What’s faster than a speeding bullet? It’s Supergirl! And the plot for the pilot episode of her new television show.
I had the opportunity to watch the entire pilot episode of the new Supergirl drama that is premiering on CBS this October while at the Chicago Comic Con. While I have always had a soft spot for both Superman and Supergirl, being the perennial superheroes that they are, Supergirl has always seemed to struggle to find her niche. In an effort to create that niche for her, I think the television show is moving its story along a bit faster than it should.
When faced with such a daunting task as introducing the world to Supergirl (again), I can understand where the writers were coming from. How do we basically retell Superman’s origin story, but from a female perspective? How do we give Supergirl nemeses that are still a challenge for her, but that we can easily add on to for a serialized show? How do we make her super-feats look cool?
In answering the first question, adding a female perspective to the Superman story, I think the show did a good job. Kara Danvers, Supergirl’s secret identity, is basically a secretary for a high powered media mogul. She is overworked, under appreciated, and virtually invisible. While this is a bit stereotypical, many women are portrayed in situations like this (The Devil Wears Prada springs to mind).
Kara also has a scene that women will relate to more often then men, when we are introduced to her sister. She enlists her sister Alex’s help in picking out an outfit for her date that evening (most men would simply grab a random shirt, do a smell check, and call it good), which also gives us some good insight into their sisterly relationship. Alex is the older sibling and a little overprotective of Kara, even though Kara is virtually indestructible. That protective instinct comes into play later in the episode of course.
Unfortunately, giving Supergirl some challenging foes to vanquish is where I think the show starts getting ahead of itself. Instead of taking their time and developing one or two truly epic foils for our heroine, the show opts to hit the ground running with several extraterrestrial baddies already running around the city. We just didn’t know about it because they are all so good at hiding both their super powers and their malicious intent.
The Department of Extra-Normal Operations is also set up in National City, supposedly keeping the world safe from these extraterrestrials as well. Of course the head of the organization would rather see Supergirl behind bars once she reveals herself, despite her protestations that she truly wants to help.
This humans versus aliens war is the backdrop we have for the conflict in Supergirl. The episode even has an evil alien waiting in the wings to track down and kill Supergirl the second she reveals herself to the world. This is really the core of my problem with the show. In an hour long episode, Kara Danvers goes from mild mannered wallflower, who isn’t even sure if she remembers how to fly, to a fully fledged hero, fending off super powered aliens that literally want to kill her. To get her to that point, all we viewers get to see is a training montage that lasts less than a minute. It’s showcased in the “First Look” video posted below, in its entirety. Less than a minute.
That’s a whole lot of character development that I want to see, but which is simply skimmed over. If I had everything my way, we wouldn’t see her first superpowered foe until the end of the first season. That minute long training montage would BE the entire season, with her starting off slowly and working her way up from carjackings, to bank robbers, to a hostage situation even. That in particular is something I wanted to see, Supergirl having to use her intellect to defeat the villain and not just her super strength (they do get to that point at the end of the episode, but everything is so rushed it feels shoehorned into the story at that point).
Supergirl isn’t the only person that the writers glossed over in the character development department. Both the DEO commander (so generic I forgot his name) and Alex Danvers flip-flop on their original stances of Kara not becoming involved without so much as a contemplative expression to show they were wrestling with the idea. In the commander’s case, it could be reasoned that he simply doesn’t care about Supergirl. Either she beats the enemy alien or he kills her. In both cases, he wins as there is one less alien on Earth.
Alex however, starts out very protective of her adoptive sister, but without any real character development at all, just decides, “The world needs you to fly, and so do I.” The way their relationship is portrayed in the “First Look” video is about as deep as it gets in the whole episode. In fact, that video, a full 6 minutes from an hour long episode, contains most if not all of the character development we get to see. That’s simply not enough for me.
So, if there is only 6 minutes of character development, what happens with the other 40+ minutes of the episode? That’s where the special effects come in. These were a mixed bag for me. A lot of the effects and explosions looked very cool. Unfortunately, I’m a real stickler for believable physics in movies and TV. Yes, I know, Supergirl can fly despite not having any attributes that make her aerodynamic or any actual way to propel herself through the air. But she’s an alien, I’m ok with suspending my disbelief.
That being said, when our world and its physics meet her, I expect some realism and attention to detail. When a bullet hits her, is it like the bullet hitting steel, so it ricochets off of her? Or does the elasticity of her skin absorb the force of the impact and it drops at her feet? We get neither of these, just a few generic sparks. Again, this is an area where I think the show should take a step back, slow down, and put in a little extra effort to help me believe that Supergirl is actually interacting with our world.
Finally, after all that, it’s time for me to render a verdict. While the episode itself was entertaining, that’s all it was for me. CBS is billing this show as a drama, but how can you get involved in a drama if you don’t care about the people that are in it? With too much attention paid to flashy, eye-candy scenes and not enough paid to character development, I simply didn’t get into any of the characters. Hopefully, the writers slow things down in later episodes and give us a chance to get to know the people in the show. Unfortunately, I won’t be watching unless they do.
I give the show 2 out of 5 stars.