I have a confession to make.
Despite my affinity for Superman and what he stands for, I confess to you all that I did not believe a Supergirl series would be very successful. Given that the show was going to be on CBS, the home of geriatric mainstays NCIS and CSI, especially didn’t help its cause. It honestly doesn’t matter that CBS is also home to ratings juggernaut The Big Bang Theory and its beloved group of super-smart Culture Junkies (read: geeks, nerds. See what I did there?). Supergirl was going to be the first full-fledged superhero show on that network since John Wesley Shipp’s original run (pun unintended) as The Flash back in the 90’s. The Flash’s run on CBS didn’t last past one season, so that didn’t exactly fill me with optimism for Supergirl’s long-term future. The one sliver of hope I had was that the show was going to be run by Greg Berlanti, who as the brains behind Arrow and the Grant Gustin version of The Flash, is rapidly approaching legendary status among genre fanatics. So I vowed to keep an open mind and watch the show anyways, and I must say that I have been proven wrong. This show is spectacular! Its on equal footing already with its brother shows on The CW and differentiates itself in a way that makes it wholly unique among all of the fellow superhero shows out there in existence.
Like nearly all shows of this nature, Supergirl has started out as a monster-of-the-week style program while we get to know all of the characters involved. Melissa Benoist is so cute as Kara Zor-El/Kara Danvers/Supergirl, she makes you want to cheer her on in her many trials trying to make her own way in a world that already has Superman in it. Calista Flockhart grated on my nerves initially as the insufferable Cat Grant, former Daily Planet gossip columnist turned media mogul, yet she is growing on me in her own way. Winn, Kara’s best friend at work (who is very much in love with her, even before learning of her “Super” secret) serves as her IT guru. A radically different James “Jimmy” Olsen is her closest confidante, and also the focus of Kara’s affection. Her adoptive sister, Alexis “Lex” Danvers works for the DEO (Department of Extra-normal Operations) as field agent and occasional partner. Then of course, there’s the mysterious DEO director Hank Henshaw, who is constantly pushing Supergirl in various ways. Introduce a recurring irritant like Maxwell Lord and you have the makings of a really good show. I’d argue that Supergirl has found its legs faster than any previous comic book show, but The Flash raced out of the gate when its pilot episode aired last Fall.
Greg Berlanti has proven once again that he knows the source so well, he can effortlessly bring the property to life in the most meaningful way. The most recent episode of Supergirl gave us all the examples of why this show works so well, regardless of the network its on. In that episode “Human For A Day”, Kara has burned out her powers using the “Solar Flare” power (ripped right from the current run in Superman stories) and has been rendered as human as the rest of us. While she is powerless, the city is rocked by a powerful earthquake and her inability of save everyone makes her question just what it means to be a hero. Benoist was damn near magical in her performance here, displaying Kara’s physical and emotional vulnerability. The episode also highlighted the palpable love triangle (quadrangle really when you throw Jimmy’s now prominent ex/current girlfriend Lucy Lane in the mix), yet that wasn’t the most important part of the episode.
That moment belonged to the scene in a nearby convenience store, which is being robbed while an aftershock of the earthquake hits. Kara, with a broken arm and having just helplessly witness a man die from injuries, dons her Supergirl outfit and enters the store. Jimmy warns her that she could be killed by the mob that entered, yet Kara goes anyway saying she can’t stand by and do nothing, gambling that their lack of knowledge of her powerless state will protect her. Meanwhile, Cat Grant airs a live address simultaneously while this goes on in an attempt to quell the panic that is gripping the city. The scene effortlessly captures what makes this show stand on it’s own: the show has heart. Kara, as Supergirl, is faced with the first palpable example of just how she can most effectively make change in the world and not use one single superpower. She serves as inspiration. Inspiration to be better than your base desires. Inspiration to do selfless things that have no benefit to yourself. Inspiration to look out for your fellow man. It’s that example that Cat Grant uses in her address to the city, and in turn it inspires Kara after her powers have returned, and the whole thing was magical. There is a place for Supergirl in a world with Superman, and this episode proved it in spades.
All 3 of Berlanti’s TV children, Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl have plenty of action, yet all of them are different. Arrow provides plenty of drama and mystery (I’ve finally forgiven Berlanti for turning Oliver into a Bruce Wayne/Batman clone). The Flash is full of light-hearted comedy and fun. Supergirl is all heart. In a world of increasing cynicism and incessant longing for “realism” and “dark” tinged heroes, the TV versions of the DC heroes captured the true essence of these characters that made myself and millions of others fans of them in the first place. Perhaps the know-it-alls running the DC movie franchise need to give Mr. Berlanti a call and ask for some advice.
I was wrong about Supergirl. For that I’m very glad. I think the show has a very bright future, and as the Winter finale airs tonight, I find myself just as eager for it’s return in the Spring with all of my other favorite shows. Sure last week’s episode may have introduced a twist that no one really saw coming, but let’s not lose sight that Supergirl is plenty “Super” on its own merit.
Supergirl airs on CBS Monday’s at 8 pm EST.