Did the Supergirl premiere give us the hero National City deserves, or the one that it needs?
When Supergirl was first announced, I was definitely a bit mixed of opinion. It seemed at first that it would ride off of the popularity and success of Superman. After spending my time through the first episode in the series, I see now that I was right.
A Change in Origin
The show opens with a panning shot of the planet Krypton, while Kara-Zor-El herself narrates how she was sent to Earth shortly after her cousin Kal-El (Superman) to protect him. However, an unforeseen circumstance caused her ship to drift off into the Phantom Zone for 24 years. Eventually, she was able to leave the cosmic prison and landed on planet Earth. In that time though, Superman was already known and active – so she was left without a real purpose for being there. She was then taken by Superman to live with the Danvers, which included a grin-worthy cameo by Dean Cain (one of the many actors who has played the Man of Steel).
At face value, I like this change. In her comic debut, Kara was sent to Earth to be raised by her cousin, not to protect him. It’s also a nice touch how they added a nod to the Phantom Zone. It ultimately feels more reminiscent of the 1978 Superman as opposed to the recent Man of Steel, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Living the Normal Life
Like a lot of superhero tales, Kara decides very early on that she wants to live a normal life, except with one twist: she doesn’t want to use her powers at all. No alter ego, no vigilantism. Just a normal girl. So naturally, the first act is spent establishing what her life is like. She is an assistant who gets lattes for her incredibly uptight boss. She has some goofy co-workers, but that’s all you really need to know. To be honest, when time was spent at her day job, I forgot I was watching a superhero show and thought I had dragged myself into a stereotypical teen drama.
A Whole Different Breed of Hero
Despite having a slow first act, it doesn’t take long for Kara to take to the skies and embrace her powers. While having her sister’s plane come crashing down seemed like just an excuse for Kara to be a hero, it was satisfying to see her love every minute of it. She was very eager, and it was charming to see her get excited and bubbly once she saw herself on the news. Because the hero world is dominated by males, it was an endearing change to witness how Kara handled her heroics.
Often times, this led to some funny moments like when she told her friend about her powers just because she was upset that her loved ones seemed to shut her down about it. The writers definitely hit some good notes with their heroine as far as character traits go, and Melissa Benoist accomplishes this role in spades (or I guess in a red skirt).
I didn’t travel 2,000 light years to be an assistant.
While having a female superhero is definitely something that has been long overdue in the media, I believe that the writers definitely hit a little too on the nose at times with Supergirl. For instance, when Kara’s boss officially dubbed the “strong woman” as Supergirl, she threw a fit about how a more appropriate name would have been “Superwoman” and how using the word “girl” is pejorative.
The really funny thing, though, especially in a metatextual sense, is that with the show led dominantly by women, the men get pretty generic roles. They are all either potential love interests, or extremely authoritative and bull-headed. Hard to complain, given the abhorrent treatment female characters have been given (by and large) through the years, but if anything, maybe Supergirl will serve notice to the male-dominated Hollywood that has been underutilizing its female leads.
That being said, I liked this incarnation of Jimmy Olsen, even if he’s ultimately there to feed the connection between Kara and Superman without exactly having to bring the Man of Steel in himself.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Speaking of Superman, this brings me to one of the show’s biggest problems – it piggybacks off of him. Oh so many times do the characters make a reference to Superman or show a picture of him. It seems like the writers are trying really hard to give the mainstream audience something they’re familiar with. What results is a story where I long to see the Man of Steel appear more than Kara herself. A “grass is greener” scenario, maybe, but scarcity drives value.
Another one of the issues I have with this show is probably more of a personal preference, but I believe that they missed a huge opportunity by not including this show within the same universe as Arrow and The Flash. I think it would’ve given the show a lot more interest if Oliver Queen or Barry Allen showed up for a moment to give Kara a nice pep talk. It would’ve helped ground the show in a universe we already know and love, and Supergirl would’ve been all the better for it. There really is no reason why it shouldn’t operate in the same world, considering the producers of both of the CW hits were helping with this show.
Flying, Lasers, and Explosions, Oh My!
The producers for Supergirl definitely had their work cut out for them. Because she has all the same powers as Superman, they were definitely not going to get away with not using special effects. And I’ll admit, I was mostly impressed with the end result. It all looked believable (apart from a few moments in her confrontation with the villain Vartox), and there was also a jaw-dropping moment where she stands in front of a moving truck, punches it with her fist, and the vehicle just explodes. Moments like this that make me excited for what kind of effects they’ll use in upcoming episodes.
Supergirl is not nearly as bad as everybody thought it was going to be, nor was it as good as I had hoped it could be. With what the writers were working with, they definitely handled it very well. The end result is a show that feels slightly campy and dramatic, but is a reasonably entertaining ride and has a lot of heart. Benoist is charming to watch as the title character, but she’s the only character I found worth paying attention to. Here’s hoping that it will get better as it progresses, and that someday, we could see her team up with the Green Arrow himself.
What did you guys think? Did you enjoy Supergirl? Let us know in the comments, or drop us a line on Twitter at @NewRockstars!