Supergirl Season 1 Review

Admittedly, when the show was first announced, I was sceptical. 

I wasn’t really sure that Supergirl was a character strong enough to headline her own show; something akin to having a Robin show, with Batman off in the background somewhere. My main worry, really, was that Supergirl herself would simply end up being overshadowed by Superman, with the constant question of just where he was looming over the show, and a lot of the audience a more interested in him anyway. 

(It seemed to me a better idea to simply start from the ground up and reinvent the Superman mythos with “Clara Kent”, but I digress.)

Nonetheless, I was still quite interested in seeing where the series would go - the first teaser trailer, while at times a little rough, seemed quite promising to me, particularly given this was our first . I was drawn to the optimism of it - something that, to me, had felt lacking from the current cinematic interpretation of Superman. (I have something of a complex relationship with Man of Steel.) Of course, it was this first trailer that was met with a fairly resounding negative response, with a lot of people decrying it for perceived similarities to a romcom. Personally, I thought that had the potential to be a pretty interesting take - it was using the trappings of a romcom, but saying that the best thing to do in those situations isn’t to pursue romance, but become a superhero. So, you know, something potentially new and interesting.

And when it came down to it, I actually really enjoyed the show! 

At the time, I think I described it as one of the more confident openings to a DCTV program - it seemed clear to me that the producers and writers had learned a lot from the mistakes and weaknesses of early episodes of Arrow and The Flash, and then built from that to give us a pretty strong premiere. I’m not sure if I would necessarily still stand by that, in hindsight - I’d need to do a rewatch of all three shows, and pay a fair bit more attention - but I absolutely enjoyed the show from the beginning. I know the recieved wisdom is that it wasn’t really very good up until around the 7th episode, and while I’d agree that the episodes got better after that point, I certainly wouldn’t have said the early episodes were bad either.

I think the standout strength of the series is Melissa Benoist - and I’m certainly not alone in highlighting this. She’s absolutely perfect for the role of Kara, having created a character who’s genuinely endearing and a delight to watch. More than that, though, she really captures that bright and cheerful optimism that, to my mind, is so essential for a hero. Of course, Benoist isn’t limited to just charming awkwardness - she has real range as an actress, which goes a long way towards depicting Kara as a nuanced, three dimensional character. Something a lot of people picked up on was her ability to quite convincingly convey rage; the scenes where Kara, or Supergirl, is angry are typically quite effective.

It’d be remiss of me not to mention the wonderful supporting cast, of course. Lots of good things there really; Kara’s relationship with Alex was a regular highlight, as were her interactions with Cat Grant. Calista Flockhart is a gift, and I’m so glad she’ll be back next year. The show wouldn’t really be the same without her. I also enjoyed the guest appearances from Helen Slater as Eliza Danvers, and Peter Facinelli as Maxwell Lord; Lord in particular was someone who I felt has a lot of potential for the future, and I’d like to see him developed further. Jimmy - or rather, James - Olsen was also an entertaining character; I particularly liked his plotlines regarded journalistic integrity and his moral values. As to his relationship with Kara… admittedly, I have no strong opinions on it either way; I’ve largely liked how they handled things, and I’m interested enough in seeing where it goes, but I’m not hugely attached to the couple. I suppose one of the benefits that Supergirl has over something like Arrow or The Flash is that there’s not really any ‘set endgame’ relationship - no Iris West, no Laurel Lance, no Lois Lane - which gives them more freedom to play around with things than they might have otherwise.

My personal favourites, though, were Winn and Hank Henshaw. I was really impressed by how Supergirl handled the “friendzone” arc with Winn, showing him dealing with his feelings in a fairly mature way, and then getting to the point where he could be friends with Kara again properly. The friendship between the pair of them was pretty cool in general really - certainly one of the better ones depicted on superhero TV across this past year. My appreciation for Hank is, admittedly, a little less sophisticated - I just really, really like the Martian Manhunter. The character has been a personal favourite of mine for many years, and it was hugely exciting to see him on screen - particularly played by David Harewood, an actor who I quite like generally anyway. I’m hoping that the move to the CW next year doesn’t significantly hamper our time with him; hopefully the CGI can be used sparingly but effectively so it still feels like J’Onn has a decent presence in the series.

The chief weakness of the series was the villains, particularly Non and Indigo. While Astra was an interesting character with a lot of potential, I felt like she was killed too early - there was a lot more that could have been done with the character than what we ultimately got. (I know it was down to Laura Benanti’s schedule, but it was a shame nonetheless.) Even then, though, neither Astra nor Non were as nuanced as I would have liked; I think they would have been better positioned as morally grey antagonistic forces than the villains they were. After all, it’s not really difficult to get us - or me, at least - to sympathise with a group of environmentalists, particularly ones who were ultimately right about Krypton anyway. Certainly I feel like, had Supergirl taken efforts to present us with somewhat more nuanced villains, it would have done a lot better; I doubt anyone will be talking about Non in the same way they do Eobard Thawne or Malcolm Merlyn.

In the end, though, I loved Supergirl. I really did! It was, I think, my favourite of the four DC offerings this year. Why? Well…

Supergirl is an unabashedly optimistic and positive show, which makes a strong case for the intrinsic value of heroism motivated by compassion. And that’s wonderful. At a point at which so many heroes are grimdark and gritty - even Superman himself - it’s really, truly heartening to see Supergirl rejecting that entirely, and quite firmly taking the stance that caring matters. It’s genuinely moving to see Supergirl revel in the small scale moments of heroism - to save a cat snake from a tree, or reassure a young girl who’s being bullied - in amongst all the grander, large scale stuff. Perhaps that’s just my own idiosyncratic tastes shining through, but I really love the fact that, on Supergirl, the heroes really are super.

Isn’t that what matters, in the end?

Related:

Arrow Season 4 Review

The Flash Season 2 Review

Arrow - The Disturbing Trend of Fridging Female Characters

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