Supergirl is doing very well, so far, in its second season. In the 2016 fall season alone, Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) welcomed a slew of deep-cut comic book heroes, including M’gann, Mon-El, the dark vigilante Guardian — and, of course, her world-renowned cousin, Superman. Yet, despite all the new faces, Supergirl hasn’t lost its focus. Its ongoing arc with Cadmus is a timely metaphor for immigration, and the show has earned a reputation for progressive storytelling by allowing Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) to come out of the closet. So, ultimately, Supergirl doesn’t need a ubiquitous comics character like Batman, the World’s Greatest Detective, hogging the spotlight. But perhaps it’s Batman who needs Supergirl.
For whatever reason DC has kept Batman off of TV. Ben Affleck has the cowl in the bleak Extended Cinematic Universe and David Mazouz plays an adolescent Bruce Wayne on FOX’s Gotham. While Affleck submits an over-the-top vengeful Batman, a more fully formed Dark Knight on TV is absent and has been since Adam West hung up the cowl more than 50 years ago (not counting the numerous versions in daytime animation). With Gotham having zero interest in aging its Bruce, there’s room for Batman in the Arrowverse, even if it’s just a guest spot. And among all of them, Supergirl poses the best avenue.
Arrow might seem like the ideal choice for Batman, given how the Green Arrow and Batman share ground as brooding male vigilantes who fund their crusades from inherited wealth. But Arrow, the show that started DC’s TV universe, is and has always been a prototypical Batman series. Throughout five seasons of Oliver Queen’s journey, Queen has clashed with known Batman enemies like Huntress, Deathstroke, Deadshot, and Ra’s al Ghul, making Arrow barely resemble the classic Green Arrow comics it’s purportedly based on. While Green Arrow would have a lot in common with Batman, there’s enough of the Batman mythos to make him redundant in Oliver’s world.
Neither The Flash nor Legends of Tomorrow pose a good environment for Batman either. The Dark Knight would be outnumbered by meta-humans and time travelers in a show steeped in Silver Age sci-fi. Batman is no stranger to the weird and bizarre, but it’s also not an ideal starting place.
This leaves Supergirl, with bright and sunny National City its backdrop. Tonally, Supergirl seems like an even worse fit for Batman, but the show is already mapping out what their dynamic would look like. In Season 2, James Olsen has become Guardian, a street-level avenger equipped with gadgets and gizmos, rendering him a Batman analog to the Girl of Steel.
The real tension between Guardian and Supergirl is James, who’s keeping his alter-ego secret from Kara. But repeat the formula with the real Batman, minus an identity he doesn’t need to reveal, and the Dark Knight could only benefit Kara and vice versa. Batman’s dark, cynical approach would collide with Kara’s, and though they probably shouldn’t fight physically, they should clash ideologically: a pessimistic Batman versus an idealistic Supergirl. That’s the real Dawn of Justice right there. (Barbara Gordon, despite being the “girl” variant as Batgirl, is fundamentally different than her dark mentor.)
Batman exercising his brand of vengeance in front of Supergirl would set the stage for a real textual debate on vigilantism and self-imposed authority in superheroes that Batman v Superman was too bloated to get right. A Batman v Supergirl in a more compact medium like TV would not only make Supergirl succeed where a three-hour movie couldn’t but rehabilitate the comically dark image of Batman that’s overtaken popular culture. Somehow, the World’s Greatest Detective has devolved into a grunting punching man wearing bat ears, and last year’s Dawn of Justice did no favors to reinvent Batman out of his throaty gruffs.
Supergirl doesn’t need Batman, and Batman is the most famous comics character on Earth that an ongoing TV incarnation is unnecessary. But with how many Razzie Awards Dawn of Justice managed to unfortunately snag, Batman could use some image rehab on a smaller, more focused scale. It seems like Supergirl is more than worthy of saving the day.
Supergirl Season 2 resumes January 23.