Television Tuesday :: on Supergirl

27 Oct

By drift partner.

So probably by this point, unless maybe you don’t go on the internet at all, you’ve heard about Supergirl. Supergirl is a pretty big deal: it is the first superhero TV show with a single headlining female lead in decades. (The WB had a show called Birds of Prey that aired for a single season in 2002 starring Black Canary, Huntress, and Oracle, but it was at best cheesy and pretty forgettable.) And it has been marketed so aggressively as being about a female character, and marketed towards women (but not, in my opinion, in a patronizing way), and I have seen so many friends and acquaintances – and strangers – express their excitement that a superhero show is for them. It’s incredible.

The pilot, which I snuck out of my cousin’s wedding reception to make it on time for, involves summarizing the origin story of Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) – or as she was known on Krypton, Kara Zor-El – who was sent to Earth along with her baby cousin Kal-El. Her pod got diverted into the Phantom Zone (basically the DC Universe’s ultimate form of jail), however, where she remained for years until it somehow escaped and landed on Earth. Now she tries to blend in, muddling along as an assistant to the CEO of a struggling newspaper and pretending she and Clark Kent have nothing in common. She has no interest in following in her cousin’s footsteps, until she has to save her sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) from a plane crash. Immediately the media is abuzz with footage and speculation about the girl who diverted a plane, and Kara is thrilled with her ability to do good. That is, until she finds out that not only is Alex working for the DC version of SHIELD, but when her pod returned from the Phantom Zone, it brought all the worst criminals in the universe with it. Shocked and filled with guilt, Kara resolves never to do anything as Supergirl again – until, of course, one of said criminals surfaces and starts menacing the city.

We’re given a good sense of who Kara is, as well as her supporting players. We see Kara’s idealism and desire to help people, to the point that maybe she’s a little unrealistic about it. We see her loyalty and her courage, and we see her step into the role that only she can fill. She’s close with Alex, until the reveal, and part of the sting of that scene is that Kara hadn’t told Alex that she was Supergirl out of a desire to protect her, but Alex had figured it out anyway. I am so on board for a series about sisters. Her vaguely antagonistic relationship with her boss, Cat Grant (Callista Flockhart), is interesting and we feel a lot of sympathy for Kara when Cat berates her for some dumb reason. She has a Team Supergirl in the form of Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan), who I cannot bring myself to like because he made a cringe-worthy lesbian joke and also he will eventually become the villain Toymaker, and James Olson (Mehcad Brooks), who has a meet-cute moment with Kara that made me clutch at my heart and fall over because it was so cute. The streak of TV heterosexual relationships with no chemistry has been broken!

That being said, it’s not perfect. The writers seem to have just discovered third-wave feminism and there’s an embarrassing speech from Flockhart’s character asking Kara what, exactly, is embarrassing about calling her Super“girl”. “I’m a girl! You’re a girl!” There are several bits like that peppered through it, as if the show can sense all the alleged feminist criticism coming its way and wants to preemptively disprove it. There are moments where the acting isn’t stellar – Benoist, much like her fellow Glee alum Grant Gustin (the titular Flash), is sincere and charming but occasionally delivers a clunky line or two. The CGI borders on comical at points. But there’s time to improve on those points, and more importantly, they didn’t take away too much of the delight I felt in seeing a network superhero show celebrate its female lead. Supergirl never takes itself too seriously; it revels in the fact that this girl can fly and lift a plane or a car. And that’s exactly the tone it needed to have. I couldn’t be more excited to see where it’ll go next.


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