Supergirl 1.01 “Supergirl” Review

Going into this pilot, I had expected to get a little misty. As I’ve mentioned from time to time, I have strong emotional reactions to things I find meaningful or important. I didn’t get misty in this episode. No, there were several moments in the first glimpse of Supergirl that left me with tears streaming down my face. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though.

A smart first move was to not spend too much time on Kara’s origin story. The writers got folks who aren’t familiar with the mythos up to speed quickly enough that those who are well versed didn’t end up bored. In those few moments we got to meet Kara’s Earth family, that just happen to consist of Dean Cain (Superman, Lois and Clark) and Helen Slater (Supergirl, Supergirl). Little nostalgia moments like that are the lifeblood of my inner (and outer) fangirl. I live for tie-ins.

Once they made it through the backstory, they moved straight into Kara’s busy yet unfulfilling life serving as an assistant under media mogul Cat Grant. We meet Ms. Grant briefly in the beginning, but her big moment doesn’t come until later. Her first introduction simply served as a springboard to send Kara over to Jimmy Olson, a tactic which no one is complaining about.

supergirl Jimmy

Warm, light-hearted, with a touch of wit, I loved the writers’ depiction of James immediately. The chemistry between him and Kara was wonderful. It led to almost a source of comfort, I suppose? That comfort made a bit more sense when we find out later that he already knows Kara’s secret. Jimmy may not know first hand what she is going through, but his work with Superman gives him an edge that even her sister doesn’t have when it comes to the struggles she may be about to face. I thought the small hint of Kara’s crush outside of his office was cute, well placed, and, most importantly, not even remotely focused on.

The second Kara launched herself off the ground when she was going to save her sister, I found myself inexplicably weeping. She was flying for the first time in ages. She was going to go save her first lives. She was Supergirl.

“Can you believe it? A female hero. Nice for my daughter to have someone like that to look up to.”

Writing that line made my eyes well up again. It’s been a struggle to not write this review as a four page diatribe about why Supergirl is already so important. That line is what makes it so. That line means that the writers get it. They know what this show means, and they know what it can do.

One of the most wonderfully perfect thing about DC’s television shows is they don’t take themselves so obnoxiously serious. The costume moments with Winn were delightful, and those moments led to the ever important acknowledgement that it’s not an “S”. The hope that symbol is supposed to bring shone through in such a perfect way in this pilot.

Hope in the presence of hardship is one of the purest forms of strength, and the writers quickly illustrated that Supergirl wasn’t just going to be costume montages and existential crisis’. This is a superhero show, and there are lots of very bad folks that Kara is going to have to face and take down. On top of those villains, she also has to deal with the untrusting Hank Henshaw.

Hank is an interesting character that serves a very important purpose. Kara’s not just getting by on her cousin’s name. Henshaw acknowledges Superman as a hero, but Kara being related to him means nothing. He doesn’t trust her, doesn’t find her capable, and was pretty vocal about it even after she defeated Vartox. While being on Kara’s team means finding him infuriating in this first episode, from a character perspective he’s great.

Cat Grant is similar (though honestly, I loved her). She’s the type that knows what they bring to the table and has no issues vocalizing that. Ms. Grant isn’t the cuddliest character, and I’m sure we’ll have other moments in the series where she is just as prickly, but she also had the most important line in the pilot.

“What do you think is so bad about ‘girl’? I’m a girl, and your boss, and powerful, and rich, and hot, and smart. So if you perceive ‘Supergirl’ as anything less than excellent, isn’t the real problem… you?”

Just like the line from the diner, Ms. Grant’s statement isn’t just for the purpose of the show. It’s directed at the audience. That ‘you’ at the end is a royal you, directed at anyone who might think ‘girl’ as the lesser. A rhetoric that Kara needed to hear, because one of the best things about Kara is that she is flawed.

So often when dealing with ‘strong’ female characters, directors and writers simply make a girl who punches things while scowling the whole time. I love an action flick as much as the next person, but don’t make that the whole market. I don’t want a girl who just punches things. I want a girl with questions and flaws and doubts and missteps.

Kara doubts herself several times throughout this episode, and in those doubts, we see her team form. Alex comes forward as support, not just in the sisterly sense, but on the battlefield as well. Jimmy as a confidant and shoulder, and Winn as a true friend.

Now, while I might not want a character whose only purpose is punching things, that doesn’t mean I’m not all about the action. Cool girls don’t look at explosions, right? Supergirl’s battle with Vartox was short, but that was ultimately because of Vartox, not that they made her unreasonably powerful. Even without his weapon, Vartox destroyed her in their first fight, and was knocking her around pretty well in their second. I can see an argument for wanting more out of the fight itself, but I enjoyed it.

Supergirl-season-1-episode-1-Supergirl-down

The fight wasn’t the end of the episode, though. No, no. The writers still had two really important moments to get to. The first being Henshaw’s statement to Alex.

“Yeah, she’s why you got in. You are why you get to stay.”

Henshaw might be a jerk to Kara, but it’s great to see him not taking that distaste out on her sister. He’s another character that has a great dynamic that I’m excited to see unfold.

Our final moments in the episode take us to Jimmy and Kara on the roof, immediately after she finds out he knows her secret. They share a brief conversation about Kal sending him, but what’s really important is the gift. Every crime fighting Kryptonian needs a cape that won’t shred, right?

Kara has a line earlier on where she says the world doesn’t need her, but words cannot express how badly we do. My parting words here are to give Supergirl a chance. Even if you don’t have cable, most networks will put their episodes online. Please watch legally, and show the world that female superheroes are important.

 

The Good:

  • Superman and Supergirl are Supergirl’s parents. Bye. I’m going to go fangirl forever.
  • Jimmy Olson.
  • Supergirl is self-aware. The writers know what they’re up against and their commentary through quotes in the episode is amazing.
  • It means Hope.

 

The Bad:

  • Not one damn thing, I’m in love.

Amelia Emberwing

Amelia loved many great things as a kid, but Harry Potter and Batman were what really brought her in to the world of fandom. Her tastes are eclectic and she firmly believes that one doesn't have to choose between Marvel and DC or Star Wars and Star Trek. Charities and well developed, strong female characters are the way to her heart, and she survives on a steady IV of caffeine, rants, pixie dust and fangirling.

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