Starring: Melissa Benoist, Mehcad Brooks, Chyler Leigh, Jeremy Jordan, David Harewood, Calista Flockhart
Directed by: Carious
Written by: Various
Running Time: 877 Minutes
Prior to receiving the first season of Supergirl on blu-ray to review, the only two episodes I had seen were the pilot and the crossover with the Flash. As it turns out those may very well have been the worst two episodes of season and if you were to judge the series based on those two alone your opinion, like mine, would not have been overly positive. But a funny thing happened on the way to a scathing review…namely the other 18 episodes and I am here to say that Supergirl…isn’t that bad!
Now the series had some things working against it from the beginning. First off, elements in the progressive media foisted undue expectations upon the series and the character as a standard bearer for modern feminism and the ill-conceived narrative that there was some injustice directed towards young girls that they didn’t have a superhero of their own to admire. And in point of fact the writers try to pound this point home several times in the pilot in ham-handed fashion. Secondly, let’s face it…CBS isn’t exactly known for being a hip network when it comes to Superhero/action and adventures shows.
The premise behind the show is that Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) was sent to Earth from Krypton as a 12-year-old by her parents to protect her infant cousin Kal-El, and that she, like her cousin, would have extraordinary powers under Earth’s yellow sun.
En route to Earth, Kara’s pod was forced into the Phantom Zone, where it stayed for 24 years. During this period, time stopped for Kara so she still appeared to be a 13-year-old girl when the spacecraft crash landed on Earth, while Kal-El had already grown up and became Superman. After helping her out of the craft, Superman took Kara to be adopted by his friends, the Danvers family. The series begins a decade later when the now 24-year-old Kara is learning to embrace her powers after previously hiding them. Fort Rozz, a Kryptonian prison also escaped the phantom zone and crashed on Earth, leaving numerous alien criminals and Kryptonian rebels running free.
Among these Kryptonians are Kara’s aunt Astra and her husband, Non, who become the first season’s main protagonists in their attempts to conquer the planet. But surprisingly, Supergirl doesn’t just dip her toe into the deep end of DC Comics lore but rather it dives in head first, presenting as many if not more characters from DC comics than even Arrow or The Flash. Kara gets a job as an assistant to media Mogul Cat Grant (Flockhart) and meets photo journalist James Olsen who already has a close relationship with Superman.
Throughout the 20 episode first season the writers give fans a dizzying array of heroes and villains from the comics including The Red Tornado, T.O. Morrow, The Toyman, Bizarro, Silver Banshee, Maxima, Indigo (aka Brainiac 8), Vartox, Reactron, Livewire, and Cameron Chase. One of the episodes, “For the Girl Who Has Everything” is an adaptation of a well-known Superman story written by Alan Moore as Supergirl is infected by an alien plant which makes her believe she is living peacefully on Krypton.
Two of the major characters that appear in the series are J’onn J’onzz aka the Martian Manhunter who in his disguise as Hank Henshaw, leads the DEO (Department of Extra-Normal Operations). There is also tech mogul Maxwell Lord who is sometimes an ally and at other times a devious foe. Kara’s adoptive parents are portrayed by Helen Slater and Dean Cain who of course played Supergirl and Superman in film and on TV.
Melissa Benoist, who had been best known for her role in the TV musical series “Glee” steps into the role of Kara/Supergirl and channels the “aw shucks” innocence of Christopher Reeve. It’s a far different approach than the more aggressive style that Laura Vandervoort portrayed when she played the role in “Smallville”. Vandervoort has a recurring role playing the villainous Indigo. Flockhart shines as the domineering, self-absorbed media queen who proves she has a heart of gold. David Harewood is also tremendous as Hank Henshaw/J’onn J’onzz, perfectly capturing the quiet strength and dignity of the last survivor of Mars.
Superman is mentioned many times in the series but seen only a couple of times in brief shots. There was a concerted effort to not make this about Superman and in one case, the Man of Steel even falls pretty to a Kryptonian mind control device and has to be rescued by his cousin.
The series has better visual effects than you might expect and the battles between Supergirl and some of her other super-powered foes are well-done. It will be interesting to see if the quality will remain as high when the series moves to CW for the second season. And the move to the CW, while certainly ensuring it will get a smaller audience is still the best thing for the series.
Yes Supergirl can be cheesy and preachy at times but it can also be exciting and spirited and truly heroic. If your only exposure was the two episodes I mentioned at the start of this review do yourself a favor and give the entire series a shot.
The Man from Mars – A featurette looking at The Martian Manhunter
A World Left Behind: Krypton – A look at the design of Krypton
Supergirl 2015 Comic Con Panel