I started this as a review of episode two. However, I have so much to unpack about the progression from the premiere to episode two that I have not addressed, that I needed to label it as something else. A lot of this stuff I’ll never need to write again in as much detail, and you can expect the remaining reviews to be in the regular GWW format.
Episode 2 of the newest show in the DC TV Universe clicks things up a couple thousand RPMs. Now I am interested. Hooked enough to add this to the small number of shows that I diligently look in on every week. In fact, there might just be a weekly column here on TheGWW from yours truly, chronicling some thoughts on the progression of this particular story. That’s a good thing. And a bad thing. The negative part of it is that now I am interested enough to be critical. For this week, that led to a point-counterpoint oriented roller coaster ride as I fell in love with the show and then got dumped in a valley of despair literally every five minutes. Let’s discuss. Warning: spoilers. ‘Nuff said.
To recap: Kara Danvers enters her second week as a super-hero (she actually says it’s been one week in the opening overlogue). She gets herself in a bit deep as she initially tries to bite off more than she can chew; attempting several super-feats that are no issue for her older cousin, but a bit problematic for a novice. No worries, her newfound friends provide support and backup. And she gets a pep-talk from Cat. That helps, but does not perfectly prepare her for the big bad she runs into at the end.
There’s no reason to fool yourself into thinking that this show is not going to do call-outs to past renditions of Superman. There is a sequence mid-show that mirrors the Super Crime Fighter/Super Rescues sequence from Superman: the Motion Picture. I liked this; it harkened to a time from my youth. But I was also aware that it was a rehashed do-over, and that is going to come up every time they do this. It is a dangerous tight-rope to walk and I am not certain that the show-runners should toy with it too much going into the third episode and beyond. If they rope it in every four episodes or so, they may be able to make it come off as cute nods rather than lazy copy.
I mentioned on last week’s episode of Scene N Nerd that I was looking for some emotional meat to sink my teeth into; something in this show that would move me and connect me to the dramatic undertones rather than just being a show about capes. That is the signature effect that Berlanti’s other two super-hero shows leverage that breaks them out from being just another capes show. We got one brief instance of it in the premiere when Alura’s hologram shows up at the end and Kara breaks, letting loose of an uncontrollable sob or two. This week, we get the sister connection, and that drum beat is hitting spot on. I liked the scenes between Chyler Leigh and Benoist; again, they shouldn’t be overused, but it sets a wonderful stage for sibling interaction similar to The Flash and Arrow.
This week, Jimmy (no, I will not refer to him as James) and Winn find out just how much each other know, and start to work together as Team Kara. I reckon they will start working with Alex and the DEO also. Their competitive banter is wonderfully scripted and acted, as they vie to be SG’s most trusted supporter, and they obviously have romantic inklings for Kara. Last week, I couldn’t stand Winn, as his character doesn’t have the density and Jeremy Jordan seems to lack the chops of Felicity/Rickards or Cisco/Valdes. But with Olsen as a foil, he has quickly gained traction with me. We’ll see how that storyline goes.
On effects, I did not like this week’s main villain, the Hellgrammite. The creature is very much a carbon copy of the Reaper strain of vampires from Blade 2, complete with the three way jaw. But I do like how this show is doing more wire-work than CG, especially for Supergirl. That might be a great way to differentiate the look and feel of the show, especially from The Flash. Settling into something between Arrow and The Flash is a great way to go. I also love that they are mixing in a focus on hand-to-hand combat and not just making Kara about her strength. That is a problem that I have always had with the Superman character; feeling like he does not really know how to fight. (Which is why Bruce can kick his butt; or at least survive when a normal man shouldn’t).
On fan service? OMFG Maxwell Lord!!! Seeing Peter Facinelli appear on screen with that name inscribed beneath him…that was the point in the show when I decided that I was onboard for this first 13-episode season full-stop. If you do not understand why, hit the Wikipedia real quick. This guy is easily the most evil SOB that has ever existed in the DC Universe, and, to me, the most fearsome human villain (I won’t stack him against Darkseid or other non-humans). What he can do and does is downright scary and horrifying. His potential on the show equates to something beyond what not-Harrison Wells did on Season 1 of The Flash. Now, I will admit that I have some lack of faith that this show will render him appropriately. Still, I’ll hold on to the notion that Astra is very small potatoes compared to Maxwell Lord and that this show therefore has tons of room to ramp up to what the real evil threat-level could become. However, whoever actually wrote that line “super bad guy war” for Facinelli needs to be fired; or at least be given a stern talking to.
About halfway into this episode, some surviving Kryptonians show up. Here’s where re-hashed things do not work. I do not like their oversimplified look, and add that they look just like the Kryptonians of Lois & Clark minus the quilted over-vests. And there are apparently three of them, Astra and two henchmen, which re-hashes Superman II and Man of Steel. Do evil Kryptonians always come in three-packs at the evil-villain plot setup store in Hollywood?
Another emotional plotline emerges when Jimmy intimates to Kara that the real reason he left Metropolis is that he, too, feels like he has been living in Kal-El’s shadow. That, despite his Pulitzer, people only see him as “Superman’s photographer”. That provides a common thread between Jimmy and Kara and it works wonderfully. I also like how Kara actually has memories of Krypton; it further separates her from Superman as her own character. I also like the continuity between The Man of Steel and this show, down to the similar costumes and reflection on the not-an-S being the family sigil. Which begs the question, why can’t DC have this continuity elsewhere? There’s also mention of one of Superman’s flaws being that he constantly goes it alone and thinks he can cover everything, which rings true to his character flaws in the comics; nice touch.
While I like the HTH combat, the show starts off with this training being a way to show Kara that she is not omnipotent. I was screaming for Alex to just train her so that she can do this stuff rather than using it to be humbled. Fortunately, they make that flip as the episode nears its end. I do hate calling her Kara Danvers, as I cannot get Marvel’s Carol Danvers out of my head when I do. DC/CBS/Berlanti could have made a better choice there. Unless it is a deliberate move to crossbar Marvel’s Captain Marvel before she gets out of the gate. I would never put the creative concept of Supergirl up against Captain Marvel personally.
In the episode climax, we get our first Kryptonian-on-Kryptonian crime, as Astra tries to put the beat-down on Supergirl. Now, I am thinking that Kara should be stronger since she has grown up through constant exposure to the sun. Kind of like a kid should benefit more from having a healthy diet from jump, than a parent who converts to healthy eating later in life. So it was nice to see Kara hold her own against Astra despite her lesser combat experience.
One thing that seems odd is that Kara and Alex almost never mention their parents in their on-screen discussions. They need to address the human parents at some point. I loved seeing Helen Slater (1984’s Supergirl) and Dean Cain (Clark of Lois and Clark) in the premiere. In this week’s closing, Alex reveals to Kara that the DEO has a shard that houses the Alura AI that was in Kara’s ship. Now, Phantom Jor-El is never addressed specifically as an AI. At least I do not ever remember this being mentioned in the Donner Superman movie series or Man of Steel. Adding that in here pulls the curtain back a bit too much and I wish they had left it alone and allowed for a bit of mystery to remain.
I loved the Cat Grant speech that gets Supergirl to focus on smaller rescues rather than oil tankers and jetliners. It’s funny that she is the same character portrayed by Tracy Scoggins in Lois & Clark. We also get a mini-reveal as Director Henshaw’s eyes glow red during a walkaway from camera center. Having the DEO in this show excites me because it may mean that we will get to see Director Bones. Could Henshaw be the unskinned Director of the DEO? Either way, it looks like we’re going to get some of the same kind of background mystery buildup we see on The Flash and Arrow, which is good.
My main take-away here is that this cast and crew need to settle on a drum beat. For every pro I found in this week’s episode, I got dropped to the floor in the next sequence with a con. I know they need time, but it’s still my assessment of where they are. Liking where the show is heading does not give me room to not call it on its current faults. But thanks so much CBS and DC for just letting them say Superman and Lois and Clark. Not doing so was just sooooooo pretentious.