The CW’s Supergirl, a review

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup

Monday: Supergirl

Part One

From Wikipedia (why should I do all the work?):

CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASON ONE

Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) was sent to Earth from the doomed planet Krypton as a 12-year-old by her parents Zor-El (Robert Gant) and Alura (Laura Benanti). Alura gave her instructions to protect her infant cousin Kal-El, and informed her that she, like her cousin, would have extraordinary powers under Earth’s yellow sun.

En route to Earth, Kara’s spacecraft was diverted by a shock wave from Krypton’s explosion and forced into the Phantom Zone, where it stayed for 24 years. During this period, time stopped for Kara so, when the spacecraft eventually escaped the Phantom Zone, she still appeared to be a 13-year-old girl. By the time the spacecraft crash landed on Earth, Kal-El had grown up and become Superman. After helping her out of the craft, Superman took Kara to be adopted by his friends, the Danvers family. The main series begins more than a decade later when the now 24-year-old Kara is learning to embrace her powers after previously hiding them.

Kara hid her powers for more than a decade, believing that Earth didn’t need another hero. However, she has to reveal her powers to thwart an unexpected disaster, setting her on her own journey of heroism as National City’s protector. Kara discovers that hundreds of the criminals her mother prosecuted as a judge on Krypton are hiding on Earth, including her mother’s twin sister Astra (also played by Benanti) and Astra’s husband Non (Chris Vance), who seek to rule the world. After briefly becoming suspicious of the true agenda of her boss, Hank Henshaw (David Harewood), she and her adoptive sister, Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), secretly discover that Henshaw is actually a benevolent alien refugee, J’onn J’onzz, who has resided on Earth for over fifty years after escaping a holocaust on his homeworld of Mars. J’onn infiltrated the DEO to reform the organization as well as to watch over both Alex and Kara in addition to guiding the latter in the use of her powers due to his experience with his own abilities. Kara is also being targeted by Earth’s criminals as the result of her being related to Superman, and later on encounters an emerging community of metahumans and individuals from parallel universes. In the process, Kara accumulates her own rogues gallery who seeks to defeat and destroy her. She is aided by a few close friends and family who guard her secrets—most notably her cousin’s longtime friend, James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks)—which also serves as a major plot in high tech mogul Maxwell Lord’s (Peter Facinelli) scheme to expose Kara’s identity.

***

            I adore this show. The few things I do NOT like about it are minimal, honestly.

The show is wonderful fun. Like the Flash, Supergirl tells us how much she enjoys being a superhero. No dark and brooding angst about being a hero! What little angst there is deals with normal emotional turmoil – balancing work and play, love and commitment.  Just like the rest of us! But overall the show exudes joy.

This is even more amazing considering the content compared to other DC-CW shows: In Arrow the main villain could (and tries to) destroy Star(ling) City. In Flash the main villains want to destroy … well … the Flash. The villains in Supergirl have the power to destroy the earth and everyone in it, have lunch, and then destroy Venus for snicks and giggles. That could be absolutely terrifying! But it’s not.

Don’t take that to mean the show is lightweight, or aimed at children. It just shows how much unbridled fun the show is even during tense moments..

 

DC characters abound – from villains (Hellgrammite, White Martians) to secondary characters (Lucy Lane). All lovingly plucked from the comics.

There are plenty of DC Easter Eggs to bring a smile or to make us worry. In the comics, Hank Henshaw (here the head of the DEO) is, in the comics, the evil Superman-Cyborg. When the character from the show intimates that he has a deep dark secret, comic book fans raise their eyebrows. “Aha! He’s going to become the evil cyborg!” Is he?

The major difference to Supergirl’s comic book origins (which has been tweaked over the years) is the addition of her adopted sister Alex. It adds to the show and its characters and is not a bad idea. If DC decided to make it comic book canon, I would not object. Trouble is, in modern comics her life expectancy would be quite short.

One episode is a reworking of the best Superman story ever printed: Action Comics Annual #11’s “For the Man Who Has Everything” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, with Supergirl trapped by the Black Mercy instead of the Man of Steel. When I saw the opening scene and the alien plant attached to Supergirl I about hit the floor! It was a great adaptation!

A nice non-comic book Easter egg is the casting of Dean Cain and Helen Slater as her adopted parents. Slater played Supergirl in the 1984 movie and Cain played Superman in Lois & Clark: the New Adventures of Superman. It is little things like this that bring a smile to this old cynic: Berlanti Productions gives a damn enough about the comics to give us these treats.

 

 

You can tell the cast enjoys what they are doing, too. Melissa Benoist is phenomenal as Supergirl. She portrays an innocence (and a young person’s temper and frustration) and yet she will not hesitate to let you know she could pinch your head off with her thumb and forefinger.  Frankly she is cuter as flighty and naïve Kara Danvers.  Kara is a slightly less of a She-Geek than Arrow’s Felicity Smoak, but you can’t help but compare. Imagine if Mary Tyler Moore played the role of Mary Richards at age 24. Benoist is that good.

 

The show has a few drawbacks, in my opinion: More on those next time.

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

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