The negative reaction against Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has been a call to arms against the superhero genre. Maybe it was inevitable: Monster popularity driven by business decisions might sour some to capes at the cineplex. But fans who know the value of Spider-Man and Wonder Woman will tell you these characters are more than power fantasies. They’re role models, whether you’re five or 55.
That has been the driving force for Supergirl, the CBS series based on the DC Comics character and blood cousin to the iconic Superman. The show is ending its first season tonight with, “Better Angels,” and while it hasn’t been a flawless season, it’s been an absolute delight. As the 21st century superhero boom continues, no superhero show is more emblematic of the authentically American genre than Supergirl, starring Melissa Benoist as truly the best superhero TV can offer right now.
At their worst, superhero movies make you regret spending two hours and twelve bucks. But at their best, superheroes inspire us to believe that men and women can always be their best. Supergirl succeeds in the latter, with an earnest Kara Zor-El constantly trying her darndest to do good in National City.
After leaving her home planet of Krypton, Kara is knocked off course and drifts in space while her cousin Kal-El grows up on Earth. Finally, she arrives, and a fully grown Superman places her with the Danvers family. Thus begins Supergirl, with a 24-year-old Kara working as a city secretary to the ruthless but mentor=like media magnate Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart). After saving her sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) and hundreds of others on a crashing plane, Kara takes up the hero’s calling to become Supergirl.
The thing is, Kara didn’t become a hero because the government made her — like Captain America — or because she had to get out of a bad spot, like Iron Man. She also wasn’t tormented into becoming a vengeful vigilante, like the Green Arrow. She did it because, as the only person qualified to act, it was the right thing to do. She was born with gifts — she doesn’t brood like Zack Snyder’s Superman does — and she doesn’t see her responsibility as a burden. The day the world needed her gifts the arrived. It’s that simple.
Make no mistake: Supergirl isn’t perfect. As I’ve explored the show, I’ve found it sometimes misguided, often too plot-focused at the expense of characters. Many times Supergirl has been dumb, like when she got involved with her boss’s son which is never, ever a good idea for anybody. I don’t mind the change of Jimmy Olsen to hunky James Olsen (Mechad Brooks), but that they’re 99 percent likely to end up a couple after the season finale is the most boring thing imaginable. At least Felicity and Oliver weren’t planned at the start.
Faults like these give ammo to naysayers who lambasted the show as spandex Devil Wears Prada. Like that was the worst thing superheroes can be and not, you know, murderers. Sadly, those haters didn’t stick around to witness the show build its confidence, not to mention all the fun it’s having with the source material.
Kara visits the Fortress of Solitude, there was a legit Alan Moore adaptation, and fight scenes with big hitters like Red Tornado and Indigo (played by Laura Vandervoot, an ex-Supergirl from Smallville), and a stellar team-up with The Flash have been some of the show’s highlights. The reveal of David Harewood’s Hank Henshaw — presumed to be the show’s big villain — as the Martian Manhunter was the absolute best surprise of not just Supergirl, but out of all the DC shows this season.
But beyond the comics stuff, I’m more impressed by Supergirl’s rich characters and exciting dynamics. They don’t always make the smartest decisions, but Kara, Winn (Jeremy Jordan), and Jimmy are the tight officemates I wish I had. Their constant effort to distract Cat Grant so Kara can be a superhero has not tired out, to my pleasant surprise. Speaking of tiring out, Cat posed an exhaustive opposition to Kara/Supergirl early on, but instead Cat has become a needed mentor for the young superhero. I really could not have predicted their relationship to blossom the way it has. Cat has shown more heart and warmth than Meryl Streep’s Miranda (that’s the devil in Devil Wears Prada, FYI). She’s even mentored me as a viewer in times I never expected.
Also, this moment between Kara, Alex, and J’onn totally won me over. It’s when Kara confesses to killing Astra, a secret that could have lasted so many more episodes, but thankfully didn’t waste any time. I don’t have much to say other than how I think it’s just effective and powerful of the show’s intent on making characters you really care about.
There’s something for everyone in Supergirl, and I really mean that. It’s not gritty like Arrow or Jessica Jones and it doesn’t exploit emotions like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or The Flash. Even I had my doubts about Supergirl, but the show won me over. I now believe that a girl can fly.