It feels like we’ve been riding the Supergirl hype train for more than a year now. Now that the show has finally arrived — behind a massive marketing campaign that made it the most watched new show of the season! — the rest of the general public is finally beginning to see what we’ve been saying since from jump: Supergirl, the show, is legit and the best thing to happen to live action superhero adaptations since The Flash debuted — which also stars a Glee alum and is produced by the same folks, coincidentally.
I won’t get into why super producer Greg Berlanti needs to find a way to crossover Supergirl with his other DC properties Arrow and Flash in this post — that would be over here. Instead, we’re going to be recapping the highs and lows of the Pilot and what we can expect from the future adventures of Melissa Benoist as Kara Zor-El.
Like most superhero shows in the Berlanti-verse, Supergirl will likely employs flashbacks. This time, though, the past is prologue as the episode opens with an adolescent Kara with her parents, Zor-El (Robert Gant) and Alura (Laura Benanti), on Krypton before it explodes. As most comic fans may know, Kara was also sent away from the doomed planet and was meant to watch over her younger cousin. Unfortunately, Kara’s ship accidentally gets sucked into the Phantom Zone, where she’s stranded for two decades — presumably in suspended animation — before she lands on Earth.
When she finally arrives, Kara is still a little girl, but her infant cousin is now Superman.
I know Smallville continuity is irrelevant, but I don’t care. Until they say otherwise, Welling, Erica Durance, and Michael Rosenbaum are all back in Metropolis.
Rather than bonding with the only other Kryptonian he’s ever met and not murdered, Kal-El decides to leave Kara to be raised by kindly scientists who dress like farmers and happen to also look like Superman and Supergirl because the Danvers are played by Dean Cain and Helen Slater.
In a voiceover, Kara explains that because the world already had a Superman, she would rather “fit in” and have a normal life than use her superpowers for good. Fast-forward to the present and Kara Danvers1 is “fitting in” as a low-level employee at CatCo, a media conglomerate run by Cat Grant and played by Calista Flockhart. We also meet Jeremy Jordan’s Winn (Don’t Call Me Toyman) Schott, who is being set up as the Felicity/Caitlin of the show, and his less than subtle attempts at flirting with Kara.
After a series of Devil Wears Prada-esque one-liners, Grant sends Kara to meet with CatCo’s newest art director: none other than Superman’s Pal,
Jimmy James Olsen. But this is a take on Jimmy Olsen that you’ve never seen before, and not because this version is a Black man. As played by Mehcad Brooks, Olsen is tall, muscular, and suave. Anyone who tweeted along with the show last night (using the incredible #SupGirl tag, natch) might have noticed the collective salivating that occurred anytime Brooks was on screen.
Here’s the thing, I’m not sure I can process sexy Jimmy Olsen. I think Mehcad Brooks is fantastic on the show, and there is an undeniable chemistry with Melissa Benoist. But my man is built like a superhero already! Jimmy needs to represent for the nerds. Can you imagine if Berlanti swapped actors and cast Echo Kellum — Arrow’s Curtis Holt — as Jimmy and had Mehcad Brooks play Mister Terrific instead?
Anyway, Kara loses the ability to speak when she sees Sexy!Jimmy until a framed photo catches her eye. In this universe, not only is Jimmy sexy, he’s also a Pulitzer-winning photographer. The two wax poetic about the Man of Steel and why Jimmy, I mean James left the Daily Planet to come to National City. He gives her the photo and sparks aren’t the only thing that will fly in this episode.
Later, Kara’s sister Alex (played by Chyler Leigh from Grey’s Anatomy) helps our heroine get ready for a blind date, the two siblings continue
dropping exposition talking about how unfulfilled her life is as a Super Intern. Meanwhile, Alex is a doctor who flies all over the world attending conferences. In fact, Alex has a plane to Geneva that she needs to catch. And if you know anything about the Super mythos — or even Grey’s Anatomy mythos — plane rides never end well.
While on her less than super date, Kara sees a news report about a plane to Geneva that is having engine trouble. She ditches her asshole date and after a few attempts — she’s rusty, after all — takes off up, up, and away to save the plane and her sister.
Mind you, we’re still basically in the first act. If there’s one thing the producers have learned from Arrow and especially Flash, there is no reason to tread water when establishing your superhero franchise. It may have taken my beloved Smallville ten years for Clark to fly (well, technically four since Clark flew in the season four premiere), the Supergirl writers are not holding anything back, and we get a really thrilling plane rescue in the first half of the pilot.
This is kind of a blessing and a curse. While it’s great that they aren’t wasting time to get to the good stuff, the Pilot definitely felt equal parts expository and rushed. Hopefully with the origins out of the way, the rest of the season can be a little better paced.
Afterwards, Kara is justifiably giddy at the fact that the news is covering her superheroism. Unfortunately, her sister shows up and rains on her parade, scolding Kara for showing herself to the world. It seems that Alex may have preferred not having a superhero in the family.
At work the next day, everyone is buzzing about the mysterious “guardian angel.” Cat wants her to be to CatCo what Superman is to the Planet.
Jimmy James and Kara have some more flirty banter disguised as talk about her cousin, and Winn is about to have his world rocked when Kara invites him up to the roof. Instead of revealing her feelings for him, she instead lets him in on the biggest secret in National City. She’s the hero who saved the plane!
To be honest, I’m not sure how likable Winn is yet. I think they need to dial down the creepiness of his crush on Kara a touch. Either way, the two decide to lean in to the whole superhero thing and start building her super persona as a team.
In a montage, we see Kara and Winn fighting crime and trying on new costumes — which satirizes how ridiculous many of Supergirl’s comic book costumes have been.
Eventually, they find the right outfit combination, and Kara slaps on a cape and the crest of the House of El, and a superheroine is born.
Her first mission after donning her family’s coat of arms is to respond to a fire at the corner of Gates and Igle — a nice nod to long time Supergirl creative team Spencer Gates and Jamal Igle. Instead of a fire, Kara gets a Kryptonite dart to the shoulder. When she comes to, she’s strapped down in an underground bunker of the Department of
ExpositoryExtranormal Operations, run by future Cyborg Superman — and former CIA director — Hank Henshaw (Homeland’s David Harewood).
It seems that the government has been tracking Kara for some time. And that she and her cousin are the reason their department even exists. She also learns that her escape from the Phantom Zone also brought forth all of the detainees from Fort Rozz, the maximum security prison where all of Krypton’s deadliest criminals are housed — not, as Man of Steel would have you believe, a series of flying space dildos.
In one fell swoop, we have our set up for the show’s Freaks of the Week. Instead of a meteor infection or a particle accelerator explosion, Kara will be dealing with escaped alien villains every week. My question is, why are these aliens surfacing now? Haven’t they had at least ten years to wreak havoc? Also, how are they going to explain why Superman isn’t helping to rid the earth of these bad guys? Also, we find out the real reason Alex didn’t want Kara to “come out.” She’s been a DEO agent this entire time. Henshaw clearly doesn’t trust Kara (or Kal-El) and warns Alex that her sister could be dangerous.
The scene that follows was at the crux of the extended promo that debuted in the spring and is the writers way of landing a preemptive strike against those who would criticize the show’s “girlness.” I elaborated more on this back in May. Basically, Cat has dubbed National City’s new hero “Supergirl,” and Kara is worried about the message it might send to call her “girl” and not “woman.”
In a scene straight out of Richard Donner’s original Superman movie, Vartox, the episode’s FOTW, calls out to Kara via a frequency only she can hear. And 40 minutes into the episode, we get our first shirt-rip/S-reveal! Mind you, it took Smallville, ten seasons and 200+ episodes to get to the same point2.
Her first supervillain fight doesn’t go so well, but luckily Alex and the DEO come to her rescue. When Kara realizes that crimefighting requires fighting more than bank robbers, she starts to doubt herself and needs a pep talk from her big sister to realize she is super after all.
Alex then gives Kara a Kryptonian artifact — with “Kryptonese” writing on it, for some reason — that projects a hologram of Alura. Kara realizes she must forge her own destiny, separate from Kal-El’s.
With renewed confidence, Supergirl goes after Vartox and tells the DEO they can either help or get out of her way. On a desolate highway, she confronts the supervillain one last time, only this time, she’s ready for him. After some impressive visual effects, including an exploding semi-truck, Kara with her sister in her ear and heat vision in her eyes, finally defeats the bad guy and flies away victorious.
Later, Kara meets James on the roof of CatCo where he has a surprise for her. He wasn’t just sent to National City to work for CatCo. Superman actually sent him there to look after Kara, and she’s shocked that Jimmy was in on her secret this entire time. (I mean, he’s Superman’s Pal, after all. Why wouldn’t he know?) I’m guessing this means Jimmy is aware that Supes and Clark are one in the same, too. He gives her Kal-El’s baby blanket — which looks an awfully lot like a cape — and Kara triumphantly flies away, confident in her identity as Earth’s newest protector.
In the episode stinger, we see the big bad who had been pulling the strings the entire time. Referred to as “general” throughout the episode, the villain is revealed and she’s also played by Laura Benanti?
Apparently, Alura has a twin sister, and that twin sister is evil.
And that’s that! Apart from some weird pacing and overly expository dialogue, — and my own issues reconciling a sexy Jimmy Olsen — Supergirl is the real deal. I’m more than excited to come back next week and see where the series goes from here.
How about you? What were your thoughts from the Pilot of Supergirl? Also, how cool was it to see a Flash promo on CBS? Maybe we’ll get that musical crossover sooner than later?