So, thanks to a leakage that may or not have been intentional by CBS, we got to see the Supergirl pilot six months before it was due, an earlier released six-and-a-half minute plot summary trailer notwithstanding. Now, I’m going to be up front here and say that I really really want this series to work, meaning I wanted this pilot to go off with a bang and for the rest to keep getting better from there. Much as I love Flash and Arrow and Daredevil and Constantine and so on, ever since Linda Carter’s Wonder Woman back in the 70’s, we really have been long overdue for an actual proper female led superhero series (we don’t talk about Birds of Prey round these parts, well, most of us at least). The iZombie and Agent Carter series are good first steps, A.K.A. Jessica Jones will hopefully (and quite likely) be an excellent next one, but an iconic major superhero like Supergirl is an even better one yet. If done right. And so far, I’m optimistic. I really enjoyed the pilot, especially the 25% not in the trailer.
So, we start off with a very Arrowverse-esque introduction (“my name is [insert relevant superhero civilian identity]” and so on) of how we came to have this other refugee Kryptonian as well as the more famous one (who everyone is curiously shy about name dropping in favour of nondescript pronouns and titles, almost like he’s God or something, an idea that has been addressed in the comics once or twice and taken further in the earlier films) living among us. We then have a minor math flub in the opening narration, with Kara telling us that Krypton exploded 24 years ago yet saying she spent 24 years trapped in the Phantom Zone post-explosion, before arriving on Earth and becoming Supergirl another 12 years later. But anyway, Kara now has an errand girl desk job working for Cat Grant where she fetches coffee for Cat and layouts from one surprisingly tall, dark, and ridiculously handsome Jimmy, or rather “James”, Olsen, the actor having actually been a former model apparently, just to hammer it home.
I understand that this is over two decades after Superman’s début and Jimmy probably would be much more mature and grown up by now, but seriously, try to imagine this walking chocolate tempta- errrr . . . this guy as ever being dorky or anything remotely like the Jimmy we know. Yeah, can’t picture it can you. Anyway, Kara’s adopted sister Alex Danvers is then on a plane for Geneva that ends up suffering engine failure and has to be brought to a safe landing by Kara, revealing herself to the world in an act of heroism familiar to anyone who’s seen Superman Returns and Superman’s rescue of the Constitution space-plane in the comics, even lampshaded as much by James. Which brings me to my next quibble: no less than three people express nothing less than sheer ingratitude for her actions. First the onsite reporter complaining about the wing clip damage to the bridge, then Alex (marginally justified by her concern for Kara but not really), and finally Winslow Schott, who brushes it off as amateurish. Seriously? The world is so used to superheroics that rescuing hundreds of people from a fiery death is subject to fucking scrutiny? Wow. Just . . . wow.
Nevertheless, Kara then reveals her identity to her friend Winslow, who DC fans will recognise as Toyman, who proceeds to fashion a selection of uniforms that showcase elements throughout Supergirl’s career (bare legs, headband, bare midriff, etc.) before emerging in the iteration that we know is coming, with a nice little nod to Man of Steel (“it’s not an ‘S’ . . . ”) and to the earlier Christopher Reeve films, who first established the symbol as that of the House of El (originally it was sown by Martha to be emblematic of a medicine snake animal totem design on an Iroquois healing blanket that was passed down the Kent family, for those interested). One thing though – no, capes do not help with aerodynamics, in fact they’d create drag in flight, as anyone who’s seen The Incredibles can attest. They are there to look cool, which she absolutely does. I love her costume, especially the more practical addition of the leggings to the skirt. Wise, in her line of work. Kara’s then captured by the Department of Extra-normal Operations (DEO for short) using kryptonite tranq darts no less, and promptly told that she’s of no value as well as revealing that her sister Alex is an agent of theirs.
This also bothers me. Not Alex, that made for a cool twist that tied the plot elements of the villain induced plane crash together well. No, the fact that the DEO director’s, Hank Henshaw, mistrust of aliens is treated as a remotely good excuse for dismissing what is obviously such a valuable asset. I’m sorry, you’d rather someone with the powers of fucking Superman to keep fetching someone’s coffee? Are you retarded? Woo, you took her down with kryptonite. Doesn’t make you Batman. Labelling her as directly responsible for the arrival of all the series villains by her ship dragging them here was an interesting interpretation of events as well, what with between the explosion of her home planet that knocked her auto-piloted ship off course at age thirteen and the alien prison’s own thrusters firing and following her out of the Phantom Zone all very much under its own steam. Anyway, still interested to see where this counterpart of the Cyborg Superman comic villain’s arc is going to go. Finally, there are the fights with Vartox, the villain of the episode. Brilliant, amazingly well choreographed and obviously not skimped on the special effects budget.
One thing about her heat vision though, people are complaining because it’s simply a different colour but I see bigger issue: the fact that it’s blue unlike (presumably) her cousin’s red version actually technically means that it’s stronger than his, a notion that I find interesting considering how much longer Kal-El has spent under Earth’s yellow sun. Anyway, regardless, I felt it to be a strong first episode all in all, though maybe a little less shoving of the “this is a superhero show starring a girl” in our faces over and over in future. We get it, it’s a show about a female superhero, we noticed, trust me.
Review by Joshua Jennings