‘Supergirl’ 3×01 Review: ‘Girl of Steel’

‘Supergirl’ 3x01 Review: ‘Girl of Steel’

When it comes to DC Television, there’s a unique feeling that I get when I watch Supergirl. I feel like I’m watching the This Is Us of superhero shows, if that makes sense. Not that Arrow, The Flash, or Legends of Tomorrow don’t evoke emotion out of me, but every episode of Supergirl feels like an emotional cleansing.

Supergirl might be a comic book show about a superhero, but more importantly it’s a television show based in human emotion. And that’s the most powerful thing you can have.

The greatest part about this whole thing is that we get such an amazing focus on humanity from the lone alien superhero — with a show — in this universe. Supergirl, yes, it has aliens. Supergirl, yes, focuses on the comic book aspects. But Supergirl, yes, is a show that is grounded in true human emotion.




It’s what has made this show so enjoyable and enlightening from the start. It doesn’t shy away from things like other shows. It tackles real-world issues we face today in a way that lends itself to this world where an alien protects a city. Where aliens walk among us.

And yet it’s the alien show that, most of the time, feels the most believable. Because the characters are believable. The struggles are believable. The highs are believable. The emotions these characters feel is believable.

Supergirl’s Season 3 premiere, titled “Girl of Steel,” really dug deep into that emotional aspect of the show that continues to make it my favorite comic book show. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, and it’ll be written on my tombstone, but if you don’t care about your hero as a person, then the things they do mean absolutely nothing. It’s not so much about the persona as it is the person underneath. And Supergirl, on a weekly basis, allows us to really dig deep into Kara as a hero, as well as those around her.

This season premiere dealt with the emotional aftermath of the season finale, where Kara was forced to send Mon-El away to save him. We didn’t leave Kara is a good place. And when we find her in the premiere, it’s even worse.

She’s had time to push the anger, the fear, the sadness down. She decided early on that the best way to escape the broken feeling of emotions was to throw herself into a job where she didn’t allow feelings to overwhelm her. So she became Supergirl full-time. And it clearly wasn’t healthy. But it also clearly wasn’t a surprise, as we all deal with grief in different ways.

More than anything, this episode proved that Kara isn’t Supergirl. Supergirl is Kara.

Let’s break this down for the first time this season! Welcome back, guys!

Power of Grief

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With humanity comes the power of emotion. All the good, bad, and downright unbearable. Kara Danvers, in all of her alien glory, represents the very best of humanity. And despite trying to avoid succumbing to the struggles of human emotions, there’s no escaping them, as she learned once again with the loss of her love, Mon-El.

If the ending of Season 2’s finale was any indication, things only got more difficult for Kara as the months passed. She chose to not confront those emotions of grief — emotions that she feels can break a person.

But this wasn’t all about losing Mon-El. This was about loss as a whole.

In a way, the loss of Mon-El also brought to the surface the emotions that Kara had suppressed when it came to mourning her mother. Not only was she dealing with losing the love of her life recently, but she was also dealing with losing her mother, once again, as she dealt with those feelings.

Grief breeds emotion. Grief holds no prisoners. Grief is a monster that lurks in the dark threatening to overcome you when you least expect it.

So how did Kara deal with her grief? She pushed those feelings down. And she threw herself into work. She became Supergirl full-time.

In a way, Kara felt that if she was Supergirl — and only Supergirl — that she wouldn’t be subjected to the pain that she knew was waiting for her. Supergirl is an alien. Kara Danvers is a person. If she chose to embrace the alien, she wouldn’t have to deal with the human side of things.

Because I’m sure people have and will jump on Kara for showing emotion — which, by the way, is NOT weakness — let’s actually think about this situation for a minute. Kara, who has known loss all of her life, got to a place where she was truly happy for the first time in a long time. She fell in love, she saved the world, and she got to experience the very best of humanity.

And then Rhea happened. Then the Daxamite army happened. Then she had to sacrifice something she loved very much in this world in order to protect the very world she lived in. And it ate her up inside. But, still, as she said in the premiere, she’d make the same decision every time. Because that’s who she is. She’s willing to sacrifice her own happiness to ensure the happiness and safety of others. It’s why Kara is the strength behind Supergirl and not the other way around.

Kara threw herself into work to deal with the pain. We’ve all been there. We’ve all experienced some kind of heartache in our lives, and we’ve all reacted in a way that we probably didn’t think was healthy looking back. But when you’re dealing with tragedy or loss or heartbreak in the moment, there’s no muting the blaring sirens of emotions that come raining down.

Some people overcome the grief pretty quickly. Some people take a little longer. Some people don’t even deal with the grief instead choosing to suppress it. But, as J’Onn said, “Grief doesn’t have a deadline.”

We got a small glimpse of how Kara had chosen to deal with her grief. She avoided anything and everything that had to do with Kara. From family to friends to game night to quitting CatCo, Kara didn’t want to interact with anything that made her Kara Danvers. Because if she did that, she’d have to eventually face the reality of her situation. Not only is the pain still there, but Mon-El is gone. And he might not be coming back. (Although, we know that’s not true. But Kara, poor sweetie, doesn’t.) It’s difficult to accept the harsh realities we’re dealt.

Even the Girl of Steel can’t escape heartache.

Sometimes you have to save yourself before you can save the world.

Those that care about Kara — especially Alex — wanted nothing more than to ease her aching heart. But that’s not entirely up to them. All they can do is encourage her, love her, and be there for her in the moment when she’s finally able to start living again. And that’s what they did. And that’s eventually what happened.

We all deal with grief in different ways. It doesn’t make us weak. It doesn’t limit us. In fact, it makes us stronger. Having to deal with such powerful emotions, especially that of grief, will build up the human spirit and help us tackle the highs and lows that life throws our way.

Kara mentioned that humans, when grieving, allow themselves to be broken. And that she was better than that. But she doesn’t realize that humanity isn’t unique to humans. It exists within those that open themselves up to it. And Kara is the walking definition of humanity.

“Wake Up!”

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While Kara is back on the path to happiness, it’s not something that’s going to come easy. That’s not how this works. Life is an endless cycle of getting up, facing the day, going to bed, and getting up the next day and repeating the cycle. Until eventually the pain doesn’t seem as overwhelming as it did the day before.

That’s something Kara is going to have to do. And while she’s going to struggle at times — sometimes more than others — she has a strong supporting cast around her to help her through it. She has Alex. She has J’Onn. She has Lena. She has Winn. She has James. She has Maggie. And she has Mon-El in spirit. Kara is never alone.

While Kara has spent months feeling like she’s a broken girl on an island all alone, she’s made the proactive step to finally start living again. She uses Mon-El’s memory as a source of strength rather than weakness, which is so damn beautiful.

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This moment — and the one in the water — were defining moments for Kara in her journey this season. This season, Kara has to not only accept that she is very much human in emotions, but that you can’t bottle those emotions up and expect to maintain mental stability.

But let’s get something clear, it’s okay that Kara struggled with repressing those emotions in this episode. She’s human, despite the fact that she continues to shoot that down. In order to grow, you have to make mistakes. You have to struggle. You have to find yourself at your lowest to lift yourself to your highest.

It’s more than okay that Kara reacted in the way she did. Everyone handles grief differently, but the one thing we all share with grief is pain. It’s an overwhelming feeling. You can’t control it. You hold on for dear life and pray that you come out of the other side in one piece.

After months of choosing to suppress Kara Danvers, Kara — with a lot of help from her loved ones — finally got to the other side. She got to the point where she was able to make the decision to start living again. To wake up.

Supergirl is Kara, Not The Other Way Around

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In “Girl of Steel,” Kara was dead set on being Supergirl and only Supergirl. She figured that this was a way to protect herself from the pain of Mon-El’s loss. She figured this was a way to ensure that not only would she not feel that pain, but that it would never happen again.

“What makes me me is Supergirl,” Kara tells J’Onn in the episode.

Well, Kara, actually that’s not true. In fact, the opposite is true.

We often see our heroes, the people, try to define themselves by their hero persona. They have to become “something else.” They have to “do the impossible.” But when is it ever, the hero persona needs to be defined by the individual?

Supergirl doesn’t make Kara Danvers the person that she is. Kara Danvers makes Supergirl the hero that she is.

Not everyone can be a hero. Well, villains certainly believe they’re the heroes of their own story. But more often than not, it’s the individual that defines the hero or the villain. A hero’s beliefs are rooted in the foundational beliefs of the individual that wears the persona. The reason the hero fights or protects their city is rooted in the beliefs of the individual.

The hero has never — and will never — define the individual. So when Kara tells J’Onn that what makes her her is Supergirl, I can’t help but be reminded of just how far Supergirl has come because of Kara Danvers.

You Choose Your Family

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Seriously, this entire episode was just pure emotion, and it was a glorious thing. Another amazing theme throughout Supergirl’s existence has been the importance of family. And not just blood family. Family, on Supergirl, is defined by a group of people in your life that you love, would protect, and would do anything to protect.

There’s a saying, “You can’t choose your family.” Which I can’t help but disagree with. You’re not stuck with a single family. Throughout your life, the people you choose to surround yourself with, the people you choose to open up to, the people you would trust your life with, they become your family, as well.

And that’s been a common theme on Supergirl, whether it be Kara’s adoption into the Danvers family or J’Onn J’Onzz becoming a surrogate father to Kara and Alex to Alex and Maggie’s engagement to deep friendships that run deeper than blood.

Family is family.

So as Alex and Maggie were their happily engaged selves — discussing cake tastings while also simultaneously being badasses and saving the world — I was reminded of a new family about to take root.

SHE SAID YES.

I mean, duh. Obviously. These two have become each other’s entire world. And you bet damn well that they’re going to be each other’s world forever. Sanvers took fans by storm last season with a relationship that was so powerful, so raw, so inspiring that it made us feel like we were a part of their story. And we were.

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But the thing I really took away from this episode is just the power of the bonds that have been formed in this series. Whether it’s Kara and Alex or Alex and Maggie or Kara, Alex, and J’Onn, or Kara and Mon-El, there have been some really amazing bonds that represent everything that’s beautiful about family.

It makes moments like Alex opening up to Maggie about her hesitance to not have a big wedding because her father can’t be there, so emotional. It makes moments like Alex reaching out to J’Onn to walk her down the aisle — and them getting emotional about it — so impactful. I legit couldn’t see through my eyes.

Moments of just pure love and care. Moments of pure admiration and respect. Moments of heart and humanity. This is what defines Supergirl.

This Is A Man’s World…But It Would Be Nothing Without Women Like Lena Luthor

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Something that Supergirl has managed to do from the start was address real-world issues in ways that don’t shy away from controversy. Also something Supergirl has managed to deliver over the years have been really strong, complex, empowering, inspiring female characters that have led the charge in a world where men often look down upon them, or, worse, underestimate them.

Since her introduction last season, Lena Luthor has been one of those strong, empowering women that makes me cheer on a weekly basis. She’s someone who has worked to get where she’s at. She’s someone who, in her life, has experienced trauma, controversy, and struggles that have defined her to this day. It’s what has made her so strong. She hasn’t let the lows define her. She’s become stronger as a result.

So when we find Lena in the season premiere, no surprise she finds herself dealing with the human scum known as Morgan Edge, a businessman that is as gross in his harassment as he is gross in attempting to destroy his enemies.

Morgan, typical man, thought he could beat Lena because she was a woman. But because Lena — and women in real life — have dealt with scum bags like this before, she knows exactly how the handle it.

When he threatens to buy CatCo to use to his own personal gain, Lena sweeps in and buys it instead. So, typical man, Edge threatens to ruin her. Sorry sweetie, but that’s definitely not going to happen.

Morgan done messed with the wrong woman. Sorry, women.

It’s female characters like Lena, like Kara, Alex, Maggie, Cat Grant, and all the ones that have come before and will come soon that really establish Supergirl as a show that embraces what it is. This is a show about a female superhero. The only female superhero television show, by the way. So it tackles what it should, and it delivers on its messages every single time.

6 Things About “Girl of Steel”

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  1. That opening Karamel scene caught me emotionally off guard. And I knew it was coming. The brief glimpse didn’t do the entire scene justice…or the callback to Kara’s dream, which leads us to…
  2. “Wake up!” Chills. Even though Mon-El isn’t with her physically, this episode made it damn clear that not only does she carry him forever in her heart, but that he is a strength that will get her through tough times. Love is strength. True love is life changing.
  3. That scene where Alex asked J’Onn J’Onzz to walk her down the aisle had me ugly crying. Such an amazing and emotional and real scene. One of the best emotional moments in an amazing emotional hour.
  4. Lena Luthor is a f***ing badass, and I worship at her feet. I’m loving the focus on her professional dealings this season as she’s sticking it to egotistical white males that try to demean her value because she’s an attractive woman. But Lena ain’t about to take that shit. And I look forward to watching her take Morgan Edge — and any other misogynistic man — down.
  5. Can we talk about how Alex and Maggie are planning their wedding? Because causal talk about cake tastings and such is so damn cute I can’t stand it. This wedding better be everything they deserve. So many feels.
  6. I could not be more excited for this season’s Big Bad, Reign, and her introduction was just sensational. I’m loving approaching a villain from this perspective where we don’t meet them as the villain, but rather as a person that will become the villain. This is going to be great.

Supergirl airs Mondays at 8/7c on The CW.



Alyssa Barbieri

Senior Managing Editor

Teacher by day, writer by every other free moment. Obsessed with sports, TV, books, movies, and superheroes. Proud shipper and supporter of strong female characters. TV Editor and Sports Editor. I write about DCTV, This Is Us and so much more. Contact: alyssa@fangirlish.com.

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