Please welcome back guest writer Chachi for a review of the new show “Supergirl.”
I feel like I’ve spent most of my life spinning in dizzy circles, screaming, “Please give me superhero shows and movies I can enjoy with my children!” And for some reason, the industry tossed Avengers at me and said, “…what, your kids don’t enjoy dick jokes?”
Now we have “Supergirl.”
When the trailer premiered this past May, public opinions varied. I was excited! The subjects that bothered others, such as the inclusion of a potential love interest in James (not Jimmy!) Olsen and Melissa Benoist’s cheery portrayal of Kara Danvers, actually thrilled me. Look, Lifetime Movie Network is the only channel in my favorites. I enjoy a good love story, especially ones that also include explosions and outlandish death plots. The potential of a well-rounded, female-lead superhero show that is also coming of age? That isn’t something we see too often. I don’t necessarily know that we ever have.
I went into my viewing of the pilot (released October 26th, 2015) with those expectations laid out before me and I have to say that I was not disappointed.
Kara Danvers is the precious cinnamon roll that is too good for this world. I’ve been a fan of Benoist since her time on “Glee” and she is a breath of fresh air in general. Her spin on this iconic character was nothing short of brilliant. There were times when I felt that she was laying it on heavy—for example, I would have loved to see her a little bit more serious during fight scenes, but maybe with more joyous shock when something she did actually worked—but it didn’t take away from the story. Benoist clearly set out to establish Kara as a sweet, idealistic, hopeful, strong, and compassionate female lead. I believe she did so brilliantly.
The supporting cast, which includes big-time players such as Calista Flockhart as the take-no-crap Cat Grant, Chyler Leigh as the envious sister Alex Danvers, and Jeremy Jordan as the endlessly supportive Winn Schott, mesh together flawlessly. The chemistry between Kara and James seems promising and I suspect that it will do quite well long term.
Pilots often have to cram a lot of story into a small space to draw in viewers and set the framework for a good season. I felt that there was too much happening at too fast a pace. For example, when Kara and Winn work on her costume, that time could have been better spent. I think back to the quick montages we often see in romance movies (think: “27 Dresses”) where we flash through a great number of looks, reactions and all, until they settled on the one she’d actually bring out of the house. I did appreciate the cape humor and knowing the story behind the improvements that were made to the outfit. The appreciation I had for Kara’s criticism of the typical superhero garb would have been more poignant had it be done a little more nuanced. However, great scenes like that fell more flat because of the rush to get through them. Another example would be the fact that we’re told that Kara hasn’t been using her powers for good instead of shown. She jumped to action quickly, which made me wonder why the creators believed that we’d go along with the assumption that she just sat back and watched every other bad thing happen. Yes, her sister’s presence on the flight in question was her motivation, but she was very clearly in control. The literary mantra of “show, don’t tell” would have done them well. In all, I believe that Supergirl deserved a two hour premiere that would have allowed the creators to accomplish all the goals it needed to hit without skimming over so much.
The feminist force driving the show was nothing short of amazing as well. If you haven’t read the Washington Post article about how they applied feminist ideals and values to everything they’ve done, please take a minute to do so. I won’t restate what that interview did brilliantly, but I will voice my appreciation. While there is a lot of conflict between the women of “Supergirl,” it isn’t what we normally see in media: The sort of man-focused mumbojumbo that fails the Bechdel-Wallace Test. Instead, they are fighting over differences that go straight to the core of these characters, like beliefs and motivation. And it was refreshing to see Cat lay down the law on her devotion to the word “girl.”
On an inclusivity standpoint, I was thrilled that we’ve got such a wonderful cluster of women in charge, but I was disappointed that they were all white. Racial diversity is definitely needed, and the joking comments about Kara’s sexuality paired with friendzone-esque shock made me feel really uneasy. “What, are you secretly a narwal?” or pretty much any other joke would have fit in that moment just fine. I also felt that some of the moments when we touched on Kara’s gender and feminism as a whole could have been done so much better. It may have been time constraints but again, the creators choose “tell” over “show.” Since the writers seem socially aware, I’m hoping these are all issues that will be resolved as the season goes on.
All in all, I was completely satisfied with “Supergirl’s” premiere. It’s the kind of show I can definitely watch with my kids. I can’t wait for the first time my toddler throws on her Iron Man cape (I know, he doesn’t have one but you try telling that to her) and cries out that she’s Supergirl instead. My tween will know that you can be emotionally vulnerable, physically strong, and sometimes even scared without ceasing to be a powerful girl. I give “Supergirl” overall an 8 out of 10.