Kara Zor-El, better known to us Earthlings as the cousin of the most famous son of Krypton, had her own (let’s be honest) horrible movie in the 1980s and she showed up for a season or two on the CW drama Smallville, but now, albeit quietly, she has her own on-going series on CBS.
The character has been around since 1958, so this isn’t a “modern diversity” token in the comic book realm. She is an established character, whose death (she got better) in the 1980s limited series “Crisis on Infinite Earths” gave us one of the most memorable comic covers of all time. So all of that should entrust that this character absolutely deserves her own show. But the real question on everyone’s mind… is Supergirl a good show? – Read on to find out for yourselves!
The basic plot of the show is that a pre-teen Kara was sent by her parents to follow and protect her cousin, Kal El (you may know him as Superman) right before their home planet Krypton exploded. As her ship chased after her cousin’s ship on a path towards Earth, the blast from Krypton threw her off course and into the Phantom Zone where time stood still for her. Years later, her ship was able to break free and she finally crash landed on Earth, where her now grown and older cousin found her and took her to a foster family (played by former “Lois & Clark” Superman Dean Cain and former Supergirl Helen Slater). Now the mid-20s Kara (played by Melissa Benoist) reveals herself to the public when a plane her adopted-sister is on is in danger of crashing, and the rush and joy encourages her to follow in her cousin’s footsteps. But this also brings unwanted attention from a secret government organization ran by Hank Henshaw (you may remember him from the comics as the Cyborg Superman) who tells her that when her ship escaped from the Phantom Zone it also pulled with it a prison ship that was being held there, which also crash landed on Earth letting an entire population of alien criminals loose. And her biological mother was the one who put all of the prisoners away, so they don’t like Kara and have a personal vendetta against her. And with a few twists and turns and reveals that I won’t say to prevent major spoilers, that is the plot of the pilot and the set up for the on-going series.
First, the production values of the pilot were noticeably high and made for enjoyable fight scenes. Ever since CW’s The Flash television series (the same producers work on both shows, by the way), I’m starting to get spoiled that superhero television shows should actually show superpowers occasionally (unlike what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to be doing). So the super-strength, the flight, and the heat vision were all impressively realized in the first episode. The worst thing that they could’ve done was to make large portions of the action off screen, but they instead decided to create a fun and exciting little action series. So high marks for that. It’ll be interesting if budget and time constraints prohibit such production values in the future, though.
The actors involved in the show are also all talented. I immediately connected with and enjoyed most of the cast. The actress playing Supergirl is very likable and it is understandable why Jeb Bush said what he said about her even if it was a bit weird and creepy (in political fairness, he just beat Joe Biden to the punch). But her joy of flying and being a superheroine is well captured and helps you quickly relate and enjoy the character. The casting of Jimmy Olsen does bother me a bit, and not for the typical “internet racism” reason. I don’t mind that Jimmy (they call him “James”) is now black, but I do mind that he is very attractive and buff. Jimmy is supposed to be the nerdy kid’s mirror in the Superman universe. He’s supposed to represent that the strongest man (or for this show woman) on the planet isn’t too cool to be best friends with a frail little geeky guy. Maybe that position is supposed to be taken over by the unrequited infatuation of her co-worker played by Jeremy Jordan who does what is required for the role, and most that is due to the limitations of his space in the script. Or maybe, you just cast a NEW role rather than try to recreate and “update” such an iconic one. The only cast member who I did not like at all was Calista Flockhart who I’ve never really liked in anything. When she calls herself pretty in the middle of the pilot episode I inadvertently said out loud “No you aren’t.” But maybe you think she is, and that;s okay, it’s all just my opinion here.
The writing on the show has the largest potential to be this show’s biggest downturn. While the plot and direction seem solid for the series, and touches of humor from various characters are appropriate, there is a melodramatic plot-line between the Kara and her adopted sister that could get old rather quick. Everything to do with this subplot is clichéd and embarrassingly over emotional for no reason (and apparently is completely resolved by the end of the pilot episode). And this may just be the way the sister character is written, because even when she is interacting with others the lines surrounding those scenes are corny and trite and nothing people say in real life. If those sections of the series don’t get better writing it may be difficult for me to continue watching the series. It really is the worst kind of dialogue from day-time television. Apart from that, the obvious girl-power overtones could turn off some of the insecure male viewers, but as a male viewer myself I think it’s a strong and needed message for young girls. I constantly thought throughout the pilot episode that I’m glad something like this was on television and available if my young niece becomes interested in this genre.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, Supergirl is a pretty enjoyable little family superhero drama. It has the fun overtone that is also part of what makes The Flash such a great comic book show. Also like The Flash, it sets up a reliable delivery system for a weekly superhuman fight, so if that’s what you are interested in and what you enjoyable about The Flash, I think this may be another show for you. This is just the pilot I’m discussing here, mind you, so just like other series that started with a great pilots (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and CW’s Arrow) it has as much likelihood of also becoming as dull and repetitive as those shows. But based on this first episode, I honestly think it is a show worth trying out. If it can find slightly more solid footing on the few issues I had, it could become a truly great superhero television series. – 7.0/10
Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine