When we graded out the front half of the superhero TV season a few weeks ago, CBS’s Supergirl didn’t get a grade because it got a late start and we’d not seen enough episodes to make a good assessment of the show.
Enough time has passed now and on the heels of Supergirl’s midseason finale, the results are … not great. There are occasionally flashes of something fun here but it misses the mark more than it hits.
Much of the problem lies in the show’s title character. It feel like there’s disconnect between the writers and star Melissa Benoist because the chemistry is all messed up. It’s especially baffling because the supporting cast found a solid groove quickly.
All hope is not lost for this show to make a turnaround despite hemorrhaging viewership since its splashy debut in October. Monday night’s finale took some steps in a positive direction, but here are some ways the Supergirl staff can quickly make the show better to prevent it from lurching into the hatewatch wasteland. There’s probably some spoilers to warn about there here, but if you are reading this, odds are good you’ve either seen it or don’t care.
1. Stop making Kara suck at life
Kara Danvers is surrounded by overachievers.
Her sister, Alex, who Kara thought was just a lab worker, is really a world authority on alien life and an ass-kicker to boot. Kara’s crush has a Pulitzer Prize. Her office mate can bring a media conglomerate back from the dead with nothing more than a Tandy TRS-80 and a flip phone. Her boss is a self-made billionaire. Even the shady dude running the DEO was revealed to be an even more interesting superhero than she is.
Kara can’t even get the lunch order right (insert Price Is Right losing horn here).
While a bumbling Clark Kent is a key part of telling any Superman-type story, it’s a important to remember that it’s supposed to be all an act. Clark clumsily spills Lois’ coffee in the garbage because he saw her throw a lit cigarette in there first (pre-1980s version.)
What we’ve seen of Kara without the cape makes us wonder if Cat Grant was drunk when she hired Kara. Or how did Kara ever make it through college? Kara does have the respect of everyone she works with despite her boss constantly calling her by the wrong name. It’s all right for Kara to be competent as both herself and her super alter-ego.
In the finale, the show did edge toward this when Kara used her super-eavesdropping ability to find out who was responsible for the Kitty-Leaks controversy. But the downside is that it was the piece of the puzzle that Cat needed to figure out that Kara was in fact Supergirl. Which leads us to point No. 2 …
2. Kara/Supergirl needs an unqualified success
The show’s creative team is tip-toeing down a Lawwrel-like path with this one.
Of all the things that make Laurel Lance awful on Arrow, part of her problem is she can never catch a break. In Season 3, Laurel is behind the wheel during a chase and executes a prefect 360 spin to throw the bad guy out of the car. It would have been a great moment had the scene ended there. But no, Laurel evidently got woozy, passed out and crashed into the only two parked cars on an otherwise abandoned street, undermining a rare success.
This has been Kara’s fate so far as well. Supergirl prevents a couple of road ragers from plowing into a school crosswalk, but is filmed looking like a jerk to the guys after. She aids her city following an earthquake but is bitched at for not helping fast enough.
Every episode it’s the same thing. Despite her best efforts, someone is on Kara’s ass about something negative. Yes, Kara is supposed to be learning, but even in that process there are times when talent and instinct guide you to do the right thing in the right way. It’s doubly important to Kara because of the previously mentioned “bad at life” thing.
3. Get rid of the unrequited love triangle
You would have thought that the team that produces Arrow and The Flash would know by now that love triangles are not their strong suit. The Ray-Felicity-Oliver and Eddie-Iris-Barry romantic tugs of war were the worst parts of last season’s storytelling on each show. It’s not much better in National City either.
Kara is smitten with Jimmy, but he’s otherwise entangled with Lucy Lane, but not exactly a fanatic about it. Winn is smitten with Kara, who has made him mayor of the friend zone. The show tried to clear this triangle up with Jimmy giving Winn a pep talk, but it came off like the kind of discussions guys have about the last piece of pizza.
Here’s an idea: let’s let Kara go someplace other than her home, work or the DEO cave. Meet some folks. Find some dude at the gym or a bar she can so she doesn’t get all moony eyed every time she smells Jimmy’s Axe body spray.
4. Lighten up
Part of what had made The Flash such a treat to watch is that while Barry Allen does know about the mutually inclusive nature of power and responsibility, he’s not afraid to have a little fun along the way, either.
Supergirl could use a dose of this feeling as well. Kara needs (pardon the pun) a little glee in her life. There’s a deep well of applications of her powers, the discovery of which would dovetail with Benoist’s effervescent portrayal of Supergirl. I was wanting to see Kara read through the hard copies of those emails at super speed and finish with a “trick I learned in college” one liner or something. Once again, this show doesn’t let Kara win, be the best at anything or have fun.
Reenact the scene from the pilot of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt so Kara can learn for herself that dancing is all about butts now. However, this time Kara could catch the guy who steals her purse. There is room to tell small fun stories about Kara among all this evil aliens hellbent on world domination stuff.
We really want to like Kara, but the show is making it darn hard to do that.