How Supergirl is now cooler than Superman or…
Top 5 Supergirl episodes from Season One
by Chris Morris
Are you watching Supergirl on CBS? If not, why not?
I know there are lots of great shows out there to keep up with. On Netflix, on cable (free and pay), and now there are websites with TV shows. In some ways, if a show is harder to find, it’s more of a badge of honour to brag about it on Twitter. And Supergirl is on CBS, one of the Big Four networks. How could it possibly be good? Don’t people’s grandparents watch CBS? I’ve heard people say they’ve never watched “Arrow” or “Flash” because it’s on the CW, let alone anything on CBS.
But, if you aren’t, you should be. The season finale of season one just aired, so you can get caught up anytime now. And why should you watch this? How can a SUPERGIRL show be any good? Supergirl has always been a second-banana to Superman. She’s had a convoluted history, a bad feature film in 1984, a period of time as both a shapeshifter and an angel in the comics, killed off in “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, that time she had wore that headband…
I have to admit I was skeptical when I heard a Supergirl show was coming, but I looked forward to it, as it was being developed by the same teams that brought us first “Arrow” and then “Flash”. “Flash” especially gave me hope. And hope is the key word. After Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight Trilogy” to Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, grim and gritty is all that DC/WB seemed to want from their dour superheroes.
But Supergirl is all about hope. And that word had a lot to do with the Season Finale…but we’ll get to that.
Supergirl’s first season was a weirdly short 20 episodes, with apparently some doubt as to whether or not it will return for season two. It’s show runner doesn’t even know it’s future, as seemingly no one has the guts to just ask Les Moonves what the deal is. But it’s gonna come back for a second season, right? How can it not? But in case it doesn’t, and all we ever get is this one season, here are things to look for:
*in chronological order
This is, of course, the first episode of the season. It introduces all the characters, the dynamics, their relationships and is what the networks use to judge whether or not to order an entire series. Here we met Kara Danvers, her sister Alex, her boss Cat Grant, Hank Henshaw and the DEO, her best friend Win Schott, potential love interest James Olsen (yes that’s Jimmy Olsen) and the villains, a bunch of Kryptonians who are out to control the Earth, including Kara’s aunt Astra and her husband Non. Kara, in her first attempt at being Supergirl, saves a airplane from crashing; saving planes must run in the family. The early going, with Hank and Cat both being one-dimensional jerks and Alex not being the supportive sister she would end up being later on, is a little rough, but it is a great pilot that sets the table and features cameos by former Superman Dean Cain, former Supergirl Helen Slater and the Big Blue Boy scout himself.
2- “Human for a Day”
I rolled my eyes when first hearing about this episode, as it featured the Silver Age trope of the super hero losing their powers and having to deal with life as a muggle, er, human being. This is something used over and over, but this version was at a level above most examples. In fact, I’d say this was the season’s all around best episode. An earthquake hits National City and people need help but for some reason Kara is no longer Super. But we see the influence that she holds over the city’s citizens as she doesn’t need her powers to be their hero. Most shocking is how far they were willing to go on a network show, as there are people who die in this episode. As a bonus, this episode reveals who Hank Henshaw is. After most assuming he’s who eventually becomes the Cyborg Superman, fortunately he turned out to be one of my favourite all time characters, Jonn Jonzz, the Martian Manhunter!
3- “For the Girl Who Has Everything”
I’ve written a lot about what the story “For the Man Who Has Everything”, a Superman story written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons, later made into a Justice League Unlimited episode, means to me. I’ve referenced it in at least two other articles. So it was a big deal when it was announced this team was adapting it, only with Supergirl instead of Superman. Cynical internet posters said there was no way they could live up to the legend. And, well, they didn’t. They couldn’t. But they did deliver a great episode of television, with lasting implications and great performances by the cast. We see how Hank/Jonn sees Alex and Kara as surrogate daughters, how much Alex loves her sister (as opposed to how she acted in the Pilot) and we see an angry Supergirl who, after escaping the Black Mercy and waking up, just wants to kick someone’s ass.
4- “World’s Finest”
This was the much hyped and much anticipated crossover between “Supergirl” and “Flash” TV shows. Ever since Supergirl was announced, people speculated about how soon before the shows cross over. After all, Flash and Arrow crossover all the time. But they are both on the CW. But the CW is half owned by CBS, so Supergirl and Flash should be able to play in the same sandbox right? Hopes were dashed at first when fans were told that due to “reasons” that a crossover couldn’t happen. But then suddenly, it was officially on. Pictures came fast and furious of Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist on set, hanging out in costumes, posting selfies and seemingly having a great time.
But would that transfer to on screen? Yes, it did. Flash appeared in National City after using his speed to open a portal to a parallel world (making Supergirl’s world, what, Earth-3?) and he and Supergirl instantly become best buddies and shockingly don’t want to kill each other (hear that Zack Snyder?). The characters, and the actors themselves, both Glee alumni, seem to be having fun as the two superheroes scenes together are great, with the villains (Silver Banshee and Livewire) being afterthoughts. The final scene, with our heroes racing in order to propel Flash back to his world, is wonderful and Kara’s goodbye to her new best friend, a simple “Goodbye Barry”, is heartbreaking. If the season finale’s theme was hope, this episode’s theme had to be “Joy”.
5- “Better Angels” or as it should have been called “Hope”
This wasn’t the greatest season finale, as it appeared lopsided at times. The heavy lifting seemed to be done after about the first ten minutes and the rest seemed like a really long epilogue. But it was a great first ten minutes. The citizens of National City are being mind controlled by Non and Indigo, specifically Alex who tries to kill Kara with her Kryptonite sword. But the good guys, Cat Grant, Maxwell Lord, Hank/Jonn, Alex’s mom, Alex and Kara figure out the way to defeat the mind control is through hope. They jack Indigo’s mind controlling signal and have Supergirl talk about hope. And when the big red “S” comes on the screen…it once again establishes that symbol, that “S”, to be, once again, a true symbol of hope. Sure, in “Man of Steel” Henry Cavill SAYS the “S” is a symbol of hope, but in the Supergirl TV show, they prove that it is.
This season wasn’t perfect for Supergirl. Like most network shows it seemed to run out of ideas at certain points and suffered from 20-episode fatigue. Already, in the first season, the writers had Kara seem to go “bad” due to Red Kryptonite (something Smallville got a lot more mileage out of) and the city turns on her, only for it to seemingly forgive her very quickly. The additions to the cast of Lucy Lane, Maxwell Lord and General Sam Lane were great. Seeing a live-action Red Tornado was cool even though his costume was…different. Killing Professor TO Morrow will hopefully be revealed to be a red herring. Seeing Jonn Jonzz’s origin was tragic and great at the same time. Cat Grant showed some emotion eventually but kept her bite. Bizarro, Toyman, Jemm, White Martians, James Harper, Maxima…the mind control Myriad weapon was apparently a last-minute switch out by the writers and it seemed to do the job. And what about Project Cadmus? Will it be the Project Cadmus from the Justice League Unlimited cartoon or from the Young Justice cartoon (which is closer to it’s origins in the Death of Superman comics storyline)? Could that be a hint that SuperBOY is coming soon? And what’s in the pod?
Supergirl has had rating troubles this season. It started with a 12.96, dropped to 8.87 (with the Toyman episode being a stand out) and then dropped to low-6’s for the last six episodes (not counting the Flash crossover which scored a 7.17). For example, a random show on CBS, “NCIS: Los Angeles” averages 8’s and their lowest rating being in the low 7’s. Scorpion, the show that comes on after Supergirl on Monday nights, averages 13s, with a high of 15.29. So the show, unfortunately has an uphill climb.
One thing some people have complained about is the show’s portrayal of Superman. Superman exists on this show, in cameos and talking to Kara on live chat (not kidding). He even popped in one time to save the day but then quickly flew off. But really, his existence on the show is so that Supergirl has a shadow to escape from. And also, the way Superman is portrayed on this show is actually, without him actually technically appearing, the best portrayal of him in a long time. Being shown as a “big brother” figure who offers support, loving encouragement and as a symbol for Kara to look up too, Superman actually seems to be pretty cool…not a word I would use to describe the version of the character currently appearing in your movie houses. But even if he is cool, Kara’s still cooler!
The show’s biggest strength isn’t the action sequences or how cool it is when Supergirl beats up bad guys (although I have to admit, seeing Kara throw down is awesome). It’s strengths is it’s relationships, in particular Hank/Jonn with his “daughters” Kara and Alex, and above all, Kara and Alex as sisters. The relationship between the two sisters have been the emotional glue that has held the show together. Sure, some people may have cared about the sub-plots, like whether or not Kara would end up kissing Win or James or if they would stop the evil Kryptonians. But I wasn’t really interested in that, I just wanted to see, week-to-week, how the Danvers sisters were going to save National City, along with their big green alien “dad” in tow. A big emotional scene for me was in Episode 15 when Alex breaks down to Kara (won’t say why) but Kara just hugs her. Hank is going to leave them alone but Kara reaches out and grabs Hank by the hand. A very simple gesture that meant so much.
I’ve read many articles since the show began of mothers telling stories about how this show, with their mixed family, has inspired others. Originally Superman was a symbol for immigrants, or for the adopted, but now Supergirl has taken over that mantle. In one particular scene, Alex pleading to Kara to “snap out it” while under the Black Mercy packed a huge emotional punch. It requires a lot of yelling and potentially groan-inducing acting but you believe that the two women care for each other. The result is incredibly powerful.
So here’s hoping an announcement of a second season of Supergirl is nigh. Unlike the grim and gritty movies and comics, this show (along with Arrow and Flash), aren’t afraid to throw around words like “Hero”, “Joy” and “Hope” without it being ironic or cynical. And think we all need that in our lives. Especially these days…
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Chris Morris is a filmmaker, world-traveller and comic book writer. He’s currently working on “The Supers: the 3rd Best Super-Team in the World”