October 11, 2016

Thoughts on Supergirl 2x01 "The Adventures of Supergirl"

This was so fun!

It’s great that Supergirl is back in the air! This is a show that I watched religiously throughout last year (once I got caught up half way through), and the charm and energy is still going strong here. This season has great potential; last season was a bit rocky when it came to pacing overall, and while there’s still a bit of a problem with that here, the writers seem more focussed and intent on what they want to do with the show now.

And yeah, alright, so they switched to the CW network which is fantastic as it allows the show to interact with the other DC shows! I have a problem with this only because CBS had instant access subscription while the CW does not, so I have to wait a day before watching new episodes, dammit. But besides that, the move is a logical one, and doesn’t seem to have impacted the show on the outside, which is nice. Things still look bright and the tone, style, and effects felt consistently up to par with last year’s stuff.

Melissa Benoist is back in full force, throwing herself into the role, and it was a joy to see her on screen again. Her story for the episode was a good one, fitting in nicely with the themes established last season of her figuring out who she wants to be; last year it was who she is as Supergirl, now it’s who she is as Kara. Her relationship with James, one which I was kind of indifferent about honestly, seems to have fizzled out here, which is fine. I much prefer having Kara learn to understand herself first before moving into a heavy relationship, especially with a regular on the show; it’s early in the show’s development, they have time to draw this out. There are a few scenes with Cat Grant that were nice and sweet; Flockhart delivers her lines with less fire than before, but all to the better as to me it makes her seem less cartoony, and what she says to Kara is good advice for anyone really: dive, take risks, but learn first why you’re taking them and what you intend those risks to mean for you. It cements the themes of Supergirl nicely, that this is a person who not only wants to be out of Superman’s shadow, but also wants to be her own person in the process, and figuring out the one does not necessarily mean that she’s figured out the other.

Of course, Tyler Hoechlin guest stars as the Man of Steel himself, but I was pleased to find that he never stole the show away from Supergirl beyond sadly relegating Winn and a few other Supergirl-centric characters to shorter scenes. Benoist and Hoechlin have decent chemistry on screen, and the two do a good job of not overplaying or overselling themselves too much; the two characters are giddy, but they also understand one another on a familial level. This is in great contrast to how Superman is seen by the general public: while Supergirl always strolls into the DEO and no one pays her much mind, Superman flies in and everyone is at attention. A bit of an obvious difference, sure, but it highlights again how revered Superman is, how he’s seen as a god among humankind, and how much weight his mere presence brings. I’m a little sad that they didn’t address this beyond a few remarks by an annoyed Kara at how everyone seems to love him, but at the same time I’m glad they didn’t turn this into a needlessly antagonistic pissing contest or some such.

Where Hoechlin really shines is as the bumbling Clark Kent. This is possibly the best version of the character we’ve had since the early Superman films; he’s quiet, charming, and has that everyman sound to him. I liked too that he gave advice to Kara but also asked to spend time with her so that she could tell him about home. Those were two vital scenes that really cemented to me their relationship as family and as two fairly lonely people living on an alien world. It also pushed further the idea that is central to Kara’s character, that she’s felt like she’s living in Clark’s shadow in that the show kind of pushes back against that: this is Supergirl’s show, so to have Clark be humbled enough to ask for her help and not be mad about her being credited with saving the day and such, it just made the characters feel more dimensional to me, more real.

Lena Luthor is a new character for me, and I liked her here. She’s shrewd but not needlessly antagonistic, and the brief scenes we have with her cement her character well. This played in nicely with the furthering of Kara’s character, as she now needs to make a decision about what she wants to do with her life now that she’s no longer Cat’s assistant. Having Lena Luthor in here gave that goal both a face and a foil to work against; it even parallels in a dark way the Supergirl/Superman relationship in the eyes of the world, that Supergirl is working on her own terms now, much in the way Lena is trying to distance her company from Lex Luthor’s villainy.

I did have a few complaints. The actual villain of the episode is very flat: obviously we need to set up his origin story for his eventual transformation into Metallo, but this was just really not a character that had much impact for me. I don’t get why we should be invested at all in an assassin taking out a target beyond the fact that this is happening in Supergirl’s city... it just didn’t land well at all. Metallo himself is a great obstacle for the children of Krypton to face, but the road to get there was not satisfying on this front. Similarly, as mentioned before, some of the other Supergirl regulars felt a bit shunted off to the side this time around. There are a lot of strangely short scenes making up the hour, so maybe that contributed to it, but still, it all felt just a bit underdone. The interactions between Kara and Alex, for example: they’re there, but it never felt like they were working towards anything this time around. Decent character interaction I suppose, but nothing we’ve not seen before. It would’ve been nice had Alex gotten more to do here beyond beat up a bad guy and make off-hand comment about how nice Superman smells; have her give Kara some advice, or offer up encouragement what with Superman commanding so much respect. Maybe they didn’t want this to get in the way of Cat’s mentor role already, but I don’t know, Alex felt underutilized in this episode.

The big mystery that’s not a mystery is who’s in the pod? Mon-El of course, I mean who else could it have been? Clearly, this and the Cadmus stuff are going to be the long arcs for either the first half of or for the full season. What they’re doing seems neat, and if I want the writers to have learned anything from last season, it’s to keep a tight focus on long story arcs and make them count. Don’t Astra this shit!

So yeah! Was this as good as the Flash crossover? I don’t think so, no. But it was certainly one of the highlights for this show, and not just because Superman was here. It’s the reasons why he was here, the story and character advantages that presented that I think the writers took advantage of as best as they could. They made the chemistry between Clark and Kara work pretty well, and should he make guest appearances after next episode that might be fun. But above all I’m glad that this never shied away from being about Supergirl first and foremost. This is her show, after all, and the second season has started off things very strong! Keep it up!

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