With Arrow, The Flash and Gotham one can’t help but see that DC is having a much better time on the small screen then they’ve had on the big one. All three shows, with varying degrees of quality, have finally shown comic book fans that you don’t have to suck if you’re not Batman or Superman. Marvel has been kicking the crap out of them in theatres for quite some time, Nolanverse notwithstanding, but with the addition of Supergirl to the DC television lineup they’re certainly striving for dominance in this medium at least. But just how good is this new kid on the block?
The pilot opens with narration provided by Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) who tells how as Krypton readied itself for destruction Jor-El had placed baby Kal-El into a spaceship bound for Earth, but while Kal-El took off on his historic journey Kara’s mother rolled her own ship into launching position, and placed Kara in it so that she could go off to Earth to be Kal-El’s super powered babysitter.
Things do not go according to plan. When Krypton explodes a shockwave sends her ship into the Phantom Zone where time doesn’t pass, and while there she slept for twenty-four years. So when her ship was mysteriously jogged loose from the Phantom Zone she arrived on Earth only to find that her little baby cousin was now the most powerful being on the planet, but she was still a thirteen year old girl.
Wanting her to have the same wholesome normal life he did Superman drops her off with the Danvers family; Jeremiah Danvers (Dean Cain), Eliza Danvers (Helen Slater), and their daughter Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), to become their adopted daughter Kara Danvers. With Superman being Superman her mission to protect him is definitely off, but then what does a super powered Kyrptonian do with herself? The answer is the show’s first huge misstep, Kara tells us that, “Even though I had all the same powers he did I decided the best I could do is fit in. After all Earth didn’t need another hero.” Yes, because all crime and strife have been eliminated by Superman…oh wait, no it hasn’t. So instead of following in the footsteps of her cousin she decides to get a job fetching coffee for media mogul Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart). Now as Clark Kent Superman used his access to the Daily Planet to keep in touch with world events, but Kara here gets a job at CatCo. to be Ally McBeal’s lackey. With no real plans beyond that.
Question: What’s with the glasses? If she has decided that a normal life is the way to go why in the hell is she going with her cousin’s ridiculous disguise? Did her adoptive parents tell her to wear them just in case she changed her mind some time later in life? They messed up the same way back 1993 in Lois & Clark when it showed Dean Cain’s Clark Kent wearing glasses in Smallville prior to deciding to become Superman. Kyrptonians do not have bad eye sight, quite the opposite actually.
Much of the opening of this show is to set-up the Devil Wears Prada relationship Kara has with her boss, who is a callous and ruthless, and not someone you would put up with if you had the ability to lift a bus. The comedy in this first episode is very hit and miss, with them trying to make Kara into the same kind of cute awkward woman that Emily Bett Rickards plays on Arrow. It doesn’t work nearly as well here. We are treated to idiotic scenes like someone seeing her without her glasses on saying how pretty she is without them. Yeah, she’s a complete troglodyte when she has them on. That’s why she is reduced to finding men through online dating services, and is then almost immediately dumped by one for no Earthly reason. Comedy gold folks, and something I certainly want in my superhero show.
It’s while the douchebag is skipping out on her that Kara notices a news report of a plane in danger, and that’s when the episode started to give me hope. For a television show they don’t skimp on the action here, and unlike Smallville they don’t have a “No tights no flight” motto to adhere to. The sequence with Kara leaping into the sky to catch the crippled plane, and then guiding it down through the support structure of a bridge, is just damn impressive. Unfortunately after this awesome moment the show’s writers decided to kick us right in the junk with some of the most idiotic contrived conflict you will ever witness. After the rescue we find jubilant Kara back at her apartment, excited about her first foray into superherodom, but soon her sister Alex shows up to rain on her parade. Alex is pissed at Kara for revealing to the world that there is another being with powers like Superman’s, and practically reads her the riot act. Alex doesn’t even acknowledge the fact that she’d be dead if not for Kara, because she was on that flight. Kara doesn’t even get so much as thank you for saving her life.
Kara is shocked as I am at her sister’s reaction, but her defense only highlights the problem with the way her character has been written, she tells Alex that, “I didn’t travel two thousand light years just to be an assistant.” Um, wasn’t that you’re whole goddamn plan? It took seeing your sister’s plane in danger to realize that you could have spent the last ten years saving lives? *sheesh* It looks like the writers were trying to work a “Women’s Empowerment” angle in there, but you really can’t make a show about women’s empowerment when you central character can punch through a tank. She’s pretty much as powered as anybody, man or woman, can be. This just makes her come across as a colossal flake. Things get even stranger when the very next day she brings her co-worker Winslow “Winn” Schott (Jeremy Jordan) up to the roof of CatCo. and tells him that she is the girl who saved that doomed plane, and then jumps off the roof to prove it.
Winslow becomes her fashion guru and together they work on what her costume should look like, and they go from skimpy and ridiculous to basically Superman’s costume with a skirt. Not sure what she needed his help for, unless he has just mad sewing skills. Now this relationship actually could be fun, and their chemistry is pretty decent, but to have her just reveal her “Big Secret” that fast seemed rather bizarre, and really rushed. But that is a tiny nitpick compared to the next moment of complete stupidity when we see Supergirl rush off to fight an apartment fire, but is taken down by kryptonite darts and wakes up chained to a steel table in a secret underground base.
Sadly, Lex Luthor is nowhere to be found and the actual culprits are in fact much worse. Kara has been apprehended by the Department of Extra-Normal Operations (DEO), a secret government task force set-up to take on alien threats, and apparently they consider the relative of Earth’s Greatest Hero a threat. Maybe they are just being cautious, she could be some evil alien just dressing up as Superman and saving lives as part of some nefarious scheme, but wait is that Alex Danvers walking into the room? Kara’s sister is part of this agency that just shot her out of the sky? WTF? She let her co-workers shoot and chain up her sister? This is going to make for some awkward Thanksgiving dinners. The head of DEO is Hank Henshaw (David Harewood) and he informs Supergirl that after her ship escaped the Phantom Zone it somehow pulled a super-max space prison full of alien supervillains with it, and that for ten years there has been this secret war between these evil extra-terrestrials and the United States Government. A war kept secret from Superman for god knows what reason, not to mention the problems you’d have trying to keep a secret like that from a super-powered investigative journalist.
They also blame Kara for this alien problem as if a thirteen year old girl, unconscious in a ship she was stuffed into by her mother, could somehow be responsible for any of this. Worse, she agrees with them, and so we get mopey Kara for a while. She is released from her shackles, thanks sis, and is told to go back to fetching coffee. This whole scene is unbelievable stupid, Alex Danvers is first shown to be a kind sister, then suddenly she’s a total jerk when rescued from certain death, and then we find out she is part of a clandestine organization that considers Kara a threat to national security. I’ve heard of extreme cases of sibling rivalry, but this takes the cake. Eventually Alex realizes that a super powered sister may be beneficial in this fight, and after Kara’s one failed attempt at taking out an alien super villain, she convinces her boss to give her another shot.
Like I said the superhero elements in this show are really well done, but the structure of the show’s premise is just dreadful. The sister character does not make a lick of sense and is more unlikable than any of the villains we meet, but you can clearly tell that the show’s writers think this is come cool complex character they’ve created. They are sadly mistaken. On the other hand I really do like Melissa Benoist as Supergirl, and her scenes with former Daily Planet photographer James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) were nicely constructed and could lead to a fun romantic angle.
This show certainly has potential, and it’s nice to see another superhero show that embraces the genre, and stays out of the Nolanverse. The writers do have a tricky job of putting together stories that won’t have the viewers constantly wondering, “Why isn’t she calling her cousin for help?” and it’d be nice if the show was allowed to use Superman other than in backlit cameos, but that’s as likely as Batman showing up on Arrow or The Flash.