TV Review: ‘Supergirl’ Pilot
What a time to be a geek. All of our favourite characters are coming to cinemas and television with a level of love and quality we never thought possible. And now one of the most under-utilised (in cross media) and coolest heroines is joining the Flash and Green Arrow in headlining a TV show. Supergirl herself. They’ve got good actors, a big budget and the pedigree of the preceding DC shows in its corner. Due to a leak, we just got watching the pilot episode! What was it like?
Ok, biggest problem here? Calista Flockhart. The former star of massive hit show Ally McBeal plays the ‘Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada‘ wannabe boss to Supergirl’s human guise in a newspaper office and she’s downright awful. When it originally aired I did watch Ally McBeal mainly due to the awesome support cast of Lucy Liu, Portia de Rossi, Peter McNicol, Jane Krakowski and Greg Germann and I don’t remember her being especially being an especially bad actor. In this though…she is really, really bad. In her introduction at 5:00 she looks like she’s been told to act natural and can’t remember what she usually does with her arms. At 18:00 minutes she looks like she’s having trouble co-ordinating talking and walking at the same time. Is she reading the script from giant cue-cards for the first time, because that’s what it looks like.
So Calista Flockhart is shockingly bad. She’s a support cast member and hopefully she’ll get killed off nice and quickly. Let’s get to the real show.
Remember sitting through the first act of Age of Ultron and thinking ‘wow, this is really rushing through the set-up’. Compared to Supergirl it might as well have been directed by Terrance Malick. By the end of the first 20 minutes we’d been hurried through Supergirl’s backstory in leaving Krypton, getting lost, arriving on Earth, meeting Superman, being adopted, growing up, having a secret identity, introducing a half dozen characters, introduced villains, gone public as a superhero, found a love interest, had a costume design montage mashed with a power discovery montage, been betrayed by someone she trusted and revealed the truth to a friend. If that sounds like it was cramming in a lot of story at the expense of logic and enjoyment than you get a gold star.
Let us explain what we mean by that. There’s this nerdy dude at Supergirl’s workplace. When she turns up to work he asks her out. She turns him down. No further interaction. Then when everyone has found out about Supergirl and she reveals to him the big secret. What? Why? Who is this dude anyway? All we know is that he asked her out and she said no, what about their relationship makes him the most trustworthy person in her life? No idea. He then helps her make her costume. When her first cape gets riddled with bullets he says “ok, the new cape is made from a structured polymer composite”. He’s a nerdy journalist, when did he become Tony Stark?
During this same montage Supergirls method of finding out if she’s bullet proof is by walking slowly up to a bunch of guys shooting machine guns at her. Couldn’t think of a better way of doing this? Logic problems due to rushing.
It also seems weird that they’ve repurposed Jimmy Olsen as the über-slick photo journalist hero who comes up with such amazing concepts such as ‘maybe her hair looked dark because it’s dirty’ (a line treated with stunned silence at its genius) when they have a nerdy journalist who could’ve been Jimmy Olsen.
Speaking of the dialogue, over all it’s poor. The aforementioned hair discussion is one of the lamest exchanges ever. The only thing that comes across as more awkward are some of the haphazard attempts at feminism. I would have hoped that we’d reached the point where we can have a show about a female super hero without forcing a feminist angle to highlight the fact. But no. During a punch-up with another Kryptonian, one who has already knocked the snot out of her, the enemy grabs her punch in one hand and uppercuts her into the sky with the other. Then the following exchange:
“She’s not strong enough for this!”
“Why? because she’s a GIRL?!“
Um…no…it’s not because she’s a girl. It’s because she’s been beaten by this dude once already and he’s clearly got the drop on her. The whole thing was really crammed in there sideways and it detracted from the actual progression forward of having a female driven superhero show.
This is all sounding pretty poor, but all the stuff that didn’t work was mostly in the first half. It picked up in the later parts of the show. Melissa Benoist carries the show pretty well, and wears the costume with a good amount of confidence. She’s a worthy leading lady for a show of this nature. The special effects are good, and the bright, colourful look is preferable to the grittiness of Man of Steel. Apart from the aforementioned Flockhart the cast is good. The cameo from Dean Cain was good for a giggle to use older nerds.
Action wise the show is spot on. Supergirl punches a truck and it looks just as cool as you’d want it to. Catching airplanes, foiling bank robberies, chasing cars…we see a number of classic comic book tropes used to good effect here.
Overall, the show didn’t light my world on fire. I’m still more excited about Legends of Tomorrow. But there’s potential for something awesome once it’s ironed out the bumps and stopped rushing the origin. That might not be a glowing review but I said the same thing about The Flash and that’s been gangbusters.