Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Though Fun and Fresh, 'Supergirl' Strongly Needs Improvement

Supergirl has gone a long way since I weighed the underwhelming pilot’s pros and cons.  Many of those cons have gradually turned to pros over time.  Its elements either improved or eventually grew on me.  One of its episodes is even the best thing I’ve ever seen in TV this year so far.  It has been an overall fun first season, and it established itself as one of the TV series I currently enjoy following.

That said, though the positives outweigh the negatives, this series still has a considerable amount of the latter.

But before I discuss its failings, let me first tackle what I love about it.  First and foremost, it’s a refreshing ray of sunshine.  It’s adorable, optimistic, and full of heart.  Though I initially hated the “cute-girly” facet of its tone, I get to appreciate it as the series progressed, as this makes it unique from other DC shows.
I was also turned off at first of the show’s depiction of the titular character.  Again, the “cute-girly” stuff.  I was leaning more towards a Supergirl who has been portrayed sometimes in the comics as less likely to hold back with her powers and more likely to get angry – a less patient, more immature girl version of Superman.  But after a few episodes, I get to like the feel of this version.  She’s basically a girl version of Superman in accordance to the essence of his characterization.  And after embracing this depiction of Supergirl, I found her extremely lovable, and she easily became my most favorite thing about the show.  Melissa Benoist is a flawless Supergirl, both in appearance and portraying the kind of characterization the show is going for.

I also eventually cared for every one of the supporting characters – even those I disliked during the pilot: Alex Danvers, Cat Grant, and Hank Henshaw (who awesomely turned out being J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, in disguise).  Kara/Supergirl had shared plenty of heartwarming, powerful moments with them, as well as with the characters I already got to like right from the start, i.e. Jimmy Olsen and Winn Schott.  Supergirl has a great cast – legitimately rivaling the likability of the already established casts of Arrow and The Flash.
On the other hand, Supergirl’s biggest weakness is the lack of consistently good storytelling.  There were stretches where I was bored.  The story arcs never really gripped me.  Though its inherent potential, cuteness, and heart often save the show from being completely derailed, they aren’t enough to make up for the story’s failure of being interesting by itself.

The plotlines that appealed to me most are those that took things from Superman’s mythology – Red Kryptonite, Black Mercy, Bizarro, etc. – and revised them to become Supergirl’s own.  This brings me to think that this series could have probably been much better if its makers had chosen the route of retelling the Superman story via the character of Supergirl – meaning in this show’s universe, Kal-El doesn’t exist, and Kara Zor-el is the “Last Daughter of Krypton.”  It may be less sensible, but the variation could open the possibility for more compelling storytelling.

Speaking of Superman, his existence in this universe but non-appearance in the show is a source of constant annoyance.  Laughable contrivances are done in order to justify dismissing his participation to glimpses of him from a distance, his cape, his boots, or text/chat messages to Kara.  Ugh.  If the series is unable to get permission from Warner Bros. to allow him to show up in actual person, then the writers need to think of a way to permanently remove him from its stories.  Maybe send him on a deep space adventure for a lengthy time – which one episode had already established to be an option by giving a mention that he’s unavailable because he was “off-world” – or just kill him off (do a “Death of Superman” arc; only this time, he doesn’t come back to life).  If Supergirl can’t let him show up in actual person, then it needs to stop involving Superman in the narrative.

Lastly, there is zero chemistry between Melissa Benoist and Mehcad Brooks.  I like Jimmy Olsen as a character, but he’s just not fit to be a love interest.  Supergirl needs to stop pursuing this romantic route and instead bring in a new character to fill the role.  If I may suggest, bring in Dick Grayson a.k.a. Nightwing.  That would be a fun dynamic – a romance between Superman’s protégé and Batman’s (who, like Superman, will be mentioned but not make an appearance).
So I’m really hoping that Supergirl, if renewed (there’s still no announcement for renewal, but I doubt this show is going to be cancelled), would level up.  The first season ends with an intriguing cliff-hanger, and it’s a good starting point for the showrunners in improving the show next season.

Supergirl has the makings of being great.  It just needs a couple more tweaks.  But, for now, it (since I don’t watch Gotham) stands at last place among all the DC TV series I’ve followed, past and present.

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