The Supergirl pilot introduces viewers to a new character with a lot of potential wrapped in familiar story points around a few little problems. Plus, Vartox and Superman make appearancse.
This post will contain spoilers for the Supergirl pilot episode set to air on October 28th on CBS.
Right out of the gate, the Supergirl pilot was a very, very strong episode, tons of fun although, admittedly, not without problems. One of the great strengths of Supergirl is the titular character herself. Melissa Benoist lights up the screen with her performance. It is evident from her first on-screen appearance that not only does Benoit appreciate the gravity of the position she is in portraying such an iconic character, but that she is having a ton of fun in the role. Whether she is embodying Kara or Supergirl, Benoist is energetic, she makes fun acting choices and she carries power throughout the scene.
Perhaps the most compelling thing about the passion Benoist brings to Kara is that she is kinetic. During the course of the Supergirl pilot she takes on Vartox (played by Owain Yeoma who, honestly, is barely good enough to be sharing the screen with Benoist), and the nervous energy Kara has embodied in previous scenes truly resonates in her Kryptonian power. Viewers will believe that this is the Girl of Steel, viewers will believe this girl can fly and viewers will believe that this girl wants to do good things in the world.
Kreisberg’s writing of female character shines in these instances. He has even given Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), who is almost completely unlikeable throughout the entire pilot, one of the best lines in all of Supergirl – “What’s wrong with the word girl?”. Not only does addressing the childish nature of Kara’s moniker aid in legitimizing the show’s title for, shall we say, less progressive audience members, but it speak to a level of equalism in storytelling – particularly superhero storytelling – that is still lacking in many other examples.
Even in her life as Kara Danvers Kreisberg gives many clever quips and awkward lines to the characters, particularly during her interactions with James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), and Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan, who is also a ton of fun to watch) , that is reminiscent of Felicity Smoak from another show he has scribed, Arrow.
Unfortunately, much like some other female characters on Arrow, Supergirl has little for the remaining female characters to do. Kara’s sister Alex Danvers is played by Alex Danvers who couldn’t give a flatter performance if she tried and sucks the energy out of most scenes she’s in – which is a good chunk of the pilot. From a plot perspective, Alex serves to connect Kara to Hank Henshaw (David Harewood), who from the moment he appears is shaping to be a great tacit-ally to Supergirl. His involvement in the pilot plants seeds that have the potential to pay off in interesting capacities as the first season goes along – fans of Henshaw’s appearance in DC Comics are certain to know what I mean.
Aside from the typical origin story that fans of the genre will recognize from countless books, movies and television shows by now, the main thing driving the drama throughout Supergirl is the escape of various Kryptonian criminals. While this is all well and good and compelling enough as far as stakes and drama are concerned, the main question it raises is – when is Superman going to appear? Throughout the Supergirl pilot they are very clear that Superman exists in this universe and if alien threats present themselves as a global threat it seems highly unlikely that the Man of Steel will leave the task of handling them up to an inexperienced cousin – strong though she may be. Naturally, this begs the question of who would play Superman? in the show (spoilers: it won’t be Dean Cain who does appear in the pilot), which feels a bit like Supergirl and its executives are shifting the narrative focus away from their titular – female – character.
The other problem with the manner in which Supergirl dispatches with Vartox is that it seems to be setting the first season up to be a monster-of-the-week pseudo-procedural, a type of storytelling that is dying out in contemporary television arcs.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A COOL PILOT
Criticisms aside, Supergirl is fun, fast and it holds a lot of promise for forthcoming episodes. Much like her comic book counterpart, actress Melissa Benoist is carrying the world of the Supergirl tv show on her shoulders and from this initial public offering she certainly seems up to the task.
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