Supergirl Episode 4 ‘Livewire’ Recap
The fourth episode of CBS’s Supergirl introduces us to Livewire, a villain who can conduct and control electricity, and seems to be made of electric current herself, or at least can transform easily between that and a physical state. This may remind you of Electro, one of Spider-man’s core foes; indeed it’s hard to describe Livewire as anything other than a female Electro. Except in attitude. In most versions of Electro’s origin, he’s usually kind of down on himself and somewhat angry that he’s been transformed and blames others. Livewire, on the other hand, embraces her powers and doesn’t waste any time directing them on any nearby Kryptonians.
This Supergirl episode seems to be a direct adaptation of the original, so it seems only fitting that we compare the two. We’re pretty big fans of Superman the Animated Series; let’s see how Kara and company hold up against her cousin Kal.
Livewire starts out as an outspoken talk radio host named Leslie Willis, a “shock jock” in the style popularized by Howard Stern. In the original story, Leslie actually uses the nickname “Live Wire” on the air, and we see ads or posters using the name verbatim. In Supergirl, we see graphics in Leslie’s radio studio using the slogan “Alive and Wired”. The opening scenes here are really similar; we hear Leslie’s voice on the air, trashing Superman or Supergirl, and we see the goings-on of several different citizens, some clearly agreeing with the radio host’s point of view, while others aren’t so sure.
In each telling it’s lightning that transforms Leslie into Livewire. In Superman the Animated Series, Leslie is trying to hold an outdoor concert of sorts, during a dangerous electrical storm. In the interest of keeping civilians safe, Superman tries to convince Leslie to shut the event down. Ever defiant, she refuses, and soon thereafter, she’s blasted by a powerful bolt of lighting, which seems to be strengthened by the rain and the surrounding metal structures. Superman is nearby and he absorbs a signifiant amount of voltage. It’s enough to knock the wind out of him for a minute, but he gets right up. Leslie, though, is down for the count, her skin and hair turned white. Superman flies her off to the hospital.
In Supergirl, Leslie’s big mouth gets her assigned to traffic helicopter duty, and of course the weather gets in the way big time on her first flight out. Supergirl attempts to rescue Leslie from the falling copter, but just as she’s grabbing Leslie’s arm, a bolt of lighting strikes Supergirl, and she conducts the current through to Leslie, possibly altering its properties somehow along the way. This is an interesting wrinkle, as it at least offers a pseudo-scientific reason why the electricity might not fry Leslie, and why it might give Leslie enough power to at least put up a fight against Supergirl. And also, it gives her one more possible reason to have a beef with Supergirl.
Once she’s electrified, Leslie wakes up in the hospital, not yet realizing the extent to which she’s been affected. In Superman, Leslie blames her afflication on the man of steel, and when all the electric devices in the room start going berzerk, she quickly realizes that she has powers and promptly goes after him. In Supergirl, Leslie ditches the hospital at her first chance and doesn’t realize she has any powers until she has to fend of a creep in an alley. It’s then that she goes after not Supergirl, but Cat Grant, whom we’ve come to see as this show’s J. Jonah Jameson.
Of course, Supergirl is not far away and comes to Ms. Grant’s rescue and holds off Livewire temporarily. Once her team devices a strategy to contain Livewire’s energy in a capacitor, Supergirl draws Livewire out into an open public area. Livewire fashions a pair of whips out of electricity to battle Supergirl; this must have been intended as an homage to Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash in Iron Man 2, but it doesn’t feel right here. If you could just blast bolts out of your hands, why would you form ropes that you have to wind up and swing first?
In both Superman and Supergirl, it’s water that ultimately defeats Livewire. Superman dons a set of heavy rubber gloves in an attempt to overpower Livewire before she can run too much current through him, but she does herself in by blasting a hole in a nearby dam. And when Supergirl is unable to trap Livewire with her industrial capacitor, she rips a water main from underground and soaks her until she shorts out.
In each case, of course, Livewire is incapacitated, but not dead. In Superman, she’s in some sort of containment, and appears asleep until the last second when we see her eyes light up with electricity. In Supergirl, Livewire is lying in a puddle of water, but we still can see a few sparks in her fingers.
All in all, a fairly faithful adaptation of the original story. We would have liked to see a little more time spent developing the Livewire character and maybe a little more action. And less longing phone calls with Jimmy (sorry, James) Olsen. But hopefully we’ll see Livewire spark back to life soon.