Some spoilers ahead.
The freshman season of CBS’s Supergirl came in for a landing last Monday night (4/18/16) and it certainly had some super things in its first 20 episodes. (Anyone else notice that even in the traditional shows, the seasons frequently aren’t a full 22 episode order anymore?) While a renewal of season 2 isn’t a lock yet, most insiders believe that the next chapter of adventures for Kara Zor-el will be announced at the CBS upfronts on May 18.
Overall, I enjoyed the first season. It had a few episodes that didn’t quite hit the mark, including the final episode “Better Angels”, which I though was a little thick on schlock and heartfelt speeches, and light on compelling action. That being said, every at bat can’t be a homerun.
Taken in it’s totality, Supergirl had a lot of great things going for it. The casting, for one, was excellent. In particular, Melissa Benoist was an excellent choice for the Woman of Steel. They chose to play the character as nerdy, and sweet, and self-effacing, lacking the confidence and sometimes arrogance of the traditional superhero. Benoist did great. She was adorable in the moments where she discovered something new about her powers or about just revealing herself to the public. Yet, when she needed to be all superheroy, she turned it on.
One of my favorite episodes of the year was “Falling”, where Supergirl was exposed to Red Kryptonite and became the opposite of our Supergirl. Arrogant, hurtful ultra-sexy. Benoist did an outstanding job of being someone new. It was a great showcase of just how good this actress is. She certainly has great depth.
Veteran actress Calista Flockhart delivered every week, as media maven and Kara’s mentor/foil, Cat Grant. Her interpretation was fun and always dealt up a laugh, or a rare moment of humanity when needed.
One of the most fun elements of the casting was the inclusion of Helen Slater as Kara’s mother, and Laura Vandervoort, as the living supercomputer Indigo, both of which are actresses who have played Supergirl before. Also included in the cast was Dean Cain, who played Clark Kent and Superman in the series The Adventures of Lois and Clark in the mid 1990’s. Lots of Kryptonian experience there.
From a scripting standpoint, again, Supergirl had some wins and some losses. They used a combination of the villain of the week method coupled with a few longer story arcs. The most prominent of the longer arcs included Astra, Supergirl’s aunt and twin sister of her Kryptonian mother. Kara’s mother had imprisoned Astra and her followers in Fort Rozz, a high security prison space station, that because of the explosion that ended Krypton, also ended up on Earth. Astra and her pals were essentially just advanced eco-terrorists, whose only concern was saving Krypton, and then Earth, and were willing to do anything to achieve their goal, including destroying the inhabitants of Earth. Astra, played by Laura Benanti, ends up dying at the hand of Kara’s Earth sister Alex, played by Chyler Leigh, and a really cool Kryptonite sword. That changes the game for Astra’s husband, Non, played by Chris Nance, who becomes the season long foe of Supergirl. This story line plays out until the last episode when he and Kara finally go head to head…and it’s actually head to head as they battle with their laser vision. This, the longest of the story arcs, was pretty well developed over the course of the season and came to a satisfying conclusion, unless you are Non and Indigo.
While much lighter than its DC TV counterparts, this show did have a moment or two of darkness. At one point, while the people of National City are under the control of Non’s Myriad device, he makes 4 people, 3 of Kara’s closest friends, and another unknown character, jump off the top of Catco’s skyscraper, knowing that she cannot save them all. And of course, she doesn’t. Much darker than the usual weekly episode.
Sadly, while the final episode brought an end to the Non, Astra, Indigo story arc, it was definitely not one of the best. While it ended with some nice action sequences, the episode was filled with over the top schmaltz. People running around talking about (and broadcasting) messages of hope to break the mind control spell named Myriad that Non and Indigo had cast over National City. I would have been more likely to believe it if someone crop dusted them with something instead of just talked about goodness, and hope, and apple pie.
Some of the other shorter story arcs are a little less developed. In the Red Kryptonite episode that turns Kara into the bad girl Supergirl, it ends with her champion, Cat Grant going on TV and announcing that Supergirl is a menace and she should not be trusted. To be fair, Supergirl had just tossed Cat off the top of her building. Like I said earlier, I thought that episode “Falling”, was one of the best episodes of the season. The problem was that the resolution of “don’t trust Supergirl” was completely rushed. It happened two episodes later in the Flash crossover episode while the two heroes battle Livewire and Silver Banshee. Supergirl flies up to put herself between a few gazillion volts and the citizens of National City, and then the crowds run out to surround Supergirl, who has been shocked to the ground. The good men of the National City Fire Department hose down Livewire and then extend a hand to help Supergirl back to her feet. Blah. I actually loved the episode as a whole. Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist have a history on Glee, and the primary goal of this episode was cute fun between the two. Mission accomplished. Even the two baddies were quite good. It was just the inclusion of the “OK, we forgive you, Supergirl” resolution that was overly schlocky with a sprinkling of “Oh, gag me, please”.
The other fun character, Maxwell Lord, billionaire tech genius, played by Peter Facinelli, is also well done. From week to week you don’t know whether he is a good guy or a bad guy. Sometimes he jumps right in and does the right thing, and others, he rivals Lex Luthor in the self-serving psychopath department. It’s enjoyable to not know which Max you are going to see in any given episode.
The rest of the regulars do a fine job of supporting characters. I loved Mehcad Brooks in the USA series Necessary Roughness, and I think he’s doing a fine job as Jimmy…..um….James Olsen. David Harewood also does a good job of playing the J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter and DEO Director, Hank Henshaw.
The final thing that bears mentioning is what I consider to be one of the worst elements of the show. There is no doubt that the show has its hands tied with how it can deal with Superman. Warner Brothers owns the rights and they aren’t giving in. Thus far we’ve had blurred out images of Superman, regular instant messaging between Kara and Clark, and the absolute worst was the final episode, where the Man of Steel was represented by a pair of red boots laying on a hospital gurney multiple times throughout the season finale. Superman’s boots…in a coma….for almost an entire episode. Nope. Buzzzzzzz. Wrong answer. Assuming that Supergirl returns for a second season, this is a plot point that they desperately need to fix. Either figure it out, or make up an excuse in the few times he needs to come help as to why he can’t, but coma boots and blurred vision is definitely out.
Overall, it was a good show. It is another prime example of my belief that DC owns the small screen when it comes to live-action superhero stuff. They are much better than Marvel on TV. Is Supergirl the best superhero TV show? Certainly it is near the top of my list. When given the choice between Supergirl and Gotham, which I also enjoy, I always took Supergirl first and watched Gotham later on demand. When I look at the other shows and their themes – Arrow‘s “Oliver can never be happy for too long because he’s kind of a dick” or Flash‘s “Here a speedster there a speedster every where a speedster speedster” or Gotham‘s – well, Gotham’s just full goose bozo from one episode the the next, or Agents of SHIELD, which, I always find myself doing something else while the episode is on, or DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, which is just finally getting some legs, when I look at all those shows on network television, yeah, I think Supergirl is right there at the top. Yes, I know I left Daredevil and Jessica Jones out. Love them both, but they aren’t constrained by network TV rules and such, so they are in a class by themselves.
I look forward to a second season, and to more adventures of Kara and her crew. A few episodes before the end of the season, J’onn J’onzz had a vision that Kara and Alex’s father (Dean Cain) was still alive. In the final episode a Krytonian escape pod, identical to Kara’s, crash landed in National City. The search for dad and who was in that pod will be the story lines for a second season.
+ Melissa Benoist was a great choice to play Kara Zor-el. She has great range and is awesome in the nerdy role of Kara Danvers, and fun to watch as she discovers and develops her powers.
+ Good ensemble cast. Characters are likable and work well together.
+ Lighter feel is fun.
+ Writing is mostly good, and there is a good use of both long and short story arcs.
– Some plot lines are rushed or resolved poorly.
– Superman. Ugh. Negotiate a way to use him, or cut him loose completely.
What’s your thoughts? You enjoying Supergirl? If it’s not the best superhero show on network TV, what is? Leave a comment below.
If you liked that, you might like these:
The Geekiverse Show – Marvel v DC: George Clooney is the Best Batman?