I really didn’t expect to like it at all, but I have to say that the CBS show Supergirl has really won me over. To be honest, they engaged me with the first episode, and they’ve engaged and charmed me ever since. They’ve found the necessary secret ingredient for telling stories about an invulnerable flying alien who wears red, yellow, and blue underwear: plenty of whimsy, sheer joy, and don’t forget the love.
Full disclosure, when I was in grade school, Supergirl in the comics was my first long-time crush. The kid in me is still head-over-heels. Some of my earliest sexy images involved Supergirl’s landings (which would cause her skirt to flip up). Yeah, I had it bad!
So maybe I’m just smitten, but thumbs up on the show!
The problem with Superman, or Supergirl, is that the whole this is utterly preposterous. The flying, the invulnerability, and the heat and x-ray vision are bad enough, but super breath? It’s as silly as thinking light sabers can repel blaster fire. It’s a fairy tale!
So, at the least, it must be treated with appropriate whimsy. Superman works best when tongue is inserted somewhat in cheek.
Likewise Supergirl and Star Wars. Taking them too seriously ruins them — they can’t stand up to that kind of light.
This is exactly why the last two Superman movies were so awful and exactly why the Christopher Reeve versions are viewed with such fondness.
I never watched Smallville, so I have no idea how well it fit into the ethos I’m describing here. (My complete lack of interest in Smallville was one reason I didn’t expect to like Supergirl.)
You might argue that, unlike Smallville, Supergirl is more contemporary to the timeline (Superman is fully established in the reality). That’s true, and I’m not a big fan of the revisionism that goes on in, say Gotham, but I never watched Lois & Clark, either.
They’ve got the whimsy working in Supergirl, and it really makes all the difference.
They’ve also got the sense of joy that has to underlie being able to fly. Being Superman or Supergirl involves that whole ‘awesome power, awesome responsibility’ thing, but it also involves being able to fly!
And there is an abundance of love, family and romantic. Given our current fascination with grunge and bad behavior, it’s refreshing.
The show gets pretty high marks for thoughtfulness and deconstruction. The episode I just watched made a point I’ve been hammering on repeatedly here: When you act from the gut, without thinking, bad things can (and often do) happen.
Ever since the 1980s (The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen are two of the seminal works), storytellers have deconstructed the idea of superheroes. What does having beings with power imply? What effect would that have on society? What would it be like to really have super powers?
There’s a nice background flavor of that deconstruction ethos in Supergirl. The implications of power are not ignored.
They’ve also scored a hit in casting Melissa Benoist, and she carries the role very well. She even really looks like Supergirl!
As a bonus, in the “Perry White” analog role, there is Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant. I never watched Ally McBeal, but I’m enjoying Flockhart in this role (everyone seems to be having a good time, which is so important).
Benoist rocks the role, and she’s a beauty to boot, but I gotta mention Chyler Leigh in the Alex Danvers role (Supergirl’s adoptive human sister). She’s more “my type” (as they say) than the blonde Benoist.
And Jimmy Olsen (sorry, James Olsen), intrepid Superman photographer and friend, has moved to National City and works with Supergirl now (Superman sent him to look out for his cousin).
The stories are pretty well written (for a TV show), and they’ve done a very good job handling the existence of an established Superman — something I really wondered how they’d address when I heard about the show.
The big problem is: who do you cast? And how do you show him without stealing Supergirl’s thunder?
You solve that by having him be very busy (which you’d expect) and by not ever really showing his face (they been using bright back lighting to mask it).
He’s a beloved distant cousin who’s there if you really need him, but otherwise lets you do your thing.
My bottom line: total thumbs up, sheer fun, no complaints.
They’ve even managed to not go overboard on the violence and murder considering it is an action show involving superheroes.
Update 1/11/2016 13:31 CST:
I forgot to mention one other aspect of the show! Supergirl (the show) is decidedly both feminine and feminist. It’s got “girl power” for sure (another reason I favor the show).
The lead, obviously, is female (and literally super). There is also her adoptive sister and mother, Alex and Eliza Danvers (played by Chyler Leigh and Helen Slater, respectively — and by the way guess what movie role Helen Slater once played; it’s sort of like how Lou Ferrigno gets cameos in the Hulk movies).
Also, as I mentioned, Calista Flockhart plays Cat Grant.
On top of that, Laura Benanti appears in a dual role as Supergirl’s Krypton birth-mother, Alura Zor-El, and as the twin-sister aunt, Astra In-Ze (who escaped dying on Krypton because sister Alura jailed her off-planet for “ecological terrorism”).
The men are mostly in secondary roles. (Which may bother some male viewers, I suppose — get over it; it’s how women have always felt reading fiction. We can even translate that vague feeling of exclusion to what people of color feel all the time in a largely white society.)
The strongest male is probably the Hank Henshaw character (who is secretly J’onn J’onzz). He’s been rescued by Supergirl and Alex Danvers once already.
Next is Jimmy (James) Olsen, who mostly tags along. And who also had to be rescued.
The tech guy wannabe Supergirl’s boyfriend is the comic relief and necessary hacker guy nerd geek.
And there’s an asshole Army General (Lois Lane’s dad).
Definitely, decidedly, deliciously feminine (and feminist)!