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‘Supergirl’ Deals with Mama Drama in ‘Livewire’

This week on “Supergirl,” we’re introduced to venomous DJ Leslie Willis, who becomes the electrically-charged villain Livewire. We also learn about Kara and Alex’s complicated relationship with their foster/real mother (played by Helen Slater of 1984 “Supergirl” fame). The episode — which was titled “Livewire” but could have realistically been called “Mommy Issues” — was bumped up a week after the previously scheduled episode, “How Does She Do It?” was pulled due to similarities to Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

When “Livewire” opens, Kara is pulverizing an alien, while Alex is anxiously waiting for her mother — Kara’s foster mom, Eliza — to arrive for Thanksgiving. Eliza has always been hard on Alex, which causes palpable tension between the two. Meanwhile, Kara learns that Winn is orphaned for Thanksgiving. (Literally, he tells us — his plan is Thai food and an “Orphan Black” marathon. Good man.) Kara does the right thing and invites him to spend the holiday with Alex, Eliza and herself.

We soon meet Leslie Willis, an abrasive radio shock jock who works for CatCo, as she bad-mouths Supergirl over the air. Cat Grant reprimands Leslie and tells her that Supergirl is off-limits, which sends the host into a tailspin (literally, aboard a helicopter). Leslie has ties to both Cat and Supergirl: Cat mentored Leslie to radio stardom as a mother figure of sorts, and Supergirl accidentally turns the DJ into the villain-of-the-week, Livewire, while attempting to save her from the helicopter incident.

Cat and Livewire have an interesting dynamic — both women crave power and attention, but Cat is presented as a high-road feminist, while Willis is a low-brow, all-around hater. During a later confrontation, Cat tries to appeal to her, “You and I got through you not supporting Hillary in 2008, we can get through this.” Cat and Supergirl work together to defeat the villain, but this might not be the last we see of Livewire.

Thanksgiving dinner with the Danvers women is supremely awkward and somewhat forced. The level of animosity built up between the over-articulate Eliza and stone-cold Alex is an unwelcome headache only relieved by Kara and Winn’s anxious, mediating banter.

The more compelling “mommy issues” of the hour center around Cat, who opens up to Kara about why she has such high standards — because of her own demanding matriarch. “In her mind, I have never lived up to my potential,” Cat confesses. “She was never satisfied with me, so I was never satisfied with myself.” Cat is sympathetic throughout the episode — taking responsibility for Livewire’s downward spiral, expressing a desire to learn more about Kara — to a degree that perhaps whittles down her hard edges a little too far, although the media mogul’s conscience has admittedly been present since the beginning of the show.

Last week’s installment teased some potential tension between Kara and Jimmy’s ex, Lucy, but their relationship barely progresses in this episode (probably a by-product of skipping an episode, since “How Does She Do It?” seemed to hint at more scenes between the women). Winn, the fourth corner of the love square, is completely adorable. He confesses to Kara at the end of the episode that his father is in prison (it’s OK, he’s a horrible man, we’re told) and says that he was just thankful to be invited to Thanksgiving dinner. He gives Kara a kiss on the cheek. Although this is a network show, is it so wrong to expect a little more action than cutesy flirting and sexual tension? These people are adults, after all.

At the end of the hour, we’re left with a Danvers family mystery. Through a series of flashbacks throughout the episode, and Eliza’s last-minute confession to Kara and Alex, we learn that Jeremiah Danvers, Eliza’s husband (played by ex-Superman Dean Cain), worked for the DEO under the supervision of Hank Henshaw — the same man who now supervises Alex — but supposedly died under mysterious circumstances. Could he still be alive? Who and what is Hank Henshaw? What is his plan, and what will the Danvers family have to do to stop it? Figuring it all out looks like a job for Supergirl.

“Supergirl” airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBS.

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