Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 7, 2016)
Over the years, Supergirl enjoyed a smidgen of live-action attention but without much success. In particular, the 1984 feature film became a spectacular flop, both in critical and financial terms.
With 2015-16’s Supergirl, though, the character finally earned a positive reception. The CBS TV series got good reviews and proved to be a success, one that allows Supergirl her day in the sun.
This three-disc set covers all of Season One’s 20 episodes. The plot synopses come straight from the Blu-ray menus.
Pilot: “Superman’s cousin Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) finally embraces her superhuman abilities to become the hero she was always meant to be.”
Like most pilots, this one exists mainly to introduce characters and situations. In that regard, it works well – some aspects of the set-up don’t make a ton of sense, but the show still launches matters in a reasonably positive regard. Throw in a smidgen of action and we get a fairly positive start to the series.
Stronger Together: “Kara’s confidence as a superhero is off to a shaky start until a new threat forces her to push aside her doubts. Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) pressures James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) to get an interview with Supergirl.”
Just as I expected the pilot to act as an intro, I anticipate somewhat similar material from a “second episode” such as “Stronger”. It takes the characters and circumstances seen in the pilot and expands on them. It offers less exposition but still exists mainly to flesh out different domains. That makes it a logical and entertaining continuation of events.
Fight or Flight: “Supergirl’s powers are tested when one of Superman’s foes, Reactron (Chris Browning), arrives in National City and targets the young hero. Cat plans to run an exposé on Supergirl.”
It remains to be seen if Supergirl will ever develop one primary villain for the lead to fight. In the meantime, “Flight” pushes along different narrative elements well, especially in the manner it deals with Kara’s attempts to form her own personality in the shadow of her more famous cousin.
How Does She Do It?: “Kara is pulled in opposite directions when she must babysit Cat’s son Carter Grant (Levi Miller) while trying to stop a series of bombings. Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewar Tatum) arrives.”
While I’ve enjoyed Supergirl so far, I’m not wild about its soap opera elements. I don’t demand action all the time, of course, and I appreciate personal/character moments, but “Do It” spends too much time with “boyfriend issues”.
Livewire: “Thanksgiving may be ruined! Kara’s foster mother (Helen Slater) comes for a tense visit and a volatile CatCo employee (Brit Morgan) is transformed into the villainous Livewire.”
I can’t decide if I like the decision to cast Slater as Kara’s mother. Since she played Supergirl in the 1984 film, this seems like a cute move – one exacerbated by the use of Lois and Clark’s Dean Cain as Kara’s dad.
That potentially goofy choice aside, this becomes another good show, largely due to the introduction of Livewire as a villain. She adds a sizzling new personality to the mix, one I hope will give future shows zing. That factor helps overcome some of the usual character melodrama.
Red Faced: “Anger gets the better of Kara during a training exercise with Red Tornado (Iddo Goldberg), a cyborg commissioned by Lucy’s stern military father (Glenn Morshower).
A character DC reinvented in the 1960s, Red Tornado becomes an intriguing addition to the series. He adds some charge to an episode that also allows the Kara/Cat relationship to expand in interesting ways.
Human for a Day: “Kara must rely on inner strength and courage when her powers disappear right before an earthquake. Alex Danvers’ (Chyler Leigh) mistrust of Hank Henshaw (David Harewood) reaches a breaking point.”
The “superhero loses his/her powers” notion exists as a much-used trope, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t enjoy value. Kara’s lack of abilities creates some intriguing threads and manages to expand the character well. Add to that a major revelation about a supporting role and this turns into a strong show.
Hostile Takeover: “Kara goes head to head with her aunt Astra Zor-El (Laura Benanti) when she challenges Kara’s beliefs about her mother. Also, Cat’s position as CEO is threatened by a hacker.”
“Takeover” acts as a plot-thickener due to its use of Astra. That side of things creates the major strength of “Takeover”, though the CatCo stuff offers interesting twists as well in this solid episode.
Blood Bonds: “Kara must find a way to rescue Hank from Astra’s husband Non (Chris Vance) as she trues to refute Cat’s allegations about her true identity.”
“Bonds” essentially acts as a continuation of “Takeover”, and that’s a good thing. The episode delivers more plot revelations and digs into Cat’s pursuit of Supergirl’s secret identity in a fun way. All of this leads to another entertaining program.
Childish Things: “Kara does her best to support Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan) when his father – the supervillain Toyman (Henry Czerny) – breaks out of prison and seeks his son for unknown reasons.”
After so much angst related to Kryptonians, I’m happy to get an episode that focuses on a “home-grown” baddie. Admittedly, Toyman feels more like something out of the Batman universe, but he’s still a welcome addition to the series – though I could live without the semi-contrived connection to Winn.
Strange Visitor from Another Planet: “Kara must help Hank face his painful past when a White Martian – a member of an alien race that wiped out his people – shows up to cause trouble.”
Hmm… a politician who makes hay with extreme warnings of outsiders who will lay waste to the US… why does that sound familiar? Presidential campaign parallels aside, “Planet” provides a lackluster show, largely because of its focus on Hank – aka “The Martian Manhunter”. That side of the series doesn’t work for me so far, and since so much of “Planet” focuses on J’onn’s story, the episode becomes weaker than usual.
Bizarro: “Kara faces off against her mirror image when Bizarro (Hope Lauren) – a twisted version of Supergirl – sets out to destroy her. Also, Kara grows closer to Cat’s son Adam (Blake Jenner).
Superman fans know of Bizarro, but the Supergirl character offers a totally different take. Though that’s fine on the surface, the execution of “new Bizarro” seems less than exciting. Add to that mawkish romantic material and “Bizarro” creates a fairly mediocre show,
For the Girl Who Has Everything: “Alex, Hank and the DEO fend off a Kryptonian attack, while Kara is trapped by a parasitic alien in a dream world where her home planet was never destroyed.”
While the episode’s main story seems a bit lackluster, “Girl” earns major points due to its comedic subplot. The sight of Melissa Benoist as she tries to play Hank playing Kara offers a lot of entertainment and helps carry the show.
Truth, Justice and the American Way: “Cat hires Siobhan Smythe (Italia Ricci), a second assistant who becomes Kara’s workplace nemesis, while Supergirl battles the deadly Master Jailer (Jeff Branson).”
The two new characters introduced here add pizzazz to “Way”. Honestly, all the Kryptonian drama started to get old, so it’s nice to find some twists. These contribute to prompt “Way” to turn into a good program.
Solitude: “Kara travels to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude in hopes of learning how to defeat Indigo (Laura Vandervoort), a dangerous being with a connection to Kara’s past.”
With Indigo, Supergirl presents a major new villain – though I’m not sure how interesting she’ll be. Maybe I just dislike how much she resembles X-Men’s Mystique, but she seems somewhat underwhelming as seen here. Even with a lackluster baddie, “Solitude” manages some decent action, but it remains an average episode.
Falling: “After she’s exposed to Red Kryptonite, Kara turns on her friends and the citizens of National City, becoming malicious and dangerous.”
Arguably the only good part of 1983’s Superman III came from the brief segment in which Supes “goes bad”. Similar entertainment comes from Supergirl’s “dark side”, especially because Benoist clearly enjoys her chance to cut loose. These factors add up to one of the season’s better episodes – and it even includes a fun nod to Superman III.
Manhunter: “J’onn J’onzz reveals the details of meeting Kara and Alex’s father, Dr. Jeremiah Danvers (Dean Cain), and assuming Hank’s identity.”
After J’onn’s public “coming out” in “Falling”, we get a lot of backstory in “Manhunter”. Much of the episode delivers flashbacks that fill in blanks. It’s not the most dynamic program, but it manages to bring viewers up to speed in a reasonable manner.
World’s Finest: “Supergirl gains a new ally when the Flash (Grant Gustin) crosses over from an alternate universe to help her battle Livewire and Silver Banshee.”
While the “crossover” concept can be gimmicky, it works well in this instance. The show manages to integrate the Flash in a reasonably organic manner and it packs a lot of good action and intrigue. Expect a top-notch episode from this fun and exciting adventure.
Myriad: “Kara must find a way to free her friends when Non and Indigo use mind control to turn National City’s citizens into their own army.”
Subjectively, I’m not wild about “Myriad” due to my less than strong interest in Non and his pals. Objectively, the episode moves along story elements well and creates a fair amount of drama. It’s a step down after the excellent “Finest” but it still does what it needs to do and pushes us toward the year’s end.
Better Angels: “Supergirl faces her greatest challenge yet when her enemies plan to destroy every person on planet Earth in the action-packed season finale.”
Season One concludes with a bit of a whimper. While I’m happy to see the Kryptonian narrative wrap up – apparently – I think the show stretches credulity in a number of ways, and these affect its impact.
Still, it’s not a bad show – it’s just a disappointment as a season finale. Most of Supergirl works really well, though, so I can forgive a mild misstep at the season’s end. The series fares nicely the majority of the time and makes me look forward the Season Two.