TV Review: SUPERGIRL (Season 1) – Steadies Itself After A Rocky Start
‘Supergirl‘ was born on CBS, from the mastermind behind the ‘Arrow’-verse on The CW. With a rocky start, the freshman show has been picked up for Season 2. However, the renewal will happen on The CW instead of CBS, thereby coming to the same network as other DC characters based shows that all exist in the same fictional universe with one another. So let’s take a look at the highs and lows of the new show.
Here is my Review of Season 1 of ‘Supergirl‘ by Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg.
A teenage girl is sent on a space ship to follow the ship of her young cousin, as they both depart from their doomed planet of Krypton to Earth. However, after getting caught in a black hole, she arrives years later, when her cousin has already become Superman. Growing up in his shadow, and having to hide her powers all her life, an accident causes her to reveal herself to the world as its new superhero, Supergirl.
This is how the series modifies the origin story of Superman to include his cousin and her own adventures. The series constantly has to tow the line between including Superman, but not letting him overshadow the main character. While this was my biggest concern with the show in the beginning, (what’s the point of a Supergirl, if a Superman already exists) the writers are able to keep things pretty balanced.
One thing that is off putting though, is Superman’s depiction as Clark Kent (played by Tyler Koechlin in Season 2) in the story. Having been adopted by a different family, Supergirl, (known to everyone else as Kara Danvers) never grew up with Clark; which is fine. But apparently, Clark has been completely absent from her life, and more importantly, in her struggles to control her powers, which obviously affected her sense of self and identity, and feelings of isolation at not having her family. All of which Clark Kent has gone through himself, which would make you assume that his compassionate nature would cause him to support this new found family member who is going through the same adolescent trials and tribulations. But apparently not.
‘Arrow‘ is considered to be the veteran show for all of these others, part of The CW’s ‘Arrow-verse‘.
— Review of ‘Arrow‘ Season 4
The first season of ‘Supergirl‘ is very much a freshman season. The show struggles quite a bit in its initial episodes to gain footing and getting a rhythm for what it should be. Ultimately though, the storylines solidify and a clear cut premise is established. Dealing with the fall out of a Kryptonian prison ship landing on Earth same time as her own ship, Kara soon discovers how involved her adoptive family has been in keeping her powers a secret from the world.
After becoming Supergirl, Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) works with her sister Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) for the Department of Extra-normal Operations. The formula of the first season is capturing alien fugitives who have been running amok on Earth from the crashed prison ship, who may be part of a bigger scheme. Kara also has to deal with people from her past in Krypton, while attempting to win the trust of people on Earth as their newest hero.
Season 1 is very much about that core theme acceptance that we’ve often seen in Superman stories, (most recently depicted in ‘Batman V. Superman’) echoed in Supergirl; acceptance by the people of Earth and reconciling her new role as a savior, and the various other roles in all her relationships as Kara. It’s almost an allegory of the nature of women in general, and the different things that one woman needs to be to all the people in her life.
In that sense, creator and showrunner Ali Adler creates ‘Supergirl’ for a very specific audience, while still having it appeal to everyone. Addressing the lack of a comic book super hero show led by a female character, there are elements of ‘Supergirl’ that are deliberately empowering for women, but more importantly, young girls. This happens most notably through Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) who is Kara’s boss and a strong willed, outspoken and successful woman. Through Cat, the writers point out a lot about today’s society and how women are treated much differently than men; but they do this without being bitter or mean spirited about it.
‘The Flash‘ is the series that features the most emotional depth, optimism and a slow drip form of storytelling of other CW shows.
— Review of ‘The Flash’ Season 2
Addressing the major criticism that the show is for women only, in similar vein of a soap opera, I would urge everyone to remember ‘Smallville‘. One of the first ever (highly successful) superhero TV adaptations, which still featured many frustrating story arcs involving unrequited love, silly misunderstandings and formulaic storytelling that is still very prevalent in other CW shows like ‘Vampire Diaries’. And ‘Smallville’ was about a male character. So those critiques about ‘Supergirl’ seem unfair and misguided.
‘Supergirl‘ as whole does have conventional elements of a love triangle, family drama, and sharing of feelings and emotions, but what show doesn’t? Yes, this show is a lot more overt in the depiction of these plot points, however the good definitely outweighs the bad. Unlike other shows that exploit relationship drama, the eagerness of the makers and cast of ‘Supergirl‘ convey a sense of genuine intention to tell the stories of this character, instead of dragging out as much mileage from a plot point for a certain number of episodes as possible.
Other traditional conventions are gender swapped in ‘Supergirl as well. And while it may not be the most creative thing ever, it’s refreshing to see male versions of the cute girl who is friend-zoned such as Winn, (Jeremy Jordan) or ambitious crush with model-like good looks, struggling to prove he is more than a pretty face such as (a race swapped) James Olson. (Mehcad Brooks) It’s fun and provides an alternative to the conventional portrayals of these character archetypes on television.
‘Legends Of Tomorrow’ is far beyond comparison to the shows with emotional substance such as its predecessors on The CW.
— Review of ‘Legends Of Tomorrow’ Season 1
As an engaging show, ‘Supergirl‘ does amazing things with characters we’ve already seen multiple times, but in new incarnations. The inclusion of Martian Manhunter (David Harewood) as a father figure to both Kara and her adoptive sister Alex, is heartwarming, especially when the character’s own tragic back story is considered. The sibling rivalry between Kara and Alex, whose entire career is based on being an alien’s adoptive sister, add layers to the relationships in the show, that can be a well the writers return to often.
The show also has enough nostalgic elements that a Berlanti show falls back on, such as bringing former live action Supergirl Helen Slater in as Kara’s adoptive mother, and Dean Cain of ‘Lois And Clark: The Adventures of Superman’ as her adoptive father. Cain may even have a bigger role in Season 2 of the show.
Season 2 of ‘Supergirl’ airs on The CW in Fall 2016.
What did you think of the debut of the ‘Supergirl’ series?
Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @theshahshahid