CBS‘ Supergirl Pilot TV Show Review from NYCC 2015. The New York Comic Con 2015 presentation of Supergirl: Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot ushered in what could have been and what is in regards to the latest superhero TV show to grace the airwaves. The real world darkness and gloom that hung like a shadow over the events and character developments in Arrow, Blade: The Series, The Flash, and the latter episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., an approach to comic book translations begun by Batman Begins, will not be present in Supergirl.
The DC Universe present in Supergirl‘s pilot episode is more akin to the atmosphere that James Gunn created in Guardians of the Galaxy: light-hearted, commercial, accessible to a broad audience (the point), superficial, and lacking the Easter eggs of waiting depth. What it does have is a cool lead character in Kara Danvers / Kara Zor-El / Supergirl (Melissa Benoist). That is also Pilot‘s main fault. Being nearly omnipotent (physically) makes Kara extremely careless and carefree when it comes to real-world consequences for her actions (except when it comes to her day job).
The fact that Supergirl doesn’t know her own abilities created the second fault underlying Pilot. How was it possible for Kara not to know her own abilities after living with them for thirteen years? Why did she act surprised when bullets bounced off of her? Nothing on Earth can penetrate her skin, cut her hair, etc.
It was logic-deficient scenes of that nature that ripped the viewer out of the Supergirl‘ verse and back into stark reality.
Aside Begins: The only way that Kara can cut her own hair is by using her eye lasers, bouncing the beams off mirrors (like Superman). That is how she shaves her legs, etc. In Pilot, Kara acts as though she is a neophyte with it comes to eye laser usage. By her mid-twenties, Kara should be an expert at using her eye lasers yet Pilot would have you believe otherwise (an impossibility). The writers of Pilot may not have done their comic book homework. Aside Ends.
Supergirl is a series that you watch with you brain turned off. It’s pure popcorn-fare.
A superhero TV show does not need to be dark or gritty to be good. Arrow and The Flash have used those two elements to their advantage. Supergirl is a different animal. The writers of Supergirl don’t want a show like Constantine on their hands, dark and appealing to a small niche audience. CBS wants everyone to tune in and because of that, the Marvel model of accessibility was employed.
The pilot episode of Supergirl could have successfully struck a balance between grit and lighter moments, like Gotham, but CBS obviously wanted all demos with Supergirl, especially children, tweens, and families. If Supergirl is big with weekly ratings, it could be worth multi-millions. CBS was taking no risks with that possibility. A counter-argument would be that Fox took the risk that Supergirl seems to be avoiding fastidiously (I have only seen one episode of Supergirl) with Gotham and it paid off (in ratings and critical praise).
The “capsule solution” to Supergirl’s down moment in Pilot was written poorly. Riddle-me-this: how could Kara’s real mother know Kara would only look at that message when she was an adult, not a little girl, and have just faced an adverse moment in her life that caused her to doubt herself? Kara could have looked at that message immediately upon reaching Earth as a thirteen-year-old. The wording in the message had no explanation yet it was exactly what Kara needed to hear at that exact moment in her life. The wording and the capsule’s delivery were very convenient, like a being with prescient abilities saw what was needed before it happened and made sure to deliver it. Like a TV show writer. A better method by a more mentally-limber TV writer would have been a longer message with multiple sections, Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) having fast-forwarded to that particular section of the message. An even better method would have been multiple message capsules, the one presented being the most appropriate for the situation. The latter explanation might be what actually occurred (but then how could multiple messages capsules fit within such a small life pod?). Like I said previously, turn your brain off when watching Supergirl, it will only hinder your viewing experience.
Regarding the space prison Fort Ras crash-landing on Earth, how could such a massive impact, created by a gigantic structure, one so sturdy that 90% of it survived the crash intact, stay hidden (and out of the news)? Satellites from multiple nations, the international space station, sky watching services, Earth atmosphere re-entry heat flashes, the sound of the impact of the structure into Earth, all of these variables are unaccounted for before, during, and after the secret alien watchdog organization (an early version of M.I.B.) made Kara aware of Fort Ras. It was all just skipped over. How is it possible that none of those organizations, structures, people, factors, or devices picked up Fort Ras as it approached Earth, penetrated Earth’s atmosphere, or crash-landed on Earth?
Why didn’t Superman deal with the escaped prisoners? He must have heard the crash-landing of Fort Ras, the prisoners speaking Kryptonian as they escaped. Somehow Superman was aware of Kara’s safe landing on Earth. He must have also been aware of Fort Ras’ bigger crash-landing on Earth. Why didn’t he go after the criminals? Why wasn’t he mopping them all up as Kara grew from a thirteen-year-old adoptee to a twenty-six year old personal assistant? He had thirteen years do so. Why wasn’t he working with M.I.B.-lite to contain knowledge of the escaped prisoners on Earth and to take them down?
This was a gigantic plothole in Pilot, “huge” as Donald Trump would say, and may be one that grows larger (if that’s possible) as Supergirl continues. Those prisoners pose a greater threat to Earth and humanity than any other threat (or crisis) on the planet and for thirteen years Superman did nothing about them? That would never happen. That would be his number one priority morning, noon, and night until they were all recaptured and/or ‘dealt with’ (reference General Zod’s neck injury in Man of Steel). M.I.B.-lite would have been helping him in those endeavors. None of that apparently happened and there was no plausible explanation given in Pilot (or any explanation for that matter) on why it didn’t.
In Knightfall, when Bane released all the prisoners in Arkham Asylum, Batman spent night and day hunting them all down (to the point of physical and mental exhaustion) within a matter of weeks. Why didn’t Superman do the same with regard to the escaped prisoners from Fort Ras?
Aside Begins: The pilot episode was just that, a pilot episode. All of this might be explained in future episodes. Aside Ends.
The fight scenes in Pilot with Supergirl and a ax-wielding opponent named Vartox (Owain Yeoman) were questionable. Vartox punched her in the chest, stomach, no effect (no gasping, no shortness of breath) yet they both had super-strength. When Doomsday punched Superman, he felt it. When Vartox punched Supergirl, nothing. In Pilot, Supergirl had no fight-ability, no martial arts training (remedied in future episodes perhaps). Because of those deficiencies, Supergirl should have gotten her backside kicked like Kick-Ass did his first time out.
The Hassassin in Angels & Demons said that “valor without experience is suicide.” That was nearly the case with Kick-Ass and it should have been the same for Supergirl. The writers pulled back too much on that in my opinion. Supergirl should have learned that being a hero, whether super or not, is a pursuit not to be entered into lightly or capriciously (reference Jessica Jones). It’s perilous.
The superficial wound Supergirl received during her first life or death encounter was ‘generous’ of the writers. If she had been beaten senseless or grievously injured, it would have been far more impactful to: her, the show, and the audience. It would have shown that this person could be killed at any second and that in a dangerous situation she isn’t, by default, going to get out of it unscathed.
What if after she was hurt for the first time in her life (which she admitted – she had never felt pain before) she was paralyzed with fear and dread?
That reality, that basic type of reaction to physical pain and trauma, wasn’t established.
In the age of social media, cellphones with HD cameras, Supergirl (to be fair, on the spur of the moment), decided to superhero without a mask. I am fully aware that no one notices that Clark Kent looks exactly like Superman and that the same rule applies to Kara and Supergirl. Here is the thing though, Kara doesn’t know that. She doesn’t know that no one will recognize that she is Supergirl and vice versa. Where was her fear of being recognized after everyone was taking her picture as she stood on the plane wing? No mask (Daredevil), no hoodie (Arrow), no concealing makeup of any kind (Boy Wonder), and she had no fear of being identified. Is that realistic? Like I said, Kara’s near physical omnipotence has bred carelessness, some of which her step-sister chided her for afterwards.
With regard to the acting in Pilot, Mehcad Brooks was at ease bringing James Olsen 2.0 to life. Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) was presented as more of a caricature of uber, multi-tasking bosses e.g. Anna Wintour (or her-fictionalized incarnation Amanda Priestly) instead of a someone unique. What will be interesting to find out is how Cat Grant became Cat Grant. Was she a real reporter at one point pounding the pavement for a story or just a rich person that bought a media organization? Kara Danvers was presented as the likable, every girl. Outside of her actions, the viewer didn’t get a strong sense of who she was except affable and selfless.
Pilot was created to get a series order, to showcase the potential of a Supergirl show, and what it could bring to CBS. It wasn’t necessarily a character showcase but rather a character and situation introduction. In that, it succeeded.
For now, watch, turn your brain off, and hope the holes in the ship get plugged.
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