TV Review: Supergirl – Pilot (1×01)

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My name is Kara Zor-El. 24 years ago, my planet, Krypton, was in serious peril. My cousin, Kal-El, was sent to a planet called Earth for his own safety and protection. You may know his story. Now it’s time for you to know mine.

So, Supergirl premiered about three weeks ago now, but I’ve only just had a chance to get to properly review it. I was quite interested to see how this would go, actually, because I had some initial doubts about the premise. I’ve outlined them here, but essentially, I was worried that the concept couldn’t stand on it’s own two feet; I thought that Supergirl, as a character, was too closely connected to Superman to work in an independent property. (My alternative, for the record, was Supergirl program about Clara Kent, and so on and so forth.)

But, then, the promo reel (which you can see here) was released, and I was actually quite impressed. It looked suitably entertaining to me, and it had a lot of the things I look for in these superhero adaptations – it looked bright and fun and cheerful and above all optimistic, which is of particular importance to me. And, hey, it was the first full 24 episode series featuring a female lead – there’s no way I wasn’t going to tune in for that.

How did it turn out, in the end?

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Obviously, the best thing about the show is Melissa Benoist, who plays our eponymous superhero. Her performance is fantastic; she really captures the bright and cheerful optimism that, to my mind, is so important for these characters to embody. There’s a real charm and charisma to her character; every second she’s on screen is genuinely endearing and just lovely to watch.

A standout scene for the character, actually, was when Kara was sat watching the news after having saved the plane. The sheer glee of the moment really shone through; the excitement was very obvious, and it was pretty infectious too. Melissa Benoist did a great job of conveying to the audience just how liberating a moment that was for Kara, and it’s a really effective moment, within the context of the program. I was very impressed by it, as well as a couple of later moments; Kara demonstrating her powers to Winn by jumping off the roof, and the training montage. Both were very triumphant moments, and I really think they were pretty effective too.

The episode did a good job of being a pilot, typically – the first episode of a program always has a different job to do than the standard weekly installment. Generally, each individual aspect of the premise that was set up and introduced worked quite well – Cat Grant seems to be a good foil for Kara, Jimmy and Winn both appear to be interesting supporting characters, the DEO has a lot of potential, and I felt they did a good job of introducing us to the relationship between Kara and her sister Alex. A pretty good job all round then really.

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The plot was fairly basic, admittedly, but that’s to be expected – with so many plates spinning in this instance, you can forgive them for that. The basic structure of this episode is simple enough, with the alien attacking and then retreating and then attacking again, although I do think perhaps the fact I knew most of the plot from the promo reel counted against the episode slightly.

There was one slightly clunky moment, though, that I wanted to comment on; towards the end, in the final confrontation, the DEO director says he thinks Kara won’t be able to beat the alien, and Alex replies “Why, because she’s a girl? It’s exactly what we were counting on.” It’s… an odd moment, actually. The episode has done a really good job with the feminist angle so far, I thought (I dislike that term, but I can’t think of a better way to articulate what I mean) but this stood out as particularly unsubtle. It actually made me think that perhaps the sequence had been cut down in the editing room somewhat, or maybe the script only partially redrafted at some stage – Kara appears to fake a surrender, which made me wonder if they had a plan depending on the alien underestimating her – particularly given he’d previously said he thought women were inferior to men. It wasn’t a huge barrier to my enjoyment of the episode, but it’s something I’ve seen criticised online, so I figured it’d be worth a comment on.

On the whole, I actually really enjoyed Supergirl. It was bright and fun and entertaining; it felt like a reaction against the grimdark nature of Man of Steel, and it did a wonderful job of conveying the sort of optimism which I consider so important in superhero franchises. Melissa Benoist was genuinely fantastic, giving a really compelling and endearing performance, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the series goes.

8/10

Related:

The Flash reviews

Supergirl reviews

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