Monday night, the long anticipated premiere of the Supergirl television show aired. We had been dealing with a year's worth of hype, teases, and clips. The episode was 'leaked'. It was lauded as a breakthrough, a female-led superhero show infused with feminism and action. It was derided as a 'rom-com', compared to a SNL skit about Black Widow. But throughout it all, I liked what I heard.
So how was it?
Well, I will give it a very solid B+. And most of my quibbles have to do with the pace of the premiere, an issue that shouldn't hamper the show from now on. And it killed in the ratings.
In the future I think these reviews will be more like my comic reviews, recap and commentary. But I think that would be impossible with the premiere.
It became clear that producers Ali Adler and Greg Berlanti wanted to set the stage for the entire season in this pilot, shoving what should have been 90 minutes or 2 hours of story into 45 minutes. Let's review the big beats of the show and be amazed that somehow it was all stuffed in.
1. Review the origin briefly, the flight from Krypton, pause in the Phantom Zone, and Superman dropping Kara off at the Danvers.
2. Establish that Kara has been hiding her powers, suffers as the assistant for megalomaniac Cat Grant, works with buddy Win Schott and hunky James Olsen
3. Save a plane and feel empowered, realizing a destiny Kara has been denying herself
4. Get scolded by Alex and told to not hero
5. Become Supergirl with Win's help and stop some minor crimes
6. Get branded as 'Supergirl' by Cat
7. Introduce the DEO, Hank Henshaw and give exposition about Fort Rozz
8. Fight and lose to Vartox
9. Have the DEO again tell her she is worthless, have Alex tell her to quit, have Kara doubt herself
10. Have Alex do a complete 180, suddenly telling Kara to become Supergirl
11. Quick message from Alura to confirm the idea of being a hero
12. Back to the DEO to convince Henshaw that Supergirl can be an effective agent
13. Fight Vartox again, this time winning
14. End tease of the big bad, Alura evil sister The General
I mean that is a lot of story for 45 minutes!
First off, Melissa Benoist is perfect as Supergirl. She has such an expressive face and is so solid as an actor. We see the gamut of emotions here. Joy when she is proud of being a hero. Excited to use her powers. Betrayed when she sees Alex as a DEO agent. Sadness when she feels she has failed. Awkward around Jimmy. She simply embodies the complexity of Supergirl, someone trying to live up to the S-shield legacy while finding out who she is. It starts with Benoist and she is charming and strong. I especially like hearing how, even before donning the supersuit, she defends people, asking that Cat not fire the Tribune staff.
The rest of the cast is great. Flockhart oozes as the narcissistic business tycoon Cat. Jeremy Jordan is likeable as the close friend Win. Chyler Leigh shows some range, being supportive, over-protective, as well as jumping into the fray. Mehcad Brooks is as cool as the other side of the pillow. And even briefly, Laura Benanti shines.
The action sequences are big and dynamic. The plane rescue is unreal for a TV show. And the fights with Vartox are high quality.
I also like that Supergirl is at the beginning of this journey. Her fighting style is primitive and crude. She shouldn't be a great combatant after hiding herself for years. She doubts herself at times but always dives back in. She wants to help people. And she knows (even Alura tells her) that her destiny is separate from Kal's. But she also realizes that her being a woman is important. She doesn't want it minimized. These are all the things I love about Supergirl. She is becoming the hero she needs to be. There will be bumps in the road.
I have to admit, the idea that The General being Alura's sister is intriguing.
And there are also too many Easter Eggs and comic homages that make this Supergirl fan happy. The Otto Binder bridge. The fire at intersection of Gates and Igle. The costume montage including the ludicrous belly shirt and headband initial attempt. The idea of Fort Rozz. Someone who is clearly Despero on the DEO's wanted list. Calling Kara a guardian angel. Slater and Cain as the Danvers. The plane save, echoing so many classic Superman origins and movies. That is a lot of comic knowledge and Supergirl homages.
As a result, it sort of felt like the Gates/Igle run. From the people saying she shouldn't be a hero to those who complained about the rescue to Cat promising to plaster Supergirl everywhere, this felt like that run.
Okay. Enough gushing. On to some criticisms.
To be honest, it felt rushed. I especially think the second half of the show, introducing the DEO and revealing Alex as one of their agents was too fast in execution. Specifically, Alex going from 'don't be a hero' to 'you need to fly' over a commercial break felt too fast. Why the change of mind? She says it is because she realized her own insecurities. But that should have been a slower epiphany. And Henshaw allowing her to go out alone to fight Vartox the second time after belittling Kara and talking about how dangerous she was also seemed a bit ridiculous. Of all the characters, Henshaw felt the most two-dimensional.
I also think given constraints, some of the dialogue felt a bit too on the nose, especially Alex complaining that Hank doesn't think Kara can win because she is 'just a girl'.
All of that said, the stage is now set. We have all that behind us moving forward. While 30 more minutes might have let some of these plot turns happen more organically, I think the show is going to hit the ground running from here on out.
I don't think all the mysteries of Kara's early life have been fully discussed. We'll see her with the Danvers. I assume we'll learn what finally shoved her ship out of the Zone. We'll learn more about her aunt. But the foundation is set.
This has all been worth the wait. Much like the Flash, I think this show is going to get better and better as the season unfolds. With all this set-up behind us, Berlanti and Adler can pause, take a breath, and now build on these plot points. Henshaw's suspicions. Alex and Kara's relationship. The multitude of villains and the General's plot to rule the Earth. We now get to explore these at a better pace.
I can't wait!