Supergirl: Season 1, Episode 16 - "Falling"

Gregory L. Reece

A little dose of red kryptonite does just exactly what it's supposed to: makes Supergirl vulnerable in a far more human way.


Airtime: Mondays, 8 pm
Subtitle: Season 1, Episode 16 - "Falling"
Network: CW
Air date: 2016-03-14

Kryptonite was introduced to the Superman Family mythology in 1943, not in the pages of DC Comics but as a part of the radio serial, The Adventures of Superman. Kryptonite, radioactive fragments of Superman's home planet of Krypton, has been central to Superman stories ever since. Although kryptonite’s been put to a lot of uses through the years by the countless storytellers who have helmed the adventures of Superman, Superboy, and Supergirl, its primary purpose has always been to bring a touch of vulnerability to the otherwise invincible characters. Kryptonite robs Kryptonians of their superpowers.

Lex Luthor has used kryptonite time and again to, temporarily at least, defeat his old enemy Superman. Batman wears a chunk of it in a ring just in case he has to take down his old friend. Radio, television, movie, comic strip, and comic book writers have relied on it to try and find ways to make stories about an invulnerable character interesting, as well as to make the threats faced by the god-like superheroes from Krypton seem somewhat challenging.

Kryptonite has to be handled carefully, however, or else it can quickly turn into nothing more than a gimmick for writers looking for an easy storyline. Silver Age Superman Family comic books are filled with cases like this. In those days, Kryptonite proliferated to the point that the classic green version of the element was just one of many. In addition to green kryptonite, there was also blue kryptonite, white kryptonite, gold kryptonite, silver kryptonite, red kryptonite, and every conceivable mash-up of those primary forms. Each version of kryptonite worked in different ways, and produced different effects on Superman/Superboy and his cousin Supergirl.

Sometimes the utter madness of the kryptonite frenzy produced something weird and wonderful enough to be memorable. Red kryptonite was particularly good at this. Unlike green kryptonite, which pretty reliably robbed Kryptonians of their super powers, red kryptonite tended to have less consistent effects. In one case, Superman was rendered vulnerable on only the left side of his body; in another, Superman was transformed into a Super-ant-man with the head of an ant. Red kryptonite has been used to split Superman into two beings -- one an evil Superman, the other a good Clark Kent -- a split that’s been reused many times throughout the years. (The ant-head Superman is one of the greatest things ever, although it’s not as good the lion head Superman, a condition that, alas, was not caused by red kryptonite but by a magical curse.)

It was all pretty stupid. And wonderful.

The CW's Supergirl has already made good use of kryptonite in its first season. There's the traditional green-K, of course, which is life-threatenting to Kara (Melissa Benoist) and her Kryptonian kin. We've also seen blue-K; in this case, a version of the element created by the D.E.O. to capture Bizarro Supergirl. This week, finally, it's red-K's time to shine.

Instead of transforming Kara into an ant queen or giving her two heads, red-K makes Kara sullen and angry. She gives up her red and blue costume for a black jump suit and decides to be mean and nasty to her family and friends. The episode is clearly meant as a tribute to the dreadful Superman III (1983), in which exposure to kryptonite brings out the dark side of Christopher Reeve's Superman. It also comes off as more than a little reminiscent of 2007's Spider-Man 3, in which Tobey Maguire's wall-crawler dons a black suit and temporarily turns into a jerk.

Fortunately, Benoist pulls off the change better than Reeve and Maguire did, and successfully transforms the nerdy Kara into a sexy, arrogant, and volatile character. She comes on strong to her love interest James (Mehcad Brooks), drops Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) from her office window, calls her sister's (Chyler Leigh) motives into question, and -- in a bit of commentary on one of the traps a show like this can easily fall into -- turns her back on the boring and generic alien-of-the-week.

Benoist shows a good bit of range in this episode. Her red kryptonite-inspired villain manages to avoid the camp that usually accompanies this sci-fi trope, and her redemption and contrition is marked by some realistic complications. Relationships were damaged by her behavior; the status quo is shaken. Her apologies sound like the apologies given after a night of drinking, and are met by the gracious but wounded responses that such apologies sometimes elicit. Kara wasn’t in control of herself when under the influence of red-K, but that doesn’t mean that she didn’t hurt those she loves.

I'll admit that I would have liked to have seen a little more of the Silver Age red kryptonite, just as I would have liked to have seen more of the fun Silver Age Bizarro when blue kryptonite came on the scene a few weeks back. An ant-head on Benoist's Supergirl might have been too much, I admit, but I'm still looking for this show to hit a few more lighthearted beats.

That being said, however, "Falling" is an excellent installment of this always-entertaining series. This little dose of red kryptonite does just exactly what kryptonite was always supposed to do. It makes Supergirl vulnerable. Not vulnerable to fists and bullets, mind you, but vulnerable in a far more human sense: to broken hearts and misplaced anger and feelings of inadequacy and regret, and to the dangers of life and love.

Kryptonite, somehow, always managed to make Superman seem like a bigger hero by making him more human. In "Falling", red kryptonite has the same effect on Supergirl.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.