CBS finally got into the superhero game with the premiere of Supergirl with a fast paced pilot that packed a lot of action and told a lot of story in a relatively short amount of time.
Supergirl is saddled with a lot of expectations right off the top. By beating Netflix’s Jessica Jones to screens by about a month, it’s the first of this generation of pure superhero TV shows to be centered around a female character. (Agent Carter and iZombie did come before, yes, but neither Peggy nor Liv can shoot lasers from their eyes).
This opening chapter had to strike the balance between a Kara Danvers (played by Melissa Benoist) who is the strong female character the audience demands, with the needs of the story, which requires Kara to be in way over her head almost immediately after embracing her powers.
The show’s creative team (which is the same group that gave us Arrow and The Flash) helped Kara out some by surrounding her with strong women. Her adoptive Earth sister Alex (Chyler Lee), a crack scientist who works for a shadowy organization charged with keeping tabs on extraterrestrial life on Earth, and Calista Flockhart’s scenery-chewing Cat Grant, a character who is equal parts Oprah Winfrey, Anna Wintour and Helen Gurley Brown.
Ever aware of the eyes upon it, Supergirl addressed the more superficial concerns (choice of outfit and why she’s called Supergirl) in tongue and cheek ways. As for the rest of it, Kara has to evolve into her heroic persona, which makes sense since the character had spent her life to that point suppressing that side of herself. And it’s crucial for the long term success of the show.
Why is it so important for Kara to have room to grow? Superman-based stories can turn boring in a hurry because Superman is morally pure, physically invulnerable and hyper-intelligent. It’s hard to find worthy opponents without resorting to giving every two-bit criminal in town his very own hunk of kryptonite.
This superiority in all things extends to members of the Kryptonian House of El (and the fanboys would break out the pitchforks and torches if it didn’t). By making Supergirl a complete ass-kicker without flaws in Episode 1, what are you going to do different or exciting in Episode 10?
So the show dumped a truckload of dramatic conflict onto Kara right after she decided to step from the shadows and reveal her true self for the world. Although it made her come off as ditzy or flummoxed (think Christopher Reeve’s take on Clark Kent), Kara has plenty of worthy opponents to fight and lessons to learn for many episodes to come.
Supergirl’s premiere episode covered all the bases a pilot is supposed to in a way that was fun to watch. A concern is that it broke the bank in the special effects department for the pilot so it’s going to be interesting to see how much flying around the Creamcicle orange skyline of National City she’s going to be able to do. However if the show maintains the quick pace, light touch and keeps Kara growing as a hero and “human,” it’ll be a show worth keeping in your regular TV rotation.
Craig Wack enjoys a good cape joke. Please follow his Twitter.