Four Color Television - Supergirl Season 1 Recap
When I was a child, my planet, Krypton, was dying. I was sent to Earth to protect my cousin. But my pod got knocked off-course, and by the time I got here, my cousin had already grown up and become... Superman. And so, I hid my powers, until recently when an accident forced me to reveal myself to the world. To most people, I am an assistant at CatCo Worldwide Media. But in secret, I work with my adoptive sister for the D.E.O. to protect my city from alien life and anyone else that means to cause it harm. I am Supergirl.
Kara Danvers is an ordinary girl who gets up each morning and goes to her ordinary job. Every day she sits at a desk and watches as media mogul Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart*) shapes the narrative of the news, always just a heartbeat away from the big and exciting world of National City. There's just one problem, Kara Danvers is far from ordinary.
On the doomed planet Krypton Jor-El and his wife Lara placed their infant son into a pod and launched him to Earth, but they weren't the only members of the El family to attempt saving the life of their child. Zor-El and his wife Alura (Laura Benanti) placed their pre-teen daughter Kara into a pod and launched her on the same trajectory so that she could help protect and raise Kal-El. Kara's pod went through the Phantom Zone and when it finally landed on Earth Kara was greeted by her already super cousin, who placed her under the care of a pair of scientists he trusted greatly. Jeremiah and Eliza Danvers (former Superman Dean Cain and original Supergirl Helen Slater*) adopted Kara and raised her alongside their teenage daughter Alex (Chyler Leigh) and taught young Kara how to blend in on Earth. Kara was always drawn to helping people, and it was hard for her to hide who she really was - and then her adoptive father died. From then on it got easier and easier for Kara to eschew her desire to save people, after all that was Superman's job right?
She wasn't very happy though. Even when world famous photographer James Olsen (Mechad Brooks) showed up at Catco, there was still something missing in her life. One night, while on a blind date, Kara learned that a plane with her sister Alex on board was having engine trouble and was going to crash into National City. She didn't hesitate, she yanked her glasses off and leapt into the air to catch the plane and save her sisters life. She saved the plane, and was caught on film doing it. There was no going back, and for the first time in a long time she was herself and she was happy. Soon after with a costume designed by her best friend Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan) Kara revealed herself to the world as Supergirl. After revealing herself Kara is informed that her sister Alex has been lying to her for years and is actually a member of a secretive government agency known as the Department of Extranormal Operations run by Director Hank Henshaw (David Harewood) that is tasked with policing alien threats; and there is no threat greater than Fort Rozz.
Fort Rozz* was a Kryptonian Prison within the Phantom Zone where Krypton sentenced some of its worst criminals and when Supergirl’s pod veered into the Phantom Zone on the way to Earth she inadvertently pulled For Rozz with her. Both she and the prison crashed in the Nevada desert, but before Superman could take care of the prison it had vanished. Supergirl agreed to help the DEO track down the former Fort Rozz prisoners, since she had dragged the prison to Earth – and also because many of the inmates of Fort Rozz were sentenced to the Phantom Zone by Kara’s mother Alura.
Kara begins her superhero career juggling three different versions of her life, there is her day life at Catco Worldwide Media where she is Cat Grant’s put upon but flawless assistant; her life as Supergirl where she goes off to stop crimes with the assistance of both Winn and James; and her life as a DEO agent hunting down Fort Rozz escapees with her sister and the gruff Director Henshaw. She is not a perfect hero right out of the gate, but she is eager to help and that wins over the hearts and minds of National City very quickly – except for Tech Billionaire Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli doing his best Michael Rosenbaum impersonation) who views Supergirl as an alien menace who only endangers National City.
Maxwell isn’t entirely wrong, the Fort Rozz escapees are on earth because of Supergirl, but thanks to their leader – Kara’s aunt Astra (Laura Bernanti playing the other half of a set of twins) who has devious plans both for Earth and for Supergirl. Classic DC henchman Non, you may remember him as the bearded and mute henchman of General Zod in Superman II, is upgraded to Astra’s right hand man and husband.
In an amazing twist it turns out that David Harewood’s Hank Henshaw isn’t really Hank Henshaw at all, he’s an alien named J’onn J’onzz: better known to DC Comic fans as The Martian Manhunter* – a shapeshifting telepath who has taken the form of former DEO bad guy Henshaw to fulfill a promise to the dying Jeremiah Danvers to look after his daughters and stop the evil things the DEO was doing to aliens.
As the season wraps up Astra and Non unleash their plot to take control of Earth, Alex kills Astra to protect J’onn and Non releases a sentient computer virus known as Indigo to help him complete Astra’s plan of launching a Kryptonian mind control program known as Myriad to make all earthlings a hive mind that could collectively repair Earths environment.
With the help of Cat Grant, Maxwel Lord, Alex and J’onn, Supergirl manages to break the mind control of Myriad and succeeds in stopping Non and Indigo before they can destroy National City. Kara and her friends gather at her apartment for a celebratory drink, but it is interrupted by the crashing of another Kryptonian Pod.
Supergirl Season One is a tad uneven, but the storytelling serves as the ultimate counterpoint to the idea that Superhero stories need to be darker, grittier and more realistic to engage an audience. Where The Flash allows itself to be weird and fun, Supergirl chooses to be an actual ray of sunshine that builds it’s narrative around the backbone of Melissa Benoist having one of the warmest smiles on television. What is presented to us is not necessarily the Supergirl of the comics so much as it is a sort of Greatest Hits of Superman Album remixed with the plucky and charming Kara instead of Clark.
What works about Season One? Melissa Benoist’s performance as Kara and as Supergirl is so warm you cannot help but go along for the ride, but when they really let her stretch her legs emotionally the show soars. Season One delves deeply into the notion that despite possessing a very sunny disposition, Kara has deep anger and resentment over the loss of Krypton and scenes where this is expressed are incredibly moving. I will admit to having been driven to tears by two scenes in season one. The first is in a scene in an episode called “Red Faced:” Supergirl and James need to work out some issues so Kara suggests a sort of boxing as therapy session where they say what they are angry about and then throw a punch at a bag (or a car in her case) as the scene progresses she gradually lets her guard down and reveals the thing she is truly angry about as if it takes even her by surprise. It is an incredibly powerful and honest look at anger.
The second scene is from the episode “Hostile Takeover” and involves Kara questioning a hologram construct of her mother and unleashing her anger and frustration on the computer program. You get the sense that all of the survivors guilt and anger Kara has is bubbling up inside of her from the moment she lands on Earth and here, in this moment it finally just erupts.
The relationships between the core cast are strong and are truly the backbone of the show, particularly the mentor/mentee relationship between Kara and Cat which serves as the place where Kara works best in her civilian identity.
The guest appearance of Grant Gustin as The Flash is a highlight of the first season and paves the way to the amazing four part crossover event that will tie together episodes from Arrow Season 5, Flash Season 3, Supergirl Season 2 and Legends of Tomorrow Season 2. This episode aired the weekend after Batman V. Superman came out in theaters and was almost a direct counterpoint to that film – rather than a dark film where two heroes meet and fight before joining forces Barry mistakenly appears in broad daylight on Supergirl’s Earth and asks for her help in getting home. The two become fast friends and work together to defeat recurring villains Livewire and The Silver Banshee.
What doesn’t work about Season Two? The unrequited crush Winn has on Supergirl borders on creepy at times, and undermines an otherwise strong character. The shows constant referencing of Superman without showing him to us is distracting and could easily have been avoided by simply referencing him a little less often. The choice to not immediately connect this show to the CW verse makes sense in as much as Supergirl was airing on CBS and shooting in Los Angeles rather than Vancouver, but the show really should have been connected from the word jump. Season two resolved all three of these very quickly.
Next Week: Is Barry Allen REALLY the fastest man alive? Flash Season 2
In Two Weeks: Yes Kara, there is a Superman. Supergirl Season 2
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