Supergirl: 2.01 The Adventures of Supergirl
Supergirl is back! And it’s like she never went away…
The little recap moment at the start of the episode was useful for me as I’d forgotten all about the Kryptonian spaceship cliff-hanger from the end of season one. I’m not sure it was a very strong cliff-hanger and with the reveal being just some guy, I forgot about the whole thing very quickly and who can blame me when we all know what is coming in this episode…
The show has a pretty strong start, though I’m not sure why Winn is now hanging out at the DEO? The show also scores its first goofy point of the new season when the DEO moves to a cooler, new headquarters, that was apparently there all along, for no real reason other than its new and cooler. With Kara talking about her upcoming date with Jimmy, I couldn’t help feeling Alex’s apparent skepticism about the whole thing matched my own. Throughout the first few minutes we get some skilful seeding of the Venture space flight. It’s a clever allegory to pin the show’s big character reveal to. Building the excitement, building the expectation for this big event.
We catch up with Cat, who has shifted even more into stern but compassionate mentor to Kara. I like her more level, open I am pushing you to be good approach and she gets a big thumbs up from me for Miss Tessmacher!
Unfortunately this episode just cements my issues with Jimmy, having been away from the show for a while I’d forgotten how unpleasant he’d become buy the end of the last season. When he turns up at Kara’s with Pizza and Ice cream he is the embodiment of Netflix and Chill. He's not cute, he's sleazy. However, we don’t have to endure Jimmy trying to get under Kara’s cape too long before we cut to Metropolis.
I think I should take a moment here to address something that worried me in season one; Superman. I love Superman. The world loves Superman. Even if people don’t love Superman, they know Superman and I always felt the first season had to deal with the potential overshadowing of its central character by the Big Blue, on the most part it did avoid this. It would be unfair to make this first episode of Supergirl’s show all about Superman and the programme makers do a very skilful job of avoiding this and in reviewing the episode I don’t want to get bogged down too much in Superman stuff. That said…
From the first moment we see Clark, on the phone with the Daily Planet logo behind him, I was hooked. His manner, his voice, tone, look are all perfect. This IS Clark Kent. His cheerful yet nervous conversation on the phone to Perry White establishes the world he inhabits in seconds and we’re with him and on board with this new Man of Tomorrow. Inevitably the space ship launch has gone horribly wrong (Uh oh) and it’s about to crash into earth killing hundreds of innocents (Uh oh). Seeing different news coverage both hoping that the respective Supers will save the day is a nice touch and then it happens… the shirt rip. This is a show that knows its characters, it knows its source and it knows its audience and the importance placed on the shirt rip cannot be underplayed. I could gush about this scene for hours, the chat between Kara and Clark when they first team up (Hay, cuz!), the joy they take in enjoying each others company, the two of them stopping afterwards to take pictures with and shake hands with a family of onlookers, all perfect.
This is MY Superman, a Superman who shakes peoples hands and says nice to meet you when arriving at the DEO. This is a superman who saves people and smiles. Sure, Jimmy may be taller and more muscular than him but that smile, that smile just beams Superman. I can't not talk about his outfit... This show did an awesome job of Supergirl’s costume, retaining all the elements of the iconic look while effectively modernising and also, to a degree, de-sexualising the comic look. Kara's crime fighting outfit is cool, practical, badass and basically what you see in the comics. Big Cuz, on the other hand, has a costume which is a bit of a mess. Colours, good. Cape, good. But almost everything else screams of over design for the sake of design. Losing over-pants is always a big mistake but the needless chunky belt only highlights the lack of over-pants, while the weird cape clips looks pointless and dated. It’s a shame that a show that understands the depth in Superman’s simplicity could so overcomplicate the simplicity of his costume, especially when the Clark look is so great. He may not have the full retro suit and hat but the button down shirt, cheap jacket and mismatched trousers and shoes is perfect modern Clark.
While Supergirl has felt like a statement against the current big screen Superman (at the very least it offers itself as a counterpoint) this actual Superman feels like a direct response to the cinematic Man of Steel and while the initial brief for these shows seemed to include avoiding the Trinity perhaps relaxing the rules and letting Superman turn up, especially this Superman, is a response to the negative reaction audiences have had to the movie offering?
There are lots of great touches in this episode; Cat’s crush on Clark, references to Gotham, flying being statistically the safest form of travel, Lex being in prison for causing the earthquakes in California! It’s a shame that in the middle of all the Superman euphoria, this is actually a pretty standard episode. There is some great character stuff, Kara finding her calling and Cat having scribbled it on her CV years ago is a lovely moment. Also, establishing that Clark and Lois are together is another great way of showing where we are in the DC timeline, as well as holding up the potential to have it all that Kara seems unable to reach. Leading from this though, the side line of Kara and Jimmy not getting their date is pointless and Jaaaaaames getting sniffy because Kara is, you know, saving people while hanging out with her only surviving relative from a destroyed home planet, is not a conflict that works. His behavior is so obnoxious it damages the tension, I don't feel like this is deliberate which makes it worse. His actions feel uncomfortable, this is a show that is so strong on female empowerment to see them normalising this unpleasant, male, manipulative, emotional behavior is a nasty sticking point for me.
The villain this week is pure backdrop to the main character action; a bad British actor who wants to kill Katie McGrath’s Lena Luthor who then gets set up as this shows Metallo. I do love McGrath in her role and she's obviously going to be a great series villain (I mean, she’s a goodie not a baddie like Lex but, like, come on, she’ll turn out to be a baddie, I’m sure).
The emotional heart of this episode is Kara and Cat, with the feeling that things are about to change in a big way between them. Establishing Kara’s near sibling like relationship with Clark shows us her deeper need for connections to her Kryptonian family and culture and the two of them chatting and laughing with Clark wanting to hear stories about home and his parents almost made me cry.
Overall a solid episode though not the best - it has that new season, awkward rearrange feeling that sometimes happens. The slightly inorganic new HQ, suddenly adding Winn to the DEO payroll and Kara dumping Jimmy at the end (thank god!) is a lot of plot in one go but does set us up nicely.
I didn’t want to talk too much about Superman but couldn’t help myself, in terms of this show and these characters, I feel that by embracing Superman they've kind of taken him off the table. Now we know he exists, he's real, he helps out sometimes and leaves Kara to it other times, so we can move past him nicely and concentrate on the title character, her development and world. Lets hope the rest of the season can build on the excitement and joy of this first episode, up, up and away!