge of every operation, Cat stood out with what seemed like a season full of zingers the writers had been saving until this very moment. I imagine everyone working on the show having their own personal leather-bound journal that they'd write one-liners for Cat Grant in all year, aching for a return, and, when the episode finally came for Calista Flockhart to make her way to Vancouver, the writers all just read them to each other in a slumber party bash complete with footie pajamas. Cat had nothing but fire in this week's episode. She was keeping it 100. And other emoji as well.
So when it came time to execute a plan where the DEO teamed up with Cadmus to expel the alien threat, the architect of last season's broadcast message for the simpletons trapped by Myriad was ready to insert herself into greatness. She had the same plan as last year except instead of a hokey bit with Kara sitting behind a desk, the Queen would do the dang thing herself.
There are a few major differences between Kara's message of hope and Grant's speech to the people of National City. First, Cat Grant doesn't have the trouble of sounding too earnest. Her personality lends itself to demanding and metaphorical fist-pounding as opposed to Kara's sweet cadence where even in her most grave and sincere voice sounds like she's currently being dressed by bluebirds in the morning. Secondly, the threat was more existential and severe with a full-scale, armed invasion by a crazed space queen rather than militant Kryptonian hippies gone awry.
But more importantly, the season has been leading to this moment since it first started to hand down its heavy-handed political metaphors. At times so thinly-veiled it repulsed an audience trying to escape the madness of our political climate and at other times so clunky in execution that even those that agree with the sentiment found the message out of place, the allegory has been a point of contention. There are those that feel Supergirl doesn't know its place and that political posturing isn't what this show should be about. And I can understand that if I don't fully believe it. But I venture that when Cat made her speech with the full embrace of the message, it made those bits that were tough to swallow go down a little easier and memories of how forced it felt almost evaporate. Almost.
Her call-to-arms is to resist. The allegory is in full employ with Cat Grant using phrases that mean less to the people of Earth-38 than they demand the audience of our reality to draw comparisons. Daxam is a society where the ruling class lulls the lower classes into a state of hedonistic stupor while they draw resources from the workers. It's a system of governance that is in the business of expending people for personal wealth and convincing those people that this is the way it should work. It is a place where connections are used only to create more people which creates more wealth for the upper crust. Rhea (Teri Hatcher) is a leader that has forgotten any meaning behind what interpersonal connection is that isn't somehow beneficial to her survival and legacy.
And Cat is in a place where human connection is all that really matters. It's the common ground between all opposing forces, all the polarized hatred, all the noise and chest-beating and gotchas. People have forgotten how to connect to each other meaningfully, respectfully. Cat knows from her time in a yurt (I demand a CW Seed series of her time in Bhutan) that a celebration of our humanness is what can bind us together and the only thing to oppose the fear-mongering propaganda that can tear us apart. People have forgotten our common ground.
So her speech unites humanity against a common enemy: an alien culture invading our state that's bent on using divisiveness and false shows of strength to remake our world (after all, Rhea's soldiers seem advanced but are also easily affected by one of our most plentiful resources: guns). Because, as she says, this is a culture that has no idea what makes us great. Daxam doesn't want to raise us up to some historical superiority, partially because they don't really understand what human greatness is but mostly because that greatness never actually existed. They want to remake us into a fantasy that never was, could never be, and, most importantly, is not the utopia they're selling. When Rhea says she wants to make Daxam great again, she's not hoping for a blended human/Daxamite society where people can live blissfully in their own freedoms without the worry of the bad things in life. She's ready to set down her own antiquated set of values and force them down the throats of her enemies.
Cat calls the invaders thugs, poignant given the rhetoric of who Daxam is impersonating, and calls on the people to rise up, to declare "not in my house," and she personally calls out Rhea for invading the wrong town (fittingly, Rhea reacts to this slight hyperbolically by redirecting all her resources toward Cat Grant because she made fun of her). And there, in her former office recently wrecked by a mind-controlled Phorian boy in a building that must only still be standing through sheer will and a prayer that even a small earthquake doesn't hit National City, she looks at the camera and says, "Yeah, I'm Cat Grant. Not going anywhere." It's a sign-off with a gravitas Keith Olbermann only wishes he could muster.
This is also an episode that features the DEO and Cadmus working together, two diametrically-opposed forces that find a common enemy to combat: an invading sickness threatening authoritarian rule. And for a brief moment, before Lillian (Brenda Strong) finds her window to subvert the aliens that helped her save her daughter Lena (Katie McGrath), they were working for a common goal. And despite the fact that Cadmus is an objectively evil organization that treats alien life like it doesn't matter and is less important than human life, there was a kind of beauty in the idea that people could find common ground, identify an invading force for what it was, and work together to rid that wannabe tyranny from their ranks.
No matter where you are on the political spectrum, this is an episode that, while certainly aiming at a specific someone and that specific someone's cronies, also doesn't push a specific agenda. It's not an episode that declares that aliens should freely emigrate to National City or that all of these aliens should join the rest of the United States in a single-payer healthcare system. Heck, the first female president, Olivia Marsdin (Lynda Carter) is a space alien. Instead it focuses on what makes this place a good country to live in and it's not being afraid of everyone and it's not lying down when there's a fight. It's about human connection, neighborliness, community, patriotism under the belief that we're all connected and we all need each other. Cat Grant, through a self-satisfied smile and a penchant for distilling the feeling of the times, found a place for all of us to unite.
Which is perfect timing to get that out of the way because next week looks like a punching contest between Rhea and Kara. Ah, things as they should be.
Supergirl's Season 2 finale will air on Monday, May 22 at 8/7c on The CW.