Supergirl isn’t perfect. The first season had moments of clumsiness, unbalance, and heavy-handedness. The pace wasn’t quite locked in, and sometimes the show found itself trying to tell us so much in a single episode, that we were left with narrative whiplash by the credits. But for all of its imperfections, Supergirl is vital to contemporary television and we need it to stick around.
Right now, Supergirl’s fate is uncertain. CBS has yet to renew the show for a second season and rumors are swirling about budget cuts and a move to The CW — current home of other DC shows The Flash, Arrow and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
A migration to The CW might not be a bad thing. It may give Supergirl the freedom to explore more progressive storylines, to push itself into bold new arenas without the pressure of keeping up with the CBS ratings juggernauts. In fact, a move to The CW has the power to be a very positive thing — even with budget cuts — but no matter where it goes, we need to see a second season of Supergirl.
To be clear, Supergirl’s first season is no worse (and is, in fact, much better) than many rocky first seasons, especially if one considers only superhero shows. A little over halfway through the season, Supergirl seemed to find its footing, understanding what made it great, special, different and focusing its attention on the right places more and more often.
The show also endeavored to tackle quite a lot. It endeared a new hero to a pretty wide audience (not classically attuned to female protagonists, mind you), and it took on family, identity, self-worth, doubt, trust and fear. Supergirl did something brave and new, and the series got better at it, with its final episodes bringing new strength and assuredness to a season that was largely about testing the waters.
There’s an audience that needs this show — whether or not the CBS ratings reflect it. Girls need Supergirl, and she needs to stick around for them. Because there are exactly two shows on the air that center around a female superhero, and Jessica Jones is definitely not kid-friendly.
There are loads of us who love Supergirl even though it wasn’t written specifically for us. There’s nothing wrong with liking media that wasn’t made just for you — it might be a new feeling for those who are used to being well-represented and catered to in media, but it won’t kill you. Promise.
Appreciation of fiction across demographics does, however, require recognition of the fact that one isn’t the only audience. It requires an intellectual stepping-aside, because for all of our criticisms of Supergirl, the show does exactly what it’s supposed to do: it’s positive, exciting, kick-butt programming for young girls, who are too often left out of televised representation. Many of us love Supergirl, but it’s for the young girls of the world, because they need a hero as much as or more than we adults do.
And don’t turn your nose up at something that’s for young girls — the vast majority of popular culture revolves around the whims of twelve year-old boys, be they literal or spiritual.
Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) is living, breathing proof that it’s okay to not be perfect, so long as you try hard and do the right thing. She shows us what it means to be a friend and that even though she’s a bonafide superhero, it’s okay to need (and ask for) help. She’s a bastion of forgiveness and understanding and grapples with anger and disappointment in ways that are poignant and illuminating. More than that, she shows us that it’s okay and normal to be kind of a mess of uncertainty and doubt — you can still don a cape and save the world.
It’s not just Kara, though. Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) is another of Supergirl’s heroes, even if she can’t fly. From the moment she said, “If you perceive “Supergirl” as anything less than excellent, isn’t the real problem you?” she’s been sending a clear message: to be a woman is to be smart and powerful and utterly capable.
While Cat is sometimes a frustrating presence in Kara’s life, her character is rich, layered, and constantly surprising — just when you think you’ve got Cat Grant figured out, she proves that there’s a strict moral code under her tough, pragmatic exterior and devastating one-liners. Cat Grant is always pushing Supergirl and Kara to be better, to be great. She’s never stopped believing in her, or her ability to change and save the world. She is, in some ways, Supergirl’s greatest ally.
While there were semi-romantic storylines surrounding James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) and Winn (Jeremy Jordan), the greatest relationship of Supergirl has nothing to with romance at all — it’s the relationship between Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) and Kara.
Though not related by blood, Alex and Karas sisterly bond is compelling and easily the show’s greatest love story.
It’s saving Alex’s life that brings Kara out of “hiding,” so to speak. It’s Alex who worries about Kara and tries to protect her, even though trying to protect your alien/superhero sister from superpowered evildoers is sort of like trying to pin a kangaroo to a trampoline. It’s Alex who puts unfailing faith in Kara and convinces her over and over that she’s the hero National City needs. Alex is a hero in her own right, too — brave and self-sacrificing and deeply committed to protecting the world and the people she loves. It’s Alex’s relationship with Kara that drives the show and gives it much of its heart, and the focus on female characters, stories and bonds is extremely important.
At its core, Supergirl wants to teach us that “hero” isn’t a term reserved for men , aliens, or superpowered people. It wants to show us that hope is stronger than fear, that goodness prevails, that bravery and self respect and kindness are all heroic qualities, that imperfection is the rule but that effort and spirit can make us exceptional. It’s the very opposite of a dark and gritty superhero show. It is bright and optimistic and it’s the only thing like it. In a time when superhero movies are garnering R-ratings and the battle for more female-led superhero movies wages on, Supergirl is important and were not ready to see it go just yet.
We need a hero like Kara Danvers — all heart and bravery and human despite her Kryptonian blood. We need voices like those of Cat Grant and Alex Danvers, telling us that it isn’t super strength or being bullet proof or being able to fly that makes a hero, its the willingness to run towards trouble and lend a hand when everyone else is running away. We need Supergirl’s infectious hope and optimism and commitment to giving girls a hero, too. We need Supergirl to stick around, because she’s got a lot more to teach us.