Joe sat down to binge watch – 20 episodes in 3 days – the CW’s Supergirl, one of the later additions to the “Arrowverse” – a shared TV continuity between “Arrow”, “The Flash”, “Constantine”, “Legends of Tomorrow” & “Supergirl” – Recently released on Blu Ray, DVD and Digital, here’s what he thought…
“Supergirl” is one of those rare examples that manages to make for a definitive version of a character, rather than just a sideline version created to extend a property for the mere sake of it (FAN4STIC, 2015) Situated in National City, rather than Metropolis, featuring an impressive roster of villains and allies, the show charts Supergirl’s rise to fame, Combining the stresses of working for Cat Grant (former assistant to Perry White at the Daily Planet, now owner of CatCo Worldwide Media, and one of the stand out elements of the show) with the stresses of being a newly outed Superheroine, Kara Zor-El or Kara Danvers strives to navigate the pitfalls of both positions and as such “Supergirl” reads very much like super-powered “Ugly Betty”, and that’s probably the best description for this show.
Say what you will about the CW’s take on these shows, with main criticism being levied towards cheap looking costumes and effects, whilst these are valid points, I do often find myself wondering how they manage to achieve some of the effects displayed here on the shoestring budget television affords. And this is important to note, as judging it by those standards the shows are a marked step above a lot of shows out there (Game of Thrones doesn’t count, some episodes cost more to make than a few films combined).
The tone of “Supergirl” is perhaps one of its mightiest selling points, it’s light and comedic, but don’t mistake that for a lack of drama, there’s office infighting (and some lovely sassy moments from Cat and Kara) and…well actual fighting, and above all there’s a really healthy message here, placing a focus on strong female characters with a mixed supporting cast (Jimmy Olsen, J’onn J’onzz – Martian Manhunter, Winslow Schott, and her earth sister – Alex Danvers; Plus a special mention to The Flash and…get this, Dean Cain as Kara’s adoptive father) even, in early episodes, including Kara’s struggles to stand apart from her cousin, Clark; Not wanting to amount to just being a female version of Superman, but instead her own hero. Also, special mention to Cat’s explanation of why being referred to as “…Girl” isn’t demeaning but actually something to take pride in.
What with DC’s new direction in “Rebirth”, it’s nice to see the “Arrowverse” follow suit, at least in this show. It’s nice to see each show take on a different genre, similar to Marvel Studios aim for each of their movie and TV properties. And of course, it’s a nice break from the dour nature of the films in DC’s “Snyderverse”.
Kara’s progression is the real star of the show here, and Melissa Benoist performs a likeable and modern rendition of the character, she’s “adorkable” in much the same way Betty is in “Ugly Betty” or Jess in “New Girl”, so if you secretly watched those shows with a large amount of guilty pleasure – like me – or openly loved them then you’ll enjoy “Supergirl” in much the same way. There’s some really nice moments shared between Kara and her sister Alex, dealing with the simmering tension of Alex living in Kara’s shadow since her inclusion to the family, and the subplot between the two sisters and J’onn J’onzz makes for some touching moments as their entwined histories are explored. And of course, the crossover episode with “The Flash” is a series high-point, as Grant Gustin’s charisma is out in full force here. You’ll also be pleased, as a conventional comic book fan, for the moments where Kara is Supergirl make for thrilling viewing, even with the aforementioned constraints of budget. This makes for creative solutions to problems, and perhaps led to the heightened focus on Kara’s more human problems, relationships etc. and I think this is an element of the show that works to make Kara that much more likeable, and the show that much more unique.
There are problems with the format, as this is most definitely a “villain of the week” style show, which doesn’t allow for much dramatic urgency, or great character depth in terms of villains. Though there is an overarching plot, it is very tried and tested, leaving the structure feeling a tad stale as a result, and the main villain, Non, is a bit of a washout in terms of potency and threat. It does leave me with the general question for Superheroes as a genre, why are villains so hard to do correctly?
The release itself is standard fare, containing the full 20 episodes of season 1, and a few extras, Featurettes entitled “The Man From Mars”, “A World Left Behind: Krypton-Kara Zor”, “Supergirl: 2015 Comic-Con Panel”, “Gag Reels” & “Deleted Scenes”.
There will be those that can’t stomach this version, but then that’s fine, they’ve got “Arrow” if they want something a bit darker and testosterone fueled. I was skeptical at first, but quickly grew fond of the show and its cast, and can only hope it goes from strength to strength (and perhaps gets a bit more money chucked at it next season for a bit more polish) as it continues.
“Supergirl: The Complete First Season” is available here.