At 8 years old, I would wake up early every Saturday morning to tune in and watch Superboy. Over the years, I’ve been a faithful viewer of the original George Reeves Superman series, Lois & Clark, the Bruce Timm animated series, the live action films, and of course the comics. I’m a comic book guy through and through. For me, Superman isn’t just a superhero. He is THE superhero. I’m very protective of the Man of Steel’s mythos and legacy. Suffice it to say, I had my concerns when the CBS series Supergirl was announced.
Somehow when I wasn’t paying attention, my reaction evolved from, “The pilot was cute, I guess I’ll tune in,” to “Jesus Christ is it Monday night yet? I need my Maiden of Might!!!!”
There’s a number of reasons why the series works and works well. For starters, the cast. Actress Melissa Benoist embodies the essence of the eponymous heroine much like Christopher Reeve and Lynda Carter respectively encapsulated Superman and Wonder Woman. In addition, the series is a fresh take on Supergirl and her alter ego Kara Danvers. In previous incarnations, Kara was often depicted as headstrong, impulsive, reckless, and angsty, often as a foil for her older and more mature cousin, Clark. For that matter, the same can be said for Conner Kent, aka Superboy.
Whereas Clark’s meek and bumbling demeanor was often a facade to conceal his identity, for this Kara, it is who she is and her powers don’t change that fact. Case in point, the girl can’t keep her secret identity to save her life as the series illustrates numerous times. Kara is an ingenue with a huge heart. She often finds herself in over her head whether battling Fort Rozz escapees or navigating through minefields often known as life.
Even with her powers, Kara is the underdog who has to evolve to overcome insurmountable odds, thus making her relatable to viewers.
With the series being entitled Supergirl, it shouldn’t be a surprise that feminism is a prevalent theme. What is a pleasant surprise is how well the series tackles it. Sadly in 2016, positive portrayals of powerful women outside of Shondaland continue to be rare.
This is especially the case for speculative fiction. Too often, female characters are developed by undercutting other female characters. Not the case with this series. Whether it’s Kara, Lucy, or Alex, all of the heroines and villainesses are different but formidable in their own right.
If there is a breakout MVP for the series, the title easily goes to Kara’s snarky boss and unlikely mentor, Cat Grant, played flawlessly by Ally McBeal herself. Calista Flockhart effortlessly steals virtually every scene she’s in with her performances. The sharp-tongued heart-of-gold mentor archetypes are typically reserved for male characters, thus making this iteration of Grant and her relationship with Kara rare for television and all the more amazing.
As the Flash crossover, “World’s Finest” illustrates, this is a series that knows how to have fun and be creative.
New fans and Kryptonian OGs like myself are on the edge of our seats wondering what surprises are in store: the introduction of Martian Manhunter, the Cadmus tease, or hints that Alex Danvers might one day evolve into this universe’s Alex Luthor.
It is my hope that Vasquez’s role is beefed up next season and other marginalized DC alums are introduced be they Alysia Yeoh and/or Natasha Irons.
ETA: I’m excited to report that in season 2 my hopes were fulfilled with the introduction of both Maggie Sawyer and Miss Martian in recurring roles.
If I have one complaint to register about Supergirl it would be this is one of those times I wish I was a father. I wish I had a young daughter to watch the show with. Just as I tuned in religiously every Saturday as a kid to watch Superboy, it would be cool to pass along a family tradition to the next generation. Supergirl is a heroine that young girls can watch and look up to. Just as importantly, she is a heroine young boys can watch and learn from.
Is it Monday night yet?