With such extended, lengthy advertising as shows undergo now, almost all pilots view just like the trailer. We got all the familiar beats: quirky Kara is dominated by her demanding boss Cat Grant, has a guy friend (Winslow "Winn" Schott) who'd like to be more at work, an adopted Earth sister (Alex Danvers) who doesn't want her secrets revealed, and a potential new love interest (James Olsen). She's also one of the last survivors of Krypton, along with a certain cousin of her's who for some reason can't be named outright.
Still, these beats were well-played and exactly what we needed to get us quickly invested in a character who could easily have passed as just a "girl" version of He Who Shall Not Be Named. Kara's main issue at the start of the show isn't whether she should date guy number one or guy number two (though she is interested in meeting Mr. Right): instead, she's worried she's not living up to her full potential. Most of her scenes involve her confiding in or arguing with her sister, not a potential lover, and while there's some oddity in her having little to no interaction with her famous cousin, she misses her Kryptonian parents (especially her mother) more.
But the best part about this opening saga was Kara's infectious enthusiasm for being super. Many of us are tired of dreary heroes overburdened with angst. After saving the plane that carried her sister on board, Kara didn't mope or groan about being "discovered:" she reveled in it, delirious with joy at finally getting to unleash her power on the world. Her sister's lack of enthusiasm for such exposure does little to dampen hers. Forget hiding herself: she wants the world to know there's a new hero on the scene, starting with her best friend at the office.
It's not all fun and games: there are real challenges for our girl, starting with her very name, something both she, her fans, and many women struggle with: is the term girl belittling or empowering? Then there's the alien prison that crashlanded on Earth, prompting a secretive government agency (Department of Extra-Normal Operations or DEO) to enlist Alex in covert operations against the very criminals Kara's mother on Krypton banished.
None of these challenges dampen Kara's desire to continue, though. It makes me think her greatest superpower isn't strength or speed: like many other amazing women, it's her cheery endurance that allows her to keep holding her head up, up, and high.Ep. 102: Stronger Together
I enjoyed the Supergirl pilot, but I think her sophomore outing is actually the better episode. After so much heavy lifting in the exposition and action department last go round, "Stronger Together" opted for character development, making Kara's battles both more personal and more fulfilling.
After Supergirl bungles a rescue operation after being tested for hours by the DEO, and her boss considers rebranding her #TerribleGirl, even Kara's pep starts to fade. A new alien menace prompts Alex to teach her sister just how bad she is in a fight (with a little boost from Krypton to even the playing field). It's the feeling many of us have experienced after the first highs of success start to fade: "Just what have I gotten myself into?"
Here's where things got interesting: rather than a heart-to-heart with her parents or friends, Kara actually gets an assist from her boss Cat Grant. The two share a great scene where Cat lambastes Supergirl's missteps, reminding Kara that most women have to work twice as hard to be considered half as confident. Rather than keep her the perennial queen of mean, the show explored Cat's background as Daily Planet editor Perry White's assistant, and how she clawed her way to the top. She has no tolerance for a new girl or woman on the scene unwilling to pay her dues in sweat equity to succeed, regardless of the pitfalls.
Kara's answer to this challenge? Put a team together with different skills to help her succeed. Consider that both Oliver Queen in Arrow and Barry Allen aka The Flash had their teams thrust upon them without much say in the matter. Kara makes the decision to reach out, trust, and use the power of a supportive group to accomplish her goals. That's a powerful punch of a storyline I didn't see coming so soon into the show. That it was prompted by the counsel of a female mentor figure makes it that much rarer and welcome.
There's also more sister bonding as Alex and Kara learn to work together in the DEO. When Alex is kidnapped, Kara immediately jumps into the fray to find her. The ensuing action scene properly revealed the show's main villain, only hinted at toward the end of the pilot: Kara's aunt Astra, who's motivations are unclear but objectives are deadly. It was a truly neat fight scene, with all three women performing admirably.
By the end of this episode I'd learned to really care about all the characters inhabiting this world, from the cheerful to the crusty, which is exactly what a second episode should sell. Kara's main strength here was her empathy and capacity to trust, real superpowers in a world that doesn't value either quality highly. She showed a completely natural amount of self doubt but didn't let it dominate her, and recognized that even if advice is poorly given, the delivery doesn't invalidate the wisdom. Kara led by serving others, and saved the day by listening.Up, Up, and Away!
I'm really looking forward to tonight's next episode of Supergirl. No, it's not your average superhero show, and it's not trying to be. Kara isn't Superman, Arrow, or even Agent Carter, a woman I admire very highly. She's a person, all her own, with foibles and strengths aplenty, and her own unique charm. I love that she is actively choosing to be a superhero, with heavy bouts of questioning her mission or purpose. She knows what she wants to do, and she's pursuing it wholeheartedly.
Supergirl the show is also pulling off something very few entertainment properties can say: entire scenes dedicated solely to women's thoughts, dreams, and ambitions, existing alongside but independent of their male counterparts. I'm excited to see more than one woman getting to play with these kind of stories, and look forward to what the future may hold for them all.