The highly anticipated pilot episode of CBS’ new superhero series Supergirl is here! Illegally I might add. Somehow it found it’s way onto the net via a leak some 6 months before its November debut, fully edited, no discernible watermarks, and over a quarter million individuals have already seen it. Well. I kept my expectations very low with this one. The 6 minute ‘first look’ that was released last week did little to reel me in. But I was pleasantly surprised. This will contain spoilers.
This is one of the best first episodes I’ve seen in a long while, especially as superhero shows go. And yes, there’s a whole lot of super in it. My primary concern for the series was that it would be too much of a romantic comedy, as the initial trailer tried to heavily suggest it would be. And that’s still in there. It occasionally has a Devil Wears Prada feel to it, and within the context of the narrative it totally works. But that’s not all there is to the story either.
We meet Kara Zor-El as a child on Krypton, as she’s sent after Kal-El, her younger cousin, to earth, so as to protect him. The destruction of her home planet Krypton knocked her ship off course, and she was essentially left floating in the Phantom Zone for over 20 years. When she finally arrived on Earth, Kal had taken up the mantle of Superman, the most powerful being in the known universe, and she was left without purpose. Some years later she finds herself being the personal secretary to Cat Grant at the Tribune.
In many ways this story resonated so well with me because of the fact that it played off of the classic superman origin. She works for a newpaper. She’s lost her homeworld. Raised by a humble family. And although the character may not be nearly as tormented as Superman is himself, her moments of emotion, power, and loss are weighted alongside the man of steel in that they feel so darn human. Often, with the addition of a powerful soundtrack, I got slightly choked up. In many ways this was a better Superman storyline than Man of Steel was.
Apparently when her ship eventually found its way out of the Phantom Zone, it pulled with it Fort Rozz, a Kryptonian prison, which also landed on earth. She eventually encounters one of these Kryptonian prisoners, named Vartox, and he becomes the antagonist/cannon-fodder villain of no repute for the episode. Although the arrival of Fort Rozz creates a plethora of opportunities that the show can use as it moves forward with its first season, I can’t help but feel this will end up being a villain of the week scenario, in the vein of CW’s The Flash (who’s villains almost all derive from the same particle accelerator explosion that gave him his superpowers), or the first season of Smallville (of which all his villains ended up getting their powers from the meteorite radiation that came with Kal-El to the planet earth).
But as we’re comparing shows, Supergirl steers clear of Smallville heavily. Where it took Clark Kent an entire ten seasons to finally fly and put on his iconic suit, it only takes Kara about 20 minutes of her pilot episode to do so. And it is a nice suit. But that begs the question, how did she make it? We are to assume that it was her guy-friend/potential love interest Winslow Schott, who is given absolutely zero background aside from his obvious feelings towards Kara. Winslow Schott is based off the DC Comics villain Toyman, but I don’t think we’ll see that storyline play out until at least season two. He’s suspiciously good at making suits made to deflect bullets.
(And why would they mention in passing that Kara is unable to get pimples, when clearly she has a pock mark on her forehead? I mean, c’mon!)
Another potential issue with the series is that she has already revealed herself as Supergirl to the entire cast except for her boss Cat Grant. AND her sister Alex Danvers decides it’s okay to shout outside of her apartment about how it’s okay that she’s Supergirl, so it’s likely her entire building now also knows. This removes any potential secret revealing down the line, limiting story possibilities or drama that always seems to ensue big reveals. The big reveal with this series already appears to have happened, with her adoptive sister coming out as a secret agent. Why she kept this from her seems… silly. In fact, the entire organization she’s involved with seems to work more than a bit diabolically. They shoot her out of the sky with “low grade Kryptonite” and then proceed to treat Supergirl like dirt for the remainder of the episode. What was the point?
The casting and cameos throughout the pilot were spectacularly spot-on. Although both Gemma Atkinson and Claire Holt were considered to star as Kara Danvers, Melissa Benoist was a superb choice, being both quite pretty and an actress that commands attention. I loved Mehcad Brooks‘ portrayal of Jimmy Olsen, the overly charming photographer sent to watch over Kara. Although not nearly as surgically enhanced as her comic book counterpart, Calista Flockhart did an excellent job of bringing the snobbish Cat Grant to screen. Helen Slater (who played Supergirl in the 1984 film) and Dean Cain (who played Superman in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman series) make cameo appearances as Kara’s adoptive parents Sylvia and Fred Danvers, which brought a smile to my face.
Overall, Supergirl proves itself a worthy candidate for the ever-hungry superhero market. Although Greg Berlanti is the man running things production-wise, it’s unlikely this show will coincide with either Arrow or the Flash, as Superman simply does not exist in that universe, where he clearly does in this one. The only way I can see them getting around that issue is if the Flash breaks the continuum again and goes to a parallel earth. Which actually could work really well now that I think about it… And CBS actually owns the CW. So I guess we’ll have to wait and see if that’s in the cards. I look forward to seeing what this series has to offer, as it’s off to a great start.